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Marquis Scholar Joseph Oliver’06 (Canadensis, Pa.) is conducting complex biological research rarely done on the undergraduate level to gain an advantage when he attends medical school. Through a senior honors thesis, he is building on previous research by testing the ability of land hermit crabs to avoid, conform, and physiologically respond to variations in salinity.

Last year, the biology major conducted independent research on salt balances in hermit crabs under the guidance of Charles Holliday, professor of biology.

Oliver views his project as similar to the process of diagnosing and treating a patient. Last summer, he shadowed a cardiac surgeon to gain an inside look at the field in which he hopes to specialize.

“I feel research of this nature is more helpful for potential patient care doctors than studying a virus or bacteria,” he says. “In this research, I have identified a problem of interest and will systematically examine it and theorize why things happen as they do.”

Oliver says his regard for Holliday, the faculty adviser for his honors thesis, has grown over the past year.

“I have only gained more respect for him as a mentor and adviser,” he says. “He has a wealth of knowledge about my particular project, science, and life in general. My writing, laboratory skills, and outlook on life have all been positively influenced by Dr. Holliday.”

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 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, National Science Foundation, Pennsylvania Academy of Science, and Research Corporation. In 2004, he received the Marquis Distinguished Teaching Award.

Oliver adds that Lafayette is a “perfect environment” for undergraduate research.

“I really appreciate the advantage of a small institution,” he says. “I have the ability to get the full attention of my research adviser and can perform tasks that would normally be limited to graduate students.”

The biology department also has allowed Oliver to customize his course of study.

“What really drew me to biology is that for as long as I can remember, I have desired to learn how life works,” he says. “I have enjoyed every single course I have selected, and I’ve been able to avoid classes that I would not enjoy because of the flexibility Lafayette offers.”

Oliver is a resident adviser, biology teaching assistant, organic chemistry tutor, and student representative for the admissions office. He is a member of Lafayette Environmental Awareness and Protection and Lafayette Activities Forum and volunteers at Safe Harbor, an Easton homeless shelter, through the Landis Community Outreach Center. He is a graduate of Pocono Mountain East High School.

Chosen from among Lafayette’s most promising applicants, Marquis Scholars like Oliver receive a special academic scholarship and distinctive educational experiences and benefits, including a three-week, Lafayette-funded course abroad or in the United States during January’s interim session between semesters or the summer break. Marquis Scholars also participate in mentoring programs with Lafayette faculty and cultural activities in major cities and on campus.

Honors theses are among several major programs that have made Lafayette a national leader in undergraduate research. The College sends one of the largest contingents to the National Conference on Undergraduate Research each year; 39 students were accepted to present their research at this year’s conference.

Categorized in: Academic News