Abigail Tyrell is busy; very busy, but the Stony Brook University Ph.D. candidate always sets aside time to mentor Huntington High School science research program students.
Ms. Tyrell has been conducting research in Stony Brook’s Fisher Laboratory in the School of Marine and Atmospheric Sciences as she pursues a doctorate degree. Huntington students affectionately refer to her as the “giver of knowledge” and for good reason. She’s been assisting the high school research program members as they go about developing their current year projects.
The doctoral candidate’s interest in science followed a path similar to that of the high school research students she has been working with. “Ultimately, it was my curiosity and interest in nature that led me to choose science as my career field,” Ms. Tyrell said. “As a scientist, my job is centered on learning new things about the world. For me, it’s exciting to have a job where all the answers aren’t known and where I can improvise and be creative while making new discoveries.”
As the students prepare to pursue their topics, Ms. Tyrell will be making frequent visits to explain the concepts of academic research, including how to conduct statistical analysis.
Ms. Tyrell has also presented her own research to the Huntington science students, detailing her efforts in the Stony Brook lab, which focuses on the change of viscosity in seawater.
“When I was brainstorming ideas for my thesis, I knew I wanted to do something with plankton,” Ms. Tyrell said. “Plankton are a very interesting group of organisms. They’re so hard to see and yet they support all of the life in the ocean. I started wondering if plankton experience the world differently because of their small size. Based on the laws of fluid dynamics, small organisms are more sensitive to viscosity than large organisms. Viscosity is similar to the thickness of a fluid. To imagine how difficult it is for a small plankter to swim through the water, imagine swimming through honey.”
Research class members are eager to learn more from Ms. Tyrell. She’s a valuable asset for the teenagers considering pursuing a scientific field in their college studies. The next two presentations are already planned out, and Ms. Tyrell knows exactly what to do:
Ms. Tyrell will turn to math for her next two presentations. “Statistics is really important because it lets scientists make sense of their results and understand what their measurements mean,” she said. “I think that statistics is one of the most fun parts of science because it’s at this step that you really have to think critically about your experiment and what your data means. After that, I would like to give a presentation on some plankton feeding experiments I have been doing. Since feeding depends on movement, I am studying how plankton feeding is affected by viscosity.”
The Huntington teenagers look forward to the time they spend in the research program room are enjoying the challenge of developing their respective project, which they will enter into competitions later in the school year.
(Huntington senior Nolan Piccola, a science research program intern, contributed to this story.)