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Summer research teams pause to share ideas

July 5, 2012

If you're researching  climactic  variation on plant-animal relationships or choreographing dance for the camera, you just might gain valuable insights from peers studying Europeanization in the former Soviet Union or comedy as social justice - or virtually any subject, for that matter.

That was the unspoken message when 45 Skidmore students and their faculty collaborators gathered June 28 to share their experiences at the midpoint mark of the 10-week  Summer Faculty/Student Research Program.

"I want to share the dilemmas and opportunities we are all wresting with," began program director and professor Bob Turner, whose morning agenda was titled "Making Methodological Connections Across the Disciplines." Student researchers were asked to break into small groups of mixed disciplines, and faculty members were told to form their own discussion groups, wryly described by Turner as "Ph.D. ghettos." Table topics included data, analysis, and ethics.

A multidisciplinary sampling of students from
Skidmore's 2012 Summer Faculty/Student Research
Program. L-R, Corry Ethridge '14 (Choreographing
Environments for the Camera); Brendan Geraghty
'14 (Synthetic Strategies and their Applications in
the Organic Chemistry Lab); Alexandra Sosinsky
'14 (Heme Oxygenase-1 Expression and Prevention
of Diet-induced Obesity);  Hannah Miller '14 (From
One Learner to Another: How Children Learn About
Objects by Watching Adults); Evan Stater '13
Investigation of Copper-exporting Transmembrane
Proteins in Enterobacteria); and
Evan Nathan '15
(Geometric Morphometric Analysis Using

Alexandra Sosinsky '14 is part of a team analyzing how well and why the drug MnTBAP reduces obesity. She told her tablemates that it's clear that the lab mice injected with the drug are becoming leaner, and theorizes that enhanced metabolism from an increase in an enzyme called HO-1 is a potential explanation.

According to Sosinsky's faculty partner, professor T.H. Reynolds, "HO-1 is in all our cells and produces carbon monoxide, and could be a potential mechanism for how this weight-loss compound works. We will know by the end of the summer once we get our results from the study we are conducting using an HO-1 inhibitor."

Seated at Sosinsky's multidisciplinary table was Evan Nathan '15, part of a team led by professor Abby Grace Drake that is producing accurate skull shapes from photos with 3D computer software called PhotoModeler. This non-traditional approach has never been done before andcould provide evolutionary biologists with a reliable and accessible database that paves the way to further research.

"We're at the biggest hurdle now," says an excited Nathan. "We're reading the scientific literature to see what experiments we can perform on large skulls (like whales and dinosaurs, neither of which have been done), and we're e-mailing museum curators and asking for access to their skull collections. Hopefully, they'll say yes and we'll be able to start taking photographs of them before the summer's over."

Meanwhile, for professor Kate Graney, who, with Emma Kurs '12, is documenting the Europeanization of former Soviet republics, the problem is too much data (16 countries and 48 variables), not to mention the inherent language limitations. Said Graney, "The Internet is a blessing and a curse."

Four weeks to go, and counting

Open to the public, the final research team presentations will be held Thursday, August 2, from 9 a.m.- 3 p.m., on the second floor of Murray-Aikins Dining Hall.

The Summer Faculty/Student Research Program is made possible by the generous support of many foundations , alumni and friends. For the full list, click  here.

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