Thursday, May 27, 2010

Tech Trails: Beavers Ride Wave to More SURFs

Tech Trails tracks summer plans of Caltech basketball players -- from SURFs (summer undergraduate research fellowships) to related work in the fields of math, science, and engineering.

Two more players will be SURFing this summer on campus. (artwork by Caltech tennis player Michelle Jiang '11)

Arjun Chandar, a freshman guard from Miami, Florida, will be researching Modern American politics and Christianity under Erik Snowberg. The project aims to investigate the factors that lead Christian preachers to deliver political sermons in modern times (since 1995).

Chandar, who is often referred to as "Mr. President" by the the team because of his leadership and communication skills, will be collecting sermons from church websites and classifying them as political or nonpolitical based upon the results of a computer program as well as manual inspection -- of course, he will write the program.

"I expect to learn more about programming and important political drivers in modern American culture," said Chandar. "Hopefully, my research can shed some light on how politics influences Christianity and, possibly, how Christianity can influence politics."

Chandar, along with fellow classmate Ethan Boroson, was voted Citizen of the Year this past season by teammates.

Ziying Wang, a junior guard from SoCal's Rowland Heights, is set to research Nano-scale chemistry application in atrophic age-related macular degeneration with Robert Grubbs, who won the Nobel Prize in chemistry in 2005. End-stage atrophic age-related macular degeneration is a disease that causes middle-aged and elderly patients to go blind.

"The goal of my research," said Wang, "is to come up with nano-particle systems that can potentially replace some of the dead ganglion cells' photoreceptors to return vision to the patient."

Wang is a 3-year player and a double major in chemistry and BEM (business economics management).