8 - l i n f i e l d m a g a z i n e Fall 2014 And that’s just what faculty intend. iFOCUS reflects the importance of blended sciences – the need to examine issues from multiple subject areas, according to Anne Kruchten, associate professor of biology and iFOCUS coordinator. It also addresses the national need for STEM (science, technology, engineering, math) graduates. “Science is inherently interdisciplinary,” said Kruchten, one of six Linfield faculty involved in the program. “I can’t do research only in my lab. I need to find a physicist and a chemist and a mathematician to have a complete project.” iFOCUS is changing the profile of Linfield science students by establishing a community of scientists early on. Once classes begin, iFOCUS students often spend time together, outside the science lab and also in student-led learning communities. Younger, more confident researchers pursue projects earlier and stay involved longer, ultimately changing how research progresses. “We see first-year students in research labs because of iFOCUS,” Kruchten said. “That doesn’t happen at other schools. Generally students don’t get to go into research until their junior or senior year, which may be too late for them to decide about a career.” A leg up After three years with the program, Jeremy Weisz, assistant professor of biology, says iFOCUS students are more eager, involved and excited. Enthusiasm translates to more research, thoughtful questions, better projects and ultimately better science, according to Weisz and other professors. “Students come out of iFOCUS knowing a handful of faculty so when they see us, they ask questions and voice concerns,” Weisz added. “They are comfortable with us and that is really important. iFOCUS gives students a leg up.” On day four, at Seal Rock south of Newport, students are immersed in marine biology. They wade into the surf to collect water samples and press hollow tubes into the sand to gather core samples. They examine the tiny organisms in the sand – amphipods and polychaete worms – and record observations in a notebook. Back at camp, using a spectrophotometer, they analyze water samples for nitrate concentrations to find correlations between types and numbers of organisms in the sand and the nitrates in the water. The beach trip was enlightening for Cheyenne Maio-Silva ’18 of Hawaii, who is fascinated by marine biology. “I’m interested to see the different types of organisms on the Oregon coast and compare them to the ones back home,” she said. But the iFOCUS experience offers more than just science to newly arrived students. Friendships take hold. The week includes a number of team building activities, such as camping at the beach, bowling, shared meals and s’mores around a campfire. Victoria Wood ’16, a 35-year-old transfer student from Rogue Community College, valued the chance to get to know faculty and other students, but the program’s research focus had a personal appeal. Seven years ago, Wood developed a rare form of psoriasis, Erythroderma, which covers her body from head to toe. With her sights set on a biochemistry major, she hopes to one day research genetic factors that influence psoriasis and study the root cause and possible treatments. “Some people just get large spots, but it covers me completely,” said Wood, who has adjusted her diet and increased her physical activity to find relief. “iFOCUS helped me to realize I’m not the only crazy, nerdy, science-y person,” she said with a smile. “I am surrounded by people who want to do something more, find the answers. It’s nice to know there are others who want to do that, too, and to have that support system.” Hearst grant expands iFOCUS Thanks to a grant from the Hearst Foundation, iFOCUS is expanding to year-round programming, adding more opportunities for more students. With increasing focus on encouraging more students to enroll in STEM majors (science, technology, engineering, math), the Hearst grant will help Linfield expand the iFOCUS program by supporting: • A summer boot camp held prior to orientation that brings together faculty, student peer advisors and incoming students to engage in research activities that demonstrate the interdisciplinary nature of science. • Learning communities that keep students immersed in science by working collaboratively on an interdisciplinary science research project with a science faculty member. • A year-long seminar series featuring lectures on interdisciplinary topics by Linfield professors, faculty members from other colleges and universities, and scientists prominent in their fields. Learn more about iFOCUS: linfield.edu/ifocus Watch a video at: youtube.com/linfieldcollege/videos Physics Professor Jennifer Heath, center, watches Anna Vandershaegen ’18, left, and Kathy Trinh ’18, right, as they program circuit boards to spell out the word iFOCUS in a moving pattern.
2014 Fall Linfield Magazine
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