STEP Grant:Student Contacts

From OpenWetWare
Jump to: navigation, search

Fall 2009

Christina Gomez


Attended Alison Meyers office hours and inquired about projects. An e-mail was sent with project information later that evening.


Here is the question that we were discussing earlier:

Using knowledge about serum levels of certain drugs over time and their latency in the human body, determine the decay rate of a drug in the human body in order to calculate the right amount of that drug that should be administered to patients.

As I suggested earlier start looking into a drug that interests you and we can discuss some of the calculus theory that will help you with this problem. I will be out of town for the rest of the week, but if you would like to discuss the problem further you can contact Dr. Fox who is Cc on this e-mail.


William Mashburn


Hi Alison,

I'm Will Mashburn, a student in the Life Science Calc II class you spoke in today. I was also in your Intro to Ecology lab last spring. There are a couple things that occurred to me that I didn't ask about today in class. Do you only assign one project topic to each student, or in other words, is it a first-come first-served thing? Would a project like extinction probability for an endangered species involve more number crunching or theoretical knowledge? And, Is there any way we could meet on campus before next tuesday, when you will be in your office next? I would like to start on the project this weekend.


-Will M.


Hey Will-

The projects are not first come first serve. We try to tailor each project to the student, which ensures that no two students will do the same project. The idea of the projects is to help you guys get a better grasp on the calculus principle you are learning in class and explore how these principles relate to your chosen field of study, biology. For a project looking at extinction probabilities you are probably going to have to use theoretical knowledge to create a equation or model and then do a little number crunching to figure out the actual probability of extinction for your species of choice.

I am going to be out of town for a meeting starting Wednesday, so if you would like to meet and talk about your project I have office hours on Tuesday (6-8pm in ENG 104-105). If that doesn't work, I can meet with you next week (week of 3/9) or you can talk to Dr. Fox ( I can't remember what Dr. Fox's office hours are off the top of my head. Let me know what works for you.



Hello Dr. Fox,

I am a student in Prof. Grinshpan's Life Science Calculus II class, where you spoke last week about the optional calculus project. I would like to get started as soon as possible on a project so as not to be crunched at the last second before I graduate, and to make an A! As such, I want to talk to you soon about choosing a project topic. I realize that you do not have office hours until next week, but if there is some advice you could give with some preliminary info, it would be a step in the right direction. My major is Environmental Science & Policy, I found many of the topics Alison mentioned last week interesting. I remember a topic that had to do with estimating the extinction rate of an endangered species. I am considering applying to a graduate program in Ecology, so that project topic might fit the bill for my interests. I also remember a topic that concerned the mass to volume ratio of insects, and another that concerned aquatic species' coping mechanism for nitrogen narcosis. All of these sound interesting. What can I do to get started this week? Thank you for your help.

-Will Mashburn


Hi Will,

I do have office hrs Thurs 1-2.

Probably the best thing to do (if you can't make either my hours or Ali's) is to explore the scientific background of one of more problems a little, to see which seem most interesting and begin to get some ideas as to what the problems are.

I'll suggest a few things about the "insect" problem. I put that in quotes because more or less the same issues apply to any organism that is relying on passive diffusion across its body surface. For example, plants have the same problem. It's not necessarily mass to volume -- more generally, it's the surface are to volume ratio: uptake (and loss) of gasses depends on the surface area. As the individual grows (assuming they maintain the same shape), the surface:volume ratio has to decrease. So there are limits to the size that an organism (or an organ like a leaf) can attain. Obviously there are ways that some organisms have to partly handle this: plants may make many leaves, and some organisms may change their shape as they grow larger.

You should realize that this problem applies to anything diffusing across the surface -- not just gasses, but heat as well. It is widely held that dinosaurs that were sufficiently large were homeothermic, just because they couldn't lose heat very fast.

So here are two suggestions as to how to begin on a problem in this area: 1. Work out the math of the relationship between surface and volume for a simple geometric shape or two -- say, cubes and spheres. 2. Spend some time looking at literature on the surface-volume relationship. Offhand I'd suggest that leaves are easier to work on than insects, but it's up to you what the organisms (or organs like leaves) are. This may take some time!

Once you've done some of this, you've done part of what's needed, and it's easier to talk about what's needed for the whole project.