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About The daily Nebraskan. ([Lincoln, Neb.) 1901-current | View Entire Issue (April 28, 1997)
SCIENCE from page 1
noon,” Langan said. “He sat there for
LaShelle Lyman, 23, a 1996 UNL
graduate with a geology major, gave
demonstrations explaining the cause
of earthquakes and the use of seismo
graphs to measure their power.
She said even though many chil
dren enjoyed the hands-on experience,
she thought attendance was low.
“It’s just too bad that more people
don’t know that this is here,” she said.
“It doesn’t help that it’s a beautiful day
outside and no one wants to go in a
That was, of course, the opposite
problem the Prairie Astronomy Club
had April 12 when a blizzard forced
the rescheduling of UNL’s events for
National Astronomy Day.
Mark Dahmke, 40, a club mem
ber, said Astronomy Day was resched
uled to coincide with National Science
and Technology Week.
The astronomy club used comput
ers to show the latest in Hale-Bopp
comet photography, map the constel
lations and show the surface of Mars
“We’re showing people what we
do,” Dahmke said, “what astronomy
is all about.”
Sophomore geography major Rose
Ryan said the demonstrations were
interesting and easily understood.
“It’s too simple for college stu
dents,” she said. “It’s geared more to
ward grade school.”
“Most of them [the demonstra
tions] are geared at getting kids inter
ested in science,” she said.
Corrine Kolm, 16, a Lincoln High
School student, demonstrated the im
portance of seat belts using clay dum
mies tied to miniature cars with shoe
“We’re just trying to show kids that
physics has a part in everyday life,”
Josh Bivins, a sixth-grader at
Dawes Middle School, demonstrated
the strengths of various materials
against radiation. His project, which
he had on display, earned him a purple
ribbon in the district science fair.
“I’m honored to be here,” he said,
“that they would actually ask me be
cause I’m a kid.”
The highlight of the afternoon,
however, was geared toward visitors
of all ages.
David Watkins and Mary Anne
Holmes of the UNL Geology Depart
ment presented their recent findings
that a meteorite or comet 10 miles
across and weighing 10 million mega
tons collided with the Earth 65 mil
lion years ago.
According to their findings, it cre
ated the Chicxulb Crater in the
Yucatan Peninsula and caused the ex
tinction of almost all life in the Meso
zoic Era, including the dinosaurs.
“The Earth itself would have been
thrown up into harmonic waves 20 to
30 feet tall,” Watkins said about the
strength of the collision.
The lecture, titled “Apocalypse
Past: The Asteroid Impact that Ended
the Age of Dinosaurs,” chronicled the
Holmes and Watkins’ research off the
eastern coast of Florida where they dug
309 meters below the sea floor to find
remnants of the disaster.
UNL CHEMISTRY PROFESSOR JIM CARR performs chemistry experiments for
visiters at the “Science is Everywhere” day at the UNL State Museum in
Moirill Hall. The event was In celebration of Astronomy Day and National
Science and Technology Week.
Undergraduate research students
discover meaning in tedious tasks
By Jim Goodwin
Nick Pleskac spent dozens of hours
this semester in a laboratory handling
thousands of sunflower heads.
He measured their diameters and
documented the effects of moths on
them, all for the good of his profes
The tedious, labor-intensive re
search wasn’t necessarily the most
interesting undertaking for a junior
biology major planning to someday
conduct similar projects of his own.
It did, however, expose him to sci
entific methods outside the lecture
“Getting involved with the actual
logistics of the research project was
. very helpful,” Pleskac said. “I can now
see how each step of the process
Undergraduate research like
Pleskac’s is an integral part of a sci
ence education, said Vicki Fisher, an
academic adviser in the School of Bio
Participating in a hands-on project
gives future biologists and others a
foundation on which they may build
It also offers the opportunity for
more practical, comprehensive study
and makes students more attractive to
graduate schools, Fisher said.
“Most graduate schools do look to
see if students have some experience
with research,” Fisher said. “Often our
students also get published. These are
both ways that a student may stand out
in applying for graduate school.”
The benefits of undergraduate re
search also reach beyond the experi
ments and educational experiences of
Professors, whose schedules are
strained with teaching and research
responsibilities of their own, also ben
Diana Pilson, an assistance profes
' sor of biological sciences, said under
graduate research allowed her the op
portunity to better know her students
and mentor those who might develop
projects of their own.
Pilson, whose sunflower experi
ment Pleskac collected data for, said
her research would take much longer
without the help from student re
“This (project) just takes hours and
hours and hours of work,” Pilson said.
“There’s no way I could do this with
For Pleskac, the effects of his re
search are far-reaching. Not only has
his role in Pilson’s project given him
a fuller perspective on his studies, he
also has met practicing scientists who
are interested in his future and are
willing to advise him on it, he said.
“The main benefit is that you get
to meet and talk with professors about
anything you wants” Pleskac said.
“You get to meet people you might not
otherwise be able to.”
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