USU Scholars Experience the Thrills, Bumps and Bruises of Research
Thursday, Jul. 21, 2011
Physics student Charlie Sim is among eight College of Science students pursing Willard L.. Eccles Undergraduate Research Fellowships this summer at USU.
Eccles Undergrad Research Fellow Amy Crandall, a biochemistry major, is exploring the structure of proteins in faculty mentor Sean Johnson's lab.
While their peers have been out catching rays, hanging ten and slinging hash this summer, a group of Utah State University students have been exploring the electrodynamics of space weather, decoding how plants ‘think,’ and trying to decipher the obesity epidemic.
“It’s frustrating, rewarding, stressful and exciting,” says Charlie Sim, an undergraduate physics major who’s exploring the properties of a space material that flew on the outside of the International Space Station. “I have learned a lot and am very glad to have the opportunity to participate in this research.”
Sim and fellow College of Science students Bailee Binks, Amy Crandall, Sean Hunt, Gavin Johnson, Linsey Johnson, Mark Noble and Brian Tracy are recipients of the college’s 2011 Willard L. Eccles Undergraduate Research Fellowships. Each student received a $4,000 fellowship to conduct 10 weeks of summer research with a faculty mentor. The fellows recently presented their research at a campus gathering.
“These students are among the university’s top scholars and they worked very hard to earn this opportunity,” says professor Lisa Berreau, associate dean in the College of Science and coordinator of the fellowship program. “It’s an intensive program, but these students have demonstrated that they’re more than up to the task.”
Days start early for the student researchers, who put hours into their projects and often work overtime.
For physics major Linsey Johnson, a 2011 Goldwater Scholar, the fellowship has meant travel to the Laser Interferometer Gravitational-wave Observatory (LIGO) Hanford Observatory in southeastern Washington.
“I’ve loved my research thus far,” says Johnson, who, with faculty mentor Shane Larson, is developing a planetarium show about gravitational waves. “I’m not only expanding my knowledge of astronomy and astrophysics, I’m improving my writing and teaching skills and learning how to animate and make movies.”
Bailee Binks, a biology major who’s pursuing obesity research with faculty mentor Tim Gilbertson, says working in lab has allowed her to learn in a much different way that what she’s experienced in the classroom.
“In my experience, research has been all about hitting a wall, problem solving and then reaching a breakthrough,” she says. “When I hit those breakthroughs, it is one of the greatest feelings in the world.”
But getting to those breakthroughs takes persistence, the Eccles Fellows say.
“It’s frustrating when you feel like you know what is going on but can’t prove it,” says physics major Brian Tracy, also a 2011 Goldwater Scholar, who is pursuing a space weather project with faculty mentor Bela Fejer. “But I’m learning that the skills and experience you gain may be far more important than the results you get and whether or not the research turns out.”
Binks says she’s grateful for the fellowship experience and the opportunity to collaborate with other undergraduates, grad students and seasoned scientists.
“It’s teaching me to discuss science — a very useful skill,” she says. “I want to thank the Willard L. Eccles Charitable Foundation for providing this opportunity.”
Contact: Lisa Berreau, 435-797-3509, firstname.lastname@example.org
Writer: Mary-Ann Muffoletto, 435-797-3517, email@example.com