Undergraduate scholars showcase summer projects

by Stacy Jo

For a group of University and out-state undergraduates, spending the summer researching with professors provided a unique opportunity to prepare for graduate school and connect with faculty.
As a culmination of their efforts, 24 college students from the McNair Scholars program presented the results of their 10-week summer research projects at an open house in the Frederick R. Weisman Art Museum on Tuesday.
With topics ranging from music’s effects on study habits to heart transplant survival rates in infants, students gathered to inform faculty mentors and other student researchers of their findings.
Named for space shuttle Challenger astronaut Ronald E. McNair, the McNair Scholars program prepares low-income, first-generation college students for graduate school.
Students worked with University faculty mentors who tailored their research to the undergraduate researcher’s preparation and experience. Faculty mentors worked with the students on a volunteer basis.
Ricardo Hamilton, senior at the University of Minnesota — Morris, worked with University faculty members researching a NASA project that examines the lack of heat conduction to astronauts’ fingers. He said he had planned to go to medical school after graduation, but his experience with the McNair Scholars program persuaded him to do research for a few years first.
Drs. Victor Koscheyev and Gloria Leon worked with Hamilton as faculty mentors. Koscheyev, a University kinesiology department member, said despite the fact that Hamilton was new to the research, he was very professional to work with.
Leon said the research process helps students crystallize their career interests.
“It’s so rewarding as faculty to see students grow, to see how much more knowledgeable and sophisticated students get,” said Leon, a psychology department faculty member.
University senior Shannon Ament-YellowBird researched the prevalence of asthma among American Indian children. She discovered that the American Indian community has very minimal access to information on a problem that affects them profoundly.
As an American Indian, Ament-YellowBird said the research taught her more about her own community. She said the work she did with her mentor made the experience a valuable one.
“She made me feel like I was doing something important that needed to be done,” Ament-YellowBird said.
Bruce Schelske, director of Student Support Services for General College, called the program a summer trial in which students are able to find out whether graduate school is appropriate for them.
“You have to give them a vision of whether or not it’s worth their investment,” Schelske said.