Research findings from more than 40 Bryn Mawr students who took part in the College's Summer Science Research Program were on display in the Campus Center last week, where a steady stream of students, faculty, and staff stopped by to ask questions and find out more from the participants during the program's annual poster session.
"This is an important part of the program because it's what students are going to be asked to do if they want to go on to do any sort of advanced research," says Biology Lecturer Michelle Wien, coordinator of the Summer Science Program. "It's not enough to just do the work; you have to be able to explain your research's importance if you want to get any sort of funding."
Among the students taking part in the session was Evan Rivers ’14, who spent several weeks this summer aboard an international research vessel in the waters north of Iceland with Bryn Mawr Geologist Lynne Elkins and Kelsey Meisenhelder, a Haverford student majoring in geology at Bryn Mawr.
The group was researching volcanic activity in a segment of the Mid-Atlantic Ridge known as the Eggvin Bank.
"I decided to come to Bryn Mawr so that I would have research opportunities like this one," says Rivers, who came to Bryn Mawr expecting to pursue a career in biochemistry.
"From eighth grade through my freshman year at Bryn Mawr," Rivers continues, "I was convinced that I wanted to do biochemical research for the rest of my life. Being at Bryn Mawr allowed me to get a job doing biochemical research the summer after my freshman year, which at a larger institution would never have been possible. I am so grateful that Bryn Mawr gave me that opportunity because it allowed me to realize going into my sophomore year that I did not want to do that for the rest of my life. Getting experience doing research early really taught me that I wanted a more applied science. Without the summer science program at Bryn Mawr, I do not think I would have realized that I wanted to switch majors to geology until it was too late."
Sarah Schnellbacher ’13 was also among the presenters at the poster session.
Schnellbacher worked with Associate Professor of Biology Tamara Davis, whose current research focuses on genomic imprinting.
Davis and her students looked at epigenetic modifications such as DNA methylation and histone modifications using tissue from mice to better understand when modifications are acquired at certain imprinted genes during development and what effect these modifications have on imprinted gene expression.
"One of the most important educational experiences an undergraduate student can have is the opportunity to conduct research," says Davis. "By conducting research, not only are students exposed to modern methodological approaches and cutting-edge areas of scientific inquiry, but they also develop a host of skills that will be useful to them because they research the scientific background associated with their project in depth. They learn to design, implement and analyze experiments; they learn to trouble-shoot when experiments don't work perfectly; and they learn to present their data in a variety of forms. After graduating and moving on towards their post-graduate goals, my former students consistently tell me that their undergraduate research experience was the most valuable part of their Bryn Mawr education."
Eesha Sheikh ’13, worked with her faculty advisor, Chemistry Professor Bill Malachowski, on NIH funded research into designing and synthesizing compounds that will inhibit an enzyme called indoleamine 2,3-dioxygenase (IDO) as a possible cancer treatment.
Other students presenting at the session included Su Oner ’14 and Nicole Bowman ’14, whose research aimed to better understand neurons by looking at those that play a role in leech swimming; Meagan Neal, who examined how to better simulate learning in machines; Haverford student Fern Beetle-Moorcroft, who did research in the Rocky Mountains with Geology Chair Arlo Weil; and Danyelle Phillips '14, who, in addition to traveling to Houston to take part in NASA's Reduced Gravity Flight Program, went to Utah to do research with Assistant Professor of Geology Pedro Marenco.
Additional videos from the poster session can be found on YouTube.
Since 1989, the Summer Science Research Program has provided students with 10-week research stipends to conduct independent research under the guidance of Bryn Mawr faculty members in the sciences and mathematics. For more information, visit the Summer Science Program website. Students interested in applying to take part in the program during the summer of 2013 can check the website at the start of the spring semester for more information.