News Archives

Merck and AAAS Announce 2009 Winners of Outstanding Undergraduate Research Programs

Fourteen colleges and universities have been selected for awards from the Merck/AAAS Undergraduate Science Research Program. Sponsored by the Merck Institute for Science Education (MISE) and the American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS), the program awards provide up to $60,000, paid over three years, for use by the biology and chemistry departments at the recipient institution.

This year’s winners are: Harvey Mudd College, University of Wisconsin at Whitewater, Otterbein College, Bowdoin College, University of Colorado at Colorado Springs, Ashland University, Siena College, Kean University, Furman University, Lebanon Valley College, Niagara University, University of West Florida, State University of New York at New Paltz, and Colorado College.

Since 1994, the Merck/AAAS Undergraduate Science Research Program (USRP) has awarded grants to support undergraduate interdisciplinary research in the sciences. The program, funded by MISE and administered by AAAS, was a pioneer in designing a grant program that focused on interdisciplinary collaboration in biology and chemistry at primarily undergraduate institutions. USRP grants have been awarded to more than 200 colleges and universities and have supported more than 2,000 undergraduates, providing them the opportunity to work with and learn from faculty in the laboratory and engage in basic research.

HMC Team Optimizing Cataract Care in Africa

Recent Harvey Mudd College graduate Brian Stock ’09 (Math-Bio) and mathematics Professor Talithia Williams traveled to Mombasa, Kenya, for the Ophthalmological Society of Eastern Africa 38th Annual Scientific Conference in late August to present results of an ongoing research project examining the incidence of cataract and appropriate treatment strategies in Africa. The pair is working with HMC alumna Susan Lewallen (HMC ’76), an ophthalmologist based in Tanzania and several other African ophthalmologists to provide more accurate estimates of target cataract surgical rates (CSR) in African countries.

The project is the brainchild of Lewallen, who had a hunch that current World Health Organization CSR targets might be unrealistically high for African countries. Stock explains “The World Health Organization has this big ‘Vision 2020’ initiative where they want to eliminate preventable blindness by the year 2020. Cataract is a common cause of avoidable blindness in the elderly, and there is a simple, cheap surgery to replace the lens and restore sight. So eye care providers in Africa were given target numbers of surgeries to perform each year, which would supposedly eliminate blindness due to cataract. But, Susan and others found it impossible to get their CSR up to the target levels.”

Lewallen, the first recipient of HMC’s Outstanding Alumni Award, reached out to the HMC Mathematics Department for help assaying the rate of cataract and appropriate surgical rates.  Prof. Williams, a statistician with a strong interest in real world applications, saw an opportunity to contribute to the project.  “Susan sent us this data from nine sites in Africa,” said Williams,  “then we calculated prevalence and incidence to come up with realistic estimates of target CSR in Africa and they were much lower than current World Health Organization targets.”

When the team realized the implications of their research, they felt compelled to travel to Africa to present their results. “It was important for us to communicate directly with the ophthalmologists in Africa to better explain our methods and discuss the possible implications,” said Williams. “They no longer need to be fruitlessly trying to increase their surgery rates. They can focus on other objectives, like increasing the quality of care.”

This trip and project was a perfect springboard for Stock’s post-graduate career plans. He leaves for Africa in February to teach math in the Peace Corps and was grateful for the ability to get a taste of what working in Africa might be like. “It was an incredible opportunity for a number of reasons, and the trip was just one of them. I also was able to talk with professionals working and living in Africa, which is something I’ll be doing soon. We got an interesting glimpse of how Non-Governmental Organizations (NGOs) operate in eastern Africa as well.”

Travel funds for Stock were provided by the HMC Mathematics Department through the recently established Jonsson Travel Fund, which supports student and faculty travel. Lewallen also generously pitched in a plane ticket earned through her airline rewards program. HMC underwrote Williams’ travel and summer research support. The team is presently working on two papers based on this research, which will be submitted to the Journal of Opthamology.

