Modeling a Major
During Richeson's first year at Davidson, a calculus modeling class brought out her interdisciplinary instincts. "I really liked the way it made me think-using calculus to model life sciences. I fell in love with it." Richeson followed up with similar courses and then designed a major in computational biology through the Center for Interdisciplinary Studies. "I took the course book and wrote down every single class that I was interested in, and I tried to make a major of it-and I did!"
In her thesis research, Richeson used DNA origami, the nanoscale folding of DNA, to model a solution to an otherwise unsolvable mathematical problem. "I've just taken the inherent Watson Crick binding of DNA and manipulated it to form a structure that is quite practical in mathematical problems," she said. "There are math problems that ask questions about whether or not certain tiles can assemble in a specific way, and I've modeled that using the DNA nanostructures."
A Scientist with a Social Life
Though she owns up to being a bit of a nerd-"I like to read scientific journals for fun. It's really geeky."-she was as comfortable in Davidson's social scene as she was in the lab or the library. An active member of Turner Eating House and the 2010 president of Patterson Court Council, she said, "I'm from New Hampshire, and I'm really close to my family. Being far away from home was hard for me, and Turner really helped with that. I wanted to be president of PCC to give other people the experience that I had."
Nanotech in the Land Down Under
Davidson's first winner of the USA - Australia Fellowship, Richeson received a $25,000 award to pursue a year of post-baccalaureate research at the Australian Institute of Bioengineering and Nanotechnology at the University of Queensland in Brisbane. Many apply for this fellowship to do master's, doctoral, and post-doctoral research; she was the youngest applicant. "It was really unexpected, but I'm looking forward to it," she said. The lab she'll work at studies nano-structured biosensors, an area of research that could contribute to earlier detection for breast cancer.