April 23, 2020
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Emily Bulik-Sullivan ’16 analyzes medieval manuscripts using 21st-century programming languages. Sean Bush ’17 and Kaitlin Creamer ’16 conduct biological research on the cutting edge of their fields. All three scientists have been awarded this semester’s Franklin Miller Awards for their noteworthy contributions to the College’s academic landscape. The award, established by Edward T. “Chip” Ordman ’64 in honor of the late Franklin Miller Jr., a beloved physics professor, includes a $250 credit to the College Bookstore.
Professors from two departments nominated Bulik-Sullivan, a biology major from Chapel Hill, North Carolina. One was Assistant Professor of Spanish Dan Hartnett, who relied on Bulik-Sullivan’s programming skills to process a database of 15th-century Iberian manuscripts.
“For each data point there was a fascinating manuscript that had a ton of history and politics surrounding it,” Bulik-Sullivan said of the project. “It was a fun combination of my interests.”
During her time at Kenyon, Bulik-Sullivan has conducted three years of independent research that began in her “Introduction to Biology” class with her nominator, Professor of Biology Chris Gillen.
Bulik-Sullivan also helped form the “Biosquad,” Writing Center tutors who collaborate with the Math and Science Skills Center located on the science quad — informally known as the “squad” — to improve science writing on campus. “This interaction between science and humanities epitomizes the liberal arts values that we hold dear at Kenyon,” Gillen said.
As scientists and mentors, Bush, a neuroscience major from Strongsville, Ohio, and Creamer, a biology major from Crofton, Maryland, were nominated by Joan Slonczewski, the Robert A. Oden, Jr. Professor of Biology.
The pair contributed to E. coli research in Slonczewski’s lab. “Sean and Kaitlin have made the extraordinary contribution of implementing the computational analysis of microbial genomes [the entire DNA of a microbe] and metagenomes [the DNA of an entire community of microbes],” Slonczewski said.
Bush’s research involved processing the metagenomic data from Antarctic lake samples. Using a state-of-the-art program from the Joint Genome Institute, Bush discovered a new species. Outside the lab, he founded and volunteers for the robotics program at Wiggin Street Elementary. “Hopefully it fosters some kids’ interests like it did mine,” Bush said.
Creamer’s project involved studying the adaptive abilities of E. coli in acidic environments. The data from her experiments already has produced one paper with two more waiting in the pipeline. Creamer also advises students on research and internships as a K-STEM Peer Mentor. She has found that the most important part of scientific research is “to keep asking creative questions and to not give up when it doesn’t work.”
— Timmy Broderick ’16