Spending a summer in the lab

Douglas M. Kafury

Students earn cash, experience with research

Science departments around campus are offering a variety of opportunities for undergraduates to earn cash and research experience during the summer.

Joseph Ortiz, assistant professor of geology, said there are several different areas of research available to students. One major research opportunity is through the Water Resources Research Institute.

The Lake Erie Watershed Project, which is funded by the National Science Foundation, allows students from many scientific areas to do research on the lake. The research is interdisciplinary, so students from many different science disciplines can be involved with the program.

Students will be paired with science mentors who teach them how to conduct research and research ethics, and mentors also provide support for the students.

Larry Andrews, dean of the Honors College, said there are many benefits that come with participating in summer research programs.

“It’s really important to have some kind of research experience in order to go to graduate school,” Andrews said. “It sets you apart.”

Students have a chance to integrate their communication, technical, writing and speaking skills through the research, Andrews said.

Also, students may have a publication in a scientific journal based on their summer research, said Sean Hyatt, education outreach program administrator for the Liquid Crystal Institute.

Students are usually paid a stipend for their research and are possibly provided with housing and travel costs, said Arne Gericke, assistant professor of chemistry. So students get the benefits of research and have money in their pockets.

“The question is what is better, being in the lab doing research or flipping burgers?” Gericke said.

Funding for some research opportunities is provided by federal grants, so those opportunities may only be open to U.S. citizens.

The Liquid Crystal Institute also offers internships that are funded through the Center for Liquid Crystal Science and Education grant and allows undergraduates an opportunity in research that is usually not available at an undergraduate level, Hyatt said.

The program will accept 10 to 12 students who are majoring in physics, chemistry and biological sciences. Research is in the areas of liquid crystals including optoelectronics, spectroscopy, display technologies and biological applications of liquid crystals, Hyatt said.

Students receive $3,000 for 10 weeks and free housing on campus, Hyatt said.

Another opportunity is though the Research Experience for Undergraduates program, which is directed by Gericke and Robert Twieg. Students in the program do research at labs in the chemistry department and the Liquid Crystal Institute.

In addition to the research, students will also participate in a seminar series, an undergraduate research conference and social events.

Ortiz said it is important for students to experience research early in their careers at Kent.

“One of two things will happen,” Ortiz said. “Either you’ll realize this is exactly what you want to do — it’s an opportunity to test-drive a field that you might be interested in — or you might find out this isn’t what you expected it to be. That’s really valuable to learn early on because then you can adjust and find some other avenue that might be of interest to you.”

There are research opportunities in many departments, and the best way to find out about research opportunities is by contacting the career services office or departmental offices, Ortiz said.

Contact science reporter Douglas M. Kafury at [email protected].