Corals Project Brings Together Researchers from the U.S. and Israel

An international team of researchers, including Catherine McFadden, Vivian and D. Kenneth Baker Professor in the Life Sciences at Harvey Mudd College, has received a four-year grant of $160,000 from the U.S.-Israel Binational Science Foundation to study the Xeniidae family of octocorals in the Red Sea. Octocorals, so-called because of the eightfold radial symmetry of their tentacles, are commonly found on reefs throughout the Indian and Pacific Oceans. Yet many questions about their taxonomy, the identification of species and their phylogenetic relationships remain.

Xeniid species are difficult to distinguish by visual observation, but genetic sequencing offers a reliable way to identify species and genera within the family. McFadden will contribute her expertise in octocorals and mitochondrial gene-sequencing with the nuclear gene-sequencing capabilities of Robert Toonen of the University of Hawaii and Tel Aviv University Yehuda Benayahu’s knowledge of octocoral ecology and reproduction. As species are determined on the basis of genetics, the researchers hope to find visual characteristics that will enable scientists and recreational divers to identify octocoral species in the field. The ability to track the spread of xeniid octocorals has taken on a sense of urgency. Coral reefs around the world are under stress from pollution and global warming. The Xeniidae seem to act as weed-like invaders, taking over space on reefs as other coral species succumb to environmental stresses.

The grant will fund research and collaboration among the three institutions, allowing students from each to visit the others and share techniques for genetic sequencing and species identification. This project complements McFadden’s work on another collaborative project, sponsored by the National Science Foundation, “Assembling the Tree of Life,” in which she is part of a team studying genetic relationships among theCnidarians, the phylum of marine animals that includes corals, anemones and jellyfish.

Hallie Kuhn (Biology ’09) awarded Churchill Scholarship

Harvey Mudd College (HMC) students Andrew Higginbotham ’09 and Hallie Kuhn ’09 have been awarded the highly prestigious and competitive Churchill Scholarship for study at the University of Cambridge in England, the Winston Churchill Foundation announced recently.

Higginbotham and Kuhn represent the 14th and 15th recipients of the Churchill Scholarship from HMC and the first time two HMC students have been honored in the same year. Between 13 and 15 Churchill scholars are selected nationwide each year. This year, the foundation recognized six women and eight men with the scholarship.

According to Professor of Computer Science Ran Libeskind-Hadas, who coordinated the Churchill Scholarship application process at HMC, “This year was evidently the most competitive year for Churchill Scholarships in their history, so getting two scholarships from Mudd is particularly impressive.”

The students represent five public and five private institutions: Bryn Mawr College, Harvey Mudd College, Northwestern University, Princeton University, University of California at San Diego, University of California at Santa Barbara, University of Chicago, University of Michigan at Ann Arbor, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, University of Notre Dame, University of Rochester, and University of Virginia.

Four institutions have Churchill Scholars for the first time (Bryn Mawr, Notre Dame, UCSD and UCSB), and for the first time Harvey Mudd and Northwestern each have two Churchill Scholars.

The Churchill Scholarship, tenable for nine or 12 months, depending on the academic program, is offered annually and worth between $44,000 and $50,000. It covers all university and college tuition and fees (currently about $25,000). In addition, students receive a living allowance of £10,000 if enrolled in a nine-month academic program and £12,000 if enrolled in a full-year academic program. They also receive an allowance of up to $1,000 for travel to and from the United Kingdom and the possibility of a special research grant of up to $2,000.

Previous Churchill Scholars from HMC are Rosalind Beckwith ’07, Carl Yerger ’05, Christopher (Kit) Rudolfa ’04, Joel Miller ’00, Nathaniel Brown ’98, Nikolaus Loening ’97, Jon Sorenson ’95, Peter Bogdanoff ’94, Michelle Mathys ’86, Alan Middleton ’84, David Matsumoto ’82, Roger Oba ’82 and Mark McKinstry ’73.

