St. Olaf student receiving the Charles H. Turner Prize, presented at an international conference
St. Olaf’s College student Ia Abdulkarim 22 was awarded the Charles H.
Founded in 2002, the award increases diversity in science and is named after Dr. Charles Turner, who was an unfairly overlooked African American pioneer in animal cognition research. The Turner Prize provides funding for undergraduate students to present their research at the Society for Animal Behavior’s annual international conference, attend workshops and networking events, and hear current research in the field.
“It really opened my eyes to all the possibilities of scientific exploration as well as collaboration on a broader level,” says Abdelkarim. “It was a pleasure to see researchers from every corner of the world share enthusiasm and support for a common interest.”
It really opened my eyes to all the possibilities of scientific exploration as well as collaboration on a broader level. It was a pleasure to see researchers from every corner of the world share enthusiasm and support for a common interest.Iya Abdulkarim ’22
Students selected for the award had the opportunity to listen to other people’s research in many areas of animal behavior and to submit their own work. Abdul Karim as a member of St. Olaf’s Laboratory Associate of Biologist Norman Lee (Lee Laboratory for Systems and Neurobehaviour) researched the behavior of the acoustic parasitoid fly, Ormia ochracea, Regarding her host song, field cricket (see this Saint Olaf’s Journal A story presenting this research. The fly gravitates toward cricket based on its song, and tends to prefer cricket song pulse rates of around 50 beats per second. A song’s pulse rate changes at different temperatures, but there has been no previous research on whether flies’ pulse rate preferences also vary based on temperature, which has been the focus of Abdulkarim’s work in Lee’s lab.
“Our findings suggest that the preference function O. ochracea It changes with temperature, and these flies generally show a greater preference for higher pulse rates at higher temperatures,” Abdul Karim says. “At the highest temperature tested, the selectivity toward pulse rate for song recall decreased (for example, flies were less selective) .”
Ormia ochracea She inspired the design of miniature directed microphones and guided hearing aids, which Abdelkarim says was what prompted her to join the lab. Understand the guidance hearing capabilities of O. ochracea It could help scientists apply similar principles to human hearing aids and work to improve function in areas such as perception of direction and related sounds in background noise environments.
For Abdulkarim, being able to participate in research as an undergraduate was important in helping her design her future course. Olaf’s Collaborative Program for Research and Inquiry (CURI) gave her the opportunity to collect data on her research questions for the first time.
Dealing with the research community as an undergraduate has instilled in me a great appreciation for the spirit of scholarly research, and I expect to carry it with me in the future.Iya Abdulkarim ’22
She has also been involved in science at St. Olaf in many other ways by helping to lead the St. Olaf Minority Pre-Medical Students Association, serving on the St. Olaf IMPULSE manuscript review team for the IMPULSE Undergraduate Journal of Neuroscience, and participating in the Innovative Minds Partnering to Advance Therapies Therapy Symposium (IMPACT) as a member of the St. Olaf in 2019 and 2020. She has also worked to share her love of science with younger students in the area.
“I have enjoyed teaching science classes at Northfield Public Primary Schools through the Science Alliance. This organization has allowed me to see the same excitement that drew me to science and carried it forward to those who fed my interest.
In addition to her involvement in science, Abdul Karim helps lead the calligraphy club on campus and is part of the Muslim Student Association and Blue Key Honor Society.
After her time in St. Olaf, she hopes to continue working in medicine, with a particular interest in researching healthcare innovations.
“Being involved with the research community as an undergraduate has instilled in me a great appreciation for the spirit of scholarly inquiry, and I expect to carry it with me going forward,” she says.
About Dr. Charles Turner
It was Dr. Charles H. He received his Ph.D. from the University of Chicago in 1907. Prior to receiving his Ph.D., he published more than 30 research articles, and was the first African American to publish in Science, the prestigious journal of the American Association for the Advancement of Science. Despite this productivity, Turner faced racism and was unable to hold a faculty position at a research institution. He was eventually hired as a high school teacher at Sumner High School in St. Louis. Even in this position, which lacked the laboratory facilities and other resources he had access to in a research institution, Turner continued to make groundbreaking discoveries that went against the prevailing ideas of the time. His work showed that animals were capable of complex cognition and not just learning by experience. He showed that bees were able to use visual and olfactory cues to find and learn from nectar sources. He was also the first to discover the ability of some insects to distinguish between sound frequencies (pitch). By naming an award in his name, the Animal Behavior Society’s Diversity Committee emphasizes its goal of increasing the diversity of its members by encouraging researchers of all ages, levels, and ethnic groups to participate in its annual meetings.