Caterpillars and CuriosityGambier, Ohio (July 6, 2010) Science students at Kenyon don't simply read textbooks and take classes. They "do" science, hands-on, in the lab and in the field. And among the most intensive "doers" are the Summer Science Scholars, who tackle ambitious research projects in close collaboration with faculty members during the summer months.
This year, twenty-nine Summer Science Scholars are pursuing projects in anthropology, biology, chemistry, mathematics, physics, and psychology. A fellowship award of $3,500 (plus free housing and funds for materials) supports each of the students, who take their projects from the planning stage, through experimentation, to the preparation of results for publication or presentation.
"I got hooked on biology in an introductory course at Kenyon," said Arianne Messerman, now a rising senior, who participated in Summer Science last year. She was part of a student-faculty team investigating "metabolic scaling," a phenomenon that unites all of life, from bacteria to blue whales, through a remarkably consistent relationship between the rate of metabolism and the size of organisms.
Working with grant funds from the National Science Foundation, the Kenyon team has been conducting a number of studies involving Manduca sexta, the caterpillar of the tobacco hawkmoth, an ideal organism for this research because it grows amazingly fast and spans a wide range of body sizes.
"Last summer, I looked at respiration in Manduca," said Messerman, a biology major and studio art minor, "and compared it to body weight and metabolic rate." Using the College's new O2/CO2 gas analyzer, she measured oxygen use and carbon-dioxide release every day, following caterpillars through their five instars (stages between molts). Once the adult moths emerged, she dissected the females' ovaries, counting eggs so as to gather data on the links between weight, metabolic rate, and fecundity.
"The essence of Summer Science is to get a real taste of what it is to do science," said Professor of Biology Harry Itagaki, Messerman's faculty advisor and her summer research mentor. That can mean lows as well as highs, he pointed out, and a good deal of trial and error.
"In real science, things don't always work out neatly," Itagaki said. "But sometimes the most interesting learning experiences happen when your hypothesis goes kaput." Students discover that curiosity, persistence, and creative problem-solving count for a lot in the lab.
Camaraderie helps, too. If the intellectual rewards of Summer Science include the chance to focus intensively on a single topic, the social rewards include great esprit de corps among the students, not to mention getting to know faculty members informally at picnics, dinners, and the occasional pickup softball game.
Following her 2009 Summer Science adventure, Messerman took the opportunity to spend a semester of her junior year in a service-learning program at the Galapagos Academic Institute for the Arts and Sciences, in the Galapagos Islands. Now looking at her senior year and beyond, she plans to go to graduate school in biology, applying her research experience and highly developed sense of curiosity to an even more advanced set of challenges. She'll be ready.
Jonah Auteri, Class of 2011, Bethlehem, Pennsylvania. "Availability
of Health Foods in Knox County."
Kushal Rao, Class of 2013, Cupertino, California. "Lichens and Bark
and Snails; Oh My! Alternatives to Non-Red Meat Substitutes in the
Sarah Cook, Class of 2011, Hinsdale, Illinois. "Genetic Analysis
of the Evolutionary Origin of Photoperiodism in Physcomitrella
Brittany Currey, Class of 2011, Millersburg, Ohio. "Mapping of
Photoperiod-Sensitive Suppressor of elf3 21."
Kari Deininger, Class of 2013, Phoenixville, Pennsylvania.
"Investigation of the Role of Multidrug Efflux Pump Proton
Antiporters in pH Homeostasis in Escherichia coli."
Shante Jackson, Class of 2013, Overland Park, Kansas. "The Effect
of pH and Glucose on Cyclic Adenosine Monophosphate Levels in
Escherichia coli for both Aerobic and Anaerobic Conditions."
Chad Kurylo, Class of 2011, Harleysville, Pennsylvania.
"Identification of FICZ-responsive Genes in Xenopus laevis. "
Emily Lewandowski, Class of 2011, Lewiston, Maine.
"The Expression of Midgut Genes Based on Body Mass of
Kotiba Malek, Class of 2013, Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia. "Measurement of Bacterial Intracellular pH with Green Fluorescent Protein and Fluorescence Ratio Imaging Microscopy."
Camila Odio, Class of 2011, Gahanna, Ohio. "Structural Elements
of Ligand Binding in the Xenopus laevis Aryl hydrocarbon Receptor
Kaung Tun, Class of 2012, Yangon, Burma. "Effects of Nutrition and
Temperature on Growth Rate of Manduca sexta."
James Beckett, Class of 2011, Mount Vernon, Ohio. "Exploring the Versatility of a Novel Route to the Cyclopenta[c] Pyridine Substructure."
Monica Kriete, Class of 2011, Harrisburg, Pennsylvania. "Mechanistic Insight into Epoxide Carbonylation by a Chromium Catalyst."
Dai Shen, Class of 2013, Honolulu, Hawaii. "A More Efficient Way
to Produce Biodiesel."
Abigail Van Wassen, Class of 2011, Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. "A Time Dependent Study of Zinc Oxide Crystal Growth."
Jonathan Weil, Class of 2011, Potomac, Maryland. "Synthesis of Aluminum Catalyst Complexes and Polymerization of Lactides."
Kyle Davis, Class of 2011, Davidson, North Carolina. "Variability Between Cohorts and Instars of Manduca sexta from Metabolic Analysis using Real-Time PCR."
Jennifer Garbett, Class of 2011, Charleston, West Virginia. "Modeling the Manduca sexta Midgut."
Kevin Gerstle, Class of 2011, Louisville, Kentucky. "Analysis of Distributions of Harmonic Measure."
Nathan Huey, Class of 2013, Cincinnati, Ohio. "Alternate
Regression Modeling of Real-Time PCR Data for Manduca sexta."
Benjamin Lucas, Class of 2011, Santa Monica, California. "Setting
an Upper Limit on the Angular Momentum of a Rapidly Rotating
Evan Pease, Class of 2011, Brunswick, Maine. "Modeling the Early
Universe with N-flation."
Matthew Siewny, Class of 2011, Middletown, Ohio. "Studies in
Confined Diffusion of Nanoparticles."
Carolyn Watts, Class of 2012, Shaker Heights, Ohio. "Searching for
Anisotropies in Supernova Surveys."
Rachel Cooper, Class of 2013, Fulton, Maryland. "Defensive
Behavior of Rats in Response to 22-kHz Ultrasonic Vocalizations."
Alexandra Kirsch, Class of 2011, Indianapolis, Indiana. "Prevalence
of the Heterosexual Script in Children's Media."
Lauren Metzger, Class of 2011, Ann Arbor, Michigan. "The Role of
Conformity to the Superwoman Ideal in the Relationship between
Personality and Eating Disorder Symptomatology in Female
Gaither Smith, Class of 2011, Stoughton, Wisconsin. "Mental
Processing Speed, Attentional Control, and Intelligence."
Caitlin Starling, Class of 2012, Timonium, Maryland. "Extraversion/
Introversion and the Vigilance Decrement when Moderated by