The Churchill Foundation provided the following profiles of the Harvey Mudd College recipients:

Andrew Higginbotham will receive his bachelor of science in physics from Harvey Mudd College, where he is the 12th Churchill Scholar. From Chapel Hill, North Carolina, he will do research in the laboratory of Dr. Jacqui Cole at the intersection of chemistry and physics, relating non-linear physical properties to chemical structure through condensed matter physics to understand better the relation between optical properties and chemical structure in organic materials. Consistently on the Dean’s List, he has done extensive original research in high intensity physics and laser-driven fusion at Harvey Mudd and at the University of Texas at Austin; he has two first-author papers under review and has received many awards. Andrew’s letters of recommendation speak of his research as “a remarkable achievement, which would be considered impressive for a senior graduate student and which is almost unheard of from an undergraduate,” and of him as “a potent combination of intelligence, diligence, creativity, and imagination.” Andrew has been active in student government. After his year at Cambridge, he plans to do his doctorate in physics in the United States.

Hallie Kuhn will receive her bachelor of science in biology from Harvey Mudd College, where she is the 13th Churchill Scholar. From Glenwood Springs, Colo., she will do research on the human papilloma virus responsible for cervical cancer in the laboratory of Dr. Nick Coleman in oncology in the Department of Pathology. At Harvey Mudd, where Hallie was consistently on the Dean’s List, she won the Brandenburger Biology Prize for outstanding performance and promise, the Purves Biology Prize, and the Biology Writing Prize; she is a member of the Sigma Chi Research Society. Throughout college she has done research on the molecular motor dynein and spent a summer at the Institute of Molecular Biology and Chemistry at the University of Oregon. She has extensive training in mathematics, chemistry, systems engineering, and computer science in preparation for work in bioinformatics. Hallie has volunteered in a rape and sexual assault crisis center in Los Angeles and in a Red Cross asylum in Denmark, where she spent a semester abroad. She is an aerobics teacher and is active in yoga and dance. After her year at Cambridge Hallie plans to return to the States to study for an M.D.-Ph.D. in clinical oncology.

Drewell Awarded NSF Career Award

Robert Drewell, assistant professor of biology at Harvey Mudd College (HMC), has been awarded a $600,000 National Science Foundation (NSF) CAREER grant for his project “Investigating the evolution of gene regulation at Drosophila Hox genes.” The project will be funded for five years.

“This award is a huge honor for Rob, as NSF CAREER awards are highly competitive,” said Stephen Adolph, professor of biology and interim chair of the HMC Department of Biology.

Utilizing a combination of molecular, genetic and computational approaches, Drewell will focus his research efforts on better understanding the genes that regulate intricate developmental processes in the embryo of the common fruit fly (Drosophila melanogaster).

Since all organisms use common genetic systems, understanding biological processes in the fruit fly, which has been used for genetic analysis since the early 1900s, helps scientists understand those same processes in other complex multicellular organisms.

“How a single fertilized egg cell can develop into a complex animal is one of the central questions in modern biology,” Drewell explained. “This NSF CAREER award will allow us to expand our studies on the Hox genes, which are the ‘master control’ genes of development in all animals, including humans.”

Only a relatively small number of genes in an organism’s vast genetic material are programmed to designate specific cell fates in the embryo. Drewell and his team of student researchers already have indications that new gene regulatory mechanisms will be uncovered during this project.

Aside from its research goals, the project will also focus on three educational objectives: Drewell will develop an integrated curriculum and various educational tools that merge molecular and developmental biology, genetics and evolution. He will also test the hypothesis that research can attract and retain talented students in careers in science through enhancement of the undergraduate experience. Furthermore, Drewell will continue to actively recruit and engage student researchers, especially those from traditionally underrepresented groups in science.

