Tag Archives: Science

Department Details: Geology

5 Feb


Geology at W&L ROCKS!

Geology at W&L ROCKS!

Washington and Lee University has offered courses in geology for more than two hundred years and was one of the first institutions in the United States to offer formal programs in the study of the Earth. The department currently offers a broad range of programs that include most of the important disciplines of the earth sciences. A number of alumni have made significant contributions as academic geologists, as geoscientists in the energy industry, and as environmental scientists.

Lexington is surrounded by some of the most interesting and classical geology of the entire Appalachian Mountain system. Our programs take advantage of our location. The campus lies right in the middle of the Great Valley of Virginia within easy reach of the Blue Ridge Province and the Allegheny Mountains. During the fall and winter terms, many of our courses run field trips for “hands-on” study of this superb geology. In the spring term, we offer more intense field experiences. Some of these spring courses emphasize the geology of the local area and provide familiarity with modern methods of field mapping. Other courses deal with the geology of a specific region and/or the study of the environment. Recent extended field trips have been run to such diverse areas as the Great Smoky Mountains, New England, the Colorado Plateau, Hawaii, New Zealand, the Pyrenees, the Pacific Northwest, and coastal Virginia.

Our faculty are active in a variety of research areas in which students play a central role. Current faculty research includes long-term plateau incision by escarpment breaching and capture, the modeling and growth of fault-related folds, Holocene climate variation as recorded in coral growth, weathering and water chemistry, and the growth and erosion of mountain belts.

The Geology Department is also a member of the Keck Geology Consortium, which includes 18 of the best undergraduate geology departments in the country.  This program allows our students to join undergraduates and faculty from other consortium institutions in summer research projects in such diverse locations as the Apennines of Italy, the Bahamas, the Cascades, Mongolia, Australia, Ireland, and Cyprus.

For more information on the Geology department, click here.

Department Details: Environmental Studies

3 Feb
Who wouldn't want to protect this gorgeous view?!

Who wouldn’t want to protect this gorgeous Rockbridge County view?!

The Environmental Studies major and interdisciplinary minor require an understanding of the sciences, social sciences, and humanities. These programs are designed to educate students in a broad class of issues related to the environment and humanity’s place in the natural world.

Students employ this interdisciplinary approach to develop a comprehensive understanding of the causes, consequences, and solutions to environmental problems. Experiential learning opportunities are available through service learning courses, the US/Brazil exchange program, the Chesapeake Bay program and the spring semester abroad.

At Washington and Lee, we take an interdisciplinary approach to the study of the environment. Faculty and students from the sciences, the humanities, the social sciences, and law are involved in this approach through research, the curriculum, and a variety of co-curricular activities, including numerous public lectures, service learning projects, monthly luncheon seminars, as well as outdoor activities.

The program curriculum allows students to develop interdisciplinary expertise and an understanding of how insights from different disciplines complement each other. This is not only a unique academic experience, but also one that expands the students’ ability as citizens to be aware of the scientific, ethical, and policy issues they will face in their local communities, their professions and in their broader world community.

For more information on the Environmental Studies department, click here.

My Professors Are Saints

28 Jan

As a Physics/Engineering major, I sometimes come across homework problems and parts of assignments that are over my head, even after reading the corresponding chapter in the book and rereading every detail I wrote down from class. The cool/difficult thing about engineering is that all the problems are applicational.  Every problem is different, and until I have trained my brain to think its way through a certain type of problem, there is no guarantee I will be able to solve it using an example from class or a previous problem.  There have been many times over my past 2 and a half years at this school when I have been completely stuck on an assignment.

What do I do when this happens?  I run into the open arms of my professors.  Not literally, since they are not all the hugging types, but they are always willing to assist me when I need them.  And if they are not in their offices, I hunt them down or post up outside their offices until they come back and then I don’t leave until I understand the information.  How annoying.  If I were them, I would start putting signs on my door like “Professor has moved to a different office” or “Not here, go away!”  My professors, on the other hand, are saints.  They have helped me think my way through difficult homework assignments an innumerable amount of times, and have uplifted me throughout my entire process of my understanding.

