Science Students Report from Frontier of Discovery

Lori Scognamillo (right) describes her summer science research project during the Oct. 3 presentation session in Brousseau Hall.
For many college students, summer provides a needed respite from the classroom. For senior Chris Snead, it was a chance to delve deeper into his organic chemistry homework.

Rather than spending July and August at the beach, Snead analyzed water from Utah's Great Salt Lake with a mass spectrometer to identify different strains of bacteria.

"Each strain has different amounts of fatty acid," Snead explained to professors and students during an Oct. 3 community event at Brousseau Atirum. "That's an effective way to identify small samples in a short period of time."

Snead was one of ten School of Science summer research grant recipients who presented at the Brousseau event. The grants date back to 1986, when Saint Mary's began officially sponsoring students who've designed proposals that professors feel have a chance to make original contributions to science.

"It's a great program that encourages students to go off and do research on their own," said Malcolm Boyce, a member of the College's Science Advisory Board who also funds one of the grants. "More liberal arts schools are following Saint Mary's example and encouraging undergraduate students to do this kind of summer work."

Four other School of Science students who conducted summer research without School of Science funding also presented their findings in Brousseau. Topics spanned the School of Sciences' 11 different major fields, which include mathematics and psychology.

"Everyone's very impressed with the high standard of research here," School of Science Dean Brian Jersky told a crowd of around 75.

McKenna Medal winner Chris Snead with Dean of Science Brian Jersky.

A panel of science professors awarded honors to the top three summer projects: Sophie Tate's electrode readings in a psychology lab from subjects responding to null arguments, Michael Poblete's work on antibiotic properties found in the California Red Sea Urchin and Snead's bacteria research, which received the top prize, the Joseph P. McKenna Science Medal.

"Today is a very proud day for the School of Science as we honor the work of our students, these new American scientists," Jersky said.

Several students will represent Saint Mary's and present their research at the annual conference of international science honors society Sigma Xi in Washington D.C. from November 20–23.

--John Grennan

Office of College Communications

Photo by Gabrielle Diaz '11 and Gorbachev Lingad '10