BASE Camp Projects
BASE Camp projects offer students an informative and fun week-long experience with actual scientific research during the first week of camp. Projects change every year, allowing students to choose from a variety of topics including biomedical science, medicinal chemistry, forensics, developmental biology, evolutionary biology, marine ecology, software engineering, mechanical engineering, behavioral psychology, neuroscience, biophysics, and applied mathematics.
Project #1: Building an Obstacle-Avoiding Robot
(Uma Balaji – School of Engineering)
Autonomous self-navigating robots help accomplish many tasks in places that are difficult to reach by humans. Such robots should be able to recognize obstacles and alter their paths to complete the task. Students will build a robot using Arduino, an open-source platform based on a microcontroller that can be programmed from a computer. The robot will be powered by batteries mounted on a small chassis with wheels driven by motors and other electronic parts, much like a toy car. They will learn to program the Arduino to accept inputs from ultrasonic sensors in order to stop the motors when finding an obstacle.
Project #2: Investigating the Relationship between Nutrition and Health
(Catherine Andersen, PhD - Department of Biology)
Nutrition plays an important role in the maintenance of health. In this project, students will explore different scientific techniques to assess an individual’s health and nutritional status, including measurements of body composition, blood pressure, taste preferences, and dietary nutrient analysis. Students will additionally learn how to perform experiments with cancer cells as a way to further examine the role of nutrition and clinical health markers in disease prevention.
Project #3: Characterizing Self-Assembling Peptide Structures related to Neurodegenerative Diseases
(Jillian Smith-Carpenter, Department of Chemistry and Biochemistry)
Neurodegenerative diseases, such as Alzheimer’s disease and Parkinson’s disease, are associated with a build-up of protein plaques in the brain. To better understand the assembly process of these highly ordered structures, we will use small self-assembling peptides as a model system. In this project, students will design their own experiment to test the effect of several environmental and chemical conditions on the self-assembly process. Students will use a variety of techniques to follow the self-assembly process and characterize the supramolecular structures, including Infrared Spectroscopy (IR) and Atomic Force Microscopy (AFM). Throughout the research project, students will learn some of the basic chemical rules that influence how biomolecules interact.
Project #4: Why did I do that? Looking at unconscious influences on behavior
(Susan Rakowitz, PhD – Department of Psychology)
Psychology is the scientific study of mental processes and behavior. We will consider how to design scientific research when your subjects know they’re being studied. Then we will focus on research that shows how your behavior and judgments can be affected by all sorts of things you don’t realize like whether you sit up straight or slouch, whether you’re holding a cold drink or a warm drink, or whether you recently saw words related to the elderly or to something else. We will design and carry out a study testing some of these unconscious influences on behavior.
Project #5: Exploring Forensic Scientific Methods
(Amanda Harper Leatherman, PhD -Department of Chemistry)
Forensic science is the application of science to help solve crime. In this project, students will explore scientific techniques used for the analysis of common types of physical evidence encountered at crime scenes such as plastics, fabrics, oils, arson accelerants, fingerprints, and/or blood. Students will work with mock crime scene evidence and will consider how the best methods for analysis are determined. Students will then make hypotheses and will design experiments to explore how individualizing different pieces of evidence are and/or what effects time, temperature, or environment may have on different types of evidence. In this way students will come away learning the power as well as the limitations of science with regards to forensic study.
Project #6: Study of Genetic interactions in the nematode worm C. elegans
(Anita Fernandez, PhD – Department of Biology)
Our genes determine many aspects of our appearance and personality. How do scientists study what individual genes do? In this project students will use Caenorhabditis elegans, a tiny nematode worm, to study the function of several genes. Students will study mutant worms that harbor genetic defects that destroy a gene's function. In some cases, destruction of gene function can lead to lethality, sterility, and growth problems. By observing what happens when gene function is disrupted, students will infer the normal function of the gene. Human beings and lowly worms share many of the same genes, therefore by studying gene function in the worm, we are also learning about how these genes work in humans.