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Linfield Mag 28 Fall 2014

from other research and then made it our own.” Dorman was able to find data to estimate some of the parameters in their model. For other parameters that couldn’t be estimated with known data, they applied different examples across a wide range of realistic values to see how they would affect the solution. It is this trial and error, this asking and answering, that prompts additional questions. Dorman and Bricher discuss, analyze and repeat the same questions from new angles. They work in a classroom diagramming equations on the white board, then move to the computer lab where they write computer code and graph solutions to their mathematical models using the software program Mathematica. From time to time, they stumble upon a breakthrough. “At one point, Mandy brought up a big point,” Bricher said. “What is the rate at which a potential terrorist becomes a terrorist based on an interaction with a terrorist? That data doesn’t exist and would provide motivation for a psychological study.” Sociologists or social psychologists might research the inner cells of a terrorist organization to see what would serve as incentive to quit, said Dorman. “This could result in developing more effective governmental policies to control a terrorist organization’s population size,” she added. Using math to understand and explain real-world phenomena drew Bricher to the subject more than two decades ago, while a student at Linfield. “It’s amazing to me that you can do this – use mathematics to take a real-world situation and understand how a terrorist organization evolves and works,” Bricher said. “I love it.” Are sponges bioindicators? Imagine diving into 30 feet of murky water, tides pulling and pushing as you try to collect water samples and pull sponges clinging tightly to rocks on the seabed. That’s how three Linfield students spent part of their summer, clad in wet suits, air tanks and thick gloves. Their excitement is palpable as they describe being tossed by tides, clinging to rocks and sometimes barely able to see inches in front of their faces. Matt Creech ’14, Amy Hammerquist ’14 and Mariah Denhart ’15 worked alongside Jeremy Weisz, assistant professor of biology, investigating whether sponges can serve as bioindicators of pollution. Weisz is researching how sponges, which filter huge volumes of water, respond to changing nitrogen levels. They might indicate if an estuary is clean or if it is being impacted by pollution. The students spent about three weeks diving in Netarts Bay, and in between returned to the lab at Linfield to analyze their samples. They learned basic and advanced lab techniques and were trained to use a scanning electronic microscope. The knowledge will help them as they pursue graduate studies and is also filtering back into their classes. “It’s been fantastic because for every biology or chemistry-related class I have, everything makes more sense when you learn how to apply it. It keeps me thinking about science when school’s out and keeps your brain figuring out different ways that biologists have of solving problems.” – Matt Creech ’14 Matt Creech ’14, Mariah Denhart ’15 and Amy Hammerquist ’14 spent the summer scuba diving and collecting samples and then analyzing them in the lab. They agreed that working with Professor Jeremy Weisz has been their best college experience, saying he allowed them freedom to work alone, but was always available to help when needed. “He’s patient and relaxed and never got excited when we made mistakes,” Hammerquist said. Creech added, “We have to be serious in the field, but his relaxed attitude made us more creative. You think of different things, you work in different ways.” “It’s been fantastic because for every biology or chemistryrelated class I have, everything makes more sense when you learn how to apply it,” Creech said. “It keeps me thinking about science when school’s out and keeps your brain figuring out different ways that biologists have of solving problems.” Students honed critical thinking skills daily. “There are plenty of things that can go wrong in the field that you have to deal with on the fly,” Hammerquist said. “You learn how to keep calm under pressure and deal with challenges that come up.” All three students will present their findings at the Murdock College Science Research conference this fall and they will attend the American Society of Microbiology conference in the spring. Hammerquist will present her work there as part of the undergraduate research fellowship she was awarded for her work with Weisz during the summer. Fall 2013 l i n f i e l d m a g a z i n e - 9


Linfield Mag 28 Fall 2014
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