Summer Research Heats Up at Fairfield University

Summer Research Heats Up at Fairfield University

Fairfield University Associate Chemistry Professor John Miecznikowski, PhD, leads two undergraduate students in a research experiment in the Bannow Science Center.

College of Arts and Sciences faculty members are leading over a dozen undergraduate students in ground-breaking summer research projects.

Summer is an important time for faculty to make significant strides in their research...and our undergraduates are right here in the labs working with us.

— Shelley Phelan, PhD, director of the School of Natural and Behavioral Sciences and Mathematics and chair of the Biology Department

The residence halls may be quiet during the summer months at Fairfield University, but steps down the quad, the Bannow Science Center is buzzing with activity, innovation, and discovery.

Every summer, the College of Arts and Sciences' School of Natural and Behavioral Sciences and Mathematics provides over a dozen undergraduate students with a rewarding opportunity to work side-by-side with experienced faculty on original research in the disciplines of biology, chemistry, physics, and mathematics. Students spend up to eight weeks immersed in laboratory research while gaining hands-on experience in their fields of interest.

“Summer is an important time for faculty to make significant strides in their research efforts, and our undergraduates are right here in the labs working with us,” said Shelley Phelan, PhD, director of the School of Natural and Behavioral Sciences and Mathematics and chair of the Biology Department. “Faculty and students from all of our science and math departments collaborate on a diverse range of projects, creating a true community of research scholars throughout the summer months.”

From disease prevention to animal observation, this summer’s research projects run the gamut of scientific inquiry, with cancer research at the forefront of multiple studies. In addition to working with biology majors Sophia Fagan ’19 and Natalie Fulco ‘19 on a project investigating the effects of olive leaf extract on the growth and death of leukemia cells, Dr. Phelan is also collaborating with biology major Allison Peeney ’19 and physics professor Min Xu, PhD on an interdisciplinary study funded by the National Science Foundation that examines the physical principles behind the growth and aggressiveness of breast cancer cells. Concurrently, rising seniors Tyler Lyons ‘19 and Justin Gilbertson ’19 are making their own strides in cancer research, using mass spectrometry alongside associate biology professor Catherine J. Anderson, PhD, and associate chemistry professor Aaron Van Dyke, PhD, to build a “mugshot” of what cancer cells look like, in an effort make them more easily detectable. Their findings will be presented next month at the American Chemical Society National Meeting in Boston, Mass. 

In other areas of research, biology majors Kamryn Jebb ’20 and Caroline Young ’18 are working alongside associate biology professor Shannon Gerry, PhD, to investigate the effects of temperature on the muscles of saltwater fish, while associate chemistry professor John Miecznikowski, PhD, is working with three undergraduate chemistry majors to prepare and characterize cobalt and copper complexes that can be used as catalysts to accelerate chemical reactions.

While these projects barely scratch the surface of scientific inquiry happening on campus, all of the research conducted within the College of Arts and Sciences offers undergraduate students the opportunity for faculty mentorship, active learning, and the ability to make valuable contributions to their field of study. Although the outcomes of the summer collaborations vary, the majority of faculty-student research findings will be presented at national scholarly meetings throughout the year and/or published in peer-reviewed academic journals. Students also have the opportunity to present their research at the University’s Sigma Xi sponsored Summer Research Lunch Symposium, held once a week during the summer months.

“The Sigma Xi Summer Lunch Symposium gives students the opportunity to present their research activities to other students and faculty,” explained Kraig Steffen, PhD, professor of chemistry. “Our goal is to create a sense of shared struggle and camaraderie among the students and faculty, while giving students an opportunity to hone their communication skills in a relaxed friendly environment.” 

To learn more about the faculty-student research projects being conducted within the College of Arts and Sciences, visit fairfield.edu/casresearch.

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Last modified: 07-31-18 12:00 AM

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