I would not survive this major without the constant willingness to help that is seen in all my professors.  My relationship with each and every one of them is extremely strong, and that is something that you can’t find at every university.  The professors at Washington and Lee are here to help students, and they make that very apparent.

Department Details: Engineering

27 Jan
Engineering students at W&L

Engineering students at W&L

The Engineering program is part of the Physics department. First and foremost, our graduates are broadly-educated individuals with a strong background in basic engineering science. Courses required for the engineering degrees at W&L are the same as core courses required for any engineering degree at larger, more traditional engineering schools: introductory physics, mathematics through differential equations, statics, dynamics, thermodynamics, fluid mechanics, materials, solid mechanics and circuits. Additionally, W&L students satisfy their degree requirements through the selection of elective courses in chemistry, computer science, engineering, geology, mathematics and physics.

Students have the opportunity to participate in an independent research project where, under the direction of a faculty member, they undertake a particular engineering project involving reading, laboratory or field work and presentation of findings. The low faculty-to-student ratio at W&L makes possible these projects, which provide valuable experience for students who hope to continue studies in graduate school.

Our students who subsequently seek graduate engineering degrees at other institutions have found themselves well prepared and competitive with their peers. Recent graduates have attended graduate school in engineering at institutions such as Columbia, Duke, Georgia Tech, Cornell, Carnegie Mellon, Penn State, Rensselaer, Rutgers, Stanford, University of California at San Diego, University of Connecticut, University of Michigan, University of Virginia, University of Washington, and Virginia Tech.

Those students who go directly into technical or engineering employment have found the liberal arts aspect of their background an asset in finding an initial position. This broad background also enables direct entry into management or sales, where graduates are able to contribute quickly and significantly to their jobs. Oral and written communication skills, as well as familiarity with and appreciation for values beyond the confines of science and math, are important in the workplace. Engineering schools are now becoming aware of the need for a more liberal component of an engineering education. A strong liberal arts component has been a part of our engineering program for more than 100 years.

For more about the Engineering department, click here.

Tour Guide Spotlight: Leslie Peard ’13

22 Jan
Leslie Peard '13

Leslie Peard ’13

Hometown: Atlanta, GA

Major(s)/Minor(s): Biochemistry/Math

What clubs/activities are you involved in on campus? I am involved with Career Service’s Internship and Opportunity Initiative program, First-Year Orientation Committee and Kappa Delta Sorority.

How are you involved in the Lexington community? I volunteer regularly at the Rockbridge Free Clinic.

What are some of your other hobbies/interests? Baking

Favorite weekend activity? Going on drives with my friends out into the country, especially in the Spring.

Favorite thing about Lexington?  I love that it is so different than Atlanta as such a small town.  It has an ambiance that just makes it such a nice break from the city.  I think it is the perfect place to be for four years.  It also has a foam henge and safari petting zoo within half an hour.

What’s your favorite W&L memory? I would have to say dancing with Cadavers in the Kappa Delta kitchen.

What’s the best encounter you’ve had with a faculty or staff member? Last Spring Term, after finishing Chem 112, I received a cryptic email from my professor Dr. Pleva telling me that he needed to see me in his office at some point that week.  I of course thought there must be something wrong, but instead he just wanted to chat about chemistry and give me a Chemistry department T-shirt, which of course said “I live for lab.” It was classic.


Tour Guide Spotlight: Alina Pankova ’14

20 Jan
Alina Pankova '14

Alina Pankova ’14

Hometown: Sevastopol, Ukraine

Major(s)/Minor(s): Biochemistry

How are you involved in the Lexington community? I volunteer at Lylburn Downing Middle School

What are some of your other hobbies/interests? I enjoy doing yoga, running, and working out in the fitness center. One of my hobbies is black and white photography.

Favorite weekend activity? Catching up with friends, going out to eat, shopping, and watching movies. During winter I like to watch home basketball games on weekends.

