October 27, 2020

Summer Science Symposium Showcases Student Research

Senior Allison Grant explains how climate change has disproportionately affected redlined communities, a project she’s worked on under the guidance of Assistant Professor of Earth and Environmental Science Pamela Grothe. Grant was one of 19 UMW students who presented their research yesterday over Zoom as part of Mary Washington’s Summer Science Symposium.

Senior Allison Grant explains how climate change has disproportionately affected redlined communities, a project she’s worked on under the guidance of Assistant Professor of Earth and Environmental Science Pamela Grothe. Grant was one of 19 UMW students who presented their research yesterday over Zoom as part of Mary Washington’s Summer Science Symposium.

Temperatures soared yesterday, but Allison Grant was cool and calm as she explained how climate change has disproportionately affected low income neighborhoods that are impacted to a greater degree by heat.

“Redlining was outlawed over 50 years ago,” said the UMW senior, citing the discriminatory lending practice that prevented minorities from purchasing homes. “Yet it continues to have a damaging impact on current communities, especially African Americans.”

Grant was among the 19 students who participated in the University of Mary Washington’s Summer Science Institute (SSI), which engages undergraduates in an intense 10-week research experience – in collaboration with their professors and peers – and provides a jumpstart on projects they’ll continue throughout the school year. The SSI Research Symposium, held virtually over Zoom for the first time, gave these young scientists the chance to explain their methods and findings to a wider audience.

Students from six concentrations – biology, chemistry, Earth and environmental science, computer science, mathematics and physics – displayed giant posters and delivered oral presentations. They discussed real world topics, from the reduction of carbon emissions during the COVID-19 pandemic and the use of statistical models to predict weather patterns, to pollinator insect diversity and more effective ways for computers to multitask.

“SSI is about providing an authentic research experience, and we’re fortunate that we can continue to give this to our students,” said Associate Professor of Chemistry Davis Oldham, who coordinated this year’s program with Assistant Professor of Mathematics Jeb Collins. “They’re still learning new skills, receiving faculty feedback and getting opportunities they could not get in a classroom setting.” Read more.

Summer Science Symposium Showcases Student Research

Temperatures soared yesterday, but Allison Grant was cool and calm as she explained how climate change has disproportionately affected low income neighborhoods that are impacted to a greater degree by heat. “Redlining was outlawed over 50 years ago,” said the UMW senior, citing the discriminatory lending practice that prevented minorities from purchasing homes. “Yet it […]

STEM Students Probe World Problems

Weather patterns. Climate change. Cell death. These are among more than a dozen STEM-based topics tackled by University of Mary Washington students during this year’s Summer Science Institute, an intensive, fully funded 10-week research opportunity that culminates this week. Working with professors in their field of study, 20 undergraduates took the reins on projects that […]

Abbie Tomba: Scientifically Speaking

As a child, Abbie Tomba studied the narrow science volumes published by Time Life that lined her parents’ bookshelves. She poured over field guides and spent as much time as she could outdoors, examining the things she’d read about.

Her early love of all things living stayed with Tomba all the way through graduate school and beyond.  An associate professor of biology, she’s been on the UMW faculty since 2006. This is Tomba’s third year overseeing UMW’s Summer Science Institute (SSI), which she co-chairs with Assistant Professor of Chemistry Davis Oldham.

Associate Professor of Biology Abbie Tomba co-chairs the Summer Science Institute with Assistant Professor of Chemistry Davis Oldham.

Associate Professor of Biology Abbie Tomba co-chairs the Summer Science Institute with Assistant Professor of Chemistry Davis Oldham.

The unique program is specifically designed for UMW students, who get room, board and a stipend while working on promising research.

Ten faculty members mentor 20 students through SSI, which includes workshops, team-building activities and weekly progress meetings.

“Science tends to be time-intensive,” Tomba said. For 10 weeks in summer, students in the fields of earth and environmental science, biology, chemistry, physics, math and computer science can focus exclusively on their research.

It ends in a daylong public symposium, where students present what they’ve learned.

Q: How did you end up at UMW?

A: I was a teaching assistant during graduate school. I taught high school for a year. Teaching was my thing. UMW was a great fit – small class sizes, strong emphasis on undergraduate research and a beautiful campus.

