Students present projects in fourth part of series

Mathematics department sponsors event to promote summer research opportunities

Kristen Dennis, ‘15,  and Kyle Donnelly, ‘17, presented their research from the past summer, detailing technical aspects of the projects and providing insight into the application process and research experience as students and professors gathered on Nov. 6 at 12:30 p.m. in the basement of Carr Hall.

The event, sponsored by the Mathematics department, constituted the fourth in a series of Student Research Presentation events initiated by the Society of Physics Students designed to promote research involvement in younger students and provide awareness about existing opportunities.

“I think it’s great…when I was a freshman or sophomore I would have attended because I not only got to talk to students, I also got to talk to professors, and I got feedback on how I’m doing, how people are receiving it, but also from the student perspective, you’re getting to see, there are so many more options [for research] than you’d even imagine,” said Dennis.

A mathematics and geology double major, Dennis worked in Santa Fe, New Mexico this summer, where she conducted research in geophysics specializing in magnetotelluric electromagnetics as part of the Summer of Applied Geophysical Experience program, one of the many Research Experience for Undergraduates (REU) programs offered across the country funded by the National Science Foundation.

“I looked at dimensionality of non-invasive techniques to look at the subsurface in New Mexico. [The program] was a great experience, honestly. I met some of my best friends and colleagues for the future…I learned so much, and I made a lot of great connections,” said Dennis.

Dennis hopes to attend graduate school next year for a doctorate in magnetotellurics.

Donnelly, a mathematics and physics double major, stayed at Allegheny over the summer conducting research in astrophysics with professor Jamie Lombardi in the Physics department. Donnelly worked with a computer code called StarSmasher that uses analytical methods to simulate interactions, usually between stars.

“The fact that I did research at all will make me more marketable when I apply for other research positions next summer and the following,” said Donnelly.

Donnelly found his summer research experience invaluable and hopes that other students take advantage of such opportunities.

“It is especially important for first year students to understand that they are capable of doing research, right after their freshman year and that it is very easy to contact professors in order to do research. This event series gives insight into how to do that, not only here on campus but also when studying at other campuses doing research there,” said Donnelly.

Donnelly is now considering pursuing research in neural physics, an area for which he hopes his background in computational physics gained this summer will prepare him. He ultimately plans to pursue a doctorate in physics.

The event series has garnered support from departments and organizations across campus. Professor Ivelitza Garcia of the Chemistry department and biochemistry program at Allegheny takes a lead role in the campus’s Women in Science organization. The organization helps advertise the events and fosters connections across natural science departments by identifying both potential speakers and sponsors.

“This [event series] falls right in line with what Women in Science is trying to do, in the sense that it is trying to promote and advocate for female students who are interested in pursuing careers in STEM fields,” said Garcia. “Research not only allows you to form networks but also helps you gain a sense of direction, in terms of do you really want to go into research, or do you want to do an alternative career in science. It is a great experience in terms of just increasing your scientific knowledge, but also it is a great experience in terms of developing your career goals.”

Society of Physics Students president Erin Brown, ‘15, was enthusiastic about the ways in which the event series would impact the campus community.

“Offering this series provides a great opportunity both for students to practice presenting their research in a safe, low-pressure setting and for other students to gain exposure to research in the discipline or disciplines of their interest,” said Brown. “By making this series a weekly event, we promote a friendly, inclusive environment for all students in the natural sciences, particularly those new to their majors, providing them the opportunity to connect with peers who share their interests and with older students and professors who might serve as informal mentors.”

The Student Research Presentation event series will resume in January 2015 with 10 lunchtime events scheduled for Thursdays at 12:30 p.m. incorporating research from each of the natural science departments at Allegheny. Pizza lunch will be provided at each of these events.