More About the HHMI-FT Internship
During this internship I was able to work on two projects in the UNC Applied Math Fluids Lab. One project was the Trachea Project, headed by Jeff Olander and Reed Ogrosky. The other was the Pipe Flow project headed by Tom Nelson. The majority of what I learned in the lab was about designing, setting up, troubleshooting, and running experiments. Tom was new to the Pipe Flow project so my experience with that project was mostly about troubleshooting and experimental design. Jeff has been working on the trachea project for awhile so it was well established when I started. Most of what I learned on the trachea project was about running experiments and gathering data. It was very exciting getting to work in a research lab with all sorts of sophisticated equipment and lots of projects going on all at once. More importantly, I got to experience firsthand the wide applications of mathematics research. I don't think many people understand what mathematics research actually is and what it's used for, but it has a wide variety of uses and applications, from oil spill research to understanding how the heart pumps blood throughout the human body, and that's only just in one lab!
I think the most important thing I learned in the lab this summer was the discovery thinking process that's involved in research. The process starts with a motivating question, from there the researches use their intuition to come up with their own answers to this question (forming hypotheses), and then they use the math and experiments to try and support (or disprove) their intuition. I think this is a great model for learning because it starts from what you already know and builds from there and whether you're trying to learn about quadratic functions or trying to understand air flow in the trachea this is a great model for learning and gaining a deep understanding of whatever you're trying to learn.
If you are interested in learning more about the UNC Applied Math Fluids Lab and the research that goes on there click here.