Economic Development: Sarajevo

My summer stay in Sarajevo, through the William and Mary’s Bosnia Project, has finally come.  The sights, people and history have been nearly overwhelming these first few days.  I’m happy to confirm that all I’ve heard from those who have been here before me is true.  My stay here presents a unique opportunity to further my research through in-person interviews with key business, NGO, and government workers which I intend to fully take advantage of. At the present time I have finished my background reading and some early econometric work with data I have so far collected. Through the help of local William and Mary alumni I am lining up interviews for the coming weeks.  I have also meet numerous local businessmen who have been more then happy to share their experiences dealing with bureaucratic hurdles.

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Ethics Discussion

Last Wednesday was the second of a two part series of a discussion on the ethics in science.  Everyone in the biology department was invited to the seminars, which were led by Professor Heideman.  Before the discussion, everyone read On Being a Scientist: Responsible Conduct in Research from the National Academies of Sciences Press.  The reading discussed different facets of the ethics involved in science from the perspective of a scientist responsibility to the public.  The essay argues that society and the public trust to attempt to make discoveries about the world that are both unbiased and accurate.  Breaking this trust is not only dishonest, but also could potentially have a negative effect on the relationship between society and science as a whole.  During the discussions, we discussed various scenarios that we, as undergraduates involved in research, might encounter at any point in our careers.

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Arsenic and Augers

My first summer blog comes after three weeks of laboratory analyses and hot days spent at Jamestown fort, gathering groundwater samples, bantering with tourists and befriending sunbeaten archaeologists. Roughly 65 groundwater samples have been collected from the settlement and analysed for arsenic, iron and DOC (dissolved organic carbon). Measuring iron is relatively simple but requires a few hours of preparation and then ‘doping’ samples by hand with various reagents to produce a delightful magenta-violet color. Simply put, the more purple the sample becomes, the more iron content.  When it comes to measuring arsenic, a large and admittedly intimidating machine called a VARIAN Atomic Absorption Spectrometer, is used, and must be treated gingerly, as discovered when this beast demanded a full day of troubleshooting before it would run smoothly. Once attached to a 50psi Argon tank and the inner quartz cell is heated to 950 degrees Celsius, my groundwater samples are heated and turned into a gas which contains any arsenic in the sample.  A beam of light is then sent through the gas;  the less light thats passes through, the more arsenic in the sample.

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EEG: What’s Fun About Learning

If you’ve ever participated in an EEG study, you know it involves having a bizarre metal cap put on your head and then syringes filled with gel poking your scalp, covering it with a sticky mess. I feel bad for everyone who has ever participated in an EEG study and for everyone who will in the future (including my participants). Thankfully, EEG tells researchers all sorts of information about cognitive processing that they couldn’t know otherwise—information that lets us further understand how the brain works and how humans think.

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