Q: What’s the best part of your job?

A: Interacting with students. The greatest moments are when a student first understands something or exposing them to things they’ve never seen before. I love watching them progress. They start off nervous and uncertain. Two years later, they’re presenting a poster at a national conference.

Q: What’s the most challenging part?

A: Having time to do it all and not being able to do it all at the same time. I get to do so many great things – teaching, conducting research with students. It’s hard to pack it all in.

Q:  Why is it important for UMW students to have a summer science research opportunity?

A: During the school year, it can take two weeks to do what these students can get done in a day. They can learn techniques so much more efficiently. When you’re doing it once every two weeks, you will learn it, eventually. When you’re doing it twice every day, you get proficient quickly. These students often go off and present their research at conferences. The institute also provides money for supplies. Molecular biology and chemistry in particular can be expensive. The extra time is important but, without additional funds a lot of the work couldn’t be done.  Q: Any interesting research projects this summer?

A: One student is studying the effects of pesticides on crayfish behavior. Another is identifying genes in yeast involved in repairing DNA. A computer science student is mining information in text and graphics to predict social networks. Every year, there’s such a wide variety.

Q: What’s something most people don’t know about SSI?

A: Most scientists are good at explaining what they do to someone who does the exact same thing. We have weekly meetings that encourage math students to talk with biology students and biology students talk to computer science students. It really fosters scientific communication across disciplines. If you’re doing the coolest thing in the world, but you can’t communicate it, sometimes it gets lost. After weeks of talking about their project, they get really good at explaining it.

Q: Do you have a favorite saying?

A: you never walk in the same river twice. It’s very, very true – in streams and in life. Our world and science are always changing. You have to be able to adapt.

Science Symposium Highlights Student Research

Ryan Barlow spent much of his free time this semester waiting for clear nights. When one finally arrived, he’d haul his equipment – including a telescope, camera, spectrograph, motorized mount and filters – outdoors and set up outside of the Jepson Science Center at the University of Mary Washington to take photos of nebulae and galaxies. Barlow, along with 27 other students, presented his findings at the annual Summer Science Institute Research Symposium on July 23. For many, this was the culmination of many hours of hard work and research, and an opportunity to share the fruits of their labor. More than 20 UMW STEM students came together to present research at the annual Summer Science Institute July 23. Ryan Barlow, middle, explains his research on astrophotography. From left: Ben Kisila, associate professor of earth and environmental science, works with Luci Coleman to conduct research on the Chesapeake Bay. “This is their first taste of what it’s like to be on a research team and to be with other people who are just doing research,” said Deborah Zies, associate professor of biology and co-director of the Summer Science Institute. “It’s a great opportunity for faculty and students to get started on a project and work.” The daylong event is one of the few to bring together biology, chemistry, earth and environmental science, math, computer science and physics students to present their original research projects to faculty, families and peers. Students presented on a wide-range of research, from chemical signals in crayfish interactions to astrophotography to the downfall of antibiotics. “It’s a high-impact learning experience,” said Nicole Crowder, assistant professor of chemistry and co-director of the Summer Science Institute. “I hope that this program exposes students to what it’s really like to be a scientist. Students take the knowledge that they’ve been gaining in the classroom and really apply it.” John Meadows restored a Mach-Zehnder to conduct research on slow light. Ruth Catlett, right, explains her research in parallel computing education. At the end of the symposium, the following students received awards for their research presentations: First-place Oral Presentation: Jerome Mueller, “Developing a Tetra Interpreter,” Faculty Advisor: Ian Finlayson, assistant professor, computer science Second-place Oral Presentation: Amy Jayas, “The Best Dam Project Ever,” Faculty Advisor: Alan B. Griffith, associate professor, biology First-place Poster Presentation: Kevin Speray, “Qualifying the Efficacy of Aeschynomene virginica as an Indicator Species for Sea-Level Rise,” Faculty Advisor: Alan B. Griffith, associate professor, biology Second-place Poster Presentation: Shehan Rajapakse, “Designing the Tetra IDE,” Faculty Advisor: Ian Finlayson, assistant professor, computer science

Symposium Showcases Student Research

Kimberly Hildebrand shares her poster presentation during the Summer Science Institute Symposium.

