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Linfield Mag 28 Fall 2014

From left, Yura Sim ’14, Arun Bajracharya ’16 and Tyler Schiewe ’16 with Professor Joelle Murray, spent the summer studying protein folding with computers. In the simulation environment, proteins can be folded by assigning coordinates and moving them about. “The trick is writing code that mimics reality and makes predictions,” Sim said. Fall 2013 l i n f i e l d m a g a z i n e - 1 3 “Once students understand how to learn and test things on their own, their learning accelerates dramatically,” Ford said. After graduating from Linfield, Mills hopes to continue working with Lvsys and might eventually pursue video game creation. Nanoparticle research in France A presentation at a national leadership conference helped Katie Corp ’14 secure a research internship in France last summer. Corp, a chemistry and math major, applied for a research internship through the National Science Foundation Research Experiences for Undergraduates (NSF-REU) program seeking an opportunity to combine her passion for chemistry and math with her love of all things French. Corp spoke at the American Chemical Society conference last year offering tips and suggestions on how professors should communicate with undergraduate students. That presentation led to an encounter with a professor with ties to the NSF-REU program and an endorsement for her acceptance into the program. Corp spent the summer at the Université Paul Sabatier in Toulouse, France, where she worked with nanoparticles that could eventually be used for developing tiny electronic circuits. She expanded not only her chemistry knowledge, she also worked alongside people from around the world. As a freshman, Corp began working on nanoparticle research with Brian Gilbert, associate professor of chemistry. Over the next three years, she learned how to use a Raman spectrometer and other lab equipment and techniques. In France, she had access to state-of-the-art instruments and was trained on a nuclear magnetic resonance machine, a transmission electron microscope, glove box and vacuum lines. Working in a large research lab with 250 people was overwhelming at first, after conducting research at Linfield with anywhere from four to 12 students, Corp said. However, researchers were split into smaller teams, which more closely resembled her Linfield research experience. “This experience studying abroad and doing research in a different culture will strengthen my applications to graduate school,” said Corp, who plans to pursue a Ph.D. in chemistry. “I’m not set on a big-name school, but somewhere where I love the research and I can get a good adviser and a great education,” she added. Computational physics Deep in the basement of Graf Hall, three Linfield College science students are running experiments using computers rather than test tubes. Welcome to the world of computational physics. Arun Bajracharya ’16, Tyler Schiewe ’16 and Yura Sim ’14 are combining their skills in physics, biology and computers to gain a more holistic understanding of proteins. Led by Joelle Murray, associate professor of physics, they are using computer simulations to study protein folding, the process by which a protein assumes its functional shape. Some diseases, such as Parkinson’s and Alzheimer’s, are the result of misfolded protein structures. “If we can learn and understand how protein folding occurs, scientists could possibly prevent the misfolding from occurring in the future,” said Sim. The students are studying protein folding under the framework of self-organized criticality, a physics concept useful in understanding forest fires and avalanches. In the same way that random movements of snow on a mountain can produce a complete avalanche, the students have tried to see if random folds in a protein can produce physically realistic protein structures. The three are learning more than just physics. All distinct individuals with varied skill sets, they are learning to problem solve as a team while maintaining their own perspectives. “The three of us have different backgrounds and know completely different things,” said Sim, a biology and chemistry double major, as the others nod in agreement. “It’s important to problem solve and communicate.” Schiewe, a math major, says merging the science fields – biology and physics – has given him a broad perspective. “Being able to look at different ideas and figure out how they relate is a valuable skill,” he said. “If we can understand what we’ve learned from protein folding and apply that to other projects, that’s extremely useful.” For Bajracharya, a physics major and math minor, the experience has spurred an interest in computer programming. The research project, in its fourth year, resulted from class discussions between Murray and her students and centers on self-organized critical systems. This is the first research to look at protein folding from this perspective, Murray said, which makes it both challenging and exciting. “The research we’re doing is not well defined,” Murray said. “There’s no textbook to refer to. We are defining it and that’s hard to do.” – Laura Davis, Mardi Mileham


Linfield Mag 28 Fall 2014
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