Bruna Favetta, 2015, Chemical and Biological Engineering

The goal of this research project was to further our understanding of baleen whale migration. There are a variety of locations where whales have been spotted feeding and calving but it is not yet well defined why these whales go where they go. To help improve our understanding of the factors involved, the team constructed a model that synthesized these possible factors and predicted regions where whales could feed and calve. I began the development of such model in the python language, a process that also required an extensive literature search. While the first version of the model was very rough and used various simplifications, the model evolved with the use of more sophisticated modeling software. Seeing the end product of the internship, a map that describes critical feeding and calving zones for baleen whales, allowed me to experience and appreciate the more computer-oriented part of lab work in biology. I discovered that I really enjoy the overlap between biology and computer science (computational modeling) and learning how powerful and relevant these models are (the same model can be used to help predict whether climate change will put whales under even more migratory stress). This experience has influenced the sort of career I’ll be looking for after Princeton.