Jack Keen, a senior computational science student, has been awarded the Helen Louis Lee Undergraduate Research Award to study a Neuronal Model of the Anuran Auditory System. Keen will use the $4,000 award to study the duration, frequency and pitch of the mating calls of anurans (chorus frogs) in research that tests and evaluates the effects of specific concentrations of ions (sodium, calcium, potassium, etc.) on the auditory system. Ultimately, the research will help scholars understand the driving, genetic mechanisms of evolution and animal behavior.

“Jack is actively engaged in the betterment of our students and has initiated mentoring sessions for our incoming undergraduate students with the help of some graduate students,” said Gordon Erlebacher, Chair of the Department of Scientific Computing. “She used this as a platform to create “The Fellowship of Computational Scientists,” a new Registered Student Organization that extends across STEM departments at FSU, to mentor students and help them travel to science workshops to provide networking opportunities.”

Along with mentors Dr. Emily Moriarty Lemmon and Dr. Alan Lemmon of the Center for Anchored Phylogenomics, and Dr. Richard Bertram from the Department of Mathematics, Keen will test two computational models of neurons – a Hodgkin-Huxley model and a Morris-Lecar model. These models allow manipulation of specific ion concentrations whose results will be tested against neuron data gathered in the summer of 2018, as well as future data to be gathered later this year and during 2020.

“I’m really excited! It’s such an amazing opportunity,” Keen said. "I have several great professors helping me from the two departments for my majors – computational science and biomathematics. I also have several graduate students in these departments who have been kind enough to offer me time and advice throughout the summer, including Evan Cresswell in the Department of Scientific Computing, and Angie Davenport and Joshua Kimrey in the Biomathematics Program. I think this type of interdisciplinary research will be great preparation for graduate school. It’s going to require a lot of hard work and determination, and I’m incredibly grateful to have the financial support to devote my time to it.”

The university’s IDEA Grants are available to all FSU undergraduate students, regardless of major. The grants fund self-designed work on a creative idea which is to span 8 – 12 weeks during the summer term. A formal orientation will be held on Friday, March 29, 2019 for all grant recipients, and Keen will present an oral presentation at the President’s Showcase in the Fall.

For more about the IDEA Grants at FSU, go to this link.