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In Pursuit of Research

Honors Upperclassmen Participate in National Science Foundation’s REU Program

Ogden Summer experiences aren’t just about travel – they’re about discovery.

This past summer three Ogden Honors students participated in the National Science Foundation’s prestigious  Research Experiences for Undergraduates (REU) program. Funded by the NSF, the REU program grants college students the opportunity to work with professors and other undergraduates on specific research projects at schools across America. Alongside thousands of other undergraduates, Ogden Honors students broadened their academic backgrounds by immersing themselves in new research experiences.


Hunter Simonson

Chemical Engineering

Junior

hunter-simonson

Junior Hunter Simonson spent his summer at the University of Florida conducting chemical engineering research under Dr. Carlos Rinaldi. The research focused on particle purification using different methods.  

Simonson worked on a project to use gel permeation chromatography to improve nanoparticle purification from organic reactants and solvents. He conducted experiments and gave presentations on his weekly data and future plans in the lab.

“Imagine water trickling down a tube filled with pebbles, except the pebbles have small holes in them,” Simon said. “Larger particles…pass through the beads in the empty space between the beads, whereas smaller particles…pass through the holes of the beads and this slows down their rate of flow.”

According to Simonson, REUs are a “great opportunity to expose you yourself to a real-world research environment, gain knowledge in a research field, and build connections with researchers and professors that you may end up working under.”

Simonson’s advice for students looking to be involved in research? Take a moment to peruse the National Science Foundation’s country-wide database of programs to see what best fits your research interests.


Matthew Bertucci

Math and Philosophy

Junior

matthew-bertucci

Junior Matthew Bertucci spent his summer at the University of Washington in Seattle researching planar and nonplanar graphs and their relation to inverse problems in networks or circuits. Bertucci conducted his research under Dr. James A. Morrow, one of the “initial mathematicians to consider Alberto Calderon’s electrical inverse problem from the perspective of resistor networks.”

Bertucci focused on two projects during his REU experience. One of the projects Bertucci worked on this summer involved searching for a “better model for approximating continuous surface potentials by resistor networks.”  In the other, Bertucci used various methods to count spanning trees of circulant graphs, motivated by the Abelian Sandpile model.

Though Bertucci spent the majority of his time at the University of Washington researching resistor networks and expanding his knowledge of differential equations, he still found time to relax and have fun with the other undergraduates.

“We would work until the sun sets, then play table tennis until midnight with friends from other programs on campus,” Bertucci said.

According to Bertucci, his participation in the REU has improved his ability to absorb challenging material on his own and his capability to do research in a group. He believes that the latter is especially important in his field.

“It cannot be underestimated how building off each other’s ideas and correcting each other’s mistakes optimizes the research process,” he said.


Nicholas Reid

Microbiology

Senior

As for Senior Nicholas Reid, he spent his summer at the University of California at Berkley in a neuroendocrinology lab studying the timing of ovulation and the reproductive cycle. A typical day for Reid consisted of working either on experiments, imaging or presentations, “punctuated by a lot of coffee,” Reid said.

Reid’s research activity focused on how the timing mechanisms in the body integrate with the hormones that cause large-scale changes in the body, such as ovulation. One question the lab tried to answer is how females ovulate on time every month. Reid said that his experience with the REU will influence his future career.

“I hope to be involved in neuroscience going forward,” Reid said. “There are seemingly infinite problems.”

Reid’s input to other undergraduates interested in research is to “pursue research as early as possible” and to focus on one’s writing abilities. He explained that the writing and critical thinking skills he learned in his Ogden Honors classes prepared him to appreciate the context of the research which, he argues, is more vital than the research tasks.

“It is important to actually get things done in the lab,” Reid said. “But understanding the broad scope of your work and actually communicating — that is far more important.”

 

Article by Zoë Williamson, Ogden Honors College.