Wooster Students Make a Case for Undergraduate Research in Nation’s Capital

Junior Nikolai Radzinski and senior Lindsey Bowman chosen for CUR poster session on the Hill

May 7, 2012 by John Finn

WOOSTER, Ohio — Who better to tout the virtues of undergraduate research than a pair of students from The College of Wooster? And what better place to make that pitch than the nation’s capital where elected officials make decisions about which organizations receive funding?

Wooster’s Nikolai Radzinski and Lindsey Bowman shared their thoughts with senators and representatives after being chosen to present their research and spread the good news about undergraduate research at last week’s Council on Undergraduate Research (CUR) Posters on the Hill on Capitol Hill. Radzinski, a junior biochemistry and molecular biology major, and Bowman, a senior geology major, were two of 73 students selected from a highly competitive field of more than 850 applicants to participate in a poster session and reach out to members of Congress, congressional staff members, federal government officials, and others in attendance.

“Students are the best ambassadors for undergraduate research,” said Meagen Pollock, assistant professor of geology at Wooster and a CUR councilor. “They enthusiastically tell their stories about their research experiences and how federal funding helped support them. It's easy for members of Congress to recognize the importance of funding undergraduate research when they see that these students represent the future of science and research in America.”

Radzinski, who spent 10 weeks at West Virginia University last summer as part of a Research Experience for Undergraduates (REU) session, discussed his efforts to quantify physical therapy so that tangible rates of improvement could be measured. Using computational methods (MATLAB), he compared data extracted from a motion capture system to determine the extent of motor function loss for victims of stroke or other brain injuries. “Right now, there is no straightforward way to measure a patient’s progress to see if there is improvement,” he said. “We have identified a way to do that, which is much more practical and much less expensive.” As for his overall experience in Washington, D.C., Radzinski was thrilled. “It was a fantastic event,” he said. “Being surrounded by so many scientists energized me and made me want to do even more research.”

Bowman, who looked at subglacial volcanism in Iceland for her Independent Study project (Wooster’s nationally acclaimed senior research experience), compared her study of an ancient volcanic eruption in southwest Iceland with the massive Eyjafjallajökull eruption two years ago, which disrupted air travel across western and northern Europe for six days. “I used the results of my study of an ancient volcanic system and related it to the 2010 eruption,” she said. “Understanding past systems is key to understanding future volcanic hazards. The two eruptions were similar in that both occurred in an essentially identical geologic setting.” Bowman, who will further her study of geoscience at West Virginia University in the fall, was pleased to have been selected to participate. “I felt good about representing myself and Wooster,” she said, adding that she also learned how much more challenging it is to talk to non-geoscientists about geology.

“We are proud and honored that Nikolai and Lindsey were selected to represent Wooster,” said Pollock. “Such recognition on the national stage really speaks to the quality of our undergraduate research program.”