At Eckerd our freshmen do real research.
Eckerd College Research Associateships are awarded to approximately 25 incoming freshmen each year. The winners are selected on the basis of their overall high school record and are given the opportunity to work closely with a member of the faculty on a research project of mutual interest. The associateship includes a one-year stipend of up to $1,000. Freshman Research applications must be addressed to the Office of Admission and postmarked by February 1st.
Select a 2013 Freshman Research Associateship project below to see the full description.
Field: Environmental Studies
Title: Ecovillages around the World
Supervisors: Dr. Alison Ormsby, Associate Professor of Environmental Studies
About the Project:
This project focuses on researching global ecovillages. Ecovillages are intentional communities that have a low-impact, sustainable living environment. There are numerous ecovillages around the world. The Freshman Research Associate will research and produce a case study analysis of several examples of successful ecovillages to evaluate which elements of sustainability they have successfully developed.
About the Supervisor:
Alison Ormsby teaches courses in Environmental Studies, including Environmental Education, Wildlife Policy, Advanced Policy of Protected Areas, and Advanced Ecotourism Policy/Practice. Her research interests include people-nature interactions, the role of environmental education in biodiversity conservation, and protected areas management. Recently, her research has focused on people-park interactions in Madagascar and Florida as well as sacred forests in Ghana and India.
Field: Computer Science
Title: GPU Computing in the Life Sciences
Supervisor: Dr. Trevor Cickovski, Assistant Professor of Computer Science
About the Project:
Scientific computing involves simulating biological entities and viewing results on the computer. This field holds tremendous power in terms of testing conditions which are not attainable in a laboratory, over time periods which may be unattainable, and on materials which may not be accessible. The biggest limitation is the complexity of life processes. For example, the human genome contains around 3 billion DNA base pairs. The bonds in a protein molecule move once every femtosecond (10^-15 seconds), so to accurately model the motion of the molecule for even one second would require 1 million billion calculations. Since a protein folds on the order of seconds, this must be our goal in order to accurately model a behavior such as protein folding, or potentially the interaction of a protein with a designed drug.
To achieve a biologically relevant time period for these types of simulations and have it finish in our lifetime, we must take advantage of every opportunity to speed up numerical processing. Graphical Processing Units (GPUs) on your graphics card offer an alternative to the conventional task of running on CPUs (what we normally use to run programs), because their central purpose is to process large amounts of numbers (RGB data). With the help of GPUs, there has already been evidence of simulation speedups ranging from 60- to 120-fold for large molecules. This project will involve programming portions of simulations (those that involve heavy processing) to work with GPUs, running the simulations on GPUs, and measuring speedups.
About the Supervisor:
Dr. Trevor Cickovski teaches courses in Computer Science, including Java programming, Programming Languages/Compilers, Operating Systems, and Computer Architecture. His research interests lie in the field of applied computing, including the development of mathematical equations to represent natural processes and efficiently implementing them into biological software. He also is fascinated by machine-human interaction and has designed domain-specific languages which have helped biologists and chemists to program their systems using syntax which is catered to their domain. Research conducted with the FRA will build upon existing software for molecular modeling and DNA primer design, and will be part of a collaboration with external universities.
Title: Arts Organizations in St. Petersburg, FL
Supervisor: Dr. Nicholas Dempsey
About the Project:
Saint Petersburg has, in recent years, positioned itself as one of the nation's leading arts cities. The city hosts several art museums and numerous smaller galleries, as well as a number of performing arts organizations and arts educations groups. The purpose of this study is to learn how arts organizations work with other urban institutions such as schools, businesses, and government. We will be exploring why some organizations have enjoyed great success, while others do not survive more than a couple of years. The student will be responsible for tasks such as collecting and summarizing information about arts organizations and attending city government meetings about the arts.
About the supervisor:
Nicholas Dempsey is an assistant professor of Sociology at Eckerd College. He holds undergraduate and graduate degrees from the University of Chicago and teaches courses in the Sociology of Culture, Urban Sociology, Social Theory, and Social Stratification. His past research has explored how jazz musicians interact to craft successfully improvised performances.
Field: Marine Science
The entire course will be an active learning opportunity where students will be working closely with a faculty member on research projects. Students will be engaged in research throughout the course of their freshman year collecting data, analyzing and interpreting their results and eventually presenting their findings. Thus, this course will focus primarily on students doing science compared to more traditional courses that teach about science. Once a week all students in program will meet as a group with the faculty for discussions and updates on research projects. These meetings will give the entire research group a chance to exchange and develop ideas.
Previous Marine Science projects have included:
Application of laboratory culturing techniques to study the microbial ecology of ooids and microbial mats (field collecting and lab work)
Barb regeneration following predatory attack in the Atlantic stingray Dasyatis sabina (field collecting and a laboratory experiment)
Behavioral ecology of a sex-role reversed species: brood size variation in the Gulf pipefish Syngnathus scovelli (project involved field collecting and laboratory work)
Field studies and use of a catalog of dorsal fin markings to investigate social patterns in the bottlenose dolphin (field surveys and lab work with dolphin fin catalog)
Genetic markers for studies of family relationships among wild marine mammals (work in genetics lab)
Hermit crab shell selection behavior: do crabs prefer shells that have been thickened by snails exposed to predators? (field surveys and laboratory experiments)
Lactate excretion in marine crustaceans during activity and exposure to low environmental oxygen (work in physiology lab)
Mitochondrial DNA study of population structure in Gulf and Atlantic populations of the Gulf pipefish, Syngnathus scovelli (field collecting and work in genetics lab)
Physiological consequence of malaria infection in the brown anole Anolis sagrei (field collecting and work in physiology lab)