Favorite thing about Lexington? It is a small, but cozy and safe town. Pretty much everything is located within walking distance, and the people are very friendly.

What’s your favorite W&L memory? My favorite memory is orientation week, because I met many people, participated in lots of fun activities organized specifically for first year students, and had enough time to get used to campus before classes started.

What’s the best encounter you’ve had with a faculty or staff member? I took Calculus II last fall, and I absolutely loved Professor Dresden. He has a talent to make math truly fun. He was always prepared for class, presented the material very clearly, and his sense of humor made each class very enjoyable. Besides, he was always available for extra help during his office hours. I am looking forward to Multivariable Calculus with him next fall! Honestly, if he taught every single Math class at W&L, I would seriously consider majoring in Math!


Department Details: Chemistry

19 Jan
A Chemistry lab room at W&L

A Chemistry lab room at W&L

Upon completing a major in chemistry or biochemistry, our students will understand essential chemical principles and have a foundation of factual chemical knowledge on which they may build in the future. Our students will develop intellectual skills that they may use to solve problems in chemistry and beyond. Our students will learn to use the chemical literature and learn to communicate scientific results both orally and in writing. Our students will have the opportunity to develop a wide range of technical skills as a result of working with modern laboratory technology, while simultaneously developing basic competence in laboratory techniques, skills, practices, including basic laboratory safety skills. Finally, our students will learn to work as part of a team and understand ethical practices in chemistry.

We serve students with varied interests. These students include, but are not restricted to: those pursuing careers in the chemical sciences directly upon graduation or after further studies; those pursuing careers in the Health Professions; those pursuing careers in branches of the natural sciences other than chemistry; and those who will study chemistry as part of W&L’s Foundations and Distributions requirements or for purposes of scientific literacy.

For more information on the Chemistry department click here.

Department Details: Biology

9 Jan
Science at W&L

Science at W&L

The biological sciences play a key role in human society from the conservation of biodiversity to medicine. The Department of Biology strives to cultivate an exciting academic environment to study, research, and contemplate the broad spectrum of the life sciences. Our teaching philosophy is founded on a belief in the value of a personal educational experience, achieved through small classes and laboratories, and opportunities for independent study and research. Faculty embrace the Teacher-Scholar model, and pursue varied research interests with student collaborators.

Our curriculum is designed to promote effective scientific communication, the understanding and use of the scientific method, the understanding of the major concepts in biology, the use of the tools and techniques of science, and an understanding of the scientific literature. An important aspect of science education at Washington & Lee is hands-on experience, including independent research experience. Many of our courses include laboratory and/or field work, often incorporating original research projects.

Our majors receive a broad education in the biosciences. Our graduates are competitive for entry to graduate programs, medical and other professional programs, and employment in all sectors of research, development and commerce.

We also provide opportunities for students in all academic programs to gain a greater appreciation for the nature of science and its impacts on society, in keeping with the liberal arts tradition of broadly educated individuals. The opportunities include individual study and research as well as the R.E. Lee Undergraduate Research Program, which enables students to spend the summer doing research full time with the faculty scientists of their choice. In addition to our in-house curriculum, students can take advantage of programs off campus, including our popular fall semester program at St. Andrews University in Scotland.

To find out more about the Biology department click here.

Today I was a lab rat…

26 Mar

For extra credit in my Psychology class (PSYCH 150: Psychoactive Drugs and Behavior), I took part in an experiment on “The Effects of Facial Symmetry on Familiarization”. Basically, I sat at a computer and said “male” or “female” when a picture popped up on the screen. And although the only risk involved was “possible boredom”, it is still fun to say that you were a test subject.

And did I mention that undergraduate students ran this experiment? At W&L, even first-years have the rare opportunity to perform hands-on undergraduate research in all subjects, from psych to physics to history.  When combined with small classes, state-of-the-art labs, and Professors who actually teach their own courses, it is no wonder that our pre-med students have over twice the national acceptance rate to their first choice medical schools. That can impress even a Politics major like me!