Summer in Rochester means research

Last summer, Hannah Simons and Noah Bertram worked one-on-one with faculty members at the University of Rochester.

Simons ’20, who is majoring in computer science and gender studies, looked at how bills affecting women are edited during the legislative process in order to become laws. Bertram ’21, a math, physics, and economics major, did independent study in math.

Kearns Center Symposium

To learn more about what this summer’s undergraduate research at the University of Rochester, attend the Kearns Center’s annual Research Symposium from 8:30 a.m. to 6 p.m. Monday, July 29 in the Feldman Ballroom.

McNair Scholars, Xerox Engineering Research Fellows, Kearns Summer Research Scholars, and students participating in three REU (Research Experience for Undergraduates) programs will share their findings from their lab work this summer.

Oral presentations are from 9:10 a.m. to 1 p.m., lightning talks from 1:45 p.m. to 3 p.m., and a poster session from 3:15 to 5:15 p.m. An awards and recognition ceremony will be from 5:15 to 6 p.m.

This summer, Simons and Bertram are part a veritable posse of eager young researchers working with Chen Ding, professor of computer science. The team is working to understand the bottleneck that occurs when data must be moved from a computer’s memory to its processor.

“It’s really helpful when I’m stuck on something to be able to ask other people, and to be able to ask for more perspective,” Simons says.

“We will shoot ideas at each other and correct each other’s mistakes. Or sometimes I’ll just ask what someone is working on independently,” Bertram says. “I like it. It’s very social.”

Their experiences illustrate two salient features of the University of Rochester: the open curriculum that gives undergraduate students the freedom to explore multiple disciplines; and the varied opportunities the University offers for students to gain hands-on research experience.

And there’s no better time to do research than during the summer.

“You can devote full time to the research because you don’t have classes and everything else competing for your time,” says Marc Porosoff, an assistant professor of chemical engineering who has three undergraduates working in his lab this summer. “Undergraduates have a much busier course schedule than graduate students, but over the summer everybody’s on the same playing field. Everyone has the same amount of time to devote to research.”

And it definitely helps undergraduates to have research experience on their resumes, Porosoff says. “Whether you are going to graduate school or into industry, having an undergraduate research experience elevates you to another level. A student may not have the highest GPA, but if that student has worked in a lab for an extended amount of time on a single project, and has something to show for it, it elevates that student’s application immediately to the top tier.”

If the research leads to a published paper, with the student listed as co-author, all the better.


IN PICTURES: Summer is research season

(University of Rochester photos / J. Adam Fenster)

student and professor sit at an office table, the wall behind the filled with bookshelves

Victoria Dey ’21 is an international relations major from Fairport, New York. This summer, the McNair Scholar is working with political science professor Lynda Powell researching how quickly political parties come to an agreement on an issue, and what factors affect that process. Dey is analyzing years in which deep divisions existed between parties.

student looks up from a microscope

University of Florida senior Daniel Shahar is building an interferometer in chemistry professor Todd Krauss’s lab, with help from University of Rochester graduate student Nicole Cogan. The device will test some fundamental aspects of light from colloidal quantum dot single photon emitters. Shahar is part of the Research Experiences for Undergraduates, or REU, program in photonics and plans to apply to the University for graduate school.

two photos, one on top of the other, of two women researchers in the lab, wearing lab coats and working with samples

Alyssa Garvin ’21 is part of the REU program “Advancing Human Health: Nano to Network.” The biomedical engineering major from Greenfield, Massachusetts is working in professor Diane Dalecki’s lab on a project that uses ultrasound standing wave fields to non-invasively pattern cells or particles in hydrogels. The project contributes to advancing a novel ultrasound-based technology for fabricating vascularized engineered tissue constructs.

Kelly Lannigan is a senior at Bucknell University majoring in biomedical engineering. She’s also part of the “Advancing Human Health: Nano to Network” REU program, working with professors Diane Dalecki and Denise Hocking on a project to test the ability of a newly formed antibody to detect the extracellular matrix form of fibronectin and recombinant fibronectin fragments. The results of her project will contribute to the broader goal of identifying changes in fibronectin organization in chronic skin wounds.

two researchers in safety goggles in the lab looking at samplesJoanna Chavez ’21 is a chemical engineering student working this summer with Michael Klaczko, a first-year PhD student in chemistry, to develop and refine a potassium electrode sensor in the lab of James McGrath, professor of biomedical engineering. The electrocardiogram readings from someone suffering from the rapid heartbeat related to heart failure and cardiac arrest are remarkably similar to someone suffering hyperkalemia, or high potassium levels. So, it is critical that paramedics have a way to quickly assess what is actually causing such readings when they encounter them on calls. A single drop of blood applied to a test strip would produce a reading within a minute, using ultrathin membranes developed by McGrath’s lab to filter potassium ions from the blood. This is the first research experience for Chavez, a first-generation college student and Kearns Center Scholar from Matamoros Tamaulipas, Mexico.

two researchers pose for a photo in the lab

Optics student Jeanne Lyse Mugeni ’21 is a Xerox Research Fellow working this summer in the lab of Kenneth Marshall, senior research engineer at the Laboratory for Laser Energetics. Mugeni is using polymer cholesteric liquid crystal, or PCLC, flakes suspended in silicone oils of various viscosities, as a way to visualize the velocity gradients that occur when an air stream is directed across a metal surface. The suspended PCLC flakes reflect light at different wavelengths depending on the angle at which they are illuminated and viewed. This combination could be used to visualize airflow patterns over a surface, such as the wing of an aircraft. “The thing I’m learning most is, there’s this independence that comes with doing research,” she says. “You have to be your own teacher at times, and I like that aspect of it.”

a quartet of photos, each showing a single researcher in googles and lab coat at work in the lab

Three undergraduate students are working with Marc Porosoff, assistant professor of chemical engineering, this summer on various projects related to converting the carbon dioxide in the atmosphere into useful products. Aime Laurent Twizerimana ’20 (top left) from the Nyahibu District of Rwanda, and Eve Marealle ’21 (bottom right) from Dar es Salaam, Tanzania, Xerox Engineering Research Fellows; Madeline Vonglis ’20 (bottom left) from Scottsville, New York, is an Eisenberg Summer Intern. Porosoff (top right), who broke his hip at the start of summer in a scooter accident, has taken up residence in an extended care suite in College Town while he recovers, so it will be easier for the students to meet with him. All three students say they are gaining invaluable experience in Porosoff’s lab, and plan to go on to graduate school to further study conversion of carbon dioxide.


It takes a team

three photos of students working on laptops or showing math equations on a white board

From top, Hannah Simons ’20, Noah Bertram ’21, and Michael Chavrimootoo ’20 are among eight undergraduates working this summer in the research group of Chen Ding, professor of computer science.

The team is working on optimizing the use of caches to temporarily hold small amounts of data from a computer’s memory. This can ease the bottleneck that occurs when data must be located and then transferred from memory to a processor.

“It’s a challenging problem that has elements of math, algorithm, implementation, experimentation, program design and computer architecture,” says Ding. So, there are plenty of opportunities for students to find specific parts of the project that interest them.

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