This summer two students worked in the lab of Professor Chad Topaz. Amelia McNamara ’10 studied pattern formation in chemical systems, which could help predict how fire will react in grass lands to how stripes are formed on the tigers. Elise Delmas ’12 studied locust swarms.

Swarms can have ecological, environmental and even economic impacts. For example, locust plagues occurring in many parts of the world destroy hundreds of millions of dollars of crops each year, and the pesticides currently used to control the swarms are themselves problematic. Topaz and his students hope to determine more benign ways to influence biological swarms.

McNamara says research in applied mathematics is “especially hard to come by at the undergraduate level, and this type of research makes Macalester stand out.”

“I know my research experience on pattern formation in chemical systems prepared me for graduate school and made my PhD program applications much more competitive,” said McNamara. “I am indebted to Prof. Topaz, Macalester, and the NSF for giving me the opportunity to learn these skills.”

Current student Elise Delmas ’12 said she’s been lucky to be doing research with Professor Topaz. “His previous NSF grant has allowed me to work on modeling the movement of locust swarms,” said Delmas. “Mathematical modeling has never seemed so exciting!”

September 1 2010

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