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As a first-year student, Marquis Scholar Joseph Oliver ’06 (Canadensis, Pa.) took Human Physiology, and it piqued his interest in the subject. Then he took Comparative Animal Physiology and found it fascinating. This fall, he went further by studying salt balances in the land hermit crab with Charles Holliday, professor of biology.

“It is an amazing feeling to be working on something that no one has ever done and trying to learn something new about this world we live in, even if it is just in a little hermit crab,” says Oliver, a biology major. “My real love of biology is understanding how things work, that is, why things occur biologically.”

Throughout his independent study, he exposed separate groups of the crabs to various environments, including solely freshwater and solely salt water, instead of the combined environment they usually occupy. With the hope of publishing his results in a scientific journal, Oliver’s research focused on the changes in activity of the crabs’ gill sodium pump when they are exposed to the differing environments.

Oliver was “incredibly pleased” to work with Holliday.

“He has a wealth of knowledge in many areas. He treats me not simply as a student, but as a colleague, and that respect goes a long way.”

“Joseph is an excellent research student,” says Holliday. “He is punctual, thorough, seeks to understand why things happen the way they do, and asks good questions when he is confused.”

Oliver says he chose Lafayette because of the “ample opportunities for research in nearly any area.”

“From the beginning, I have found Lafayette exactly as I expected,” he says. “I have never heard of anyone who wants to do research being denied.”

In fact, Oliver has found more opportunities than he can pursue at one time.

“The research is not limited to the stuff that grad students don’t want,” he adds.

Oliver also is pleased with the biology department as a whole.

“The way the department allows students nearly complete control over what courses they take and do not take is a great freedom that I know is not standard procedure at other schools,” he says. “All of the professors I’ve met thus far are very passionate about what they are doing and they all care about the students.”

Oliver just finished his second semester as a biology teaching assistant for Human Physiology and will be one for Evolutionary Biology this spring. He is a resident adviser and a member of Lafayette Environmental Awareness and Protection, Outdoors Club, and the film and music committees of Lafayette Activities Forum. Through the Landis Community Outreach Center, Oliver volunteers in the AIDS organization and the Safe Harbor homeless shelter. As a Marquis Scholar, he is studying in Thailand and Myanmar during the January interim session.

An accomplished scholar and avid student research mentor, Holliday has sponsored 12 student research presentations at various conferences, including the Pennsylvania Academy of Science, Thomas Jefferson University Sigma Xi Student Research Days, and the National Conference on Undergraduate Research. In addition to publishing and presenting his own research, he has reviewed 41 grant proposals for organizations such as the Environmental Protection Agency, the National Science Foundation, the Pennsylvania Academy of Science, and Research Corporation. In 2004, he was awarded the Marquis Distinguished Teaching Award.

Independent study courses are among several major opportunities at Lafayette that make the College a national leader in undergraduate research. Lafayette sends one of the largest contingents to the National Conference on Undergraduate Research each year. Forty-two students were accepted to present their work at last year’s annual conference.

Chosen from among Lafayette’s most promising applicants, Marquis Scholars such as Oliver receive special financial aid and distinctive educational experiences and benefits, including a three-week, Lafayette-funded study-abroad course during January’s interim session between semesters. Marquis Scholars also participate in cultural activities in major cities and on campus, and mentoring programs with Lafayette faculty.

Categorized in: Academic News