“Rob’s laboratory is a lively place where students can be found studying fruit fly genetics at all hours of the day and on the weekends,” said Adolph. “Although this is just Rob’s third year at Harvey Mudd, he has already mentored at least 20 different research students and published 5 research papers with HMC student co-authors.”

Drewell’s research group is also cohesive outside of the laboratory. During the summer they climb nearby mountains, including Mt. Baldy, Mt. San Gorgonio and Mt. Whitney, and they can often be spotted swimming or playing basketball together.

NSF’s Faculty Early Career Development (CAREER) Program offers the Foundation’s most prestigious awards in support of junior faculty who exemplify the role of teacher-scholars through outstanding research, excellent education, and the integration of education and research within the context of the mission of their organizations.

NSF believes that such activities build a firm foundation for a lifetime of leadership in integrating education and research.

“This is a particularly exciting time in the history of molecular biology to be investigating these issues, as we have access to the complete genomic DNA sequences in an ever-increasing number of species,” explained Drewell. “This new grant will allow us to take full advantage of the research opportunities presented by these advances. Of course, the real stars of the show are the talented and dedicated students here at Harvey Mudd College that have enabled me to develop a cutting-edge research program since my arrival. The support from the NSF will permit us to increase our research efforts in the coming years.”

HHMI Awards $1.5 Million Grant to HMC

Howard Hughes Medical Institute (HHMI) has awarded a $1.5 million grant to Harvey Mudd College (HMC) to create more engaging science classes, bring real-world research experiences to students and increase the diversity of students who study science.

The grant, which will be paid over four years, is part of $60 million in grants announced by HHMI this week. The awards were the results of a competition that invited 226 of the nation’s leading baccalaureate-granting institutions to apply. One hundred ninety-two submitted proposals and, after three rounds of peer-review, 48 grants were awarded.

More than a quarter of the awardees have never received an HHMI grant before. HMC has received three consecutive grants, beginning in 2000, then renewed in 2004 and again in 2008, for a total of $4.2 million.

“Over the last three summers, the HHMI grant has supported 78 summer research students, and we expect to support more than 30 students this summer,” said David Asai, Stuart Mudd Professor of Biology and chair of the Department of Biology at HMC. “These students represent all nine degree programs at Harvey Mudd College and were mentored by faculty members in all seven HMC departments.

“Most of the summer students were engaged in research on campus, but the grant has also supported students who did research at UCLA, Harvard, the Genome Institute of Singapore and in Alaska. Of the 78 students supported in the last three summers, 37 have graduated; 14 are now in Ph.D. programs and 5 are in professional programs, including medical school.”

The current HHMI grant has also provided funds for collaborative grants that involve faculty investigators in biology who collaborate with a faculty member in another department. In four years, HMC has funded 13 collaborative projects involving 14 different faculty members from 6 HMC departments and 37 different students from HMC’s departments of biology, chemistry, computer science, engineering, physics and three other institutions: Goucher College, the Joint Sciences Program at The Claremont Colleges and Pomona College.

In addition, the grant has enabled the implementation of new laboratory modules in molecular biology, computational biology, genetics and a molecular biology experiment incorporated in freshman chemistry (Chem25). The current grant also supports the molecular biology laboratory that is part of the HMC Summer Institute.

Directed by Professor of Biology Catherine McFadden, the 2008 HHMI grant will enable HMC to continue current successful programs, including the support of student summer research, collaborative mini-grants to faculty working in the area of computational biology and the continued development and implementation of laboratory modules.

“The 2008 grant will also enable us to explore two exciting new ventures,” Asai said. “Under the leadership of the grant’s co-director, Professor of Computer Science Ran Libeskind-Hadas, faculty and students in biology and computer science will develop a new freshman-level introductory course that integrates the two disciplines, currently taught as CS5 and Bio52. The idea is to plan the new course, CB552, then implement it with approximately 36 freshmen in 2009-10 and another 36 students in 2010-11. We will then assess the effectiveness of the new course which, if successful, will be expanded to include a larger number of students in 2011-12.”

