By Liz Lebron
Rising second-year student Sarah Nash is in Pennsylvania this summer to participate in an RU, or Research Experience for Undergraduates, at Bryn Mawr College. Nash will spend her summer conducting research on flat origami.
“It’s the idea of how you can fold a piece of paper so that if you put it in a book it will lie flat,” said Nash. “It won’t make any more creases. It will lie flat.”
Most RUs recruit upper-level students, but one of Professor of Mathematics Eirini Poimenidou’s former students alerted her to an opportunity for first-years.
“I told Sarah about this RU at Bryn Mawr College,” said Poimenidou. “They were looking for talented first-year students who had not done any research before.”
Bryn Mawr received more than one hundred applicants for the RU. The director narrowed the search to 12 candidates and selected six participants based on a series of video interviews and problem sets. Nash impressed the selection committee during the interview and successfully completed the math problems to earn a spot in the first-year RU.
Nash was initially skeptical about applying, but Poimenidou convinced her to pursue it.
“We both thought this would be totally perfect for me,” she said. “This one is geared toward first-year students whose professors think are ready to do research, but another RU may not accept them because of their age.”
Nash’s familiarity with the research topic also helped. “I actually used to do origami as a child, and I thought it would be a really cool experience.”
One of the goals of the RU is to expose younger students to the rigorous research they may encounter in graduate school and think about how they would “feel about this field if [they] did this for another two to four years.” The prospect of experiencing life as a graduate student intrigued Nash, who is considering post-graduate work.
“I would like to go mainly because my dad always used to talk about how when you have kids, your goal is that they surpass you,” explained Nash. “It would be nice to have higher education.”
— Liz Lebron is associate director of communications and marketing at New College of Florida.