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Senior Features from the Class of 2022!

Congratulations to the Class of 2022! Devin Lefkowitz spoke with four seniors about their research, their accomplishments at Haverford, and what comes next!

Yuval Luria ‘22

Yuval Luria is a Senior Chemistry major with a concentration in Biochemistry and a Minor in Religion. He was a Summer Research Associate at Stanford University for two summers, and he has engaged in several different fields of research, including autoimmune disease research and computational drug discovery. Yuval states that he finds the field of drug discovery extremely exciting, particularly the role of organic synthesis in drug discovery. His thesis is the study of synthesizing mesembrine. Mesembrine is a compound found in Sceletium Tortuosum, a plant primarily found in the Cape region of South Africa. 

While the plant is traditionally used medicinally in South Africa to treat insomnia and mood disorders, mesembrine has not been integrated into drug development. Previous research has found that it has anti-depressant qualities and can be as effective as Prozac, Zoloft, and other marketed anti-depressants. Yuval’s current research is studying the synthesis of the compound using green chemistry, an environmentally sustainable approach to organic synthesis. This research will emphasize new, more sustainable, and unique techniques for synthesizing this particular compound and other potential drug candidates. 

Yuval was a Life Sciences Software Intern this past summer to delve deeper into drug discovery, so we are sure that there will be many more great accomplishments coming his way.

Izzy Miller ‘22

Izzy Miller is a Senior Economics major who is an NCAA DIII All-American in Cross Country and the 2021 USTFCCCA Metro Region Cross Country Athlete of the Year. She tied her running career into her research as it has been a significant aspect of her life. Izzy studied prospect theory, which states that humans evaluate outcomes, like race results in marathon running, relative to reference points, such as lifetime personal records (PR). 

Her thesis employed race results data to examine the adaptability of prospect theory’s reference points over time. To evaluate this adaptability, she proposed the existence of multiple reference points in marathon running, including but not limited to Event PR and Event Age-Adjusted PR. Izzy investigated their potentially differing impacts as runners age on various dependent measures, including future race performances and the likelihood of racing again. The results of her regression discontinuity designs reveal significant evidence for the adverse impacts of running an Event PR or Event Age-Adjusted PR upon improvement in subsequent races. She also found evidence for the importance of Event PR in determining runner improvement decreasing over time and mixed evidence for the importance of Event Age-Adjusted PR in determining runner age-adjusted improvement over time. This research is vital as it demonstrates that we may judge the value of our actions and accomplishments based on our past achievements.

Izzy will be an Analyst at Goldman Sachs upon graduating, so her research is just one of her many achievements.

Nathaniel Ruhl ‘22

For Nate’s thesis, he is developing a novel method for spacecraft navigation called the Horizon Crossing Navigational Method (HCNM). This method is intended to be used by spacecraft that orbit planets, specifically those with atmospheres. HCNM has many potential uses, and it will be particularly useful as we explore distant and potentially habitable planets. HCNM is a form of autonomous navigation that allows computers on a spacecraft to determine their location without communicating with Earth autonomously. In contrast to Earth-based navigational systems, which use data from large radio antennas located on Earth, autonomous navigational methods use data collected by sensors onboard the spacecraft. In the case of HCNM, a telescope aboard the spacecraft watches an X-ray star as it crosses the planet’s horizon. 

Under his advisor, Andrea Lommen, Nate has developed algorithms and software that analyze X-ray data to gain information about the spacecraft’s position. Using a telescope on the International Space Station, Ruhl concluded that HCNM could determine the spacecraft’s position with an accuracy of less than one kilometer in the direction of the spacecraft’s motion. Autonomous methods will be essential as we explore space beyond our Solar System since it takes a very long time to send signals between Earth and a spacecraft traveling outside of our Solar System. 

Nate presented his work at an American Astronautical Society conference this past February. In addition, he was recently honored as an Ambler Scholar. Lastly, Nate is studying Mechanical Engineering in the 4+1 program at the University of Pennsylvania, so much more groundbreaking research will come from him in the future.

Kate Severtson ‘22

Kate Severtson, a Senior Psychology major, focused her research on the field of neuroscience. She aimed to answer a few questions in her research. First, she asked how exposure to early adversities affects the executive functioning (EF) abilities, specifically inhibitory control and working memory, of high functioning individuals. She focused on those who have beat the odds projected by the deficit model associated with adverse childhood experiences (ACE). She used both performance and neural activity as a measurement. Second, she asked how perceived stress confounds the relationship between ACE and EF. Lastly, among an elite sample, she asked if an adaptation-based model or a deficit-based model was more appropriate. 

To answer these questions, she used a combined n-back and go/no-go task to measure inhibitory control and working memory. An n-back exercise is a continuous recognition task that presents the participant with a series of stimuli. The participant is evaluated based on their ability to pinpoint when the current stimulus matches the one from some number of steps earlier in the series. A go/no-go task is when participants respond to certain stimuli and make no response to other stimuli. The participant is evaluated based on their number of errors. In addition, neural activity was measured using an electroencephalograph, commonly abbreviated as EEG. Severtson conducted several surveys to deduce early adversity, perceived stress, and overall well-being. This research is significant as it links brain trauma to early childhood adversity. 

Kate was on the 2021 IWLCA honor roll and continues to go above and beyond in the neuroscience field.

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