Research, Partner, Publish in the Natural Sciences 

In a classroom on the Franklin & Marshall campus, it's not unusual to find a student standing shoulder-to-shoulder with a professor who is a theoretical physicist, writing complex problems on a chalkboard, both working in partnership together to solve a complex problem.

Halfway around the world, you might find other students in a geosciences class diving in the ocean alongside their instructor during a snorkeling excursion to study the marine biology of a reef complex off the Big Island of Hawaii.

This is part of the distinctiveness in the study of the natural sciences at F&M.

F&M students working hand-on-hand with faculty advisers and mentors learn to be nimble, innovative and critical thinkers in ways that will serve them for life. This takes place in the laboratory, through experiences studying in the field, and through advising throughout independent research. 

More than half of students majoring in the sciences in the most recent graduating class — 53 percent of graduates — did at least one independent research project. In some fields, such as chemistry and the geosciences, more than 80% of students pursue independent research. Some publish their work as co-authors with excellent faculty who are leaders in their fields. Students don't have to wait until graduate school to have these amazing experiences. Some students are coauthors of as many as six publications by the time they graduate.

All students receive instruction in small classes (generally fewer than 20 students per class), and in some departments, students begin research as early as the summer after the first year.

Faculty-student Team Searches for Answers in an Unknown Mutated Protein

Students working in neuroscience and chemistry worked side-by-side with an associate professor of  biology to discover how a certain, mutated protein, never before studied, causes kidney failure, intellectual disability, blindness, small heads and other severe symptoms of a genetic disorder called Yoder Dystonia.  

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Experiences in the Field 

Field experience is regarded as a fundamental component of teaching and research in a number of the science departments at F&M. In numerous Biology, Geoscience, and Environmental Science courses fieldwork is an integral part of the learning process. Students go on field excursions during scheduled laboratory periods, on weekend trips, or spend weeks in the field on for-credit summer courses, travel courses, or internships for course credit.

In addition, many collaborative research projects are field-based or have a field component for initial data collection. For example, groundwater or surface water chemistry analysis, stream sampling for invertebrates or sediment load, invasive species documentation, forest ecology, and restoration projects all entail field work. Geological mapping, fossil, mineral, and rock sample examination, and Geographic Information System (GIS) analyses usually begin with fieldwork. Many projects in Astronomy use telescopes at sites remote from F&M, essentially another kind of field work. Scientific shipboard experiments and sample collecting excursions are an additional field-based experience that some faculty and students participate in.

Both the biology and earth and environment departments take students and faculty on extended trips in either for-credit, or non-credit, field-based learning experiences. For example, the biology department sponsors a trip to Belize and Earth and Environment has taken students on departmental field excursions to Hawaii, Puerto Rico, the Grand Canyon, Florida Keys, and Death Valley, among other localities.

Of Math & Mosquitos: Student Pursues Dual Interests

Deep in the woods of Lancaster County's Millport Conservancy, senior Joshua Finkel was focused on his pursuit of small prey, the mosquito. His research into making more effective mosquito traps could have the potential to save public health agencies and beleaguered homeowners untold thousands of dollars trying to control the bloodsucking insects.

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The Pulse of Natural Sciences at F&M

Story 2/24/2015

Creating Life-Saving Solutions, One Equation at a Time

Two of  F&M's three teams chose the Ebola challenge, while the third tackled the search for a lost plane as they competed in the 2015 Mathematical Contest in Modeling, held on college campuses around...

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Story 2/18/2015

NIH Grant Helps Professor, Students Cultivate Seed Research

More than a decade of studying the development of the seeds of the mustard plant Arabidopsis thaliana paid off for a Franklin & Marshall College professor when he recently was awarded a three-year, $...

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Story 2/13/2015

Darwin Day Lecture: Professor Explores Why Childbirth Pains...

The pain of childbirth was the topic of the annual "Darwin Day" lecture Feb. 13 at the Franklin & Marshall College program on science, technology and society, this year presented by author and Penn...

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Story 2/12/2015

Rockers, Rocks and a Geoscience Professor's Volcanic...

Professor of Geoscience Stan Mertzman regaled a Common Hour audience on February 12 with stories about his geology fieldwork with students and his longstanding collaboration with scientists at NASA...

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Story 1/23/2015

Demonstrating a Technical Math Idea Through Quilting

Faced with the challenge of expressing a highly technical math idea called negatively curved space, Professor of Mathematics Barbara Nimershiem discovered her solution in an unlikely medium. 

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Story 1/21/2015

Solar Energy Research Makes Chemistry Professor a Rising...

Associate Professor of Chemistry Kate Plass, who is to receive the American Chemical Society's 2015 Rising Star Award, presented annually to 10 women who make exceptional contributions in the field...

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Story 1/20/2015

Researchers Find Link Between Gene Mutations and Rare...

A team of student researchers led by a Franklin & Marshall College neuroscience professor and two colleagues from the Clinic for Special Children discovered a link between gene mutations and a rare...

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Story 1/5/2015

Art, Activism and The Environment: Exhibition Documents...

A flare from a well and a Amish farmer guiding his plow under an electric transmission line are a few of the subjects in the photos comprising "Contested Space: Witness to Place," on display at...

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Story 12/5/2014

To Study Abroad, With Intent and Purpose

An abiding interest in Asian languages draws a history major to  China.  A  pianist travels to Austria to explore musicology. An environmental studies major returns to his native Brazil to research...

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