Kirsten Giesbrecht ’17 focuses John C. Young research on splenic artery aneurysm formation

Posted by Centre News in John C. Young Program, News 16 May 2017

KirstenAs a John C. Young (JCY) Scholar, Kirsten Giesbrecht combined her math major, biology interest and study abroad experience into a project titled “Mathematically Modeling Splenic Artery Aneurysm Formation,” using the computational fluid dynamic software.

The reason she specifically studied splenic arteries is because they are the most common site for aneurysms.

“I actually learned about this when I studied abroad at the University of Glasgow, and I was really curious as to why this was the case,” Giesbrecht said.

Centre College offers a study abroad program at Principia Consortium at the University of Glasgow, desirable for students interested in science or health. The program offers transferrable lab credits.

While in Scotland, she became interested in the topic of splenic artery’s and its connection with aneurysms.

The splenic artery is not the largest in the body, so she was surprised to learn that it was the most common site for aneurysms.

Giesbrecht shared that, unlike other arteries, this artery has a curved structure. Due to the geometric difference, she wanted to investigate how the shape may make it more susceptible for an aneurysm to develop.

While in Scotland, she looked at information about the artery and aneurysms and found a plethora of information about the shape and how aneurysms are more common in this artery, but she did not find information about the two being connected.

When she returned to Centre, she asked Assistant Professor of Mathematics Ellen Swanson if she would be willing to take on this project with her and see if there is a connection between the shape of the artery and aneurysms.

“It has been an honor to work with Kirsten this year and aid her in better understanding fluid dynamics and blood flow within the body,” Swanson said. “Watching Kirsten grow as a researcher has been a fantastic experience.

“This project is a perfect representation of Kirsten’s liberal arts and study abroad experience—key elements of what makes Centre so special,” she continued.

Giesbrecht says the entire project has been a fulfilling experience for her, because she was able to build a research question and find a promising answer.

“It’s really gratifying to have a question and be able to answer it using science,” Giesbrecht said. “It’s been an honor to be able to have the support to be able to answer this research question.”

Even though she is a math major, she’s realized how much she enjoys biology research, and through this project, she was able see how she can use both of her interests together.

“Knowing that I can go into the biomedical field and still keep it math-based is exciting,” she said. “It makes me more optimistic about career plans of combining two of my interests.”

After Centre, she plans to spend a year teaching before entering graduate school.

by Kerry Steinhofer
May 16, 2017