St. Olaf College | News

St. Olaf summer research and inquiry gets underway

At the Collaborative Undergraduate Research and Inquiry (CURI) Opening Symposium, St. Olaf students (from left) George Yang ’25, Hannah Richey ’24, Gleb Kozienko ’24, and Jessica Schmidt ’26 describe the project they will work on this summer alongside Assistant Professor of Mathematics Sara Clifton. Their work is also supported by the St. Olaf TRIO McNair Scholars Program, a graduate school preparatory program.

In labs and classrooms across the St. Olaf College campus this summer, scores of talented students are working alongside faculty members on significant research and creative projects in a wide array of fields.

It’s all part of the St. Olaf Collaborative Undergraduate Research and Inquiry (CURI) program, which enables students from all academic disciplines to gain hands-on experience and close guidance from faculty and staff mentors. This summer 90 St. Olaf students are working alongside 30 faculty and staff members on 34 different CURI projects. Ten of these students are conducting their work as part of the St. Olaf TRIO McNair Scholars graduate school preparatory program. 

Quang Vu ’25 (at the podium) and Rahaf Qarabsa ’26 explain how they will examine the behavioral and neural auditory tuning of flies in Hawaii and Florida as part of a research team that also includes Blanca Torres ’25 and will be guided by Assistant Professor of Biology Norman Lee. Their work this summer is part of the CURI and McNair Scholar programs.

At the CURI Opening Symposium June 12, students provided an overview of their projects and the questions they plan to investigate this summer. Their work includes efforts to understand a wide range of issues, from studying water quality in local watersheds to using data science to measure glacier loss to curating a digital archive for the Kierkegaard Library at St. Olaf, the largest collection of writings by and about Kierkegaard outside of Denmark. The CURI site includes a public directory of all of this year’s projects.

Jan-Rose Davis ’25 outlines how she will examine teaching and learning about critical race theory at liberal arts colleges in the Midwest alongside Associate Professor of Sociology and Anthropology Ibtesam Al-Atiyat as part of a CURI and McNair Scholar research project.

Professor of Mathematics Jill Dietz, the new director of the CURI program, says these opportunities will benefit students academically and help prepare them for their future career paths.

“I hope that they learn to practice their profession, whether it’s investigating a reaction in a lab or learning about German refugee stories from the 1940s. Students and faculty have the opportunity to work closely together in an intensive environment that should be fulfilling to all of them,” she says.

Dietz speaks from a wealth of experience. Over the course of her career, she has supervised nearly 50 research projects involving nearly 100 students. “Supervising student research projects has been a main focus of my career, so CURI is a good fit for me,” she says. “I’ve worked under lots of different models and hope to introduce new ways of thinking and working under the CURI umbrella.”