A Matter of Scale
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A natural enzyme that breaks down cellulose plant fibers. Click image for a larger view with more information.
Ford contributed much to the project, including constructing and testing model structures, running the molecular dynamics simulations and analyzing the results. She even got to use New York Blue, Brookhaven’s IBM Blue Gene/L supercomputer. “I was there for opening day, and it was really cool to be part of that,” she says.
The Brookhaven researchers gave her plenty of time and latitude, Ford says. “They were great with encouragement and giving me individual attention if I needed help,” she adds.
Davenport is just as enthusiastic about Ford’s abilities. “I was impressed with her hard work and quick learning ability,” he wrote in an evaluation. “I would be happy to have her back.”
The practicum experience “helped make me more multidisciplinary, and that’s the point,” Ford says. “It also showed me that I can apply many of the things I’m working on in graduate school to any problem in engineering and modeling.”
Ford discovered mathematical modeling as an undergraduate chemical engineering major at the University of Oklahoma. It interested her for the most practical of reasons: “When you model reactions, you’re not wasting chemicals and you’re not wasting time by running experiments over and over again,” she says.