The second new venture will be the Future Faculty Fellows, which will bring to HMC senior postdoctoral scientists who are interested in pursuing teaching careers in small colleges. Each fellow will spend up to two years at HMC, helping to teach courses and mentoring research students. Each fellow will be provided close mentoring by current faculty members, including team-teaching and sharing research students.

HHMI is the nation’s largest private supporter of science education. It has invested more than $1.2 billion in grants to reinvigorate life science education at both research universities and liberal arts colleges and to engage the nation’s leading scientists in teaching.

One of the world’s largest philanthropies, HHMI is a nonprofit medical research organization that employs hundreds of leading biomedical scientists working at the forefront of their fields. HHMI has an endowment of approximately $18.7 billion. Its headquarters are located in Chevy Chase, Maryland, just outside Washington, D.C.

Professor McFadden Part of Team Awarded $2.85-Million Tree of Life Grant

Professor of Biology Catherine McFadden is part of a 10-person team of research scientists from seven colleges and universities and the Smithsonian Institution who will share a $2.85-million grant from the National Science Foundation’s Assembling the Tree of Life Program.

The team’s project will investigate the origins of the phylum Cnidaria, one the two most primitive groups of animals on earth, which includes such diverse forms as jellyfish, hydra, sea anemones, and corals. The five-year grant will investigate the phylogeny of Cnidaria by developing new molecular markers and gathering large amounts of DNA sequence data from an extensive sampling of Cnidarian taxa. There are more than 10,000 described species of Cnidarians.

For the past 10 years McFadden has been using molecular data to try to understand the evolutionary relationships and species boundaries among groups of soft corals from the North Atlantic and Mediterranean and, most recently, the tropical Indo-West Pacific. A number of current and former HMC undergraduates have worked on these projects and are co-authors on a variety of publications that have resulted.

The NSF award provides new opportunities for collaborative research among members of the Cnidarian community and training for graduate students and postdoctoral researchers. Selected HMC students will participate during the summer in molecular biology lab work and the input of historical literature into the database that is housed at the University of Kansas.

“In both cases,” McFadden noted, “we need students who are meticulous and able to pay close attention to detail. We have no margin for error in extracting DNA from museum specimens in the lab, or entering data into the database.” Many of the historical texts are in foreign languages.

Other goals of the project are to: characterize and classify nematocysts (the specialized stinging cells of Cnidarians) in a comparative context; develop culture conditions for select Cnidarian species to identify new model organisms for the study of gene expression; build Cnidarian museum collections through field work; assemble a Cnidarian Tree of Life database modeled after the existing Hexacoral database; contribute to museum exhibits on Cnidarian evolution; and hold a symposium on Cnidarian phylogeny.

The National Science Foundation describes the Assembling the Tree of Life project thus:

A flood of new information, from whole-genome sequences to detailed structural information to inventories of earth’s biota, is transforming 21st-century biology. Along with comparative data on morphology, fossils, development, behavior, and interactions of all forms of life on earth, these new data streams make even more critical the need for an organizing framework for information retrieval, analysis, and prediction. Phylogeny, the genealogical map for all lineages of life on earth, provides an overall framework to facilitate information retrieval and biological prediction. Assembly of a framework phylogeny, or Tree of Life, for all 1.7 million described species requires a greatly magnified effort by large teams working across institutions and disciplines. This is the overall goal of the Assembling the Tree of Life activity.

