Support Options

Report a problem

About you
About the problem

Catherine Vrentas


  • Time Zone

  • Organization
    Frostburg State University

  • Role
    Scientist Mentor: I will mentor teams of students online

  • Research Interests (300 words)
    My scientific research interests vary--I like studying different types of things! I have studied microbes that cause disease, as well as microbes that live in the soil around plants. Last semester, my students took sediments from a swamp and explored the microbes that lived in the different layers. This year, I have been working with students at my University to research, design, and plant a garden with plants that have traditionally been used as medicines in the Appalachian Mountains of the Eastern United States.

  • Profile Question 1
    What is your favorite plant? Why?

  • Answer the question you selected for profile question 1 here (300 words):
    My favorite plant is the Southern Magnolia tree. I love the shininess of the leaves, the shape of the flowers, and most importantly, the lemony scent of the blooms. When I was in high school, I had to prepare a project in English class about a flower, and I chose the magnolia. I discovered a famous painter who captured its beauty (Martin Johnson Heade) and have enjoyed these images ever since.

  • Profile Question 2
    When and why did you decide to go into a science career?

  • Answer the question you selected for profile question 2 here (300 words):
    When I was younger, I loved to explore outside. I had a small book with ideas for experiments. I still remember trying one out where I put water and soil in a 2 L soda bottle, shook it up, and let the different layers settle. I could see all the different types of things inside. When I was in high school, my advanced biology teacher always went above and beyond to find cool new things to show us. She even brought in a flower that smelled like rotting meat to attract flies that would pollinate it. She is the reason I selected Biology in particular for my career.

  • Profile Question 3
    What is best about being a scientist?

  • Answer the question you selected for profile question 3 here (300 words):
    The best thing about being a scientist is to discover new things that no one in the whole world ever knew before. You are an explorer!

  • Help represent the outreach efforts of your societies. Please click all those organizations you are a member of:
    (not set)

  • Availability
    I am currently available for mentoring, please send me team match invitations

  • Capacity: How many teams at a time are you comfortable working with?

Recent Posts


Hi team,

Thank you for sharing your findings--it is great that you were able to try out two experiments!

In the first experiment, you mentioned that baking soda worked the best.  One question I had for you to think about is: what is the baking soda providing for the spinach leaf circles that helps them to rise?  What might be different between the baking soda and the carbonated water? 

For the second experiment, you mentioned that you had some unexpected results.  This is common in science!  A lot of the time I have to sit down after an experiment and discuss my results with my co-workers, to help make sense of all of it.  To help think about the second experiment, I have a few places to start (these are some questions you can discuss as a group) that might help you:

--What is causing the leaf circles to rise in the cups with carbon dioxide?

--When you stir the circles, what might be happening to the leaf circles (or perhaps things that are on the leaf circles?)  What else might be changing inside the cup?  It might be helpful to do a group brainstorm where you think about

I think that the agitation of the cups was a great thing to test....I haven't seen a lot of groups test that, so it is an interesting question and not a simple phenomenon to explain.

If you have time in class, please feel free to write back to me with some of your thoughts on the questions above.  I would definitely be interested to learn more about your thoughts about the project!




Hi group,

I just wanted to respond to your question about the leaf disk experiment: "What would happen if we stirred the leaf circles every few minutes? Would the agitation and extra air make a difference?"

I think this is a great question to think about!  You mention that the agitation would add some extra air.  As we think about how that might affect the leaf circles, so that we can start to think about a hypothesis...what is the air around us made up of?  What could the extra air possibly be providing to the leaf circles?  Feel free to share some of your thoughts on this with us as you discuss it with your group! 

Since I'm helping out across all the groups this fall as what is called a "liaison" (basically an extra helper), Kelsey will be joining us as an extra helper for this group!  Feel free to ask her any questions you think of as well.


Hi Belle, Tyler, and Sam,

It is great to meet you!  My name is Cathy and I'll be working with you this month on your Planting Science projects.  I live in Ames, Iowa and I work in a government science lab that studies agriculture.  I've enjoyed working with plants for many years; I coordinate a garden in our community that grows vegetables for people who are hungry, and I've designed activities to teach other people about plants too!   My favorite plants are the Southern magnolia tree (not a lot of those in Iowa..) and ferns.  During the day I spend a lot of my time working in the science lab, and then in my free time I like to ride horses, swim, and go to dance class.  (Yes, they have adult dance classes too!  It is a lot of fun).

I am looking forward to working with you this fall.  As we go through the process, please feel free to ask me questions, both about the project and about other topics like what a scientist does all day, or about plants in general. 

Skills & Endorsements

  • No skills have been endorsed yet.