Patek Lab undergraduate, Samantha Kisare, received the Rast Award in Comparative Organismal Biology at Duke's 2017 graduation. Samantha worked in the Patek Lab for her entire four years at Duke and her thesis research was recognized with honors distinction. Samantha is pictured above on graduation day with her family.
Prof. Patek delivered this short speech at the graduation event when Samantha was presented with the Rast Award:
"Picture this. Samantha – learning to use our 3D printer, printing geometries and colors – electric blue, neon green, cylinders, spheres. Filling them with stinky fish food. And then, finally, placing them in front of one of our planet’s fastest animals: the mantis shrimp. They like green! They’re willing to hit the cylinder! Why? Why would a future medical doctor spend her entire four years of college working in a lab devoted to understanding the outer limits of animal capabilities? Analyzing hundreds upon hundreds of hours of videos? Discovering the intricacies of 3-D printing and coding of animal behaviors? Samantha performed a creative, off the wall project that probed how an animal that can take tiny hammers – each equivalent to two toothpicks – and move them at bullet-like accelerations to smash snail shells. Samantha tricked these wondrous little tropical crustaceans into hitting synthetic objects in a project that has ultimately helped to inform how animals understand the physics of their prey, when operating what is essentially a controlled bullet - and with broader implications for many fields in science and engineering. Why do all this work as a future medical doctor? Like so many of you who have deeply engaged in research while at Duke – Samantha explored how to think outside the box, use new technologies in unexpected ways, formulate and test hypotheses in the face of a lot of complex factors, and hopefully she, and many of you, will keep in mind the incredible capacity for the organisms around us to inform new ways of thinking and inspire new discoveries. "