School Of Natural & Social Sciences

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Research in the Natural Sciences

Students majoring in the Natural Sciences at Purchase College have many opportunities to conduct research with faculty members, most notably while working on their Senior Projects. Many student-faculty research collaborations have resulted in journal publications and presentations at professional conferences; (Partial listing of student-faculty publications).

Here, some recent graduates talk about their experiences conducting Senior Project research with Natural Sciences faculty members:

Krystal PerkinsKrystal Perkins, Psychology

My present research was designed to determine whether altering people's social-cognitive tendencies related to stereotyping, namely the ways they process social information and their endorsement of social ideologies, can alter stereotypical thinking. Participants were taught to engage in sophisticated reasoning strategies regarding other people over the course of seven weeks, and tested afterward to determine whether there was a change in stereotyped beliefs.

From doing my senior project, I have learned that I love researching. I also feel that I have gained the appropriate preparation for future academic endeavors.

Sarah CivelloSarah Civello, Biology

My current senior research project aims to examine and characterize a unique Eubacterium, known as Aquificales, from a site in Yellowstone National Park called Calcite Springs. Using both Transmission Electron Microscopy and Scanning Electron Microscopy we were able to discover much about this bacteria's morphology, structure, and behavior. Future research will involve extensive cellular and molecular techniques, in hopes to amplify its DNA for comparisons with other known species.

My senior research project has allowed me to perfect my technical skills within the laboratory. I was able to learn how to conduct research alone, as well as how to collaborate with other students and compare findings. Overall, my senior work was an amazing experience, one which I will always remember.

Eric ChoiEric Choi, Mathematics/Computer Science

Just like the students in the other disciplines, my experience with studying math at Purchase was made wonderful largely due to the small size. I always had access to the professors, and they were always more than willing to help. Because I was able to gain direct access to the professors so easily, I was able to get a glimpse of the depth of their scholarship and their profound love for mathematics. This I saw when I discussed topics with them one-on-one. I understand that in many big-name universities, no matter how prestigious they are, access to professors can be very difficult, and the teaching assistants are not fully equipped to answer questions at the level that tenured professors can. In fact, for that matter, the fact that all the courses at Purchase are taught by full-fledged professors rather than graduate TA's was wonderful. All the information that we need to learn is in the textbook, of course. But for me, it was seeing these fine scholars in action that so inspired me.

The senior thesis experience was wonderful, too. Once again, as I so emphatically said above, I was able to behold Marty Lewinter's mathematical scholarship in action. There I was, doing joint research with a brilliant mathematician! I went through the indescribable joy of discovering new insights as well as the frustration of not going anywhere with a problem. I'm so glad that Purchase required an undergraduate thesis.

The small sizes of the classrooms were great, too. Everyone's questions could be easily answered, and the overall atmosphere of a small group of scholars learning together was quite pleasant.

Finally, very much in harmony with the above, I enjoyed bonding with professors and fellow students as fellow scholars--again, largely because of the small size of Purchase.

Logan LaflotteLogan Laflotte, Psychology

My Senior Project research has evolved into an exploration of how feelings of uniqueness might be working to shape one's creative behaviors. By misleading participants to believe that they are either markedly unique or rather average, and comparing subsequent performance on creative insight problems and enthusiasm toward these problems, I hope to uncover a previously unnoticed psychological phenomenon within the relatively seldom explored area of creativity.

For me, the undertaking of my Senior Project has not only made me come to expect and trust more in my own potential for accomplishment, but has also served as a scientific way to examine closely one of my own personal curiosities and interests in life. Still, I know that for some of my friends in the psychology program, the Senior Project has acted as a vehicle to uncover new questions in life they never knew they had.

Christina HenryChristina Henry, Mathematics/Computer Science

Originally, I wanted to come to SUNY Purchase as a Jazz voice performance major. When I didn't get accepted into that program, I decided to declare math as my major at Purchase. I entered as a sophomore math/computer science major in the fall of 2002. I transferred with 42 credits from SUNY Rockland Community College. So I started with upper level math courses. The thing that has made my stay at Purchase most pleasurable is my advisor, Professor Martin Lewinter. He is a personable individual. I love his teaching style, so I have taken a lot of classes with him. In my opinion, he is the best teacher here. The way he talks about the beauty of mathematics is incredibly inspiring. He actually has inspired me to continue to my master’s, maybe even my PhD, and become a high school math teacher or college professor.

