Cross-Disciplinary Action: Welcome Dr Lindsay Waldrop

Our next curator for Real Scientists hails from  the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, North Carolina.  Dr Lindsay Waldrop (@inverternerd) is a postdoctoral fellow in Mathematics whose work focuses on how tiny animals and their structures interact with fluid environments.
Lindsay was born in Minnesota and grew up in rural North Carolina.  She did her undergrad work in biology and physics at UNC-CH (same place) and went to graduate school at the University of California, Berkeley in Integrative Biology. For her dissertation, she studied how crabs sniff (or in more fancy terms, discrete odor sampling by crustaceans using antennules). Currently, Lindsay’s  work focuses on the tubular hearts of sea squirts (tunicates) and how we can use tunicates as a model system for studying fluid flow and transport by the human lymph system and development of the vertebrate heart. This work has applications in the development of fluid devices.
Naturally, this sort of work has taken Lindsay  to some fun places for field work: Monterey Bay, CA and Moorea, French Polynesia, and soon the Galapagos.
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We asked Lindsay a few questions..
 1. How did you end up in science?
I ask entirely too many questions, which made me pretty insufferable as a kid. I never got out of the habit, so science seems like a pretty good fit for my personality. I ended up taking a few courses in college and having friends who went into science also that helped push me into that direction.

 2. Wait..How did you end up in mathematics after a degree in biology?

My original interests are in both biology and and physics. And all of the biology questions that I study are basically ones of physical interactions, so I need a lot of training in math in order to answer them. I ended up in a math department because the type of modeling that my postdoc adviser does is probably one of the best way to investigate fluid-structure interactions. Also, being in a math department is a great opportunity to meet collaborators and learn how to work with mathematicians.

3. What unique perspectives does a multidisciplinary approach bring?

Math is different than biology in a lot of important ways. Culturally, it is different. The research goals of mathematics is also different. Mathematicians aren’t necessarily concerned with answering questions about why things in nature are the way they are (like biologists or physicists), but developing better and more accurate methods for solving equations or proving theorems or learning how to apply new methods to very simplified physical situations that aren’t directly useful to biology. Learning how to apply these powerful methods in a way that is useful to biology requires understanding not just what is important to myself and other biologists but also how these applications and the research can benefit and be interesting to mathematicians.

4. Got any Hobbies?

I love SCUBA diving with my husband because eveeything that really excites me about biology lives down there. That we can visit it occasionally is pretty nice. I also love making things with my husband who is a metal artist. He taught me how to weld on one of our first dates! We are currently developing a marine-biology themed sculpture for our yard.

5. What research would you do if money was no object?

I would go to a lot of different places and collect ecological information about a lot of different animals to try and understand more about diversity of form and how it relates to environmental conditions. Very expensive to do, but could answer some interesting questions.
Please give Dr Waldrop a huge Real Scientists welcome!
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