Summer Research: Groundwork for a Strong Future
For a number of Hilltoppers, curiosity sparked during the semester has fueled them to learn more by doing advanced research this summer. Hear from three students in different fields about how and why they’ve chosen to spend their summer immersed in research.
Last summer, I conducted research at St. Edward’s; this summer, I’m part of a software engineering research program at Carnegie-Mellon University. I am participating in the project “Immutability after Initialization,” building a plug-in for Eclipse, which is a universal development toolset. Then I will conduct a lab study testing this plugin’s application on professionals in the software engineering field. I intend to write a paper at the end of my research experience.
This relates in so many ways to what I want to do after I graduate. If I decide to go into the industry and work as a software engineer, I will have a specialized set of skills and experience. If I pursue a PhD, I’ll have gained some of the best experience in computer science research an undergraduate could receive. Summer research has been the best way to add to my degree and résumé while remaining in a very supportive and nurturing academic setting.
Since my freshman year, I’ve conducted research at St. Edward’s and at Stanford’s SLAC National Accelerator Laboratory. This semester, I worked with Dr. Tricia Shepherd conducting computational chemistry research, which is extremely different from my previous hands-on laboratory work. It has been a great learning experience and further broadened the possible research I can pursue in graduate school and my career.
Thanks to my experience at SLAC, I knew I wanted to spend this summer further developing my interest in sustainable materials research. I applied and was accepted into a NASA internship program at the Marshall Space Flight Center in Huntsville, Alabama. I’ve been conducting research on a unique class of heterogeneous catalysts for life support and the recycling of materials for long-term space missions. These experiences have exposed me to a breadth of chemistry research in this field, helping me focus and develop my own research ambitions for the future. Eventually, I hope to pioneer new sources of renewable energy and develop materials for a more sustainable world.
I’ve been lucky enough to wind up with an excellent mentor, Assistant Professor of Global Studies Rodrigo Nunes, and an entire support team of faculty and staff members who give me guidance while also letting me discover my own area of interest. Right now I’m researching immigration into Mexico. Dr. Nunez has challenged me to examine my research from a theoretical perspective, either institutionally or economically. He’s also assigned me to read PhD-level papers. Since I intend to go to graduate school, I’ll need to get used to reading and thinking at this level, and I’m glad I have the opportunity to do that now, as an undergraduate, while I have support.
I love this subject, and I want to help people know more about it. The research I’m working on this summer will lay the groundwork for what I hope to do after I graduate: applying for a Fulbright Research Grant to Brazil or Argentina, then coming back to the United States for graduate school.
Pina is a McNair scholar. Her research was funded by the McNair Scholars Program Department of Education grant.
Read more stories from Hilltopper Insights.