Igniting Innovation: Summers at St. Lawrence | St. Lawrence University

Igniting Innovation: Summers at St. Lawrence

Our students’ curiosity fuels confident, purposeful exploration. This summer, more than 100 St. Lawrence students received funding so that they could craft research projects and pursue internships that piqued their interests, helped them uncover answers to some of their most pressing questions, and honed the skills they’ll need for future academic adventures and career opportunities.  

Charles Tirrell ’21

Major: Physics 
Research Project: “Testing Fruit Ripeness with a Portable, Affordable Spectrometer”
Faculty Mentor: Munir Pirbhai, Assistant Professor of Physics
Funding: Lorna A. Ness Fellows Fund and Daniel F. '65 & Ann F. Sullivan Endowment for Student/Faculty Research

“My Modern Physics lab with Dr. Munir Pirbhai taught me a lot about spectroscopy, spectrometers, and their applications, how they work, and how to carry out experiments in an effective manner. Spectrometers are expensive devices but could be made for a very low cost, and I wanted to see if we could create an inexpensive spectrometer that can be used for the same applications as an expensive one. After taking computer science courses with Dr. Lisa Torrey and Dr. Choong-Soo Lee, I had a strong background in a few programming languages which was very helpful. I was able to build the device in about four weeks, leaving me plenty of time to test fruit ripeness and spice adulterations with it. I will continue to research this topic by finding more applications for the spectrometer and improving its different features. Right now, the device can be only be controlled from a computer but will soon be controllable via smartphone.”

Saint Lawrence University student McKael Barnes paints as part of a research project.

Mac Barnes ’20

Majors: Art & Art History, Business in the Liberal Arts
Research Project: “How Can Strangers Appear Familiar with the Mere Stroke of a Paintbrush?”
Funding: Tanner Fellowship Summer Research

“I have always been extremely fascinated with the intersection of how people see themselves in comparison to the perception that others have of them. I wondered if art could be the intersection that combines these two different perceptions into one accurate and familiar portrayal. To test my musings, I decided that by painting a portrait of perfect strangers, I could convey not only their physical appearance but also their perceptions of themselves and my own interpretations upon meeting them for the first time. Since I wanted to meet strangers from everywhere instead of a single demographic, I applied for the Tanner Fellowship, which allowed me to travel throughout the summer to meet people from all different parts of the world.”

Carla Martinez Perez ’21

Major: Neuroscience
Research Project: “Decreasing Impulsivity in Rats: Effects of Acute Delay Exposure”
Faculty Mentor: Associate Professor of Psychology Adam Fox
Funding: McNair Scholars Summer Research

“I have had an interest in research since I was in high school, but during my first year at St. Lawrence, I made it noticeable during my Gen Bio labs when we had to do a research project. Claire Burkum was one of the first professors that pushed me into applying to the McNair Program because I would be able to research with a faculty mentor. I followed up with Dr. Fox and got to participate in his lab during the Spring 2019 semester. I was interested in what the lab was working on, so I decided to get in on a project myself during the summer. Everything we did this summer, I learned during Research Methods of Psychology with Dr. Oakes so it was an advantage."

Marcelo Ortiz ’21

Major: Psychology
Research Project: “Decreasing Impulsivity in Rats: Effects of Acute Delay Exposure”
Faculty Mentor: Associate Professor of Psychology Adam Fox
Funding: McNair Scholars Summer Research

“Individuals who are more impulsive tend to struggle with a whole host of health-related problems throughout their life. Past studies show that such individuals are more likely than their peers to engage in risky sex, pathological gambling, substance abuse, and overeating. It is in our best interest to know how to reduce impulsivity to reduce or eliminate these maladaptive behaviors. Clinical practices that seek to help people with such problems would benefit greatly from having a method of reducing impulsivity that they could implement into their practice that is scientifically proven to be effective.”

Dana Congelosi ’20

Majors: Anthropology, History
Internship: Frederic Remington Art Museum
Funding: SLU Public Interest Corps (SLU PIC)

“Over the course of my SLU PIC summer internship at the Frederic Remington Art Museum, I digitized a number of original drawings and sketches in the Museum’s collection, updated records, and added search terms to records so that the Museum’s collection can be more easily searched and accessed by researchers and visiting artists. Remington played a big part in shaping the way we conceptualize the American West, which is why it’s so important that FRAM’s vast collection of his artworks be made more widely accessible through digitization. Though many of Remington’s paintings and drawings have previously been digitized, the vast majority of his sketches (there are thousands) have not. Many of these sketches had detailed notes about the sketches’ subjects which could be useful to historians. Digitization may not seem like the most exciting job (it mostly involves a lot of scanning and light editing in Photoshop), but knowing that the work I started this summer could ultimately result in making both Remington’s artwork and his knowledge more accessible to researchers is incredibly rewarding.”

Haojing Jia ’20

Majors: Math, Statistics
Research Project: “Creating a Statistical Model for Evaluating the Concentration of Smog in China”
Faculty Mentor: Ivan Ramler, Associate Professor of Statistics
Funding: Daniel F. '65 & Ann F. Sullivan Endowment for Student/Faculty Research

“The air pollution is the most serious problem in China, and people from other countries only know that environmental problem, but don’t understand its trend and compositions. I wanted to find the trend of smog and using a statistical model to see the trend and correlation. What I enjoyed the most this summer were the daily meetings with Professor Ramler as we explored the new methods for graphing different kinds of data, which I never learned in class, and dealing with the questions I had. I really enjoyed the weekly presentations held by the Math, Statistics and Computer Science department because it gave me a chance to communicate with other fellowship students and faculty, gain their advice, and improve my oral presentation skills.”

A Saint Lawrence University student collaborates with his faculty mentor in the halls of the library.

Ned Hallahan ’21

Major: Philosophy
Research Project: “Contemporary Artist Interviews for O.D.Y’s Adirondack Collection”
Faculty Mentor: Paul Doty, Interim Librarian for Special Collections & University Archives
Funding: Barbara Z. Harper '58 University Fellows Endowment and Daniel F. '65 & Ann F. Sullivan Endowment for Student/Faculty Research

“Last fall, I took part in St. Lawrence’s Adirondack Semester program, and I interned at the Adirondack Explorer for a while. After spending a lot of time living in the Adirondacks and the North Country, I was curious about contemporary art in the region. It seemed to me that it was thriving, especially in communities like Saranac Lake, without getting a ton of attention. I wanted to spend my summer exploring the local art community to further my understanding of the region as a whole, as well as gain an understanding of what sorts of artistic expression are currently being cultivated in the area. What I “uncovered” was a thriving, diverse, artistic community! There is an incredible density of artists in the region doing very different work, in a variety of different mediums in the region. Every person I talked to was passionate both about their art and the communities that they are a part of. I couldn’t have asked for a more articulate and thoughtful group of people to interview and that really shines through in the interviews. Stop into Special Collections and read the interviews I conducted once they are added to the collection.”