Each summer, Redeemer sciences students have the chance to work with faculty members on their long-term research projects in chemistry, physics and biology. Students are developing on-the-job skills, translating what they’ve learned in the classroom into hands-on experience.
Senior sciences students Alyssa Tuinstra, Chelsey Hurst and Janelle Vander Hout worked with Dr. Darren Brouwer, professor of chemistry, on NSERC-funded research into NMR scanning and crystallography. Splitting time between Redeemer and McMaster labs, they conducted various experiments that, they hope, will lead toward a fast, effective approach to solving crystal structures, a process that is otherwise lengthy and complicated. To conduct their research, they made use of NMR, different analytical tools and computer simulation tools.
“Just being in the research world, you realize how important it is, and how accessible it is. You realize, ‘I could do that.’”
Having all participated in research projects the summer prior, all three agree that their knowledge base grew dramatically thanks to these experiences. They even had opportunities to attend academic conferences alongside Dr. Brouwer. The experience is eye-opening—and encouraging. As Hurst says, “Just being in that world, you realize how important it is, and how accessible it is. You realize, ‘I could do that.’”
Jessica Bosma is worked with Dr. Darren Brouwer and Dr. Edward Berkelaar to monitor the water quality of various urban streams flowing into Cootes Paradise, a valuable ecological preserve in Hamilton. Bosma traveled weekly to various sites in the Hamilton area to collect water samples. She then conducted water analyses in Redeemer’s labs, testing for biological oxygen demand, bacteria, phosphate, chloride and nitrate.
Results of this ongoing study were shared with interested stakeholders, including the Royal Botanical Gardens. As a first-year student, Bosma was thrilled to have this research experience. “A lot of the concepts I have learned in class come up while doing tests. The theory became practical to me.”
Newly minted graduate Trevor Vanderwoerd worked with emeritus physics professor Dr. Wytse Van Dijk to calculate fast and accurate solutions to the time-dependent Schrödinger’s Equation in two dimensions. The Schrödinger Equation is a mathematical tool used for calculations involving, as Vanderwoerd cheekily explains, “either very small objects, such as atoms; very fast objects, such as light or a theoretical spaceship; or both.”
“The calculations we’re working with are either very small objects, such as atoms; very fast objects, such as light or a theoretical spaceship; or both.”
Dr. Van Dijk and Vanderwoerd tested means of speeding up the process of these calculations in one particular context—small particles moving slowly in two dimensions. The process involves developing theoretical predictions, programming computers to perform the calculations and finally testing to make sure theory and practice agree.
As you might guess, one of the key components required in this work is patience. But the experience is worth it. Vanderwoerd, who has held assistantships in previous summers, appreciates the interplay between research and course work: “Researching introduced me to concepts before I encountered them in class, gave me hands-on experience and exposed me to wider areas of mathematics than are covered in a Bachelor’s program.”
Erin Steckley, a biology major entering her third year at Redeemer this fall, holds an NSERC-funded research position that takes her off-campus to the Canada Centre for Inland Waters in Burlington, where Dr. Joel Klinck, professor of biology, is also involved in research. Steckley is assisted a team of wildlife toxicologists with their field work and research on birds, frogs and mussels. She collected wildlife and water samples to help determine the levels of various contaminants in the environment and how they are affecting wildlife development and physiology.
“The best experiences have been those moments where I am reminded of just how magnificent our Creator is.”
Steckley’s favourite days are those spent out in the field. “There’s definitely something special about seeing God’s creation so close up and appreciating all the tiny details that we often overlook,” she muses. “Holding a baby bird in your hand, noticing legs beginning to develop on the tadpoles… The best experiences have been those moments where I am reminded of just how magnificent our Creator is.”