Tag Archive for student research

Seniors, BA/MAs Present Thesis Research at NSM Poster Session

Seth Hafferkamp '12 presents his thesis titled, "Autoionization Lifetime Measurements of Na2 Rydberg States" at the "Celebration of Science Theses" April 19 in Exley Science Center. (Photos by Olivia Drake)

Fifteen Wesleyan students presented posters on their research in the sciences and mathematics at the seventh annual “Celebration of Science Theses” event held April 19.

“You help keep our sciences here vibrant and alive,” Ishita Mukerji, dean of natural sciences and mathematics, professor of molecular biology and biochemistry, tells the students gathered in the lobby of Exley Science Center as she congratulates them. Mukerji says she hopes that after pausing to celebrate their achievements, the students will continue to pursue research for many years to come.

The work presented by seniors and BA/MA students spans a wide range of disciplines.

Micah Wylde ’12 presents his research on “Safe Motion Planning for Autonomous Driving."

For his project, Micah Wylde ’12, a computer science major, developed algorithms for self-driving cars, like the cars reportedly being developed by Google. The algorithms translate high-level navigation goals (eg. Drive from home to the grocery store) into actual turns of the steering wheel. “I was working particularly on safety, which is a big deal when you have one-ton cars hurtling down the road,” he explains.

Wylde says self-driving cars are no longer the stuff of science fiction. “Everything has come together in the last five years—algorithms, sensing technology,” he says. “Now it’s just refining it.”

He adds, “In the next decade, there are going to be autonomous cars on the road—no question.”

Tom Oddo ’12, a Science in Society Program major, studied the work of D. D. Palmer, who founded chiropractics at the turn of the 20th century. Oddo plans to train to be a chiropractor after graduation, and sought to explain the stigma attached to the practice.

Students, Local Community Participate in Archaeology Dig

Students enrolled in Wesleyan's "Middletown Materials" class let an archeological excavation April 14-15 at the Beman Triangle on campus. The Beman Triangle is the land between Vine Street, Cross Street, and Knowles Ave., where homes have existed since the early 19th century. Pictured, teaching assistant Miriam Manda '12 helps local resident Mark with setting up a site.

98 Students Present Data Analysis, Statistical Research

Amber Smith '14 presents her research during the Quantitative Analysis Center's Fall Poster Session Dec. 9. Smith examined levels of depression among adolescents with and without permanent physical disabilities. "This was my first poster presentation at Wesleyan, and it was amazing to see everyone so engaged in my study," Smith says.

Amber Smith '14 presents her research during the Quantitative Analysis Center's Fall Poster Session Dec. 9. Smith examined levels of depression among adolescents with and without permanent physical disabilities. "This was my first poster presentation at Wesleyan, and it was amazing to see everyone so engaged in my study," Smith says.

Does participating in combat sports (like martial arts and wrestling) or playing contact sports (like football and hockey) influence aggression outside of the sport? According to a study by Zander Parkinson ’13, the answer might be, yes.

English and psychology double major Alexander "Zander" Parkinson '13 presents his study, "Anger and Athletics: The Association between Sports and Aggression."

English and psychology double major Alexander "Zander" Parkinson '13 presents his study, "Anger and Athletics: The Association between Sports and Aggression."

“I found that among male adolescents there was a significant association between activity level and increased likelihood of getting into a physical fight,” Parkinson explained during the Quantitative Analysis Center’s Fall Poster Session Dec. 9. “Adolescents who played an active sport three or more times a week were significantly more likely to get into a physical fight than non-active adolescents who played an active sport two or less times a week.”

Parkinson and 97 other Wesleyan students enrolled in the hands-on course Applied Data Analysis (QAC 201) presented posters as their final exam. More than 30 guests, who use and teach applied statistics, attended the event to speak with students and judge the posters. (View a photo gallery of the poster session online here.)

The interdisciplinary course QAC 201 provides experience in data management and applied statistics. Students develop skills in several aspects of the research process including generating testable hypotheses based on extant data; conducting a literature review and evaluating the content of scientific literature; preparing data for analysis;

Current Research Presented at Biophysics, Chemistry Retreat

Vern Schramm spoke on “Drug Design from Transition State Analysis” during the 12th annual Molecular Biophysics and Biological Chemistry Retreat Sept. 22 in Wadsworth Mansion in Middletown. Schramm is professor and the Ruth Merns Chair in Biochemistry at Yeshiva University’s Albert Einstein College of Medicine. He investigates enzymatic transition state structures, which enable him to develop powerful inhibitors for treatment and prevention of cancer and other diseases.

