Juniata College has a history of giving students the experience of conducting research independently or collaborating with faculty staff. This gives students an advantage over other undergraduate students by allowing them to participate in hands-on-learning experiences, with the opportunity of becoming published in scholarly journals. Anna Bloom, ’10 of Eldersburg, Md., worked with Paul Schettler, Charles A. Dana Professor of Chemistry. In her research, she focused on calculating Van der Waals forces. Anna talks about this unique experience.
What interested you in research at Juniata?
I wanted to be able to apply what I was learning in the classroom to real applications. I was also able to find a project that I was interested in.
Describe the research project.
We developed and tested a quantum Monte Carlo method for calculation of Van der Waals forces between neutral gas-phase molecules. While previous quantum Monte Carlo work concentrated on total molecular energies, ours focuses on an approach that cancels out contributions to the energy except for those associated with Van der Waals forces. This method may have the potential to estimate these forces more cheaply than existing methods. We examined helium-helium, argon-argon, and ethylene-ethylene interactions by a variety of methods.
What was your favorite part of this experience?
Being able to combine knowledge from a variety of my courses and apply it to a real problem.
What was the most meaningful aspect you took away from your experience?
I learned how to read the literature pertaining to my research and how to apply it.
What did you learn about yourself?
I learned to be more confident in my own abilities and that I have no problem asking for help. This experience strengthened my skills as a scientist and further prepared me for graduate school. I highly suggest that others become involved in research at Juniata because it is such a great experience.
What advice would you give to other students who would like to do research?
Don’t be afraid to ask for help if you need it, but realize that you know more than you think.
-Liz Roberts ’10, Juniata Online Journalist