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Research reigns for these students in summer


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Summer research 2012 students and faculty. (Christen Gowan/Communications)Shanice Wilson '15 conducts her research on coffee beans. (Camille Harris '15/Union College Instagram)
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For Andrew Griffin ’13, discussions in history class on urban renewal sparked his interest to learn more about Union’s hometown.

This summer, Griffin is working on a project that contrasts the city in the 1940’s era with Schenectady today. 

“Some of the interesting things I’ve noticed is how the projected population growth of the city has affected each era’s stance towards public policy,” the history major from Arlington, Mass. said. He is working with Andrew Morris, associate professor of history, and his project will later become his senior thesis. 

Griffin is among the 130 students from an array of disciplines participating in the summer research program. Rising sophomores, juniors and seniors are sponsored by a faculty member for independent projects, which are financed by the College or through private funding sources, such as the National Science Foundation, KECK Geology Consortium, the Mellon Foundation, NASA New York Space Grants and others. 

“We have our largest contingent of students doing research this summer,” said Kristin Fox, director of the College’s Undergraduate Research office. “They have an excellent opportunity to work closely with faculty on a varied group of exciting projects.” 

Shanice Wilson ’15, a mechanical engineering major, wanted to investigate the physical, chemical and structural changes to coffee beans when they’re put into different forms in experiments. Wilson, from Pompano Beach, Fla., said her research would shed some light on her topic, but also teach her more about the scientific method. 

“In order to make discoveries in science and technology, one must conduct experiments and spend a considerable amount of time researching,” she said. 

Carla Duval ’14 is spending her summer getting hands-on experience with a professional theater company. Duval, from Dalton, Mass., is one of several Union students working with the Saratoga Shakespeare Company in Saratoga Springs. The company is performing “Twelfth Night” in the city’s main park, and Duval is excited to be working with the costumes and performing a small acting role. 

“I just want to know what the real acting experience is like,” she said. “I also want to share it with others.” 

Duval is keeping a blog throughout her experiences, and interviewing various people in the Shakespeare theater group. Patricia Culbert, senior artist-in-residence in the Theater and Dance Department, oversees the students working for the Saratoga Shakespeare Company. 

Samantha Tyler ’14 is part of a team alongside Brian Cohen, a lecturer in the Biology Department, to research how certain receptors function in reproductive endocrinology. Tyler, a neuroscience major, is introducing DNA mutations through chain reactions in order to produce new segments. 

“This summer’s work has introduced me to a much more detailed understanding of the system we’re studying,” Tyler said. “I’ve become accustomed to having to think critically about my results in order to determine what experiments to run next, whether I need to troubleshoot or progress to the next step.” 

For a full list of summer projects, click here.