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From Rock-Climbing To Floor-Tile Patterns
    Collin College Students, Faculty Apply Research Principles To Real World
    Nathan Williamson

    Nathan Williamson

    Dominating in extreme sports was not Nathan Williamson’s only goal as he dropped more than 12,000 feet from the door of a plane and navigated tall, steep mountains by hand and foot. Adding science to his favorite pastime, the physics student was collecting data for a research project at Collin College.

    In his research, Williamson investigated the differential relationship between how acceleration, velocity and position are measured and explored in adventure sports.

    Like Williamson, many other Collin College students and faculty pursue research at the college in areas that reflect their own passions, from the creation of software and the dynamics of aviation, to the sequencing of genetic structures and investigation into post-apocalyptic TV programming.

    Higher education research serves as the foundation for countless corporate innovations. In 2009, the National Science Foundation found that academic institutions performed 53 percent of the nation’s total basic research. At universities, many assistantship and faculty positions are based on research. While Collin College students and faculty are not required to conduct research in all classes, they say it’s invaluable.

    “I have a richer understanding of math and science beyond my coursework because of my involvement in research,” said student Amy Glazier.

    Mathematics Professor Dr. Valeria Antohe believes that research sparks an element of learning that simply can't be absorbed in a classroom. Most of the research she sees emphasizes the relationship of the study materials to the real world, much like Glazier’s.

    Amy Glazer

    Amy Glazier

    FACULTY MENTORSHIP

    Glazier joined force with Dr. Antohe to explore how math can be used to model artistic patterns in floor tile design. Using polynomial, trigonometric and other mathematical functions, Glazier created designs ranging from sweeping abstract curves and starbursts to snowflakes. She also used integral calculus to find areas enclosed by the curves of each pattern to determine the cost to produce each tile.

    “I loved working on this project because it made mathematics into something tangible and beautiful I could see uses for in the real world,” described Glazier.

    Although research can seem like a huge feat in the beginning, student researchers do not go at it alone. In Glazier’s case, Dr. Antohe was there to partner and assist every step of the way, and Glazier believes researching with Dr. Antohe will give her a unique advantage when she begins at a university.

    DEVELOPING FUTURE OPPORTUNITIES

    Marcello Moterrosa

    Marcello Monterrosa

    Marcello Monterrosa can attest to that. After working on research with Dr. Bridgette Kirkpatrick and Dr. Collin Thomas in 2011 through Collin College’s Center for Advanced Study in Math and Natural Sciences (CASMNS), Monterrosa earned an internship with the Bridges program at Texas Woman’s University (TWU). Monterrosa’s CASMNS study of the symbiotic relationship between paramecium Bursaria and Chlorella was a big step forward for a career in biotechnology.

    “I will remember this time as the most interesting and productive activity I ever had that early in my academic career,” said Monterrosa, who currently is working on a second research project at TWU. “The experience of CASMNS research gave me the technical edge I needed to be successful.”

    Two years ago, three other Collin College CASMNS students also found that edge when they discovered an asteroid between Mars and Jupiter. This celebrated discovery was accomplished with the aid of Dr. Mike Broyles and 2012 Texas Professor of the Year Dr. Greg Sherman.

    Other past CASMNS research includes explorations such as the study of “Population Genetics of Wintergrape Fern,” “Selective extraction of Cu2+ in the presence of Fe2+,” “Co2+ and Ni2+,” “Copper in Drinking Water” and “Mathematical Models of Drug Concentration in the Bloodstream.”

    PUBLICATION AND PRESENTATION

    According to Dr. Michael Schueth, a Collin College English professor, “The experience of presenting at a conference also makes students understand their research in a whole new way. It gives them confidence to know their research has an audience, and they can fully engage in the academic experience.”

    Collin College hosts an annual Undergraduate Interdisciplinary Student Research Conference, so students can showcase research papers and experiments—from biology, communication studies and media to philosophy, physics and nursing—in a professional environment.

    “The purpose of the conference is to help students explore research they are proud of,” explained Jenny Warren, Collin College professor of Communication Studies and chair of the conference. “When students achieve, they should be allowed to discuss their findings with others.”

    In doing so, not only do students gain confidence, but they also stand out in a pile of applications for transfer colleges and universities.

    Research can also create camaraderie and professional interaction through organizations such as Psi Beta National Honor Society for psychology.

    Jennifer Brooks, who teaches psychology at Collin College and serves as advisor for Psi Beta, said research is a core component to Psi Beta’s mission.

    “Psi Beta research group members gain valuable professional experience through presentations at local and regional conferences, as well as opportunities for networking with students and faculty from other institutions,” Professor Brooks said. Professor Brooks was also Texas Professor of the Year in 2006.

    As Dr. Schueth said, “One of the best ways for students to stand out is through academic experiences most undergraduates are not exposed to within the first two years.”

    Whether the goal is preparation for a university bachelor’s program with dreams of graduate school or completing an associate degree and entering the job market, the knowledge, skills and relationships developed through research opportunities at Collin College give students an advantage.