Kimberly Hildebrand shares her poster presentation during the Summer Science Institute Symposium.

University of Mary Washington students and faculty gathered in Jepson Hall on Wednesday, July 24 for a day dedicated to original STEM-related research. The Summer Science Institute Symposium was the culmination of 10 weeks of research for more than 20 undergraduate students and their faculty mentors.

During the symposium’s awards ceremony, Dean of the College of Arts and Sciences Richard Finkelstein, applauded the dedication of the faculty mentors and the innovation of the students’ projects. The importance of research, he asserted, is how it fosters in students the ability to think through abstract concepts with an eye toward practical applications.

Brooke Andrews (left) and Professor Nicole Crowder

Brooke Andrews (left) and Professor Nicole Crowder

Ngoc Quyen Huynh (right) and Professor Hai Nguyen

Ngoc Quyen Huynh (right) and Professor Hai Nguyen

The following students received awards for their research:

  • First Place Poster Presentation: Brooke Andrews, “Synthesis and Purification of 4,4′-di(n-alkyl)-2,2’bipyridine” Adviser: Nicole Crowder
  • Second Place Poster Presentation: Ngoc Quyen Huynh, “Fabry-Perot Interferometer” Adviser: Hai Nguyen
  • First Place Oral Presentation: Patrick Mullen, “Absorption Spectroscopy of Rubidium” Adviser: Hai Nguyen
  • Second Place Oral Presentation: Kathie Belrose-Ramey, “Locating the Binding Site of RAI1 within the CLOCK Regulatory Region” Adviser: Deborah Zies
Kathie Belrose-Ramey (right) and Professor Deborah Zies

Kathie Belrose-Ramey (right) and Professor Deborah Zies

 

A list of all student research projects is available in the symposium’s program.

 

Student Researchers Present at Symposium, July 24

The 2012 Summer Science Institute Symposium winners pose with Professor Werner Wieland (third from left) and Professor Janet Asper (second from right)

The 2012 Summer Science Institute Symposium winners pose with Professor Werner Wieland (third from left) and Professor Janet Asper (second from right)

Twenty UMW students will present their research at the annual Summer Science Institute Symposium on Wednesday, July 24. Sessions, including oral presentations and poster presentations, will run from 9:30 a.m. to 3:30 p.m. in Jepson Hall, Room 100. The symposium will culminate with an awards ceremony at 4 p.m. A schedule of presentations and a list of abstracts is available in PDF form.

UMW’s Summer Science Institute, a 10-week undergraduate research program, started in 1999. For more information, contact Professor Deborah Zies at (540) 654-1435.

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An uncommon reptile discovery will help shed light on the species in the Fredericksburg region.

Chemistry Connections

Students work one-on-one with professors through UMW's undergraduate research programs.

Summer Science Symposium Honors Student & Faculty Research

Werner Wieland (left) and Yoshi Takeda

On Wednesday, July 25, Jepson Hall was home to more than 20 posters and presentations on topics ranging from acid mine drainage to zebrafish as part of the 2012 Summer Science Symposium. UMW’s Summer Science Institute, a 10-week undergraduate research program, started in 1999.

At the symposium’s awards ceremony, Yoshi Takeda won first place for his oral presentation “Turtles in the Fredericksburg Canal: Identifying and Estimating Populations Sizes,” under the direction of Professor Werner Wieland. Robert Higgins won second place for his oral presentation “Pegylation of Guanyl Pyrazole to Provide a Guanidinylation Reagent,” under the

Janet Asper (left) and Robert Higgins

direction of Professor Janet Asper.

In the poster category, Robert Clark won first place for his project “Spatial and Isotopic Analysis of Soil Erosion and Sediment Fluxes in Three Rappahannock River Tributaries, Stafford County, Virginia,” under the direction of Professor Ben Kisila. Sarah Marzec won second place in the poster category for her project “Phylogenetic Classification of Nematodes,” under the direction of Professor Theresa Grana.

 

Robert Clark

The symposium program lists abstracts of all 22 presentations and posters.

Theresa Grana (left) and Sarah Marzec