Students Present at Science Conference

Posted: February 26, 2008

Taylor Pressler '08 and Dana Alessi '08 recently returned from the annual meeting of the Biophysical Society in Long Beach, California, where they presented research papers. Sean Decatur, Marilyn Dawson Sarles, M.D. Professor of Life Sciences and professor of chemistry and associate dean of faculty for science, accompanied them. He is advisor to both students.

Pressler, a mathematics major and chemistry minor, works with statistical methodology to study small and large kinetic changes within a protein. Mark Peterson, Professor of Physics and Mathematics on the Alumnae Foundation and chair of physics, is her other primary advisor.

Alessi is a biochemistry major with a minor in Spanish. Her research involves a prion peptide associated with mad cow disease. Both Pressler and Alessi said they felt confident presenting their work in the company of mostly graduate students. "The other presenters were very excited about my work, and wanted to show me their posters and share their data and compare peptides with me," said Alessi.

Pressler's work was also well received. "I met a physicist who changed my perspective on how I'm analyzing my data. This is helpful before I write my thesis. It's nice to be with people who are very interested in our work," said Pressler.

The conference gave the students the chance to practice presenting their work before the upcoming Senior Symposium on April 4. "I love talking to large groups. I'm recruiting friends and family to come," said Pressler. "All my professors to whom I go for bits and pieces of my work will finally get to see the big picture."

Before returning east, Pressler, Alessi, and Decatur met with a group of MHC alumnae in Santa Monica. "It was fun, a nice way to wind down from the conference," said Alessi. "The alums we spoke to were so excited to see what we are doing in our research," added Pressler.

Both students have enjoyed the opportunities to travel that studying at MHC has provided. Alessi has been to Dortmund, Germany, and Baltimore since joining Decatur's lab as a sophomore. Before going to Long Beach this winter, Pressler attended the Joint Mathematics Conference in San Diego in January, where she won a top award for her research poster. The day after returning from Long Beach she headed out to the University of Nebraska-Lincoln to attend the Nebraska Conference for Undergraduate Women in Mathematics.

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