There are also a lot of extra curricular events that were amusing. There are gatherings in the South building with music and campus-wide barbecues when the weather is nice enough. I appreciated the fact that I made a lot of friends of very diverse backgrounds. Next year, I will miss a lot of the people I have met at this school. Next fall, I will be entering graduate school for math education (7-12). Purchase was an enjoyable stepping-stone in my journey. I will always look back on this experience with a smile.

Melissa SymolonMelissa Symolon, New Media

I came to Purchase College with a wide variety of interests that made it difficult for me to choose a direction for my studies. Luckily almost halfway through my freshmen year I stumbled across the New Media Program which stood out to me in the course booklet for its integration of various art forms and computers. By the second semester of my freshmen year I was taking my first New Media class, Creating Web Documents with Professor Jeanine Meyer. I was learning so much in the course and was so interested in the possibilities of web design that I declared New Media as my major and began plowing through as many new media classes that I could fit into my schedule through the following years. The classes I took at Purchase outside and within my major proved to be challenging and totally engaging.

Applying for Advanced Standing in the program is a required step that one must pass in order to continue towards getting a New Media degree. It requires students to create an online portfolio of work in several different areas of the program and to decide on a focus and plot an individualized course outline for junior and senior year. My Advanced Standing portfolio was a tremendous asset for me which landed me an internship at a local company the summer before my senior year and upon my graduation from Purchase became a full time position as a multimedia developer.

Timothy LaRoccaTimothy LaRocca, Biology

When I entered the biology program at Purchase as a freshman, I was a little uncertain, as anyone would be. It was at this time when I knew that I had an interest in biology and I knew I was somewhat good at it, but was still unsure if it was what I really wanted to do. Over my next four years at Purchase, the outstanding quality of the faculty and program at Purchase had me convinced. It really occurs when you have the opportunity to take those higher level classes, you know, the "cool” ones. This is the area where Purchase shines for me. Lots of hands-on lab time showed me what its like to actually be a biologist, this to me is the best aspect of the program. The faculty is also outstanding, and the fact that Purchase is a smaller school with smaller class sizes brings the teaching down to a one-on-one teacher/student level (professors actually know students names! something unheard of at larger universities).

Then there’s the senior project. I’ll be the first to admit when you enter Purchase in the natural sciences and you hear that in three years you’ll have to begin a thorough senior project you’ll be a little intimidated, but it’s the best experience you can have here. It gives you a chance to spend roughly a year on a subject that interests you and allows you to become a real scientist, doing real, relevant lab work that eventually becomes an important thesis. Graduate schools are impressed by it as well. I applied to a few grad schools and ultimately the one I chose was very impressed at the level of work I’d done at the undergraduate level, all because I had done this senior project.

In short, Purchase is known greatly for its arts program, but the natural sciences are like finding a buried treasure here.

Bernadette CzarnieckiBernadette Czarniecki, Psychology
(Senior Project Sponsor: Prof. Ronnie Halperin)

My senior project is looking at the public's opinion of incarcerated mothers' relationships with their children during their prison sentences and whether they should be allowed (and if so under what circumstances) to remain in contact with their children. I developed a survey that I am distributing to different groups of people to obtain their opinions on this topic.

My senior project has allowed me to use what I have learned throughout my college years to study an area that I have an interest in. It is not only an accrual of my undergraduate schooling but it has also helped me narrow down what direction I want to take in my graduate studies.

Mike TrozzoMike Trozzo, Mathematics/Computer Sciences
(Senior Project Sponsor: Prof. Marty Lewinter)

My thesis is on the properties of spanning trees, with an emphasis on meshes. Dr. Marty Lewinter and I have been working on determining critical values when searching for spanning trees with minimum deficiencies.

Not only did I learn a great deal about my subject, but I also learned a great deal about myself. When the project started, I was a bit intimidated, since I had never done a project of that scale before. However, as it progressed, I started to realize what I was capable of accomplishing. I believe that the Senior Project is a perfect way to define my career at Purchase.

A great deal of the credit for the success of my project (and for the success I've been fortunate to enjoy in my four years here) goes to Dr. Lewinter, who has been a constant source of guidance and encouragement since Day 1.

Also posted: Division Procedures for Dealing with Scientific Fraud.