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Undergrad Research



A dozen students find their own kind of summer fun as they help launch a program of focused exploration.

By Dennis Arp hat’s in a name? In this case a bit of irony, at least for the 12 undergrad researchers who earned the inaugural SURF Fellowships. After all, while they toiled in the library, lab or studio, many of their friends spent the summer in the actual surf. No matter. Talk with the 12 students, and it’s clear that to a person they feel privileged to have been chosen to launch the Summer Undergraduate Research Fellowship (SURF) program at Chapman University. “I spent hours and hours 1 researching and planning my project, but ultimately what I got was 10 weeks to make art, and I got paid to 2 do it,” said Julie Russo ’14, whose research mixed the science of lasers with the art of photography. “It was awesome.” The summer program is the brainchild of Professor Christopher Kim, director of undergraduate research at Chapman, who saw a chance to immerse students 6 in focused projects of their own choosing, specific to their 7 areas of academic interest. More than 50 students applied, with the expectation that as many as 10 research projects would receive funding. 10 “There were so many good proposals that we ended up selecting 12,” said Kim, whose own research into the effects of mine waste is known nationally and internationally. “The students’ presentations were very impressive.” Those chosen received a $3,000 stipend and a chance to work one-on-one with a faculty mentor. The 10-week program culminated with a campus symposium, at which each student outlined his or her project and presented findings. The breadth of the research touched just about every academic discipline, from music theory to computational science, anthropology to criminal justice, biochemistry to educational studies. In addition to their individual inquiries, the students met weekly as a group with Professor Kim to learn about research processes, hear guest speakers and hone their communication skills.



“There’s nothing like summer to perform research,” said William Wright, an associate professor of biological sciences who mentored Courtney James ’13 during her project examining the effects of global warming. “I do research during the summer because there’s extra time and because I love it. Likewise, students tend to be much more engaged during a time when they don’t have a lot of other classes and commitments making demands on their time.” James developed her own assay to explore how hermit crabs react to the rising temperature of intertidal waters. Her lab experiments mimicked the midday spikes that are expected to occur more often and more intensely as the Earth continues to warm. Meanwhile, Adam Borecki ’12, a music composition and guitar 5 performance major, 4 worked to develop a practical resource for 8 students seeking insights on advanced music theory. The result is a website — www.advanced — that 9 features interactive drills and other tools to either learn from scratch or link with traditional lessons. Then there’s Christina 12 Dietz ’14, a philosophy major who researched 11 the role of emotions in forming beliefs, seeking understanding about specific types of reasoning. At the same time, Casey Coleman ’15, a physics/computational science major, sought a connection between discrete and continuous dynamic systems using coalgebra, a new concept in mathematics. The 10-week summer research period is long finished, of course, but for many participants the exploration continues — which is just as Professor Kim envisioned it. The initial SURF session was designed to inspire the researchers into a future full of possibility. Some of the 12 came to the program without any previous research experience, while others looked to take their skill set to a new level. “They’re all researchers now,” Kim said. “And we’re all excited to see what comes next.”

1. Courtney James ‘13, 2. Casey Coleman ‘15, 3. Adam Borecki ‘12, 4. Julie Russo ‘14, 5. Daniel Howard ‘13, 6. Jennifer Schumacher ‘13, 7. Malia Horch ‘15, 8. Azriel Dror ‘13, 9. Eileen Regullano ‘13, 10. Cate Browning ‘13, 11. Krish Rangarajan ‘14, 12. Christina Dietz ‘14 Photos by Max Kosydar ’13



Chapman Magazine Winter 2012