Colombian students expand Science knowledge and culture


This semester, the College of Science welcomed three students from the Universidad Nacional de Colombia in Bogota, Colombia, to partake in research and classes in the Department of Physics and Astronomy and Department of Statistics.

Laura Melissa Cruz Castro, Saida Milena Diaz Castillo and Wilmar Fajardo Mendieta not only gained knowledge that will aid them when they return to Colombia, but the overall experience of being in West Lafayette will leave a profound impression. It was the first time in America for all three visiting students.

“I think it’s been a wonderful experience and I’d be happy to do it again,” said Castro, who worked with Prof. Bruce Craig (Statistics) on an analysis problem related to a research collaboration with Purdue’s Horticulture program, investigating the relationship between the occurrence of bark splitting on young maple trees and the type and amount of fertilizer provided. Castro has been using her skills to determine how best to analyze these binary (Yes/No) outcomes given the complicated experimental design and limited replication.

The collaboration part of the project stood out to Castro. At Purdue, the Department of Statistics has collaboration opportunities with almost every department on campus. From Computer Science and Chemistry to Agriculture and Engineering, the Statistics program brings big data expertise to any project. This was enlightening for Castro.

“Our research in Colombia is just for statistics,” said Castro, who is also taking Intermediate Statistical Methods at Purdue. “It’s hard to find something like this (research project) in my country.”

Castro also found Craig and other professors easy to work with. She mentioned professors at Universidad Nacional are less open to students.

Outside of the classroom, Castro said the difference in weather and food stood out to her the most. She enjoyed getting to cook new cuisine most days, and she passed an Indiana rite of passage by completing a corn maze. However, the snow in November took a little more time to get used to.

“This allowed me to be more independent,” Castro said. “It was very different but very good.”

Castillo and Mendieata completed their stints at Purdue in September. The Physics and Astronomy students participated in a research poster session. Castillo, who worked with Prof. Maxim Lyutikov, looked at magnetic models of the insular structure of interplanetary coronal mass ejections. She verified her models with data from NASA to see how the outer space phenomenon would affect our technology on Earth.

Under the guidance of Prof. Dmitrios Giannios, Mendieta’s research project looked at blazars, very compact quasars associated with a presumed supermassive black hole at the center of an active, giant elliptical galaxy. He analyzed data to create theoretical and numerical models of blazars’ spectra.

“The academic part, it was amazing because I began work that was a new topic for me,” Mendieta said. “It was a challenge but I think that after these three months I could have a good advance in my work. I’m very proud of that.” 


Wilmar Fajardo Mendieta stands in front of his blazars research poster.


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