Some 55 North Central College students with mentoring oversight by 23 faculty members met for eight weeks this summer on campus to conduct new and ongoing research and scholarship. Their work spanned all academic divisions, ranging from biology to history and Chinese to psychology and more. Summer undergraduate research grants by the College supported stipends for nearly half the students.
North Central’s annual Summer Undergraduate Research Colloquium (SURC) concluded on Aug. 7 with poster presentations by many of the student researchers who completed their summer work. Nancy Peterson, professor of chemistry and director of undergraduate research, says the difference between when these students start and finish is huge.
“It’s about their independence,” Peterson says, “deciding what’s the next step, what controls need to be run, finding literature that pertains to their work. That independence and decision-making shows up in their classes, too. They understand, make the connections, are more engaged.”
Biology majors Alexis Gramera ’15 and Jessica Krempp ’16 worked with Greg Ruthig, assistant professor of biology, to study amphibian pathogens in Naperville using a quantitative PCR instrument.
“I learned and experienced things I never could have in the structure of classrooms and labs, from learning technique, programs and machines, and defining the type of project I wanted to do,” says Gramera. “I connected with so many different people about my research and about planning my graduate work, internships and career. I discovered conservation biology interests me and Professor Ruthig is leading that kind of work here.”
Adeilne Boettcher ’15, also a biology major, gained similar perspective. When she started her first SURC experience last summer, Boettcher didn’t know which field interested her. But after doing research on molecular biology with Steve Johnston, professor of biology, she found her focus. “Just one little thing or discovery can have such an impact, and that excites me,” she says.
This summer was Assistant Professor of Psychology Maggie Gill’s first SURC experience as a new faculty member. She worked with four students on a study of cognitive issues using lab rats. “Gaining hands-on research experience like my students did is critical to getting their foot in the door for graduate schools and careers,” she says.
Maddie Cromwell ’17, biology major, and Caitlin John ’15, biochemistry major, say Gill gave them freedom to work independently, which meant taking ownership of the project, understanding its scope and thinking through what they wanted to do.
“I grew in confidence and knowledge so I’m prepared to do the independent study required for my major,” says John.
“I gained self-discipline as a researcher. I know I can do whatever I have to do,” says Cromwell.
Additional students who participated in the 2014 SURC include Eva Allen, Joey Andalina, Briseidy Andrade, Mirachelle Anselmo, Kayla Antle, Chris Boffa, Shana Border, Brett Breshears, Kailie Briza, Stephen Brysch, Timothe Byukusenge, Alex Cairo, Bryan Cardwell, Christina Carstens, Alicia Casacchia, Katherine Dickson, Holly Dryden, Tim Egner, Katherine Fermin, Thomas Halverson, Emily Kendall, Emilia Knapczynski, Zachary Laidley, Daisy Lauriano, Matt Maladra, Cory McCleave, JoEllen Mueller, Brad Munson, Alexa Nelson, Heidi Nelson, Jacob Nesemeier, William Noland, Robert Oberschneider, Jessica Panzica, Sydney Paquin, Desury Paredes, Alyssa Pezan, Jacquelyn Pfaff, Marissa Post, Ethan Rath, Anthony Schullo, Antonio Sobevski, Kyle Swanson, Kori Sye, Nick Tarvin, Michaela Vilim and Melissa Widel.