Summer Science Research Program Concludes with Student Presentations

Trinity’s Ten-Week Summer Program Offers Opportunity to Conduct Research with Faculty

​Hartford, Connecticut, July 27, 2016 – This year’s Summer Science Research Program at Trinity College culminated with presentations given by students in the Albert C. Jacobs Life Sciences Center’s Boyer Auditorium on July 19. Nine of the students who conducted research this summer wrapped up the 10-week program by sharing their topics, methods, and findings with faculty, staff, and fellow students.

The summer research experience, offered through Trinity’s Interdisciplinary Science Center, provides students the chance to work closely with faculty members while learning what conducting scientific research is really like. Each Tuesday throughout the summer, the entire group gathered for lunch and a special program such as safety training, a lecture by a faculty member, or a discussion with a panel of alumni about preparing for graduate school and the workplace.

Alison J. Draper, the director of Trinity’s Science Center and lecturer in interdisciplinary science, said, “Whether students go on to a career in research or whether they go on to something else, for most, summer research will stand out as one of the most enjoyable and beneficial things they did for their own learning and confidence during their time at Trinity.”

Summer Science Research Program 2016
​(Back, l-r) Shufan Wang ’18, Carter Jones ’19, Michael Zarra ’19, Tyler Wrenn ’19, Nate Thiemann ’17, (front, l-r) Mariam Avagyan ’18, Christy Chan ’18, Jenna Park ’16, and Elena-Marie Pedro ’17.
Photo by John Atashian. Click here for more photos.
Elena-Marie Pedro ’17, who worked in the lab of Timothy Curran, professor of chemistry, presented her research on beta-sheet proteins during the July 19 gathering.

Shufan Wang ’18 and Mariam Avagyan ’18 conducted research about networks with Per Sebastian Skardal, assistant professor of mathematics, by mapping connections between Trinity majors and minors. Using data from many years of students who have pursued double-majors and minors, they sought to learn how different departments are connected by students with varied interests.

Christy Chan ’18 and Michael Zarra ’19 worked in the lab of Charles A. Dana Research Professor of Psychology and Neuroscience Sarah Raskin, comparing time-based perspective memory between adults with brain injury and those without.

Nate Thiemann ’17 talked about his work with William Church, associate professor of chemistry and neuroscience, and Vindya Thilakarathne, visiting assistant professor of chemistry. His research involved computer modelling of molecularly imprinted polymers, which could have applications such as creating prosthetics.

Jenna Park ’16, Carter Jones ’19, and Tyler Wrenn ’19 examined how perinatal caffeine exposure impacts long-term learning and memory by conducting research on rats. Their project was overseen by Harry Blaise, associate professor of engineering, Vernon Roosa Professor of Applied Science Susan A. Masino, and David N. Ruskin, research associate professor.

Trinity College President Joanne Berger-Sweeney, who is a neuroscientist, asked the students about how they might test whether the caffeine had an impact on the maternal behavior of the rats. The post-presentation discussion also touched on the question of the safety of caffeine during pregnancy.

After the presentations, Pedro reflected on what she will take away from this summer program. “Professor Curran’s ability to simultaneously give his research students guidance and independence in the laboratory allowed me to become a more confident problem solver,” she said. “I think that one of the best-kept secrets of summer research is the exhilaration of building a team. We spend many hours sharing equipment and bench space, and so have learned each other’s movements and have become a synchronized team.”

The students also had the chance to get to know each other better outside of their laboratories. Wrenn said that he made new friends this summer and enjoyed the camaraderie that was fostered over the 10 weeks. “We even played a wide-scale soccer game between the dorms,” he said. “Although we are all here on this campus to do research and learn, it is still summer and we all can still find ways to have fun.”

For Curran, who was the faculty adviser to Pedro, the presentations at the end of this program represent a moment when students can demonstrate how much they have matured as scientists during their time at Trinity. “I’ve watched my student grow into a very talented, practicing chemist,” Curran said. “That’s the part that never gets old.”

Curran added that students who conduct their own research can have life-changing experiences in this program. “The students see that they are talented learners who can handle anything, no matter what they choose to do,” he said.

For more photos of the Summer Science Research Student Presentations, click here.

Written by Andrew J. Concatelli

Video edited by Cassia Armstrong '18 (Trinity Video Team). Produced by Trinity College Communications.
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