Collin Trail ’03 wins the ‘Gold’
Though Collin Trail ’03 has studied the intricacies of chaos theory, he maintains an orderly vision of his future.
“I’ve been interested in science for as long as I can remember,” says Trail.
This year, his dedication earned him a Barry M. Goldwater Scholarship worth $7,500 to cover the cost of tuition, fees, books, and room and board for his senior year. Trail is the 12th student from Lewis & Clark to win the award, designed to foster and encourage outstanding students to pursue careers in the fields of mathematics, engineering, and the natural sciences.
Last summer, Trail worked with Thomas Olsen, associate professor of physics, conducting a numeric study of a coupled chaotic pendulum. “My main innovation was developing a color diagram of the system that could be used to pinpoint stable regions more quickly,” says Trail.
He describes a stable or periodic system as occurring on a beat, like a mark on a wheel turning at a constant speed that crosses a set point at regular intervals. A chaotic system would occur by altering the speed of the wheel in an irregular pattern.
“Collin is that exceptional student who blends tremendous expertise in his subject area with a broad understanding of human knowledge and culture,” says Olsen. “We will all be hearing from him in the years to come.”
Trail is appreciative of the research opportunities available to him at Lewis & Clark. “They gave me a strong advantage when applying for the Goldwater scholarship and the confidence needed to apply for a summer research program at Cornell University,” he says.
With an eye toward studying quantum physics in the future, Trail spent 10 weeks at Cornell this summer working with a linear accelerator. His project involved firing high-energy particles down a tube and observing the effects of ensuing collisions. “A wide array of modern electrical equipment is based on quantum mechanics,” he says.
Besides the research opportunities afforded him at the College, Trail appreciates the range of options available at a liberal arts institution.
“Attending Lewis & Clark has allowed me to continue my studies in philosophy, to travel overseas to study the arts in London, and to meet many interesting people from fields I might not otherwise be exposed to,” says Trail.
—by Pattie Pace