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Bowdoin Summer Researchers On The Rise

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Story posted May 06, 2013

Patrick Millet '14 has a summer research fellowship to work with Biology Professor John LichterThis summer, more than 175 Bowdoin students are working alongside faculty in hands-on research in fields as diverse as history, Asian studies, government, sociology, English and a host of science disciplines.

It is among the largest groups of summer research students to date, and, according to Dean for Academic Affairs Cristle Collins Judd, it signals “the ways in which our faculty provide authentic, hands-on undergraduate research opportunities for our students.”

“Summer is a time when faculty are able to focus intensively on their research and scholarship, but increasingly we’re seeing students actively engaged alongside faculty in that work,” said Judd. “Bowdoin students serve as partners to faculty in laboratories, libraries and in the field – and many students are engaged in high-level research projects of their own.” Among the organizations presently supporting Bowdoin summer research is the Howard Hughes Medical Institute, which fully supported 22 undergraduate research fellows this year. Additionally, the College has 24 active National Science Foundation grants, as well as grants from the National Institutes of Health, Maine Space Grant, and numerous others that often include support for student researchers.

“The research climate at Bowdoin is one that supports faculty at all levels of their careers, as witnessed by several significant new and career grants awarded to young scholar-teachers who have recently joined our faculty,” added Judd. “A majority of these include funding for undergraduate research.”

Assistant Professor of Computer Science Daniela Oliveira recently was awarded a five-year, $404,000 grant in support of her innovative research in cyber-security. Her project is creating a Cyber Security lab at Bowdoin with students directly involved in the research.

Daniel Schmoll ’13 and Alex Daniels ’14 have been working this summer with Assistant Professor of Economics Erik Nelson, who recently was awarded a grant from The World Wildlife Fund. They are using land-use and biophysical maps to try to describe and determine the value of Brazil’s network of Amazon Region Protected Areas.

“Most of the goods these areas produce – such as providing habitat for animals and sequestering carbon dioxide in forests ““ are not easy to value because they are not traded in markets,” said Nelson. “We’re attempting to place some values on these goods and services and to evaluate what would be the benefit, and cost, of expanding the network.”

Nearly 75 student fellows are engaged in research in biology and chemistry this summer. They meet weekly over pizza for summer fellowship talks – an opportunity to get a break from the lab and share details of their research with faculty mentors and student researchers working on other projects.

Being able to immerse oneself deeply in summer research is often a life-changing experience for students, observed Judd:

“Students have the satisfaction of knowing their contributions matter, and many are inspired to develop honors projects or continue on to graduate school based on their work over the summer,” she said.

“They have fantastic opportunities to work closely with faculty who are at the cutting edge in their fields all the while developing research and problem-solving skills that will serve them throughout their lives. And they get to enjoy all the benefits of a being at Bowdoin during the beautiful Maine summer! “

Associate Professor in the Natural Sciences John Lichter meets with students in his lab, (l to r) Eric Chien '14, Patrick Millet '14, John Hobbs '15 and Jane Carpenter '13.
Associate Professor in the Natural Sciences John Lichter meets with students in his lab,
(l to r) Eric Chien '14, Patrick Millet '14, John Hobbs '15 and Jane Carpenter '13.

I’m working in John Lichter’s lab where we’re helping to monitor the recovery of river herring in Merrymeeting Bay as dams are cleared and the water becomes cleaner. We go out on boats and do a lot of beach seining to get a census of the fish population and recently we gave a presentation at the Maine Maritime Museum. It’s science but it’s community based, so you feel like you’re being effective. And being outside in Maine every day is so amazing.
— Patrick Millet ’14 Hometown: Port-au-Prince, Haiti