Second annual Summer Research Symposium to display outside work of students

Second annual Summer Research Symposium to display outside work of students

by Allison UllmannStaff Writer

The Division of Natural Sciences hosted a Summer Research Symposium at 6:00 p.m. on Sept. 26 in Jordan Lecture Hall. Eight students presented their undergraduate research conducted over the summer to the Simpson community.

This is the second annual symposium held at Simpson. Last year, 14 students presented and 8 presented this year. According to Deb Czarneski, assistant professor of mathematics and co-coordinator of the symposium, the event came about because the community was interested in hearing about the students’ research.

“Last year was a great success and the students did very well presenting and sharing their information,” Czarneski said. “It was exciting for the Simpson community because they got to hear about all of the exciting things the students have done.”

Many of the students do their research through a program called Research Experiences for Undergraduates. Travel and food are included in the program in addition to a stipend for participating.

“We encourage students to participate in REU’s,” Czarneski said. “It is a great experience to do research with leading researchers in various fields.”

This year, the student presenters include Megan Crawford, Heidi Arjes, Patrick Carlson, Casie Schmitt, Mack Worthington, Katie Wiggenjost, Nate Smith and Jennifer Binning.

Senior Megan Crawford, a biology major, conducted research as an intern for Kemin Industries Inc., a local business in Des Moines. Crawford worked in the microbiology lab, with CloSTAT?, a microbial additive to poultry feed that improves intestinal health. Crawford worked to verify the number of microbes remaining in the feed after pelleting.

“I enjoyed working in industry instead of at a university because I’m creating a product for market,” Crawford said. “Research is highly recommended for science students. We only get a taste of lab work at school and participating in day-to-day lab operations is invaluable experience.”

Senior Heidi Arjes, a biochemistry and German major, researched at the University of Kassel in Germany for three months. Arjes also received a scholarship from the American Chemical Society and was invited to present a poster of her research at the ACS’s fall meeting in Boston.

Working outside of the U.S. was an added bonus to Arjes.

“I loved being in a foreign country and experiencing research in a different setting,” Arjes said. “I enjoyed working with Ph.D. students from all over the world in a fun atmosphere.”

Senior Patrick Carlson, a computer science and psychology major, conducted research at the University of New Mexico through the REU program. His research dealt with machine learning, which is a sub-branch of artificial intelligence.

“My project dealt with trying to learn things about a person’s computer to detect malware, which is anything bad on your computer such as viruses or spyware,” Carlson said. “We were trying to develop a program that would flag programs that could be a potential threat.”

Casie Schmitt, a senior math and physics major, conducted research at the University of Oklahoma through the REU program for nine weeks.

Schmitt was happy to have the opportunity to conduct research, but she felt that it really wasn’t something she was interested in.

“The physics department at Simpson is very small and doesn’t offer many research opportunities, which is why it was nice to be exposed to something not offered at Simpson,” Schmitt said. “I realized that it was a direction I was thinking of going in life; but after this summer I realized that it wasn’t really for me.”

Mack Worthington, a senior biology major, worked at Des Moines University this summer under Dr. Henry in the Physiology/Pharmacology department. The focus of his research looked at effects of the drug Zocor. Worthington looked at the use of Zocor on blood cells. The ultimate goal of the research project is to find a therapeutic treatment for Chronic Leukemia.

“I learned as you go on in research experiments, the day-to-day experiments change,” Worthington said. “Research is more than just lab experience, it’s learning basic technologies and adapting to the unexpected results.”

Senior Katie Wiggenjost, a biology major, also worked at Des Moines University in the Microbiology department. Her research looked at Crithidia, a parasite in mosquitoes. The goal of the research was to determine what makes Crithidia stick to the gut of its host.

Wiggenjost believes that the research symposium is a good opportunity to check out students’ research to see if that is something students are interested in.

“I think it’s good to know that students are [doing] research during the summer,” Wiggenjost said. “It also allows students to know who to ask about where to go for research opportunities. If you’re interested at all in research, it’s definitely something to try to see if you like it.”