Dyson Awards First Summer Research Grants

Students Taylor McHugh, Alejandra Lopez,  and Nayde Crisologo teamed up with Political Science Professors Meghana Nayak  and Christopher Malone

Students Taylor McHugh, Alejandra Lopez, and Nayde Crisologo teamed up with Political Science Professors Meghana Nayak and Christopher Malone

Steven DeChirico ’09 with  Professor Milton Schiffenbauer

John Ponessa ’10, in collaboration with Professor Nigel  Yarlett and others

John Ponessa ’10, in collaboration with Professor Nigel Yarlett and others

Last summer, Dyson undergraduate students had the opportunity to spend ten weeks working side-by-side with faculty mentors to conduct research through Dyson College’s first Student-Faculty Summer Research Initiative grants. The grants took students from Cairo to Cape Town to film documentaries, and into Pace’s biology labs to conduct cutting-edge medical research. Each of the students got first-hand experience and was able to contribute to the body of scholarly work in his or her chosen field. Opportunities for these kinds of research projects are typically reserved for graduate students in most university settings.

“Dyson has been fostering faculty-student collaborations on research, scholarly and creative projects for a long time, primarily by encouraging faculty to engage students in their scholarly work and encouraging students to link up with faculty,” said Dyson Dean Nira Herrmann. “Last year we decided to step up our support by providing a competitive funding program patterned on the Research Experiences for Undergraduates program at the National Science Foundation but extended to all arts and sciences fields in the college. The goal is to provide an immersion experience for students, where they really focus on the joint project in collaboration with a faculty member and are able to make significant progress on the project.”

Comparing the Politics of South Africa and the U.S.

Students Taylor McHugh, Alejandra Lopez, and Nayde Crisologo teamed up with Political Science Professors Meghana Nayak and Christopher Malone for a project on ”The Comparative Racial and Gender Politics of South Africa and the U.S.” They used their grant to travel to South Africa and buy a video camera to conduct interviews with immigrants in Cape Town and Johannesburg dealing with xenophobia.

“In particular, we wanted to continue to study and compare the intersection of race, nationalism, and gender in South Africa and the U.S. Because of the very specific circumstances of ongoing brutal xenophobic attacks against foreigners and immigrants in South Africa the week we arrived, we focused specifically on the politics of immigration and identity,” said Professor Nayak.

They will screen their documentary at Pace later this year.  The documentary comes with a study guide written primarily by the students. It discusses the differences and similarities between the U.S. and South Africa and offers study questions to help contextualize and analyze the film.

Testing Teas as Antimicrobial Agents

For his project, Steven DeChirico ’09, a medical technology major researched “The Effectiveness of Various Teas as Antimicrobial Agents” in collaboration with Professor Milton Schiffenbauer, Department of Biology and Health Sciences. DeChirico has been working in Dr. Schiffenbauer’s research laboratory for more than two years on a comparative study of the antibacterial and antiviral activity of different types of teas, including green and white teas.

“This grant was a great opportunity to continue conducting microbiology research with Dr. Schiffenbauer.  I have worked with him for several semesters, and there is always more to discover when in the laboratory. The more you experiment, the more questions you start asking. To scientists, every question needs answering.  I was happy to be finding some answers in a field that interests me.  This grant enabled me to take basic ideas from past research further with a new area to focus on.  Given the opportunity, I would gladly use the experience from this project to investigate deeper into the unknown,” said DeChirico.

New Ways to Clean Water

Biochemistry major John Ponessa ’10, in collaboration with Professor Nigel Yarlett, Department of Chemistry and Physical Sciences, researched “Evaluation of Novel Compounds Targeting Cryptosporidium parvum Through Water Filtration.” This project determined the effectiveness of various compounds as anti-parasitic agents for use in drinking water purification and identified a compound that effectively kills the parasite and has unique applications for water filtration systems. This work is being prepared for publication.

“In working with Dr. Yarlett as well as others in the laboratory, it allowed me to enhance my way of thinking in the laboratory as well as using science as an application rather than simply being tested based on textbook readings,” said Ponessa. “For the first time I found myself predicting what may happen in an experiment rather than simply waiting for results. I also began to theorize why certain results happen in the experiment to increase understanding in what I was studying. This research opportunity was an amazing experience that helped me grow both as a student and a person.”

The Iraqi Refugee Experience in Egypt

Political science major Korena Johnson ’09 worked with Political Science Professors Joan Katen and Meghana Nayak on her project, “The Iraqi Refugee Experience in Egypt.” Johnson spent the summer in Cairo filming a video documentary interviewing Iraqi refugees and Egyptians, working with the American University in Cairo’s Iraqi Refugee Research Department. She will present her video at the Honors Research Conference during the spring 2009 semester.

Killing Cancer Cells

Students Gabe DeLeon and Margaret Cavino worked alongside Professor Nancy Krucher, Department of Biology and Health Sciences, to study “Activation of Cancer Cell Suicide.” This project examined the role of specific mediators on activation and apoptosis of cancer cells. They presented their research at a major international conference at Cold Springs Harbor, N.Y. in August 2008.

“These projects are important on a number of levels. They provide the faculty with student support for projects in their area of scholarly work. They provide students with a deep understanding of how new knowledge is generated and how creative works are initiated and evolve.  They offer students the opportunity to bond to individual faculty outside of the classroom and in an environment of mutual collaboration on important projects, often leading to publication or others forms of public dissemination appropriate to the field. And the projects themselves contribute importantly to the creation of new knowledge or artistic works,” said Dean Herrmann.

Students interested in applying for a 2009 Dyson Student-Faculty Summer Research Initiative grant should contact Dyson College Associate Dean for Academic Affairs and Research Richard B. Schlesinger at rschlesinger@pace.edu.