Vallo ’13 Studies Seizure Suppression, Teaches Local Students about Science

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This summer, Mary Vallo '13 developed a needs assessment for the Epilepsy Foundation of Connecticut. She also volunteers in the Wesleyan Science Outreach club and plays intramural soccer. (Photo by Bill Tyner '13)

Q: Mary, what is your class year, and what are you majoring in?

A: I’m a junior, and I’m double-majoring in neuroscience and behavior and English.

Q: You’re currently working in the lab of Jan Naegele, professor of neuroscience and behavior, professor of biology. Can you tell us a bit about your research in the Naegele Lab?

A: The Naegele Lab studies temporal lobe epilepsy (TLE), which involves instances of elevated electrical activity in the brain called seizures. In cases where medication does not alleviate seizures, TLE patients experience cell death and damage in the dentate gyrus, part of the hippocampal region of the brain. Using a mouse model of TLE, our goal is to replenish the damaged neurons via stem cell injections. And since seizure-related cell death especially affects a type of interneuron that normally inhibits electrical impulses, we hope that restoring those interneurons will help to suppress seizure activity.

Q: This summer, you participated in the Wesleyan University Hughes Program, funded by the Howard Hughes Medical Institute. What was your summer-long research project?

A: The project that I began over the summer analyzes brain sections from epileptic mice that have received stem cell transplants. I stain for a protein that marks transplanted cell axons and another protein called gephyrin that is found at inhibitory synapses. So far, I have found several instances where transplant axons overlap with gephyrin. These findings suggest that the stem cells form inhibitory connections that may contribute to seizure suppression.

Biology Researchers Study Connecticut’s Native Fish Populations

Barry Chernoff, the Robert Schumann Professor of Environmental Studies, and his graduate student, Michelle Tipton, photograph an Eastern Blacknose Dace used in their current research. The photo of the fish will appear in an upcoming scientific journal.

There’s something fishy about one of Connecticut’s minnows, and the topic hooked researchers in the Department of Biology.

During the last ice age, Connecticut was covered by layers of snow and ice, forcing organisms to seek refuge elsewhere. After the glaciers retreated, recolonization of the fauna and flora resulted in the diversity of native species that inhabit the state today.

Graduate student Michelle Tipton holds an Eastern Blacknose Dace. Tipton captured the fish from Middletown's Coginchaug River Aug. 8. (Photos by Olivia Drake)

“But where did they come from? How did they come back to the Northeast to give us all the organisms we see today?” asks biology graduate student Michelle Tipton. “These questions are of particular interest to the ichthyologists at Wesleyan with regards to fishes.”

In an upcoming issue of Ecology and Evolution, a scientific open access journal, faculty and students provide some of the first genetic evidence of what took place during the most recent post-glacial recolonization events, which provided Connecticut and the northeast with its native fish populations. To begin filling the void of information for this large biogeographic question, they started their research with this ubiquitous minnow.

EE&S Students Develop Research, Observational Skills through Puerto Rico Fieldwork

Laura Anderson '11 (center) and fellow earth and environmental science majors and faculty kayak off the coast of Puerto Rico in January. The students worked on research projects on the island, and presented their findings in April.

This semester, 18 earth and environmental sciences majors explored dwarf mangrove forests, studied landslide susceptibility in a rainforest, examined if cave rocks record bat inhabitation, and analyzed the chemistry of coastal seagrass – all in Puerto Rico.

The students, who are enrolled in the E&ES 398 course Senior Seminar, developed observational, interpretative and research skills through their island studies. The seniors traveled to Puerto Rico in January for fieldwork, and spent the past few months analyzing their findings.

They presented their Senior Seminar Presentations on April 19 and 21 as part of the Stearns

Geyer Receives Goldwater Honorable Mention for Antimatter Research

Guy Geyer '13, who studies an antimatter called antihydrogen, received honorable mention for the 2011-12 Barry Goldwater Scholarship.

By synthesizing the antimatter particle antihydrogen, physicists will have the ability to create a more accurate picture and explanation of the universe.

“Would antimatter fall down — or fall up?,” asks physics major Guy Geyer ’13. “If we could trap antihydrogen for a longer length of time, we could test the gravitational effects of the particle. This would certainly be what scientists aim to do in the end.”

Geyer, who studies antihydrogen at Wesleyan, received honorable mention for the 2011-12 Barry Goldwater Scholarship. He competed with 1,095 mathematics, science, and engineering students nationwide for the award.

Geyer began his antihydrogen research last summer under the direction of Reinhold Blümel, the Charlotte Augusta Ayres Professor of Physics. Since then, he has turned the project, titled “Antihydrogen Production in a Paul Trap,” into a successful thesis in partial fulfillment of the Informatics and Modeling Certificate.

While hydrogen is made of an electron and a proton bound together in orbit, antihydrogen