Students Awarded Summer Science Research Grants

Ten science students have received summer research awards for 2009 to work with faculty mentors in physics, biology, astronomy, chemistry and biochemistry. They were chosen from a group of 17 candidates.

"It was a difficult decision for the selection committee because all of the applications were very strong," said chemistry professor Valerie Burke. "The proposals demonstrate the creativity and intelligence of the applicants, and some guidance and support from the mentor."

The research program enables students to work for 10 weeks in close collaboration with a professor on either a professor's research project or one developed by the student. Burke said the program is very valuable for the students, who are usually going into their junior or sophomore years.

"Students get a taste of independent research; this 10-week experience helps them consider research in graduate school or industry," she said. "The training they receive is far beyond what can be accomplished in the classroom or a teaching lab. They learn advanced techniques and laboratory skills, and they experience the intellectual development to design, carry out and interpret experimental work. And they have the support of their faculty mentor and the other researchers to celebrate their research successes and guide them through challenges."

The summer program includes extras to add to the research experience, including professional development activities, visits to science museums or industry or government labs and movies, games and sports activities that help build community among the researchers.

Burke said the program is also valuable for professors.

"We train our researchers in advanced techniques and instrumentation, new laboratory skills and the thought processes required for research," she said. "We get to see our students develop throughout the summer into independent researchers, and we know we are preparing them well for life after Saint Mary's."

Students receive a stipend of $3,000, housing on campus and a budget for supplies and expenses.

The students will complete a written research paper and present their findings at the Brousseau poster session, held each fall.

The 2009 winners are:

-- Gabrielle Diaz, a sophomore, who will work on a chemistry research project with Burke on the inhibition of Tyrosinase, a key enzyme in the production of melanin or skin pigments and how to potentially stop the browning of fruits and vegetables and remove skin discoloration.

-- Jillian Eymann, a freshman, who will work with Ron Olowin on a CD imaging search of the earth-moon Lagranian positions. She plans to explore Lagrangian points – positions in gravitational orbits – to try to discover natural satellites in the earth-moon system.

-- Lindsay Flint, a junior, who will work with Burke on the design and structure of Tyrosinase inhibitors and the optimization of the reactions to produce them.

-- Easar Forghany, a sophomore, who will work with Joel Burley in researching pollution in California. He plans to measure ozone in the White Mountains in eastern California, home of ancient bristlecone pine forests.

-- Jordan Grider, a sophomore, who will work with Chris Ray on an experiment to learn more about how a photon behaves.

-- David Montelongo, a senior, who will work with Keith Garrison on immune response to carbon nanotube exposure, which are a recently discovered man-made allotrope of carbon. The potential application of this allotrope may be useful in drug carrier systems, gene silencing and tumor imaging.

-- Michelle Nenzel, a junior, who will work with Steve Bachofer to examine the chemical trapping of Gemini surfactants. Her research could be applied to faster transdermal drug delivery.

-- Thomas Reynolds, a sophomore, who will work with Keith Garrison on an analysis of historical retroviral contributions to the modern human genome, which could yield useful data for studying treatments for cancer and HIV.

-- Jeanine Schibler, a senior, who will work with Vidya Chandrasekaran to discover the function of a gene on a chromosome of Drosophila melanogaster, a well-studied fruit fly. The gene has no name other than an identifier number, CG-11148.

-- Kurt Thompson, a sophomore, who will work with professor Ray on an experiment using recently developed methods to observe the particle nature of light and the nature of photon entanglement.

Click here for more information about the School of Science Summer Research Program.

-- Erin Hallissy

Office of College Communications