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Amherst Today: Research Lab Presentations

Friday, March 8

This is a rare opportunity to learn more about some of the  cutting edge research happening at Amherst College. In order to keep each group small, all Amherst Today participants are asked to indicate their first, second and third choice preferences for each time slot. Before the cocktail reception on Thursday evening we will inform everyone of which labs they will visit on Friday.

9 a.m. to 9:45 a.m.

  • Intermolecular Interactions (Chemistry)
    Mark Marshall, Class of 1959 Professor of Chemistry; Jessica Mueller ’13
    The chemist Carl Trindle once said that “… a detailed understanding of molecular shapes explains virtually all of chemistry.”  In Marshall's lab, the shapes of molecules are determined in exquisite detail using microwave spectroscopy, and then interpreted to reveal the nature of intermolecular forces.  Senior thesis student Jessica Mueller ’13 will present her work on the bimolecular complex formed between carbon dioxide and 2,6-difluoropyridine and the role of symmetry in restricting the quantum mechanical wave functions that can describe the relative motion of the two molecules.  We will also demonstrate the operation of the state-of-the-art chirped pulse Fourier transform microwave (CP-FTMW) spectrometer that uses a digitization rate of 50 billion samples per second to provide the characteristic frequencies of molecular microwave emission with a measurement precision of 1 part in 1,000,000.
    Room 508, Merrill Science Center
  •  Bose-Einstein Condensation; Monopoles (Physics)
    David Hall, professor of physics
    Room 113, Merrill Science Center
  •  Stratigraphy and Geochemistry (Geology)
    David Jones, assistant professor of geology
    My research involves studying the chemical and isotopic composition (carbon and sulfur) of ancient sedimentary rocks.  From this data we try to understand chemical and physical changes in the oceans and atmosphere, especially during periods of major biological/evolutionary change.
    Room 215, Beneski Earth Sciences Building
  •   Sensory Encoding Using Zebrafish (Biology/Neuroscience)
    Josef Trapani, assistant professor of biology; Jenna Browning-Kamins '13

    Our research uses the zebrafish as a model system to study hair cells. Hair cells are the mechanoreceptors in our ears that detect and encode auditory information. We study these sensory receptors by mechanically activating them and measuring the electrical activity of neurons connected to them. Recently, we created a transgenic fish that allows us to optically stimulate the receptors to further examine the sensory encoding. Our lab has two "electrophysiology" rooms with computers, amplifiers and microscopes for measuring neuronal activity and a room with our ~40-tank fish system.
    Room 215, McGuire LIfe Sciences Building

9:45 a.m. to 10:30 a.m.

  • Lipid Asymmetry (Biology)
    Patrick Williamson, Edward H. Harkness Professor of Biology; Heather Daigle '13; Nguyen Ha '13; Will Biche '13
    My lab studies enzymes that arrange and rearrange phospholipids, the building blocks of the membranes that separate living cells from the external world.  These enzymes appeared at the dawn of eukaryote life, and are central to processes as diverse as blood coagulation and brain development.
    Meet outside Room 323, McGuire Life Sciences Building

  • Cognitive Risk Factors for Social and Behavioral Impairment (Psychology)
    Julia McQuade, assistant professor of psychology
    My research focuses on cognitive risk factors for social and behavioral impairment in children, adolescents, and adults. I do a lot of research with children diagnosed with Attention-Deficit/Hyperactivity and children that display aggressive behaviors. Participants come to my research lab to complete assessments of cognitive tests, measures of social functioning, and structured interviews. The cognitive tests are either administered at a table by my research assistants or on a computer. My research lab is set up much life a clinical psychologist's office, with a waiting area and separate testing rooms. 
    Room 332, Merrill Science Center

  • Cell Differentiation and Cell-type Gene Expression (Biology)
    David Ratner, Alfred Sargent Lee '41 and Mary Farley Ames Lee Professor of Biology; James Murithi '13; Mizuho Ota '13
    Room 411-416, McGuire Life Sciences Building

  • Electron Transer in Biologically Relevant Systems (Biology)
    Elizabeth Young, assistant professor of chemistry
    I am a physical chemist who uses spectroscopy and electrochemistry to study electron transfer in a various systems, including biologically relevant systems in which electron transfer is coupled to proton motion and in more applied systems such as those applicable to organic photovoltaics (solar cells).
    Room 429, Merrill Science Center