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2011 REU and REV Program Participant Profiles: Tiffany H. Blankenship

Tiffany Blankenship photo.

Major: Biology (pre-med)
School: Univ. of Texas, El Paso
Hometown: El Paso, TX
REU/REV Research Project: The tracking of fast movements inside cells

Why did you apply to the REU/REV program?
I applied for the REU program because I thought it would be good to participate in a program that integrated the worlds of math and science. During the next fall semester, I have to create a bioinformatics research project. The NIMBioS program has provided me with a chance to practice on a research project containing all the elements I need to create a project of my own this coming fall semester.

This program teaches you about the integration of math and science. It also gives you a chance to experience a whole new way of thinking and a chance to network and make new friends. In my book, that’s a win-win type of situation.
– Tiffany Blankenship, REU participant

What is the purpose of your research?
The purpose of my team’s research is to predict the movements of organelles inside of a plant cell using a mathematical tracking algorithm. This algorithm, which predicts on the movement of the organelle and compares it to the measurements taken through manual tracking of the organelle, is called the alpha-beta filter, a special case of the Kalman filter. The Kalman filter was created by Rudolph E. Kalman, and is used for guidance and tracking systems. In fact, Kalman just recently received the National Science Award from President Barack Obama in 2009.

What were your favorite parts of the REU/REV program?
My favorite part was being able to connect with the mentors on a more personal level. Rather than being students, I felt we were more like their colleagues, since we were researching together.

What new experiences did you gain that have helped you today?
I learned a lot of math! As a biology major, I find that a mini-accomplishment all on its own.

What advice would you give someone who’s interested in/curious about participating in the program?
Go for it! This program teaches you about the integration of math and science. It also gives you a chance to experience a whole new way of thinking and a chance to network and make new friends. In my book, that’s a win-win type of situation.

Where do you see yourself in 10 years?
I see myself working on getting an M.D./Ph.D. at a medical school, and also exploring new fields of research. Also, after gaining some experience, I plan on becoming a medical missionary.


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