Scenes from the Fall Poster Session

The hallways of Dickinson were abuzz with science students and faculty, along with friends and supporters from across the College, on Friday December 7 for the Fall Term Poster Session. The building was a hive of activity as students discussed their work, asked questions, and generally enjoyed the challenge of substantively engaging with each other and the broader community about their projects.

Faculty member David Edelman talks to students Katie Giarra and Marilee Goad about the Animal Physiology poster “The Effects of Serotonin on Aggression in Subordinate Crayfish” (photo: Julia Evanczuk)

Roughly thirty posters were presented by students from Physics I, Comparative Animal Physiology, and Foundations of Physical Science. These courses range from introductory to advanced levels and the nature of the work reflected this diversity, featuring experiments of students’ own design, literature reviews, laboratory measurements of physical phenomena, and investigations of alternative energy possibilities for the campus and beyond. Selections of posters from each class will be posted on this site in the near future.

Top: Emily Mikucki (’13) discusses her poster “Fitness Consequences Associated with Variation in Developmental Temperature in Cabbage Butterflies” with dance and environmental studies student, Kaya Lovestrand (’14). (photo: Betsy Sherman)
Middle: (left) Chemistry faculty member Janet Foley asks Evan Braun (’13) about his animal physiology research; (right) Evan’s poster “Survey of Worker Ant Plasticity as Mediated by Classical Conditioning” is displayed along with his subject ants in the foreground (both photos: Julia Evanczuk)
Middle: Caroline Barnhart (postbac ’13) describes her work on the impact resistance and force transmission of different helmet designs (photo: Julia Evanczuk)










Several students gave demonstrations to help explain or place their work in context. For example, Carl Johanson (below) arranged for a  live performance from Lance, a five-year old American Cream horse, a nearly extinct breed of draft horse, for his demonstration of “Horsepower, the Other Way of Getting Energy from Biomass.”

Foundations of Physical Science student Carl Johanson (’14) introduces Lance, an American Cream draft horse, to onlookers as part of his presentation on animal power. (photo: Mike Goldin)


Biology faculty member Amie McClellan discusses recent work from her lab with Computing faculty member Andrew Cencini and others. (photo: Betsy Sherman)

Honorary student (and actual faculty member) Amie McClellan, enjoying the last full week of her sabbatical, also presented a poster as a sort of trial run for her upcoming presentation “EMC2 Encodes a Putative Novel Hsp90 Co-chaperone in Saccharomyces cerevisiae“, co-authored with Tambu Kudze (’10), at the 2012 Annual Meeting of The American Society for Cell Biology (ASCB) in San Francisco, CA.

photo: Mike Goldin



Finally, good food made the event even more enjoyable. Faculty and staff brought in homemade breads and dishes such as Vegetable Lo Mein and Beef Vindaloo, as well as delicious desserts for all to enjoy.


The view from the second floor. (photo: Mike Goldin)

In evolution, when is less more?

On Tuesday, December 11, at 7pm, Dr. Katie Montovan of Cornell University will come to talk to us about her work in applying dynamical systems to ecology. Hopefully you can find time in your busy end of term schedule to make it! The talk will be in Dickinson 225. Here is her title and abstract:

Hyposoter wasp laying eggsWhen is less more? Combining experiments and mathematical modeling to explain why a wasp in Finland parasitizes the Checkerspot butterfly at a surprisingly low rate. Imagine you are a wasp that parasitizes butterfly eggs, and that you have found a cluster of 200 host eggs that are ready and unparasitized.Why would you choose (or evolve genetic behavior) to parasitize less than all of the eggs? This is a puzzling enough question, but add to it that the wasp avoids previously parasitized clusters and the motivation seems downright bizarre. I develop a set of all the plausible reasons it might be better for the wasp, Hyposoter horticola, to parasitize only a third of each host egg cluster. I then carefully integrate game theory models, field and lab studies, and spatial simulation models to test each hypothesis. My goal is to rule out all but one theory in order to explain this behavior.

Mathematics and oncology

Dr. Frank Brooks, of the University College at Washington University in Saint Louis, will be coming to talk to us Wednesday, December 5, 1-2pm, about his work applying mathematics and statistics to oncology. Frank Brooks is a physicist whose work has been concentrated in biophysics and statistics. He will be talking about the clinical implications of image noise. Given noisy, uncertain images of a tumor generated by PET, clinicians must make decisions about treatment. Dr. Brooks applies statistical analysis to assess current methods and suggest improvements. Dr. Brooks has also worked on problems in actin polymerization, and has worked with undergraduates on facilitated diffusion along DNA, hidden interconnectivity in environmental systems, and eukaryotic ruffling and motility. (Dr. Brooks is a candidate for the new open position in mathematics beginning Fall 2013.)

Surrounded by butterflies

Emily Mikucki ’13 has always been fascinated by moths and butterflies. This fascination has been at the heart of her ongoing research at Bennington. Her questions have involved physiology, ecology, and development of various species of Lepidoptera.  Currently, Emily is studying phenotypic plasticity of the butterfly Pieris rapae: she is examining the consequences of different incubation temperatures on life history traits such as duration of egg, larval, and pupal stages of development and their subsequent impact on reproductive fitness.