Zahra Adahman ’14 is just about to enter her second year of college. But she already has a head start on preparing for her Ph.D., thanks to one of her professors and Randolph’s Summer Research Program.
Katrin Schenk, a physics professor, told Adahman about an opportunity that would allow her to play a significant role in an ongoing research project. Their work together will be featured in an international conference later this year.
Schenk has been working with researchers at the University of California, San Francisco, to analyze ultrasonic mouse squeaks and identify communication disorders in mice. If they can identify mice that exhibit the traits of communication disorders such as autism, researchers could then study those mice to learn more about the disorders.
Adahman, who is from Nigeria, began examining and classifying sonograms charting the ultrasonic pitches during the spring semester. She continued her work in the College’s 2011 Summer Research Program, spending about five hours each day for eight weeks scrutinizing the sound waves. The research is far from over, but it is making progress.The project is receiving high-profile attention. A paper about the research has been chosen for a talk at the annual meeting of the Society for Neuroscience, an international organization. The annual meeting provides the world's largest forum for presenting new neuroscience research and networking with neuroscientists. More than 30,000 people are expected to attend the conference in Washington, D.C., in November.
Adahman said the project taught her much about research methods that will help her later on. “Research is very important in medicine and science,” she said.
Schenk said engagement in serious research will benefit students who want to pursue graduate school. “The earlier you get students doing real research—not just a science project—the better,” Schenk said. “My goal is to have every student publish a peer-reviewed paper before they graduate. I think it’s possible.”
While some larger colleges restrict research to upperclassmen, Randolph College has no such restrictions, Schenk said. “I think that’s one of the great things about being here.”