Fairfield Programs Enhance Faculty-Student Undergraduate STEM Research

Fairfield Programs Enhance Faculty-Student Undergraduate STEM Research

Professor and students work on research project in a Fairfield lab.

John Miecznikowski, PhD, professor of chemistry and biochemistry, (left), works as a faculty research mentor to students Natalia Bertolotti ’22 and Michael Corbett ’22.

STEM summer research in the College of Arts and Sciences allows students to learn disciplinary-specific research skills while working in a faculty member’s lab or pursuing projects of their own design.

...All research involves great effort, similar challenges, disappointment and joy, as well as opportunities to make new and exciting connections between fields.

— L. Kraig Steffen, PhD, Associate Professor of Chemistry and Biochemistry

The College of Arts and Sciences empowers and encourages undergraduate students from all disciplines to conduct innovative, in-depth, and collaborative research under the guidance and encouragement of faculty experts and staff.

This summer, College of Arts and Sciences faculty and students are at work on cutting-edge STEM research projects — from environmental work on the effects of microplastics, to interdisciplinary behavioral research with primates — that are grant-funded by both the University and by nationally recognized external organizations.

Natalia Bertolotti ’23 was selected as this year’s Jean Dreyfus Lectureship Summer Research Student. Bertolotti is pursuing research, under the mentorship of John Miecznikowski, PhD, professor of chemistry and biochemistry, on her project entitled “Synthesis and Characterization of a Tridentate Pincer Ligand Precursor with ONO Donor Atoms.”

In addition to working with Dr. Miecznikowski, Bertolotti’s research is also supported by visiting assistant professor of chemistry Olivier Nicaise, PhD, and fellow student Michael Corbett ’23. Bertolotti has performed research in Dr. Miecznikowski’s laboratory since November 2019, and now has the opportunity to conduct full-time research, earning a stipend for eight weeks over the summer.

“Using my passion for helping others combined with my studies in chemistry, I feel that this summer will allow me to forge new connections between chemistry and medicine,” said Bertolotti, a rising senior who has interest in pursuing a doctoral degree in medicinal inorganic chemistry after graduation.

Some of the other research projects being conducted on campus this summer include Robert Nazarian, PhD, assistant professor of physics, and his team’s work on a climate research project entitled “Constructing an Emergent Constraint for Mid-Latitude Extreme Precipitation”; environmental research by biology professor Brian Walker, PhD, and student Jada Ormsbee ’24 on the “Presence of Microplastic Contamination in Magellanic Penguin Chicks from Punta Tombo Colony, Argentina”; Jillian Smith-Carpenter, PhD, associate professor of biochemistry and her research entitled “Structural and Chemical Characterization of Self-Assembling Nucleopeptides” which gives students Julianna Manson ’24 and Bianca Pineiro ’25 bench chemistry skills, instrument training, and scientific communication experience; as well as the continuation of research led by Matthew LaClair, PhD, visiting assistant professor in the Department of Psychological and Brain Sciences, and Ashley Soyong Byun, PhD, associate professor in the Biology Department, where they are testing interspecies social learning in spider monkeys, using a “puzzle tube” which they designed.

Many of these students had the opportunity to present their work in person to peers and faculty members on campus as well through summer lunch seminars hosted by Sigma Xi, the Scientific Research Society. 

“These weekly gatherings bring students, faculty, staff, and administrators together to learn about all the great research work going on in Bannow over the summer,” said L. Kraig Steffen, PhD, associate professor of chemistry and biochemistry and director of the Environmental Studies Program. “Students get a chance to practice the important skill of presenting their work. They get to see that, whatever the specifics of the research may be, all research involves great effort, similar challenges, disappointment and joy, as well as opportunities to make new and exciting connections between fields.”

From discoveries in physics and biochemistry to the digital humanities and psychology, more than 300 research projects are conducted annually within the College of Arts and Sciences, and more than half of those are presented at national scholarly meetings or are published in professional journals and academic publications. At least 70 percent of College of Arts and Sciences graduates complete at least one internship, practicum, or research study. Beginning with the Class of 2026, the Arts and Sciences Guarantee, a distinctive fellowship, will provide funding of up to $2,500 to support undergraduates who obtain an approved unpaid internship, research, or fieldwork experience while studying at Fairfield.

For more information, visit fairfield.edu/casresearch.

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Last modified: 07-15-22 9:44 PM

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