Published: Feb. 7, 2019 By

PhD Student Erin ConnorPhD student Erin Connor of civil, environmental and architectural engineering has been awarded the Carol B. Lynch Graduate Fellowship, a university-wide competition for graduate students in the sciences, for her work on the physical transport of odor in a fluid media.

All kinds of plants and animals use the interception and interpretation of chemicals in the environment to locate food, meet their mates or avoid predators, among other critical daily tasks. As humans, we are familiar with this ability as our sense of smell. Odor perception involves highly complicated transport mechanisms dictated by the physics of the environment, as well as specialized biological mechanisms.

With the help of her advisor, John Crimaldi, Connor studies transport mechanisms dictated by the physics of the environment, along with specialized biological mechanisms involved in odor perception. Using tracer chemicals illuminated with lasers and imaging them with sensitive scientific cameras, she studies the physical transport of odor in fluid media. She then creates and analyses the data sets by collaborating with seven research groups at six different institutions. 

Connor's project aims to model and analyze animal behavior and neural activity efforts that will aid in the development of robotics and decision making algorithms, in addition to advancing neuroscience and psychology.

“I am truly passionate about the work I do, and one of my favorite things about it is its beauty. The experiments we do in the lab are visually mesmerizing and scientifically fascinating,"  she said.

The Carol B. Lynch Graduate Fellowship was established by Carol B. Lync, former dean of the Graduate School and vice chancellor for research at CU Boulder from 1992 to 2004. To honor Lynch’s dedication to graduate education, the fellowship was established to award $2,500 to a student at CU Boulder in the sciences whose research interests are interdisciplinary.

"I am humbled to receive the Carol B. Lynch Graduate Fellowship in honor of a distinguished female scientist at the University of Colorado. I find both the namesake and the focus of the fellowship on interdisciplinary work inspiring. I owe a great deal of gratitude to the many collaborators involved in my research project which make it possible for me participate in such a stimulating and exciting area of study. I also want to thank my advisor, John Crimaldi, and the department for nominating me for this award," Connor said.