St. Olaf News

 

McNair program provides support for summer research

Students conducting research this summer as part of the St. Olaf McNair Scholars Program include (front row, from left) Zoua Xiong, Gabriella Coll, (second row, from left) Amanda Moua, Erick Marigi, Associate Professor of Education and McNair Research Coordinator Heather Campbell '90, (third row, from left) Britt Letcher, Chiamaka Isiguzo, Lansa Dawano, Guttu Maskalo, (fourth row, from left) Zoey Slater, McNair Scholars Program Director Janis Johnson, and McNair Scholars Program Assistant Director Melissa Hinderscheit '04.

Students conducting research this summer as part of the St. Olaf McNair Scholars Program include (front row, from left) Zoua Xiong ’14, Gabriella Coll ’14, (second row, from left) Amanda Moua ’14, Erick Marigi ’14, Associate Professor of Education and McNair Research Coordinator Heather Campbell ’90, (third row, from left) Britt Letcher ’14, Chiamaka Isiguzo ’14, Lansa Dawano ’14, Guttu Maskalo ’14, (fourth row, from left) Zoey Slater ’14, McNair Scholars Program Director Janis Johnson, and McNair Scholars Program Assistant Director Melissa Hinderscheit ’04. Not pictured are Melissa Songpitak ’14 and Susan Vang ’14.

This summer 11 St. Olaf College students are conducting on-campus research as part of the TRiO McNair Scholars Program.

Funded by the U.S. Department of Education and sponsored by St. Olaf College, the McNair Scholars Program provides support for underrepresented or low-income, first-generation students who have an interest in attending graduate school.

“One of the reasons that the TRiO McNair program is so important is because — generally speaking — first-generation students and students from diverse backgrounds are underrepresented in graduate school programs,” says Janis Johnson, director of the St. Olaf McNair program.

The McNair Scholars Program encourages participants to apply for a summer internship after their sophomore year and offers summer research opportunities for students after their junior year. Program participants also attend a one-credit research writing class taught by St. Olaf Associate Professor of Education and McNair Research Coordinator Heather Campbell ‘90.

“This program gives these students hands-on research experience or internship experience that can really prepare them for graduate school,” says St. Olaf McNair Scholars Program Assistant Director Melissa Hinderscheit ’04. The research opportunities also enable students to develop a strong mentor-mentee relationship with a faculty member.

Nearly two-thirds of students participating in the McNair Scholars Program have gone on to enroll in graduate school.

The McNairs scholars and their summer projects:

Gabriella Coll ‘14 is working with Associate Professor of Art Matt Rohn to curate an exhibition of Native American identity discovered through artistic practices and elements of culture for the St. Olaf community.

Lansa Dawano ‘14 is working with Professor of Biology Anne Walter and two other CURI students to reorganize the curriculum for the Student Support Services Summer Bridge program, which assists first-generation, low-income first-year students transition into college. The team aims to develop laboratory experiments for students and procedures and lab manuals for the teaching assistants.

Chiamaka Isiguzo ‘14  is working with Assistant Professor of Physics James Demas and another CURI student to look at how photoreceptor cells — cells in your eyes that help convert light into signals to stimulate biological processes — are responsible for light-dependent, non-visual behaviors such as pupil constriction.

Britt Letcher ‘14 is working with Assistant Professor of Sociology Ted Thornhill on a correspondence study to examine the impact that Spanish-English bilingualism and race have on callback rates for job interviews

Erick Marigi ‘14 and Guttu Maskalo ‘14 are working with Associate Professor of Biology Kevin Crisp and two other students to develop a wireless implantable device that could be used in items such as pacemakers.

Amanda Moua ‘14  is working with Assistant Professor of Social Work and Family Studies Devyani Chandran to write a policy paper that analyzes the impact of President Obama’s national HIV/AIDS strategy on the lives of black men who have sex with men at risk of HIV/AIDS.

Zoey Slater ‘14  is working with Professor of History Jim Farrell and two other CURI students to evaluate the SustainAbilities program, develop new programs such as the Green Dorm and the Environmental Conversations, and create a marketing plan that better communicates SustainAbilities and its projects. The Green Dorm is an entire dormitory dedicated to environmentally friendly living.

Melissa Songpitak ‘14 has a summer research internship at the University of Minnesota Mesce Lab. She will be investigating the motor circuits of leeches after “surgeries” and which types of “physical therapy” sessions work best.

Susan Vang ‘14 has a summer internship off campus at Digi-Key Corporation as a purchasing operations analyst. She will spend the 12 weeks exploring three different departments, job shadowing, and attending informational interviews.

Zoua Xiong ‘14 is working with Assistant Professor of Psychology Jeremy Loebach to develop training programs for new cochlear implant users. Since the new cochlear implants only stimulate sound, Xiong and Loebach are working to establish a methodology that would ease the transition to its usage.