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FURSCA Feature: Scott DesRosiers, '15

Your Major:

Biology and History. Environmental Concentration.

Your Adviser:

Dale Kennedy

Briefly explain your FURSCA project.

This summer, I am attempting to determine whether house wrens exhibit conspecific alarm calls, or scolds, that vary depending on the threat to the nest.

What have you learned so far in doing your research?

I have learned a great deal about sound analysis software, planning experimental procedures, and adapting to field work.Scott DesRosiers, '15, at the Whitehouse Nature Center

Why did you pick this particular project?

I decided on the topic for this project following an Animal Communication Honors course taught by Dr. Dale Kennedy last fall.

How will this FURSCA project help you after Albion?

This FURSCA project has helped me better understand the career of a researcher and how to plan and execute an experiment starting from a simple question.

What is your thesis, and how is it coming together?

Still working on it... I'm hoping to find a way to combine what I have learned in biology and history with an environmental subject.

Looking back, how has the project worked out?

Working on the experiment this summer has been a blast and an excellent learning experience. We are still analyzing the hours of data we have collected out in the field, but should have an interesting conclusion no matter how it turns out.

FURSCA Feature: Chris Blaker, '14

Chris Blaker, '14

Your Major:

History

Your Adviser:

Wesley Dick

Briefly explain your FURSCA project.

My project is called "The War: The Impact of World War II at Albion College." I've been looking at old records and documents to better understand the many ways in which the Second World War affected both the college and the town of Albion. I've also studied the ways in which the college changed and evolved as a direct result of its participation in the war.

What have you learned so far in doing your research?

Albion College, like many other colleges and universities in the United States, was greatly affected by the largest war in the history of the modern world. Many students entered military-sponsored programs to continue their education while receiving military training and earned officer's commissions upon graduation. The campus itself was involved in the military buildup, as detachments of Army Air Force cadets lived and trained there in 1943 and 1944.

Why did you pick this particular project?

In years past, I've completed research detailing the memories and experiences of World War II veterans, so I wanted to expand on my research to include experiences of those on the homefront who found themselves affected by the war. My advisor, Dr. Wes Dick, was the one who suggested I research Albion College as a wartime case study.

How will this FURSCA project help you after Albion?

I have already began writing a departmental thesis, which combines all of my World War II research into an organized and chronological story of varying wartime experiences of those in Michigan. I plan to use this thesis, as well as my research knowledge gained from two summer fellowships through FURSCA, to prepare me for graduate studies in history following my graduation from Albion this coming spring.

What is your thesis, and how is it coming together?

The thesis itself explains that the war affected Michigan in many different ways, sometime in more ways than we had thought. I've been able to organize the stories of three United States Marines, one Army Air Force officer, and of course the stories of those on the homefront at Albion College. Thus far, I have completed roughly 80 pages of text, but it's impossible to tell how long the thesis will be by the end.

Looking back, how has the project worked out?

I think that this has been a great project to work on. There is certainly no shortage of interesting materials, and I am always excited to find something new that takes my study in a completely new and different direction. I'm impressed by how interested my fellow students and members of the faculty are by my research findings; we at Albion cannot deny that our college's past really is fascinating.

FURSCA Feature: Emma Stapley, '16

Your Major:

Biology and English

Your Adviser:

Mary Collar

Briefly explain your FURSCA project.

I wrote a historical fiction novella about an author in the First World War. The story follows an unnamed Second Lieutenant who struggles to relate to his men. The narrative switches between his actual experiences and a fantasy story that he is writing for his sister to explain life in the trenches.

What have you learned so far in doing your research?

I learned that I need to plan my writing carefully so that my work is built around a plot (a chain of causes and effects) and not a just a story (a series of events); at the same time, I do need to be willing to let the story take unexpected twists. I also learned how to incorporate historical data into a story without making the narrative sound like a factual essay.

Why did you pick this particular project?

I love writing and I would like to be a author professionally, so I wanted to have a chance to focus on developing my writing style, ability to create a plot, and skill at working historical data into a narrative.

I chose the setting and plot for the story because I am fascinated by the ways in which humans use fantasy to understand their world; the fact that J. R. R. Tolkien--one of my literary heroes--created the world of Middle Earth in the trenches of the First World War gave me a setting in which to examine this relationship between reality and fantasy.

How will this FURSCA project help you after Albion?

The opportunity to focus exclusively on developing my writing style will be invaluable both in my career as an author and whenever I need to express ideas and opinions in writing. The ability to write within a tight time schedule (nine weeks seems exceptionally short when you need to research, plan, and write a 98 page story) will help me to continue to write through vet school and as a working veterinarian.

What's next for your project?

I need to do another round of editing on the story (there won't be any major changes, but I need to do more to foreshadow and justify parts of the ending), then I will send it to a group of pre-readers. Once I have worked in their critiques, I will work on getting the novella published. I will do an Elkin Issac Symposium presentation.

Looking back, how has the project worked out?

The project went much more smoothly than I had expected. Because I put so much work into research and plot development at the start of the summer, I was able to finish the 98 page story on schedule. While the work was often difficult, and occasionally frustrating, it was never boring for a moment! I loved focusing on my writing (which is a rare opportunity for a Pre-Vet student and equestrian) and receiving expert feedback on my work; even though completing the story required a lot of extremely hard work, I enjoyed every bit of this project.

