Ector County Independent School District

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Two mornings with Igor

When Ector County ISD officials announced the launch of a new initiative called PICK Education, the intent was to bring classroom lessons to life by bringing real-life projects to students, offering them the chance to be citizen scientists. The plan also called for introducing our students to scientists and researchers from different fields and the first of those experiences came on the morning of October 6 at the Chevron headquarters in Midland.

 

 Igor presents at Chevron

  
 
Igor Siwanowicz, a researcher for the Janelia Research Campus of the Howard Hughes Medical Institute just outside of Washington D.C., spent the morning with 250 of our high school and middle school students. He recounted some of his travels around the world, and showed off many of the pictures he has taken of the places he has been and the insects he studies. He told the students to be open minded and approach with world with curiosity, adding that science always leads to more questions and there is a lot left to be discovered.

 

A biochemist by education, he switched his area of interest to neurobiology and calls it, “my best professional decision.” In his photographs he treats his models like miniature celebrities and often employs the lighting and background techniques of fashion photography. It is a fascinating contradiction: our natural perception of a bug as something repulsive and ugly vs. the admiration of its form in the photo.

 

Igor also talked with the students about the neurobiological work he is doing right now with dragonflies. “Right now we are interested in how the dragonfly perceive their prey,” he said. “They have some algorithms embedded in neuronal networks that allow them to predict the position of the prey ahead of time so they adjust the trajectory of interception, predicting where the prey is going to be.” He told them he is personally responsible for figuring out how those neurons are connected, and how the signal goes from the dragonfly’s visual system to the wing muscles. 

 
Take a look at this album of pictures from his presentation at Chevron! 
  

The next morning, a group of nine students from Odessa High School, Permian High School, and George H.W.Bush New Tech Odessa – plus two photography students from Odessa College – joined Siwanowicz in exploring different parts of the Hurt Ranch for animal & plant life, fossils, and bones. They found a little of everything, and experience real exploration with a true expert in the field!

 
 Igor at Hurt Ranch
 
  
You can see an album of pictures from this adventure at this link.  



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