2016 Summer Scholar Introduction: Jacob Barfield and Caitlin Donahue

by Marcus Stewart on August 13, 2016

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Pictured above: Jacob Barfield and Caitlin Donahue

The Summer Scholars program is one of the many ways students can become involved in research on campus. Each year, students apply for a summer scholarship to work with a faculty advisor to complete their own research project. Research projects come from a variety of topics and disciplines from social sciences to fine arts. This year, thirteen students were chosen as 2016 Summer Scholars. Jacob Barfield and Caitlin Donahue are two of the students selected.

Jacob is a rising senior majoring in Chemistry and Physics. His project is tilted “Modeling the effects of opioids on respiratory neural networks”. He will be working with Dr. Daniel Robb to complete his research.

“I decided to pursue this project because I wanted to do computational physics research and Dr. Robb was one of the only professors doing computational physics research. Out of the projects that he was working on this one sounded the most interesting to me, because for a while now I have had an interest in the brain and how a bunch of neurons which are just types of cells can manage to do the things that they do”.

One of the biggest challenges Jacob had to overcome was learning a new programming language.

“One of the other problems that we faced was getting data from our experimental collaborators that is hard to analyze. The problem that we are currently facing is that the model that we have been using  does not have the pieces that it needs to be able to match up with the behavior of some of the opioids that we now have data for”.

Caitlin is also a rising senior majoring in biochemistry. She will be working with Dr. Timothy Johann and Dr. Richard Keithley on her project, “Development of a Glutamate biosensor”.

“This project is a continuation of a research project that I started working on my sophomore year.  I became involved with research because I was interested in pursuing biochemistry research as a career path.  I have participated in research since my freshman year and was encouraged by my research advisors to apply to the summer scholars program.”

Caitlin believes her biggest challenge will be troubleshooting protocols when things don’t work as expected.

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