Undergraduate Summer Research Experience Mentor, NIMBioS

I was a mentor for the 2014 Summer Research Experience for undergraduates at NIMBioS. I worked with undergraduate students in mathematics, computer science and biology on developing a computational model of conflict and cooperation in Argentine ants. Argentine ants have been invading much of the Mediterranean climates of the world and have been displacing other ant species. Argentine ants form “supercolonies” made up of nests of multiple related queens.  In Argentina, supercolony size is contrained by conflict with other supercolonies, but in the rest of the world they have been able to expand unchecked into a “global supercolony” spanning many continents. It has been unclear whether the global supercolony can persist. My students modeled how and why the global supercolony might collapse.

Doing our best Argentine ant impressions. Photo: Catherine Crawley, NIMBioS.

You can read more about the project or watch their final project presentation. This project was covered by the Knoxville News Sentinel and WIBR News.  We are preparing the project for publication and the students shared their results at the 6th Annual Undergraduate Research Conference at the Interface of Biology and Mathematics.

Career Discover Group Mentor, University of California, Davis

Over two years, I mentored 45 students for the Career Discovery Group (CDG) program through the College of Agriculture and Life Science at UC Davis. The program helps first-year undergraduates learn skills for college success, explore the wide range of career options that they might pursue after graduation, and pursue job and internship opportunities that would set them up for success after graduation. My students were the first cohort specifically recruited from the campus’s Educational Opportunity Program for first generation college students – a group with a traditionally low college completion rate, especially in STEM programs. These at-risk students are significantly more likely to finish their degree after enrollment in the CDG program.

My career discovery group students planned a one-year reunion.

Some career discovery group mentees and me at our one-year reunion!

Exploration in Engineering Summer Program, Cornell University

After graduating from Cornell I spent a summer mentoring high school students in the Exploration in Engineering component of Cornell’s Engineering Experience program, which was designed to recruit talented students, especially from underrepresented groups, into engineering. I led my students, sometimes in conjunction with Cornell’s CURIE academy for recruiting female high school students to engineering, in laboratory-based projects in biomaterials and structural engineering. I exposed students to the practical (and fun) side of engineering – using mathematical tools and creative insight to develop useful solutions to challenging problems. The students also met with Cornell admissions and academic advisors to get information on applying to the university, which was especially helpful for first-generation college students. This was an amazing program, especially because it gave students from diverse backgrounds access to the resources of a world-class engineering program.