Summer research between students and professors at Colgate

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Stephanie Maripen ’15 explains her research into the genetic factors affecting skull shape and body size in poodles. (Photo by Andy Daddio)

Summer certainly means pool parties, lazy afternoons, and hot dogs on the grill. At Colgate, summer also means time for some serious research.

A sampling of about 150 students conducting summer research on campus presented their findings at the Robert H.N. Ho Science Center last week. The research on display spanned a wide range of disciplines, from biology and neuroscience to geology and sociology, to name a few.

Computer science major Mike McConville ’16, of Hingham, Mass., enthusiastically explained his work examining data behind the burgeoning online currency Bitcoin. While all of Bitcoin’s data is public, McConville said, it isn’t shared in a format that is readable to humans, and it also masks the identity of users.

McConville developed an algorithm to determine the actual number of Bitcoin users, translating the code and weeding out multiple accounts. He said his work shows there are about 3.3 million users of the currency, which is about half of what Bitcoin has reported.

Brett Rojec ’14, a physics and astronomy major from Denver, Colo., used an iPad to show animations and movies he and his fellow students have been creating for the Ho Tung Visualization Laboratory, including a teaching tool now in development, commissioned by Professor Karen Harpp, called Flight to the Galapagos.

“We’ve got a hodgepodge of majors represented working in the viz lab,” Rojec said of the 10 students working on projects this summer for the unique facility.

Neuroscience majors Jodi Forward ’15, of Sherborn, Mass., Clara Slight ’15, of Morristown, N.J., and Alyssa Devine ’15, of Clinton, N.Y., have spent the past few weeks studying reversal learning in crayfish. The students even gathered their test subjects from Payne Creek on campus.

After training the crayfish to exit a simple maze in one direction, the students then took the same creatures and taught them to go in the opposite direction; something they say has never been demonstrated in that species.

“We found they were successfully able to do so,” said Forward.

Caitlin Sackrison ’15, of Minnetonka, Minn., conducted her summer research with the help of the library’s special collections, specifically a series of more than 200 French political cartoons from 1852-1870.

“They basically tell the story of the fall of the Second French Empire,” said Sackrison, who translated 58 of the cartoons, and conducted historical research into the history of each topic, including reading French newspapers from the period. “They show a growing disillusionment with Napoleon III.”

Of the 47 posters on display, Professor Kiko Galvez said three in particular created by Tony Song ’14, Flora Cheng 14, and Valerie Garcia ’15, were selected for special recognition.