That’s right. You’ve waited a whole year for this and it’s finally here. Our annual Springtime Potluck Poster Session SciencePalooza is this Friday. Students doing projects in Biology, Chemistry, Physics, Astronomy, Computing, Earth Science and Math will be presenting posters of their work at this special Science Workshop Poster Session.
As with any potluck worthy of the term, there will be food. Lots and lots of food. Pizza, breads, salads, a vindaloo, perhaps, and other homemade specialties, desserts, etc., etc., etc.
Place and Time? Dickinson - all over the building – from 12 to 2 on Friday, May 24. Come see what our students have been working on, ask good questions, enjoy good food, have a great time. It’s a terrific way to bring the year to a close.
See you there.
Friday May 17, 1:00-2:00 pm, science workshop, Dickinson 225
Butterflies Hit the Gym: Fitness Consequences of Developmental Temperature Variation. Emily Mikucki
Arsenic and Old Lakes: The Mobility of As in YOUR WATER. Nora LaCasse
Identifying Components of Cytosolic Quality Control. Celeste Schepp
Monday May 13 at 4:00 -4:45 pm, Dickinson 239.
Alexa Villaume: Understanding the Disk Structure of UXOR-type Star RR Tau
Evan Braun: Host Colony Defense Plasticity: A Potential Building Block for an Evolutionary Symbiosis
(Stars image: NASA.gov; Ants image: Reed.edu)
We will be having a mathfest of sorts at Science Workshop on May 10. Three of our senior students will be talking on their advanced work:
- Kian Ross: Rubik’s cube and Cayley graphs
- Hannah Simmons: Congruent numbers and elliptic curves
- Jiaying Liu: Proving Fermat’s last theorem for polynomials
The speakers will be making every effort to make their talks accessible without any special math knowledge. So come join us, celebrate their hard work, learn a little mathematics, and partake in some math snacks!
Dr. Ina Vandebroek is a research specialist at the New York Botanical Garden where she is directing several research projects, including “Improving Healthcare for Underserved Immigrant Latino Communities in New York City” funded by The Aetna Founation and The Cigna Foundation and “Dominican Traditional Medicine for Urban Community Health” funded by the National Institute of Health’s National Center for Complementary and Alternative Medicine. Ina investigates the use of medicinal plants and cultural beliefs about illnesses in New York City’s immigrant communities of Puerto Ricans, Dominicans and Mexicans, addressing questions about the shift in medicinal plant use and knowledge with immigration from rural to urban environments. Her research results are used to develop curricula materials for health care professionals to improve cultural sensitivity during the clinical encounter.
Dr. Vandebroek was featured on the PBS program “The Secret Life of Scientists” where her passion for science and salsa dancing are featured. She has also collaborated with artist Jef Geys on an installation at the 2009 Venice Biennale.
She will be speaking in Dickinson 225 at 1pm on May 3 .
Owing to a conflict with the all-student session with one of the Bennington College presidential search finalists, there will be no Science Workshop this Friday, April 26. To alleviate the inevitable anxiety amongst some students and faculty that such disruption to our weekly routine may cause, we offer an intriguing nugget of Bennington history to hold you over until next week’s Workshop.
Catherine Murley (’15) unearthed the fascinating article Teaching Science at Bennington, from a 1941 issue of The Journal of Higher Education. In it, Robert Woodworth, for whom our annual lecture series is named, describes the very earliest renditions of Science Workshop – it’s a great way of learning some our own history. Read it and discover what’s changed – and what hasn’t – in the Bennington approach to teaching science.
Dr. Jason Fridley (Bennington class of ’97), Associate Prof. in the Biology Department at Syracuse University, has quickly established himself as an influential researcher on several of the ‘hot’ questions in ecological science, including the effects of biodiversity on ecosystem function, interactions between successional dynamics and climate change, and the ecology and biogeography of invasive species. He’ll be presenting recent work on this last theme in his workshop talk at 1:00 pm, 19 April, in Dickinson 225. You can find background material here in an about-to-be-published article for the Annals of the New York Academy of Science.
Common garden experiment, with native and invasive shrubs, at Syracuse University — photo by Jason Fridley
Jason is a 2012 recipient of the Academy’s Blavatnik Award for Young Scientists). He also has the unusual distinction of having papers published in both Nature and Science in 2012. Also in 2012, two graduate students in Jason’s lab received prestigious National Science Foundation fellowships. It was a good year. (Another of Jason’s grad students, Catherine Ravenscroft, is also a Bennington alum.)
This spring, I’m teaching an intensive introductory computer science class called “Make Me Dangerous,” where students learn computational thinking skills, Python programming, how to use Unix, and a variety of topics from the various nooks and crannies of the discipline.
Today was “hands-on hardware day (part I)” for the class, where students disassembled and explored a variety of computers and computing equipment. Through this exercise, students became familiar with the various hardware components in a computer, and formulated some great questions on how computers work at a more fundamental level (for example, how the quartz crystal in the system clock oscillates at a given frequency, forming the main ‘heartbeat’ of the computer as it fetches and executes instructions for programs and the operating system). We also looked at memory hierarchy, talked about how operating systems manage hardware resources, and discussed various evolutions in the hardware space.
Hardware we dissected included: a Sun SPARCstation 5, a raspberry pi, a 300 baud modem, 3 dell desktops of various configurations, and an older dell laptop.
In addition, last week, the class went over to one of the the video studios in VAPA to take pictures in front of a green screen. They then wrote Python programs to remove the green pixels, and replace them with an alternate background. The class has been learning programming and computing using an approach called media computation, where students write programs to create and manipulate images, sounds and video while learning core concepts of programming. It has been an interesting approach and has allowed for a lot of fun projects like green screen day!
Fieldwork in the Neoproterozoic
Professor Phoebe Cohen of the Geology Department at Williams College will speak at Science Workshop on Friday, 5 April, at 1:00 pm in Dickinson 225.
Her work combines microscopic and microchemical techniques with field-based stratigraphy and sedimentology to reconstruct ancient organisms and ecosystems. She will discuss her research in the context of our current knowledge about the evolution of life during the Neoproterozoic time period — the ~500 million years of Earth history before the rise of animals. While the sudden appearance of animals in the fossil record is dramatically demonstrated in the Cambrian radiation, the groundwork for animal evolution, and the co-occurring changes in marine ecosystems and ocean chemistry, were laid during the Neoproterozoic. Studies of the dynamic earth-life system in deep time present special challenges, but are transforming how we think about biology and geology.
Here are links for a) a paper for background on evolution in the Neoproterozoic, and b) a paper presenting some of Dr. Cohen’s research.
Students interested in having lunch with Dr. Cohen before her talk should be in touch with Kerry Woods.
A high-biomass old-growth stand of eastern hemlock in northern Michigan
After decades of studying ancient forests, we’re less confident of what we know about them than we were thirty-five years ago. For the last 20+ years I’ve been working with long-term permanent study plots in old-growth forest in Michigan. I began with the hope that an exceptionally deep data-record would allow me to test hypotheses about mechanisms behind equilibrial dynamics. Now I’m convinced that our initial assumption — that these ecosystems represented a sort of steady-state, climax ‘baseline’ — was flawed, and the natural landscape is much more dynamic than we imagined. If that’s the case, what are the implications for concepts of nature conservation and ecological restoration? What is to be conserved or restored if there’s no detectable natural baseline condition?
I will review about the findings of my old-growth research with a focus on new results, talk about some new work using new technologies to try to understand whether these forests are carbon sources or sinks, and wind up with some exploration of what this all means for forest conservation priorities under climate change, Pleistocene rewilding, and the cloning of extinct species.