In addition to McFadden, whose area of expertise is octocoral phylogeny, the following investigators will take part in the project:

  • Neil Blackstone, Northern Illinois University (culturing new model organisms)
  • Paulyn Cartwright, University of Kansas (hydrozoan phylogeny)
  • Allen Collins, Smithsonian Institution (medusozoan phylogeny)
  • Cliff Cunningham, Duke University (molecular marker development)
  • Meg Daly, Ohio State University (anthozoan phylogeny and nematocyst morphology)
  • Daphne Fautin, University of Kansas (database development)
  • Daniel Janies, Ohio State University (data analyses)
  • Daniel Martínez, Pomona College (hydra phylogeny)
  • Sandra Romano, University of the Virgin Islands (coral phylogeny)

Merck/AAAS awards HMC $60,000 for biology and chemistry research

Merck Company Foundation and the American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS) selected Harvey Mudd College as one of the award winners in the 2005 Merck/AAAS Undergraduate Science Research Program. The award includes $17,000 a year for three years for student research in biology and chemistry, plus $3,000 a year for programs and activities. Four to six students will participate each of the three years in an intensive, ten-week summer research experience.

The grant will allow HMC to continue efforts to enhance interdisciplinary scholarship and teaching. Proposed interdisciplinary research projects include “Interactions of antimicrobial peptides with membrane mimetic systems,” Kerry Karukstis, professor of chemistry; “Development of self-assembled DNA nanoarrays as biosensors,” Shenda Baker, professor of chemistry; “Structure and function studies on the plant-specific phosphoinositide phosphatase SAC9,” Mary Williams, professor of biology; “Function of dynein accessory chains in Tetrahymena thermophila,” David Asai, professor and chair, Department of Biology; and “Covalent trapping studies of the repair of 8-Oxoguanine lesions in nucleosomal DNA,” Karl Haushalter, assistant professor of chemistry and biology.

Additionally, the award will allow distinguished scientists to spend several days at HMC and present joint seminars to the chemistry and biology departments and to meet with individual classes. Also included in the grant will be a weekend workshop on chemical biology undergraduate education at which attendees will share success stories for integrating the teaching of chemistry and biology at the undergraduate level.

“The Merck-AAAS Award recognizes the continuing efforts of the departments of Chemistry and Biology to illustrate to our students that contemporary research questions span disciplinary boundaries,” said Karukstis, now in her twenty-first year as a member of the chemistry faculty. “Our two departments have collaborated on a number of educational ventures in recent years-the Interdisciplinary Laboratory, the new Joint Major in Chemistry and Biology, and the Beckman Scholars Program in Chemistry and Biological Sciences. We see the Merck/AAAS award as an expansion of this collaboration and a further demonstration of our faculty’s commitment to the HMC mission to broadly educate our students.”

HMC Biology sponsors talk by noted AIDS researcher Jay Levy

Sixty-eight million people in the world are infected with HIV (five million in the last year alone), posing a significant threat to the health and economies of the world.

In the 2005 Mindlin Lecture, University of California, San Francisco (UCSF) Professor of Medicine Jay Levy will discuss how scientists are dealing with this worldwide crisis when he delivers the Mindlin Lecture, “The Social and Economic Threat of HIV/AIDS: How Does Science Face the Challenge?” in McAlister Auditorium of Galileo Hall at Harvey Mudd College on Wednesday, April 27, at 7 p.m.

Over the past 20 years, human immuno-deficiency virus (HIV) has spread to every continent in the world and threatens the economic growth and well-being of the entire human population. Levy will discuss ways knowledge of the virus has grown and the new steps that have been developed to curb its transmission and human mortality.

In addition to his duties at professor of medicine at UCSF, where he has been since 1972, Levy is research associate in the Cancer Research Institute and director of the Laboratory for Tumor and AIDS Virus Research. He obtained his M.D. degree from Columbia University, New York.

During the last 22 years, Levy and his researchers have dedicated their efforts to the biology, immunology and molecular biology of acquired immune deficiency syndrome (AIDS). His group was the first to isolate HIV and originally called it the AIDS-associated retrovirus (ARV). Levy has published over 400 articles in virology and infectious diseases, particularly on HIV/AIDS.

