The eyes of Cristina Meehan, ’14, light up when she talks about biology — and chemistry, math, computer science and physics. More specifically, these are the five different disciplines that the University of Richmond’s Integrated Quantitative Science program covers in the two-semester, four-unit course for first-year students.

Meehan heard about the IQ Science course while visiting Richmond; students must apply to take the class during the summer before they arrive on campus. The class has 20 students in it — each with his or her own strengths.    

“Last semester we didn’t really know each other,” she said, “but it’s turned into a family — this family of brains.

“You have five professors and you get to know them so well, and I really feel like I could go to them for anything. They’re so responsive, and they exemplify the heart of the teachers here.”

During the 2010 fall semester, students in the IQ Science class studied antibiotic resistance. They worked on many projects, including one in which a computer code was used to simulate how an antibiotic would work in a hospital setting.

In real life, Meehan said, you can’t give 100 people an antibiotic at the same time and see how things like pathogens and mutations would work. However, when the class put all these variables into a computer, they were able to run it and watch it in the most realistic way possible.

“Some students, like me, are more into biology, so in the beginning computer science was really intimidating,” Meehan said. “This class has changed my mindset and how I view science.” She said the goal of the course is to build multi-perspective students and researchers.  

“A lot of times with scientific disciplines, mathematicians are doing this and chemists are doing that and they don’t communicate and realize that what strides one is making could really help the other,” Meehan said.

The class was able to present their work at a small symposium this semester. Meehan said they made complex posters and were able to present to and interact with students and professors from many different departments and programs. It made her understand why the little minute actions in your research are so important, she said.

“During the symposium you were presenting to professors you had never met, and it really tested your confidence and understanding,” Meehan said. “One of the professors that came up to me was asking really intense questions and saying our research didn’t prove anything.

“I ended up talking to him for 30 minutes, and I am going to do research with him this summer because I really liked the way he made me think. You never know when you meet one person what they’re going to be for you down the line.”

The development of the IQ Science course was funded by a grant the School of Arts & Sciences received from the Howard Hughes Medical Institute. The class launched last year and is currently just for first-year students. Meehan hopes it will expand because she’s loved its interdisciplinary approach to science.  

Meehan took AP Biology and AP Chemistry her junior year of high school and fell in love with both subjects. She hopes to major in biochemistry and molecular biology and is considering applying to medical school.

“I’d love to do Doctors without Borders someday — it really gives your work a separate meaning and your life more purpose,” Meehan said. “I don’t know, I dream about that.”