September 25, 2019

research SURI west chester universitySummer Research Builds Undergrads’ Skills and Resumes

WCU’s Summer Undergraduate Research Institute (SURI), now in its fourth year, welcomed 22 students who proposed concepts, projects, and ideas they wanted to research under the tutelage of faculty mentors. This year, 34 students from a broad array of majors applied for SURI, which took place from May 29 through June 28. Several examples of their research:

Jesse Krensel, working with kinesiology faculty Meghan Ramick, investigated whether beetroot juice supplement could improve exercise capacity in local men and women of different fitness levels: healthy athletes, recreationally active adults, and sedentary adults.

Kristen Loughlin studied how various activities that included learning and memorizing music and lyrics in different ways might foster early literacy in preschool-age children. Her mentor is Michael Bell, early and middle grades education.

Connor McCausland worked with Monica Joshi, forensic chemistry, aiming to develop a method to accurately analyze organic components within gunshot residue (GSR). Law enforcement professionals currently rely primarily on analysis of inorganic GSR – a quick process – when investigating alleged crimes.

Projects with local impact included three Geography and Planning students’ investigations into Chester County and West Chester Borough land use, infrastructure, and storm water management. For example, mentored by Dorothy Ives Dewey, Emily Reilly created a database of Chester County municipal storm water management plans for all 73 municipalities and is linking it to a web-based GIS application that will allow county and local planners to share information.

Other students were guided by the 21 faculty mentors to explore issues, hypotheses, and questions in sports medicine, computer science, political science, physics, psychology, communication studies, music, and English.

Most of the students will present their results at one of the Research and Creative Activity Days organized by the Office of Research and Sponsored Programs (ORSP), which oversees SURI. This semester’s research day will be held on Thursday, Oct. 31; another will be held in the spring.

SURI encourages undergraduates to pursue research opportunities in a focused setting while earning a stipend working full-time with faculty. Participants typically visit regional industry and private institutions related to their research and meet with the entire group for invited speakers and other events, developing camaraderie as a community of scholars.

Nicole Bennett, WCU’s Vice Provost for Research and Creative Activity and director of the ORSP, notes that SURI enhances students’ critical and analytical thinking skills in preparation for graduate-level studies and/or careers. In fact, this year’s SURI students completed surveys before and after the program and indicated an increased desire to attend graduate school, stating they are more likely to pursue graduate school immediately after earning their undergraduate degree.

Bennett herself completed a summer institute of a different kind: the 2019 HERS (Higher Education Resource Services) Institute at Bryn Mawr College. This women’s leadership development program requires participants to develop a leadership project. Bennett’s will focus on “the establishment of an internal grant competition to develop Communities of Practice. This project will launch interdisciplinary research partnerships among WCU faculty members, community organizations, and regional industry.”

Upcoming from ORSP: The first faculty forum of the 2019-2020 academic year will be held Thursday, Oct. 3, in Philips Lower Level Conference Room, 11:30 a.m. to 1 p.m. This venue encourages scholarly conversations among faculty who might not normally meet each other in the interest of igniting collaborations.

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