Students Present Independent Winter Term Research

News  /  by Emily Galvin '17  /  February 26, 2016

TUESDAY—From 6:00 to 8:00 PM, students and faculty gathered in the Kirby Math and Science Building as Lawrentians presented their Research in Applied Chemistry (RAC) posters, Introduction to Engineering projects, a number of Independent Studies, and summer science research. Most presentations represented the culmination of their independent research in a field of their choosing throughout Winter Term, with each student or group of students working closely with a faculty advisor.

Students in the two-term RAC course made up the majority of presenters at the event, and much of their research emulated university-level work, according to Science Master Darcy Brewer P’14 ’16. “[The students] focus on how to go about standing on the shoulders of giants to use what is already published in scientific literature and seeing what they can do that will be new,” noted Brewer on the structure of the course, which incorporates research of primary literature, hypothesis evaluations, and peer review. “It’s challenging because a lot of the work is independently driven,” he remarked.

Samantha Wu ’16, a RAC student, focused her research on the antibacterial effects of essential spices and oils, motivated largely by the prospect of “looking at an alternative way to kill bacteria, because antibiotic resistance has become a pretty prevalent issue, not only in healthcare,” Wu explained. After first practicing a variety of lab techniques, Wu was able to begin designing and refining her study. Other students’ projects included, but were not limited to, a study of biofuels and compost tea brewing by Katie Leininger ’16 and Christina McGinnis ’16, respectively, while Allie Olnowich ’16 investigated the chemical makeup of various soaps.

Students in Introduction to Engineering spent the term constructing arduino-powered computer systems. Audri Amaro ’16, Gretchen Mario ’16, and Charlie Han ’16, for example, created a prototype for an alarm clock pillow, powered in coordination with applications such as Google Calendars and Mail. These apps allow a signal to be sent to the pillow’s receptor, leading to the notification response of a traditional alarm clock.

Science Master Shinae Park, who teaches the course, added, “We focus a lot on the process of engineering in terms of things like iterative design and prototypes,” which students presented alongside scientific posters. “They all have their own goals,” said Park in reference to the revision and development stages of the projects, “and by composing an idea and fine-tuning it, they are learning how to engineer.”

For Independent Study projects, students met twice a week with a faculty advisor in order to review and build upon weekly progress. Richard Wang ’16 examined the writing of Socrates, Wittgenstein, Dostoevsky, and Nietzsche with regard to their work on language and thought. On the value of presenting work at a poster session, Wang stated, “I have always found student presentations of their initiatives to be incredibly valuable for everyone involved: the passionate students, the advisers and teachers, and the curious members of the community. I recommend the experience—presenting or spectating—to everyone, and I think that the passions that students at Lawrenceville have pursued on their own deserve to be appreciated and put in the spotlight.”