MTSU faculty mentor undergraduate students through research experiences
PHOTO Above: Shown in an MTSU Science Building chemistry lab recently, Hannah Michael of Hampton, New Hampshire, a junior at St. Joseph’s College in Standish, Maine, said the NSF REU experience “allowed me to to have opportunities that I might not have at my school.” Students received pointers for resumes and more and were mentored by MTSU faculty during their NSF undergraduate research experience that ended July 29. (MTSU Photo by Randy Weiler)
MURFRESBORO, Tenn. – MTSU’s Faculty of Science just completed another year of National Science Foundation-funded Research Experiences for Undergraduates, or NSF REUs, with final day poster presentations by undergraduates cycle in the science building.
The university’s science departments – chemistry and engineering technology with one group and math, computer science and physics with a second – welcomed students from colleges across the United States for research, collaboration, visits in the field and more. Students are chosen after a rigorous application process.
Kendra Givens, a young computer science student from MTSU in Murfreesboro, Tennessee, participated. Usually, MTSU students selected for an NSF REU do summer research at other universities.
“It was a lot of work. The hardest part was getting the codes to work because there weren’t good implementations of what we’re using now,” Givens said of his complex computer science study. “We took one (implementation) and had to modify it a lot. I only had two weeks to work on training the model, so it was really difficult.”
For nine weeks, a group conducted chemical research using X-rays, or CRUX REU exploration. For eight weeks, the second group focused on the development of practical research skills in the field of computer science, or COMS REU.
The chemistry program
One of 60 such programs in the country this summer, the research includes characterization using methods involving X-rays, said Andrienne Friedli, acting chair of the chemistry department and mentor. This is the second year of a three-year grant.
“The main technique is X-ray crystallography, where X-rays diffract atoms in molecules, giving rise to patterns that identify the spatial relationships of atoms in molecules and their proximity in solids,” Friedli added.
Hannah Michael, 20, of Hampton, New Hampshire, a student at St. Joseph’s College in Standish, Maine, said the experience “opened up opportunities for me that I might not have in my life. school and overall it taught me how to write a resume, how to do research, how to apply for graduate school if I want to, and open my eyes to other research I might do.
One of the highlights was a field trip to Oak Ridge National Laboratory.
Other participants included Jessica Bowen from Christian Brothers University, Samantha Kuszynski from University of Michigan-Dearborn, Gwen Paule from Cornell College, Ethan Pollett from Franklin College, Scarlett Nail from University of Tennessee-Martin, Kayla Smith from Regis University and Jaden Watkins. from the University of Otterbein.
Mentors included Ding, Justin Miller, Scott Handy, Piotr Kaszynski, Vishwas Bedekar and Ngee Chong.
The calculation program
In COMS REU, students learn a mix of computational approaches from the fields of computer science and mathematics with a focus on problem solving in applied sciences (specifically, biology and physics), Wandi Ding said. , professor in the Department of Mathematical Sciences. This is the fourth year of a five-year grant.
“Students develop skills in computer programming, high performance computing, mathematical modeling and machine learning during the first half of the program,” Ding said. “They develop practical research skills, including experimentation/simulation, design/testing, and data generation/presentation by working closely with program faculty on applied research projects in scientific areas at the second semester.”
Sawyer Griffy, 20, of Clarksville, Tennessee, a senior at the University of Alabama, said his team studied the patterning of ticks with Rocky Mountain spotted fever. Rachel Leander, a math mentor, put them in touch with a researcher from the University of Kansas, who often provided them with information and data.
“We wanted to see the infection spread in increasing and decreasing numbers and look for ways to control the population with prescribed (fire) burning,” Griffy said.
In addition to Givens and Griffy, other COMS REU students included Matthew Senese from Lewis University, Brady Nichols from Bowdoin College, Chris Guptil from Miami University (Ohio), Kyle Sprague from Bates College, Jack Liu from l ‘Carnegie Mellon University, David Heson of Mississippi. State University and Sally Vogel of Carrol College.
Other mentors included Joshua Phillips and William “Bill” Robertson. Ginger Rowell was the program evaluator, with professional development workshops led by Tom Brinthaupt.
MTSU grows on some attendees
A 2021 NSF REU participant, Nirvana Almada from San Diego, California, enjoyed the experience so much that she moved to Murfreesboro to pursue graduate studies at MTSU. She helped the chemistry group this year.
The Science Building’s labs and faculty impressed Kuszynski, who is from Livonia, Michigan, so much that she “really hopes to come back (to MTSU) for my doctorate,” she said.
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