Pitzer College Students Present Original Research at National Conference

Claremont, Calif. (February 17, 2014) — Pitzer College students Brian Cohn '14 and Patrick Niedermeyer '15 recently presented their original research findings at the annual 2014 Society for Integrative & Comparative Biology Conference in Austin, TX. Both students conducted their research with Assistant Professor Lars Schmitz, who teaches biology at the W.M. Keck Science Department, a joint program of Pitzer, Claremont McKenna and Scripps colleges.

With custom-developed software, anatomical measurements and microscopic data, Cohn and Schmitz produced 3D-visual resolution maps for retinas. Cohn plans to release the software they developed for retinal mapping and has a paper in preparation for journal publication. In his talk, "Influence of Zooplanktivory on Retinal Ganglion Cell Topography in Labrid Reef Fishes," Cohn discussed the interface between species ecology and the evolution of eye structure. He compared reef-fish eyesight among plankton-hunters and other predators.

Niedermeyer's research focuses on how the sleep-wake cycle of vertebrates affects the evolution of eye shape. Niedermeyer collected linear measurements of birds' eye form and structure that are closely correlated with visual light sensitivity. In his talk, "Effect of Evolutionary Transitions to Diurnality on Scleral Ring and Orbit Morphology in Birds," Niedermeyer demonstrated that birds' evolutionary transitions to diurnality—being active during the day and sleeping at night—appear to be associated with changes to their skeletal visual morphology.

Both students have been engaged in undergraduate research projects throughout their Pitzer careers. Last summer, Cohn gave a presentation at the Capstone Conference at The Ohio State University's Mathematical Biosciences Institute. In August 2013, Niedermeyer went to Beijing with Professor Schmitz to study fossils in collections at Peking University and the Institute of Vertebrate Paleontology and Paleoanthropology.

Cohn is a computational biology major and Niedermeyer is an organismal biology major.

The Society for Integrative & Comparative Biology (SICB) fosters research, education, public awareness and understanding of living organisms from molecules and cells to ecology and evolution. SICB encourages interdisciplinary cooperative research, and new models and methodologies to enhance research and education.

About Pitzer College

Pitzer College is a nationally top-ranked undergraduate liberal arts and sciences institution. A member of The Claremont Colleges, Pitzer offers a distinctive approach to a liberal arts education by linking intellectual inquiry with interdisciplinary studies, cultural immersion, social responsibility and community involvement. For more information, please visit www.pitzer.edu.

About the W.M. Keck Science Department

The W.M. Keck Science Department is the interdisciplinary home to the biology, chemistry, environmental science, and physics faculty for Claremont McKenna, Pitzer, and Scripps colleges. The department is administered cooperatively and is housed within an 81,000-square-foot Center, located at the intersection of the three colleges. The department offers more than a dozen discrete degree options, including dual-degree programs in partnership with schools of engineering and majors in conjunction with disciplines outside the sciences. The W.M. Keck Science Department provides comprehensive, interdisciplinary instruction in small class settings and numerous opportunities for students to conduct research. Our graduates enter a significant range of careers and enjoy acceptance into prestigious graduate research and health science programs.

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