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Official News From the Office of Communications

Student, Faculty Researchers Collaborate in Summer Scholars Program

Summer Scholar Communities is a program in the College of Arts & Sciences in which a faculty member and four to five students work over the summer on scholarly activities. The program blends the structure of a summer session class with the format of a research team focused on a faculty-designed research project. It differs from traditional undergraduate research in that students and faculty from various disciplines across the College of Arts & Sciences meet regularly over the course of the summer to share results, to learn from each other, to present their research findings and discuss challenges and commonalities. The students will present their findings at Belmont’s Science Undergraduate Research Symposium (SURS) this fall.

Biology Associate Professor Nick Ragsdale worked with five students this summer. Liberty Foye, Anderson Webb, Brad Gill and Scott Kim all continued the investigation of innate immunity utilizing the animal model of Caenorhabditis elegans. Rachel Garland continued work on the role of oxidants in the formation of Parkinson’s like disease.

Chair of the Department of Biology and Associate Professor Darlene Panvini worked with six students. Jessica Braden, Emma Ghulam Jan, and Anna Witherspoon compared rates of photosynthesis and stomatal density in leaves of exotic vines (Lonicera japonica and Euonymus fortunei) to native vines (Parthenocissus quinoquefolia and Smilax rotundifoli). They collected leaves and made impressions in the lab to determine stomatal densities. Sylvia Alsup, Lida Ghulam Jan and Lauren Land compared macroinvertebrate diversity in riffles and pools in areas of the Little Harpeth River covered by tree canopy and areas not covered by tree canopy.

Biology Assistant Professor John Niedzwiecki’s group of six students worked with behavioral and population biology questions in a variety of aquatic organisms. Bellamy Hawkins and Breanna Poore worked on chemical detection of predation cues in an aquatic snail. Building on recent work in animal behavior, Parth Majmudar looked for signs of “intelligence” in Orconectes crayfish – a predator of snails. Rachel Chandler followed up on work from past years and studied the specificity and nature of the chemical cue that streamside salamander’s use to detect fish predators. She was able to present that work as a poster at the International Evolutionary Biology conference in Ottawa, Canada this past summer with Niedzwiecki. Janet Steen and Amy Nesius, working in molecular and population genetics, successfully developed microsatellites for use in spotted salamanders.

Mathematics Professor Danny Biles worked with three students and they studied singular differential equations from three different points of view. Ben Shaw studied examples and looked for patterns, McLean Smith considered applications and Alyssa Scheele studied numerical approximations.