His current studies involve host immune responses to HIV and the development of an HIV vaccine. His research focuses especially on individuals who have survived more than 10 years with no symptoms and have a normal CD4+ cell count. He is pursuing the study of such individuals in China, India, Mexico, the Dominican Republic and other parts of the world.

The lecture is made possible by a generous gift of the Mindlin Foundation and is co-sponsored by the Harvey Mudd College Department of Biology.

Harvey Mudd Awarded NSF Grant for Confocal Microscope

A National Science Foundation grant for $355,583 has been awarded to Harvey Mudd College for the acquisition of a confocal fluorescence microscope. The project is under the direction of Biology Department chair David Asai, and also involves Professors Cathy McFadden and Mary Williams (Biology), Liz Orwin (Engineering and Biology), and Richard Haskell (Physics).

High-resolution confocal fluorescence microscopy is a powerful tool for visualizing cellular dynamics. Over the past decade, this technology has matured so that today confocal microscopy is a widely applied standard tool of biology.

The shared confocal microscope facility will advance research projects aimed at the visualization of dynamic processes in a diversity of experimental systems and timescales: (i) membrane lipids in the cold signaling response in plants; (ii) control of cell shape by molecular motors in ciliated protozoa; (iii) reorganization of cellular proteins that accompanies the differentiation of corneal cells; (iv) development of new technologies to visualize tissue remodeling; and (v) measurement of population diversity and evolution of soft corals.

A key use of the facility will be in undergraduate education, including undergraduate research projects and a formal laboratory course in cell biology.

[NSF award information for this grant]

HMC Awarded $1.2M Grant from HHMI to Support Biology Programs

The Howard Hughes Medical Institute has awarded Harvey Mudd College a grant for $1.2 million to support undergraduate research and education in biology and related fields. The project will be administered by Biology Department chair David Asai, who wrote the successful grant proposal.

The program includes the following elements:

  • Undergraduate research opportunities in the life sciences during the summer and the academic year
  • Small grants for interdisciplinary research
  • A cross-disciplinary life sciences colloquium
  • Incorporation of biology into a summer bridge program
  • New courses and lab modules in computational biology
  • Hiring a new tenure-track faculty member in computational biochemistry
  • A new research assistant to support the life sciences faculty

The grant was part of HHMI’s Undergraduate Science Education Program. Harvey Mudd was one of 42 undergraduate colleges to receive a grant in this year’s competition.

HMC Bio/Chem Major Wins NSF and Hertz Graduate Fellowships

Kevin Esvelt ’04, a double major in Biology and Chemistry at Harvey Mudd College, was awarded both an NSF graduate fellowship and a Hertz Foundation fellowship for graduate study in molecular and developmental bioology beginning in the 2004-2005 academic year.

Chris Raub ’04, a senior Biology major at Harvey Mudd, earned an Honorable Mention in the NSF Graduate Fellowship competition.

[List of NSF graduate fellowship winners]

HMC Math-Bio Major Wins Watson Fellowship

Tara Martin ’04, a Mathematical Biology major at Harvey Mudd College, has won a Thomas J. Watson Fellowship for the 2004-2005 academic year.

Tara’s project, “Finding the Inner Beat: Cultural Expression Through Movement,” will take her to Argentina, Brazil and Cape Verde as she studies dance forms including tango, samba, capoeira, and their African precursors.

HMC Math-Bio Majors Rock at Interdisciplinary Contest in Modeling

Tara Martin ’04 and Lori Thomas ’05, Mathematical Biology majors at Harvey Mudd College, were members of teams that won “Outstanding” awards in the recent Interdisciplinary Contest in Modeling.

Tara’s teammates were Warren Katzenstein and Michael Vrable, and Lori’s teammates were Eli Bogart and Cal Pierog (all are Harvey Mudd undergrads). Only 4 teams from 143 entries worldwide received Outstanding honors.

The contest gives each team of three undergraduates 96 consecutive hours to develop a mathematical model and write a formal paper describing their work. This year’s problem was to optimize security measures for academic information systems. Both teams will have their papers published in the Journal of Undergraduate Mathematics and its Applications.

