For the third year in a row, Bard College at Simon’s Rock students selected for summer science assistantships will work with faculty members Eric Kramer, Michael Bergman, and Robert Schmidt. Some will assist Kramer over the summer months to develop and refine a computer model of hormone transportation in plants. Bergman will work with a student to study crystal growth and deformation in metals, while Schmidt plans to hire two students to work on several biology-related field projects in and around Berkshire County. During these assistantships, students gain dedicated and hands-on experience learning research methods and testing groundbreaking scientific theories with science faculty. Course credit for students is also offered, but most elect to receive a paycheck and dorm housing, instead. All three summer research initiatives focus on a different aspect of the process of scientific discovery, from data collection to experimentation to analysis.
Kramer’s research assistant will be responsible for programming a computer model of plants on the cellular level to explore how chemicals are transported through the plant’s structure. Over 10 weeks, they will learn specialized programming and mathematical techniques, then apply that knowledge to a series of computer models.
Most students will conduct research in the lab; however, some students will spend more time in the field. First-year student Leah Pitman has signed on to assist Schmidt this summer. “I applied…for a few reasons, the biggest one was that I want to major in Marine Biology,” says Pitman. “This internship is perfect!” Schmidt’s assistants will monitor fish populations in Tivoli North and South Bay on the Hudson River; counting, measuring, and tagging American eel; assessing the effects of a lake drawdown on plants and animals; and collecting exoskeletons of Chinese mitten crab in Hudson River tributaries.
Bergman’s student researchers, Liam Slivka, Ingyin Myint, and Sophia Cui, will try to unravel what Bergman calls “some unusual seismic properties of the Earth's inner core, specifically, that seismic waves in the inner core travel faster parallel to the rotation axis than perpendicular.” Assistants will zero in on potential root causes for these observations, configuring, running, and analyzing experiments designed to test their hypotheses. Bergman, who has been hiring student interns since he came to Simon’s Rock about 15 years ago, sees great value involving students in his studies. “Doing research gives the students experience on what doing science is,” he says, “which is very different from studying it in the classroom alone.”