More than 100 undergraduate students who have been engaged in research and scholarly and creative pursuits over the summer will present their projects and findings at a showcase being hosted virtually and on campus next week. The event celebrates the culmination of undergraduates’ summer efforts and the array of topics they examined through Syracuse Office of Undergraduate Research and Creative Engagement (SOURCE) program funding, in concert with other research and creative programs across campus.
The campus community is invited to attend two showcase events. Ten students are presenting their work virtually in two sessions on Wednesday, Aug. 10, from 2 to 4 pm Participation links can be referenced on the SOURCE’s program information page. Another 101 students will present in a poster session Thursday, Aug. 11, from 10 am to noon at the Panasci Lounge at the Schine Student Center. A celebration picnic follows at the Huntington Beard Crouse patio.
Many Campus Partners
Students included participants in SOURCE initiatives as well as other programs, including the Louis Stokes Alliance for Minority Participation program; Chemistry, Engineering, iSchool and Biomaterials Research Experience for Undergraduates programs; Renée Crown University Honors Program; Women in Science and Engineering supported students; the McNair Scholars program; the SUNY-Upstate Summer Undergraduate Research Fellowship (SURF) Program; and others.
Most of the presenters are undergraduates at Syracuse University, although visiting students from other colleges who have worked with Syracuse University or SUNY-Upstate faculty through several programs will also share their summer work, says Kate Hanson, director of the SOURCE. Over 200 students across all the campus programs were research-active this summer, working both in-person and remotely, she says. That is a significant level of growth in summer research activity since the SOURCE’s first summer in 2019 with about 100 participants.
The SOURCE initiative began after Syracuse University announced a commitment of $1 million annually in Invest Syracuse funds to support a new center for undergraduate research to strengthen the University’s position as a preeminent and inclusive student-focused research institution.
Among topics undergraduates have been examining this summer are:
- Access to wellness facilities for women
- Vitamin D supplementation to reduce neurodevelopmental phenotypes of Rett Syndrome
- Stimuli-responsive biomaterials for wound healing
- Assessing water quality data in relation to cemeteries in the Finger Lakes watershed
- Combating disinformation for Syracuse residents of the south side
- The role of nanoparticles and organic acids in northern forest soil
- Persuasion in audio-based social media
- The role of fish-oil supplements on paternal obesity
- Museums and intangible cultural heritage
“This event is a chance for the University to showcase the amazing and innovative work students have been doing this summer with dedicated faculty mentors, and to celebrate the growing community of summer undergraduate research the University supports,” Hanson says. “We hope for continued growth in the numbers of participants to create more opportunities for students to get involved in research, scholarship and creative projects. It is wonderful to see students developing important research and presentation skills and we are grateful to the faculty mentors that guided the students’ intellectual and creative growth.”
Students’ Specific Interests
Three students who participated in the program this summer illustrate the breadth of topics undergraduates can pursue according to their individual interests.
Andrea Hoe ’23, in the School of Architecture, has been testing the compressive strength of lunar regolith composites using urea and carbon nanotube additives. Working with Assistant Professor of Mechanical and Aerospace Engineering Yeqing Wang in the College of Engineering and Computer Science, she is developing potential materials for use in building structures on the moon. She plans to attend a graduate space architecture program and work for a space company as an architect or designer of extraterrestrial structures.
The test-fail-test nature of her experiments “has been very impactful,” Hoe says. “It’s very challenging, but I’ve learned how to develop solutions to each problem that I face. This experience has strengthened and validated my interest to go into the space field in the future.”
Alternatively, April Santana’s “lab space” in the South Side community of Syracuse, where she’s been doing person-to-person outreach to help shape her examination of the impact of misinformation and tools to combat it. Santana ’24, who majors in magazine, news and digital journalism, works with Assistant Professor Greg Munno in the SI Newhouse School of Public Communications on a grant supported by the Knight Foundation and SOURCE. They are investigating how community members receive misinformation.
This is the third time Santana has participated in SOURCE research. As a freshman, she examined how materials developed in the civil rights era portrayed minority groups. In her second project, she undertook a political science look at alternative social media groups and their impact on minority groups’ decisions whether or not to be vaccinated.
This year, her work has focused on community-based journalism, although all three opportunities have been beneficial, she says. “They have definitely helped me, first by allowing me the opportunity to do research, which is never something I thought I’d be doing. I always thought that was more for master’s or Ph.D. students.” Santana particularly likes the community-based aspect of her current efforts, she says. “It’s helping me with what I want to do—immersing me in the work of reporting.”
Hunter Mirer ’23, a dual major in biochemistry and neuroscience in the College of Arts and Sciences, has been developing a process to stain zebrafish embryos to
examine phenotypes in their spinal cords in Professor and Biology Department Chair Kate Lewis’s lab.
Mirer credits the lab environment for helping him recognize his scholarly weaknesses and confront them before he advances to medical school. He plans to take the MCAT exams this fall. “What I’m mainly gaining now is learning how to develop a higher level of understanding in specialized subjects. This has shown me that it’s going to take a lot more understanding than what I recognized when I first said I want to be a pediatric neurosurgeon,” he says.
The lab has helped him develop research skills, Mirer says. “I have ADHD, and the way science was taught in high school it was hard for me to learn. The research lab has helped so much because it’s hands on and actively working toward goals, and I have the resources of the other faculty and students there as well. It has helped solidify me wanting to be a doctor and my interest in science.”