Rigorous quantitative and qualitative research is an important component of academic learning in Scientific Inquiry. Research opportunities allow science students to work on specific projects associated with faculty members’ expertise. Students typically begin by working in an apprenticeship model with faculty or laboratory staff and gradually take on more independent projects within the context of the specific research program as they gain experience. Students can develop vital skills in research design, data acquisition and interpretation, modeling and theoretical analysis, written and oral communication, collaboration and critical thinking. These are valuable skills for students pursuing a graduate degree or entering the job market.
Clarissa Dirks (biology) conducts research in many areas of microbiology and ecology. Her recent work in microbiology has focused on the biodiversity and distribution of tardigrades in different ecosystems. She also aims to better understand the evolutionary principles that underlie the emergence, spread, and containment of infectious disease by studying the co-evolution of retroviruses and their hosts. Lastly, she is conducting snail surveys to better characterize the species in Washington state, something that hasn’t been done in many decades. Depending on the project, students will gain experience in molecular biology techniques, microbiology, field ecology, genetics, bioinformatics, and tissue culture.