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Professor DeeAnn Reeder, left in Bucknell T-shirt, and senior Megan Vodzak this summer in Sudan.

 

Megan Vodzak with a brown bat.

Posted May 12, 2008

Updated July 22, 2008

LEWISBURG, Pa. -- Undergraduate summer research projects will take Bucknell University students around the globe -- from Central Pennsylvania and a remote mountain base camp in Alaska to the north African country of Sudan. 

The undergraduate research crosses the breadth of the University's academic disciplines -- from biology and English to biomedical engineering and animal behavior.  

Megan Vodzak, a senior neuroscience major from Dallas, Pa., may well be traveling the greatest distance from campus to reach her summer research post.

Documenting populations
She'll be in southern Sudan, near the Ugandan border, with DeeAnn Reeder, assistant professor of biology, to document mammal populations. A particular focus of their research will be native bats. || Audio: Megan Vodzak in her own words

The animal population of southern Sudan "hasn't been surveyed in more than 50 years due to civil war," said Vodzak. "It's interesting to be able to go there now and see what species are there and maybe describe new species as well as see what species have left the area and what species have come to the area."

As part of her preparation for the three-week trip, Vodzak, who will sleep in a hut draped with mosquito netting, will prepare a picture book of known local species that will be used to help the local population identify area wildlife. Information obtained from this field trip may be used as part of an application for a research grant from National Geographic for additional study.

Bat research lab
Working with bats is nothing new for the neuroscience major. Since her sophomore year, she has worked in Bucknell's bat research lab. "My training with trapping and handling the bats will be applicable, though I'm sure I'll be handling some larger species than just a little brown bat," said Vodzak.

While Sudan remains in the news headlines, she said much of the country's strife is centered in Darfur in the north and the area she will be visiting has been relatively stable since factional fighting ended several years ago.

Vodzak's research project, which she calls "an opportunity of a lifetime," is just one aspect of Bucknell undergraduate research taking place this summer. A sampling of summer research projects includes:

  • Cullen Kortyna, an undeclared sophomore from Gibsonia, Pa., will spend four weeks in Alaska, working on a research project titled, "Reconstructing Paleogene Environments in South-Central Alaska: Sedimentologic Analysis of the Arkose Ridge Formation in the Southern Talkeetna Mountains." In addition to providing an improved understanding of environmental conditions, fieldwork will provide a more detailed geologic map of the study area. "Documentation of the thickness, texture and composition of sedimentary strata of the Arkose Ridge Formation will aid evaluation of subsurface hydrocarbon reservoirs," said Kortyna.
  • Molly Burke, a junior political science and environmental studies major from Hastings on Hudson, N.Y., will investigate "Recycling's Commodity Chain" and whether the conventional thought that recycling saves natural resources, reduces energy and limits pollution is accurate. "It's not sure how much is being saved, if anything, or what the relative costs are within this process," Burke said in a research outline. "Rather than embrace an effort to be environmentally sound with strategies that may not work towards the intended solutions, it is necessary to break down the problem into components, which can further assess the overall contribution to our environment."
  • Research by Laura Chernak, a senior mechanical engineering major from Penfield, N.Y., is titled, "Mechanical Testing of the Anterior Cruciate Ligament." Her research objective is to build a mechanical testing device that will correlate the physical attributes of a knee to the predisposition of a tear of the anterior cruciate ligament, an injury that affects more than 80,000 individuals in the U.S. each year. "Understanding which physical attributes increase an athlete's chance of injury will then allow these at-risk athletes to practice increased caution so that the injury may be avoided," she said.
  • Michelle Gallagher, a senior and English major from Weedville, Pa., will research environmental concerns in a project titled, "Sublime Natures: Environmental Ethics in Modern Fantasy Literature." Gallagher said her study will focus on several authors and their interpretation of nature through fantasy and "how the treatment of nature evolves between these generations of writers" and how their depiction of nature may reflect the changing views of the environment over time.

Bucknell's Program for Undergraduate Research provides up to 20 summer stipends of $2,500 and campus housing to students to conduct eight-week research projects with faculty mentors.

Contact: Division of Communications

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