Catherine Principe


  • Time Zone

  • Organization
    Miami University, Oxford, Ohio

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

  • Research Interests (300 words)
    As a research assistant in plant phenology, I have supported the Wolkovich Lab of Harvard University using a combination of greenhouse studies, field experiments, and modeling to predict key shifts in phenology due to climate change. I have a passion for the natural world and a fascination for plant research. My other research interests include predicting future climate scenarios, optimizing research initiatives by accurately transcribing gathered data, facilitating hands-on preparation and planting of seedlings, and completing field work. I have further research interests in wildlife conservation (which naturally has a botanical component) and ecosystems of the mid-western United States. I have also participated in trial gardens at Boston Nature Center, Boston, Massachusetts and affiliated botanical conservation and experimental programs. As an undergraduate I pursued independent study of a species on the brink of extinction, the dusky gopher frog (Rana capita sevosa) which had a large botanical aspect, since the frogs depend upon the longleaf pine ecosystem and the plants inherent in that ecosystem for their survival. I am also an avid gardener!

  • Profile Question 1
    Do you have advice for students about preparing for a science career?

  • Answer the question you selected for profile question 1 here (300 words):
    My advice for students preparing for a science career is: 1. Stick with it. If courses are too challenging, don't be afraid to actively seek help. There is no shame in augmenting your ability to learn with information from other sources. It is worth the struggle of the most impossible-seeming courses to achieve the ability to work in your field of choice. You might surprise yourself with both your perseverance and your newly-fledged abilities. 2. Science can be surprising! Define your branch of science and your methods, but keep your mind open. Allow yourself not to set your mind toward a conclusion too early. Often results change in the last moments of an experiment, or they change not in the experiment itself but in the statistical analysis (meaning interpretation of the data). 3. Science evolves. There is a flow to science and there are trends. While science may be governed by research rules or "protocols" as the body of scientific knowledge grows so do the variety of interpretations or possible outcomes. Scientific findings are not necessarily rigid; they are debatable. Scientists make arguments for and against their findings and other scientists make take the same findings and interpret them differently. 4. Science can be a lonesome endeavor, but it often involves teamwork. Learn to be a team-player as well as an independent researcher. 5. Science is everywhere. Many of the sciences are throwing the doors open to the public to incorporate data contributed by citizen scientists. The view of scientists as researchers locked inside laboratories is decreasing as more scientists interact with the public to share their interests and knowledge. 6. Science makes change happen. There is a greater role for science in the community and in policy-making than ever before. 7. The world needs more scientists. Our magnificent planet needs the help of science and scientists to ensure a safe and wholesome future for Earth's resident: plants, animals and ecosystems. 8. Science can be basic or specialized. The number of scientific specialties grows with each passing year and each innovation. 9. In the words of Dr. Seuss, "Oh, oh the places you will go!"

  • Profile Question 2
    What is best about being a scientist?

  • Answer the question you selected for profile question 2 here (300 words):
    The best thing about being a scientist is the opportunity to be an agent for change. As our planet evolves, some changes, like the internet, have transformed our methods of storing and accessing information - as well as our methods of communication. There have also been negative changes as humans make ever greater demands on Earth’s natural resources and our collective environments. New solutions are needed for almost everything humans do, from energy to food production to waste disposal and clean water supply (or water recycling). We need to mitigate climate change and bring the entire world population up to a standard where sustainability of our Earth can be approached, then hopefully achieved. Science will hold the answers to questions we are now contemplating, and also to questions yet unasked, questions still unknown. Science will: Design ecologically sustainable energy sources Develop new modes of communication Bring sustainability to everyday life Produce safe, environmentally-friendly products Increase agricultural production with more sustainable methods Protect the environment Safeguard biodiversity Combat climate change through reduction of carbon dioxide emissions Limit global warming with greater carbon sink management Turn our oceans into energy generators Turn our water supplies into sustainable recycling systems Discover new medicines and vaccines for the treatment of disease Devise new techniques for surgery and gene therapy or immunotherapy Explore space Science will preserve our ecosystems, and hopefully help our plants and animals, our watersheds and our globe to remain intact and be self-regenerating. The best thing about being a scientist is adding to the body of knowledge.

  • Profile Question 3
    What was the first science experiment you ever designed? How did it turn out?

  • Answer the question you selected for profile question 3 here (300 words):
    I designed an observational study to determine whether a relationship could be found between paw preference (the paw with which a dog takes the first step when initiating motion) and sociability in Canis familiaris, the domestic dog. The hypothesis arose from a literature review of recent studies, which primarily revealed that negative emotions in domestic dogs correlate with signals from the right hemisphere of the brain and positive emotions correlate with signals from the left hemisphere of the brain. This prompted the study of whether paw preference might be correlated with sociability with the inquiry question posed as: does paw preference in domestic dogs indicate sociability? Fifty (50) domestic dogs were observed for paw preference using a “First-Stepping” method, followed by classification as right-pawed, left-pawed, or ambilateral. Pie chart graphs of the data indicated a definite correlation between paw preference and sociability in this study. However, statistical evidence contradicted the apparent correlation at a sample size of 50. Via statistical power analysis, the potential remained for more finely tailored future studies of increased sample size which would show statistical significance with a sample of 88 dogs, a 76% increase in sample size, providing the breakdown of underlying data remained the same. This experiment turned out with a surprising difference in the visualization of the data in pie charts indicating significant findings, and the evaluation of the data statistically, which indicated results without statistical significance. Aside from a rich experience in canine behavior and observation, this experiment conveyed a significant lesson in the careful choice of sample size.

  • 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?

Skills & Endorsements

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