This summer, Houghton College students gathered around laboratory tables, waded through creeks and ponds, ‘painted’ molecules, and more in the college’s innovative Summer Research Institute (SRI).
SRI combines faculty expertise with hands-on experiential learning, taking students’ knowledge beyond the classroom and into the lab, the local area, and beyond. Eighteen students spent weeks researching, experimenting, and drawing scientific conclusions on topics ranging from amphibian and reptile predator-prey interactions to thin silver films used in electronics.
This year’s projects included:
- Development of methodologies for the structural study of biological molecules, including ‘painting’ molecules. Ellirose Edwards ’20 and Sahara Javner ’20 worked with Dr. Paul Martino, professor of biochemistry.
- Study of the impeller mixing process operating in the transitional flow regime via computer simulations, testing alternatives to models commonly used in the industry. Josiah Kratz ’20 and Jared Malone ’21 collaborated with Dr. Kurt Aikens, assistant professor of physics and director of SRI.
- Detection of grapevine leafroll-associated viruses in wild and cultivated grapevine in Allegany and Cattaraugus counties, and assessment and optimization of methods to remove the virus and stabilize the plant. Dr. Jamie Potter, associate professor of biology, combined forces with Kelsey Barrus ’20 and Jacquelyn Lewis ’19.
- Examination of chemically mediated predatory-prey interactions among amphibians and reptiles, including the introduction of new threats. Emilia Gildemeister ’18, Lexie Reitler ’20 and Anna Trimble ’21 joined Dr. Aaron Sullivan, associate professor and chair of the biology department, in the study.
- Assessment of the effects of electrical stimulation on wound recovery in smooth muscle (such as that found in the stomach, intestines, and blood vessels). Dr. Ransom Poythress, assistant professor of biology, worked with students Kirsten Blakeslee ’19 and Keegan Frenya ’19.
- Measurement of a cross section for the 3H(t,g)6He radiative reaction using inertial confinement fusion at the University of Rochester’s Laboratory for Laser Energetics. Katelyn Cook ’19, Emma Bruce ’20, and Sarah Hull collaborated with Dr. Mark Yuly, professor of physics and associate dean for the natural sciences and mathematics.
- Classification of mathematical coadjoint orbits for the unipotent radical of minimal parabolic subgroups for the special linear group of n by n matrices, including development of a computer program to perform the classification for given n. Caleb Lyon ’20 and Nathaniel Parks ’20 joined Dr. Brandon Bate, assistant professor of mathematics, on the project.
- Study of the thin silver films used in today’s technology, specifically defects or effects on the films, and improving the general model that describes similar thin metal films. Sarah Olandt ’20 and Daniil Zhuravlev ’18 worked with Dr. Brandon Hoffman, associate professor of physics.
The Summer Research Institute has offered unique research opportunities for more than 100 students since its 2007 inception. In 2016 SRI was named one of the Top 50 Best College Summer Programs in the Country by Best College Reviews, joining Ivy League schools such as Columbia and Yale.