Harvey Mudd Math-Bio Senior Wins Award at National Sigma Xi Student Research Conference

Ben Nahir ’04, a senior Mathematical Biology major at Harvey Mudd College, won the “Superior” award for best poster in Immunology/Neuroscience at the November 2003 Sigma Xi Student Research Conference in Los Angeles.

Ben’s project, “Cloning, Localization, and Characterization of Tolloid and BMPR-II in Aplysia californica,” was co-authored by Sean Reagin (University of Georgia), and Andrea Kohn, Thomas Ha, and Leonid Moroz (all from the University of Florida).

HMC Biology professor co-discoverer of new coral species

Harvey Mudd Biology Professor Catherine McFadden and Dr. F. G. Hochberg of the Department of Invertebrate Zoology, Santa Barbara Museum of Natural History have discovered two new species of coral off the California coast. The new species are described in an article entitled “Biology and taxonomy of encrusting alcyoniid soft corals in the northeastern Pacific Ocean with descriptions of two new genera (Cnidaria, Anthozoa, Octocorallia)” in the spring issue of Invertebrate Biology. The article summarizes the current knowledge about the distribution, ecology and reproductive biology of four encrusting species in the soft coral family Alcyoniidae.

According to Prof. McFadden, “Although marine biologists had known of the existence of these corals for some time, the species had never been formally named or described. They are small and tend to live in crevices and other places that are difficult to access, so they are easily overlooked.”

One of the newly discovered species, Thrombophyton coronatum, occurs in the subtidal (always submerged) areas along the southern California coast from the Palos Verdes Peninsula to San Diego and in the Channel Islands. It forms irregularly shaped colonies on rock surfaces and, like other soft corals, lacks the hard, internal skeleton traditionally associated with reef-building corals.

Another new, similar species, Thrombophyton trachydermum, lives in the intertidal (between low and high tides) areas along the Central California coast, and also off Vancouver Island, British Columbia, and in the San Juan Archipelago of Washington state. A new genus was created by McFadden and Hochberg to organize the new species within their coral family.

The paper also places another coral species found along the Pacific Northwest coast of the United States and Canada within a new genus, and reports the discovery in Alaska of a species that was previously known only from Japan. “The marine fauna of our coast is well studied compared to that of most regions of the world, yet we are still finding new species all the time,” said McFadden. “In the tropical Indo-Pacific a majority of the many coral species found in some areas have never been described scientifically.”

[Read the abstract of the article.]

Two HMC Biology grads awarded prestigious fellowships for graduate study. Andrew Schile ’01 was awarded a Predoctoral Fellowship from the Howard Hughes Medical Institute (HHMI). Andy is one of only 49 students from colleges and universities worldwide to win an HHMI predoctoral fellowship. The fellowship supports up to five years of work toward a doctoral degree in the biological sciences. Andy is pursuing his Ph.D. studies at the Rockefeller University.

Matthew de la Pena Mattozzi ’02 received a National Science Foundation (NSF) Graduate Research Fellowship. NSF Graduate Fellowships offer recognition and three years of support for advanced study to approximately 900 outstanding graduate students in the mathematical, physical,biological, engineering, and behavioral and social sciences. Matt is carrying out his Ph.D. work in Plant and Microbial Biology at the University of California, Berkeley.

[Read the fellowship award announcement from HHMI | Read more about NSF Graduate Fellowships]

Harvey Mudd Bio/Chem major wins Goldwater Fellowship. Kevin Esvelt ’04, a double major in Biology and Chemistry at Harvey Mudd College, was awarded a Barry M. Goldwater Scholarship for the 2003-2004 academic year.

Goldwater scholars are nominated by their colleges and universities, then chosen by the selection committee. Goldwater Scholars are among the top science, mathematics, and engineering students in the USA.

[Read the press release]