As the Spring 2018 semester draws to a close, a group of students with diverse interests and backgrounds are preparing to take part in the St. Mary’s Undergraduate Research Fellowship (SURF) program this summer. The SURF program partners students from intentionally varied disciplines with faculty mentors to engage in directed research or creative work. While working full-time for eight weeks on their individual projects, students will also participate in workshops and group meetings to develop their professional skills. The SURF program will culminate in a symposium in July 2018, allowing each student to showcase their finished projects to the campus and local community.
Nine students were chosen during a competitive selection process to participate in the SURF program this summer:
Justyce Bennett, a junior DeSousa-Brent Scholar studying anthropology, is working on a project entitled “Visual and Material Cultures of Slavery: The View from Art History” under the guidance of Assistant Professor of Art History Emily Casey. Justyce will research the methodology of archaeologists and art historians to establish an interdisciplinary approach to the interpretation of artifacts found on sites that relate to slavery. The project’s purpose is to develop a critical method for approaching these artifacts that connects them to larger visual cultures and provides insight into the culture and lives of enslaved people, while also allowing room for personal agency and creativity.
A sophomore studying chemistry and applied math, Nick D’Antona is conducting the project “Printing Perovskite Solar Cells: A Low-cost Production Method for Renewable Energy”. Nick and Assistant Professor of Chemistry Troy Townsend hope to layer inks with an automated printing process so that they consistently produce stable and efficient solar cells. Nick hopes to earn his PhD in chemistry, but first wants to be a research chemist and explore the materials sciences. He hopes to gain better presentation skills and is thankful for the research experience available through the SURF program.
James Judlick is a junior studying psychology. His project “Queer Eye for the Employer: A Résumé Audit Study for LGBTQ Individuals” is a study of possible discrimination against LGBTQ men as they apply to administrative, clerical, and management positions. The project will be mentored by Dr. Ayse Ikizler, an Assistant Professor of Psychology with a background in the effects of oppression of marginalized groups and the intersectionality of identity. James is looking forward to the collaborative and interdisciplinary aspects of the SURF program, hoping to become a group therapist in the future.
Bethany Laffan is a sophomore English major who is working with Professor of English Jeffery Coleman on the project “Literary Rock Star: A Reception Study of Haruki Murakami’s Popularity in Japan and the United States”. Analyzing the novels Norwegian Wood and The Wind-Up Bird Chronicle through various psychoanalytical theories, Bethany hopes her research will reveal intercultural connections between readers in Japan and the United States. She hopes to use SURF to gain more experience in research and analysis and later become an English professor or librarian.
Lily Pohlenz is working on a biology-focused project, “What’s the Buzz on Somatic Wolbachia Infection? Using Drosophila Melanogaster as a Model Organism to Understand the Control of Disease Transmission in Mosquitoes”. She will be conducting research under the guidance of Assistant Professor of Biology Kevin Emerson. Since somatic Wolbachia infection limits disease transmission among mosquitos, Lily and Dr. Emerson are attempting to learn its method of growth as a potential mechanism for preventing the spread of vector transmitted diseases. Lily is majoring in biology, with a minor in philosophy. She hopes to travel and help others during a future stint with the Peace Corps and later work as a physician’s assistant. Lily is looking forward to designing a project and conducting experimental research as part of her SURF experience.
Collaborating with Research & Instruction Librarian Amanda VerMeulen, Stephanie Schoch is working on the project “Visualizing Refugee Health Data: Impact of Domain-specific Knowledge on Comprehension”. Stephanie is a computer science and psychology double major graduating in May 2019. Her project will investigate the role of domain-specific knowledge in health data visualizations. This research specifically focuses on how healthcare domain knowledge affects comprehension of data visualizations with varying properties and attributes. She plans to apply for PhD programs in the fall, with current research interests including human-computer interaction, UX (user experience) design, and data visualization.
Kelly Healy will work with Assistant Professor of Biochemistry Shanen Sherrer on her project titled “Cutting a Pathway: Locating Binding Site of Environmental Contaminant Cadmium in Metal-binding Protein”. Kelly is a junior, double majoring in biology and biochemistry with a minor in music. She hopes that SURF will give her more research experience and prepare her for grad school.
With Assistant Professor of Environmental Studies Barry Muchnick, Elizabeth (Izzy) Peterson is conducting the project “A Call to Animate: A Study and Subversion of Propaganda’s Power”. A studio arts major with a minor in film & media studies Izzy hopes to work in the film industry as a production designer. Her research is focused on analyzing propaganda films of the early 20th century, such as Disney war bond shorts, Charlie Chaplin’s The Great Dictator, the films of Leni Riefenstahl, and more. She intends to uncover the techniques behind successful propaganda films and employ them in her own animated short film she hopes will serve as a “call to enlist” for women in the arts.
The SMCM community wishes this summer’s cohort of SURF students the best of luck and anticipates many exciting outcomes from their scholarship!