Editor's Note

Editor: Sharon Campbell Knox; Assistant Editor: Emily Meehan

Competition is fundamental to the natural world, and with it arises conflict as well as cooperation and creativity. Without setting out to be a themed issue, Explorations received a number of papers related to these concepts, beginning with studies by Ariana Mortazavi on competition for shells among hermit crabs and Eric Lal on orphan macaques competing for social rank. Jia Chong’s study of how couples use humor and Carolina Tavarez-Varela’s identification of an emergent language that facilitates trade on the Dominican/Haitian border present cooperation and creativity as responses to adversity, while Rosa Klein-Baer questions USAID’s purported relief motives in Kenya. Studies of the Hunger Games by Shauna Stewart and Peter Pan by Katie English examine literary responses, and creativity forms a resistance to the inner conflict of approaching death in Sarah Bietz’s interpretation of Monet’s water lily paintings. 

Christina Murray’s study of technological adaptation to food grinding displays creativity and cooperation with the environment, while studies by Rae Porter-Blackwell on mercury contamination, Catherine Funk on the effects of anthropogenic copper on mussels, and Danielle Nisan on over-exploited North Pacific albatross populations recovering from near-extinction address effects of n the environment. Miranda Stripe examines fossils as indicators of climate trends.

Finally, Brenda Marin-Rodriguez’s examination of creating plants for research demonstrates fundamentally creative activity of laboratory research, while Preya Sheth examines symbiosis and parasitism.  James McGehee’s study of meiosis, which identifies three classes of homolog interactions – always paired, never paired, and “kissing” – leads me (an inveterate humanist) to the pathetic fallacy, grateful that chromosomes are evidently cooperating during this essential function. 

-Sharon Campbell Knox


This issue is pleased to feature art and photography submitted for our cover competition, and we salute the creative endeavors of our winner, Alexa Kownacki, and our honorable mentions Joshua Tan, Christine Kelley, Anisa Bashiri and Malina Loeher, whose works appear above.

I am grateful to the student authors and their mentors; to Jesus De Loera for his beautiful preface; to Matt Wood, Chris Darwent, Fran Dolan and Brad Henderson for lending their expertise; Emily Meehan for her dedicated editing; and to the Undergraduate Research Center for their tireless efforts and for producing the folio. 


Passion as the Key to Research (PDF)

Jesus De Loera, Professor of Mathematics

"...When I was a freshman in college I had the luck of taking a wonderful introduction to geometry. Dr. Alberto Barajas was a white-haired 70-year-old with sparkling eyes and a well-trimmed moustache, who reveled in the beauty of classical geometry and the magic of Euclid, Archimedes, Diophantus, Pappus, and Poncelet. A smartly dressed man always wearing a tie, he had what we thought of as a very old-fashioned and eccentric manner. He would always address everyone as Mr. or Mrs. Last-name. But every so often, in the middle of a mathematical proof or a lengthy calculation, he would stop and reward us younglings with beautiful stories and anecdotes. For example, he told us about how, as a young Harvard Ph.D., he discussed his dissertation with Albert Einstein and how he met some of the great mathematicians of the 1940s. Class was a discussion not for the faint of heart, a true engagement of the mind...." 

URC Conference Poster

Artist's Statement

Cover Photo: Alexa Kownacki, "A Drink of Life"