FURSCA Feature: Alex Yaw, '14

Alex Yaw, '13, with Prof. Tammy Jechura
Alex Yaw, '14, with Dr. Tammy Jechura

Your Major:

Psychology, with minors in Cell and Molecular Biology and Chemistry.

Your Adviser:

Tammy Jechura

Briefly explain your FURSCA project.

I am studying circadian rhythms and muscle performance. Specifically I am looking at sleep, nutriton, and handgrip strength and fatigue times with the goal to examine the interactions of these variables in college athletes.

Essentially I monitor participants for three full days, and test them on their handgrip strength and fatigue time each day. Participants wear an armband continuously throughout the testing period that takes different physiological measurements, including information about the amount of physical activity and sleep. Participants also wear a headband to sleep that collects more in-depth data about their sleeping patterns. I also have the participants take subjective measurements of the sleep each day and an overall measure of nutriton.

What have you learned so far in doing your research?

I am learning quite a bit about research in general. am not only learning how to create, design, and put a research project into action, but I am learning critical thinking skills. I am gaining experience in working with participants and using statistical measures to analyze data.

Why did you pick this particular project?

This project is really a combination of my interests and those of my adviser. Tammy has done quite a bit of research in circadian rhythms, with sleep in particular, and I am interested in aspects of athletic and physical performance. This project is a mixture of both of our interests as well as incorporating aspects of some of the classes I have taken. For example, the handgrip dynameter, the tool I use to measure handgrip strength and fatigue time, was introduced to me in my General Physiology biology class, and I was able to use the same tool in my RDA II class for my experiment.

How will this FURSCA project help you after Albion?

The opportunity to do this project has been invaluable. Being able to design and carry out my own research project has really helped me to realize that I want to continue doing research after I graduate from Albion. This helped me no only learn more about circadian rhythms and performance, but helped me discover that I love doing research. It will also be extremely beneficial to have research experience when I am applying to graduate schools.

What's next for your project?

In the upcoming year I plan to continue this research. I will use the results from this research as a starting point for a senior thesis in psychology and I will hopefully present at the Elkin Isaac Symposium and other conferences.

Looking back, how has the project worked out?

This project has been amazing. We have hit some unexpected roadblocks, like having was that the company that makes the headband monitor went out of business, which was especially frustrating because the headband would give us the most detailed data about sleep habits. The company offered online data collection and analysis; however once the company was gone, they removed the database that gives the data. Luckily after a few weeks, Tammy found a way to gather some information from the device itself.

The actual collection is much more tedious, but the information is really valuable. I love doing literature searches, and it has been really wonderful exploring a topic that no one else has really studied. People have looked at the affects of jet lag on athletic performance, but other than that, not much information on sleep cycles and athletes are available, and no one, as least as far as I have seen, has connected athletic performance, sleep, and nutrition. I am really excited to explore these topics further, and, hopefully, find something no one else has.

FURSCA Feature: Allison McClish, '15

Allison McClish, '15

Your Major:

Biology

Your Adviser:

Roger Albertson

Briefly explain your FURSCA project.

The goal for my FURSCA project this year was two-parted. The first part was to compare the infection frequency of Wolbachia in local drosophila populations to the infection frequency found last year. To do this I set up traps in three different locations which I used to catch the flies. The ones caught were then tested for Wolbachia infection. The second part was to test these wild-caught flies for Cytoplasmic Incompatibility, which favors the successful reproduction of infected females over uninfected ones, since this mechanism may be a potential cause for the high infection frequency found last year.

What have you learned so far in doing your research?

I have learned the lab techniques for breeding and testing fruit flies, as well as the methods for trapping wild flies. I have learned some of the techniques previously, but this research has given me a chance to practice and refine those skills. I have also learned about studies that have previously been performed in this field of study, and this has helped point to further potential avenues of study.

Why did you pick this particular project?

When I am finished with college I want to work on genetic research. Dr. Roger Albertson was the professor for the genetics class which I took a few semesters ago. Since I knew that he worked on genetics and I already knew him because of the class, I approached him about working under him on genetic research. He agreed and presented potential avenues of study. I chose to continue the work that Isaac Versey-White did last summer (2012), and so the research I did this summer was a logical continuation of that.

How will this FURSCA project help you after Albion?

Any sort of research will look good on future applications to graduate schools or jobs. This particular research, being in the field of study I wish to pursue, further aids me by familiarizing me with methods and techniques which I may need in the future.

What's next for your project?

This summer I unfortunately had some inconveniences in that my traps provided no flies of the appropriate species outside of Albion itself. Further projects may set up traps in different locations or at a different time of the year.

Looking back, how has the project worked out?

Data-wise, the project was a relative success. The results we obtained showed negative results for the CI effects and showed a significant difference in infection frequency from last year. There were some significant variables that may have been effecting the CI crosses, however, which may have skewed the results. Similarly, the infection frequency for this summer was determined with a relatively small sample group from only one population of wild flies, since most of the traps did not produce flies. The infection frequency may be different in different locations. I did enjoy the project, though. The work was enjoyable, both in the lab and in the field. Overall, I had a lot of fun collecting my data and running my tests and with the project in general.

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