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2010 REU and REV Program Participant Profiles: John Collins

John Collins photo.

Major: Math
School: Univ. of Tennessee
Hometown: Knoxville, TN
REU/REV Research Project: Ant Foraging and Climate Change

What is the purpose of your research?
We are looking at how climate change could possibly favor a competing species of ant over another and contribute perhaps to the dying out of the not-favored species. Losing a species of ant, which may seem insignificant, could have drastic consequences on biodiversity.

Describe a typical day on the job.
We do a lot of simulation runs to calculate food foraged. Because of the massive number of runs needed for statistical significance, I usually perform these runs over night. So on an average day, wake-up and look over results, looking for significant differences. I then attend a lecture or group meeting depending on the day. Some days I focus more on the math modeling while other days I spend most of my time doing literature searches for biologically accurate parameters.

What were your favorite parts of the REU/REV program?
As far as the program, I like the diversity. I feel surrounded by fellow intellectuals who will work hard but are from very different backgrounds. When my group discusses a journal article that we all read, we each bring something different to the table. The other members often mention important concepts that I completely missed or did not think about in the same way. So, I enjoy how I can learn from everyone.

What new experiences did you gain that have helped you today?
I came into the program with little modeling experience. I have since learned tons. I also had little experience coding in MatLab. To be honest, I am able to do everything in my typical workday because of the previous new experiences. It has certainly been a learn-as-you-go journey, but one I never felt lost on.

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From 2008 until early 2021, NIMBioS was supported by the National Science Foundation through NSF Award #DBI-1300426, with additional support from The University of Tennessee, Knoxville. Any opinions, findings, and conclusions or recommendations expressed in this material are those of the author(s) and do not necessarily reflect the views of the National Science Foundation.
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