Colin Downey ’15 prepares for a presentation at mGluRs on his summer research. Photo by Dr. Z.

Colin Downey ’15 spent the summer of 2014 doing research at Wabash, and you can read about his experience below:

This summer I had the opportunity to work with Dr. Karen Gunther, PhD, on a color vision study at Wabash College. Our goal was to observe the effect of stimulus size on non-cardinal color mechanisms. We tested individual subjects, including ourselves, in visual search on a computer screen specifically tuned for visual testing. I was the one conducting the experiment on individuals and in the meantime, reading published articles that I was interpreting so that I could use them in my introduction for our paper that we will be working on throughout the 2014-2015 school year. The final goal of the project is for it to be published in a scholarly journal, and for such an experiment to be published, you need significant results, which we have. Our experiment tested the three different planes of color vision, which are red-green/blue-yellow, red-green/black-white (Luminance), and blue-yellow/Luminance. By testing the different color axes, we can combine them to see the difference in how subjects performed within each plane. In addition, our non-cardinal colors were tested as well, which were orange-turquoise and purple/lime. We manipulated the stimulus size from 0.5 – 3 degrees, to see how well subjects performed when testing their cardinal and non-cardinal colors within visual search. The significant results were shown by a main effect in dot size and color axes for the RG/BY, RG/LUM, and BY/LUM, by which we have started a pilot study with smaller dot sizes to see if we can attain results that will further validate our experiment.

Working over the summer at Wabash really helped prepare me for my senior project. Every year a psychology major has to choose a senior capstone, which is an experiment that they conduct and interpret on their own throughout the entire year. This summer project helped me get ahead on my capstone, by acquiring solid data, immersing myself in the articles and “language” of color vision, and taking this experiment to the next level by choosing it as a capstone project. Dr. Gunther and I also worked on drafts of my abstract and introduction of the final paper, which further put me ahead for my senior year. Being involved with research at Wabash College allows the student to be immersed in the field that they choose to study and learn with their professors as colleagues, instead of their students. In addition, summer research gives you opportunities to present your experiments elsewhere, for example, Dr. Gunther and I attended the Optical Society Vision Conference held in Philadelphia, PA at the University of Pennsylvania in October to present our research to a scientific audience specifically within color vision.

Finally, I am also planning on applying to graduate school for neuroscience, and I think that a research internship like the one I participated in will help me get to the next level, especially if our work is published at the end of the year. It was, and is, an awesome opportunity to work for Wabash College for anyone who thinks that they may want to pursue psychology, neuroscience, sensation & perception, cognition, or whatever it may be. Having the opportunity to be around professors everyday and learn from them while it was not the school year, was a humbling and exciting experience that I won’t forget. Lastly, I want to thank Dr. Gunther for giving me the opportunity for this research position and pushing me to be the best writer, scientist, and student that I can be.