Madelynn Lytle, a senior math major from Blountstown, Florida, spent the summer working on visual biophysics in the University of Alabama at Birmingham through a Research Experience for Undergraduates (REU) program.
She developed a model of light propagation and capture in a photoreceptor cell using a matrix laboratory (MATLAB) with the purpose of advancing the current understanding of retinal physiology.
“Real research is intense,” said Lytle. “One day everything plans out nicely, while the next day you may find out that all you did was wrong.”
“(Research) is not for the faint of heart, but for those who can push through setbacks, it’s the best career imaginable.”
Lytle won the third place in the Summer Research Expo poster competition in the physical and applied sciences category held in the University of Alabama, Birmingham.
According to James Sanders, an assistant professor of physics, REU programs offer valuable research experience to graduate-school-bound students.
“REU programs are nationally recognized and are well-paid compared to other internships that may even be unpaid,” said Sanders. “We had four students from the physics department doing summer research at different research universities and national labs as near as Auburn and Birmingham and as far as New York and Ohio.”
REU programs are funded by the National Science Foundation (NSF), and according to the NSF website, REU sites consist of a group of 10 or so undergraduate students who work in host institutions.
Each student works closely with the faculty or the researcher in a specific research project.
Ty Naquin, a junior physics major from Deatsville, spent his summer in a similar REU program in biomedical engineering at Cleveland State University in Ohio.
Naquin’s work involved the study of a special class of armed biopolymers that have a potential for drug delivery and tissue engineering.
“The research work was challenging but I acquired a lot of skills that I couldn’t have learned in a classroom,” said Naquin. “I will definitely apply again next summer.”