Once summer rolls around, many students make a beeline for the cabin or the beach. Others take every opportunity to continue their studies outside the classroom. Having that choice — between a road trip with friends or a study trip with faculty — is one of the big benefits of attending a research university.
Here, seven University of Minnesota students from all stages and walks of academic life tell us what they’re up to this summer.
Coding the sphere
“Right now, I’m developing and testing the WebSphere Application Server at IBM in Rochester, Minn. I’ve been getting tons of experience in programming and the opportunity to see how software companies manage millions of lines of code across dozens of countries and hundreds of engineers.
Computer engineers are in high demand, so companies offer internships to recruit us at an earlier age, while teaching us skills necessary for the industry. By doing internships, you also get a chance to see the research side of technology at these large companies, and what you could be doing after pursuing an advanced degree.”
Sophomore, computer engineering
College of Science and Engineering
Touring agriculture abroad
“For the month of June, I’ll be serving as a representative of Minnesota’s production agriculture industry as I travel through France’s Loire Valley touring farms, food processing plants, farmers’ cooperatives and other agriculturally related sites. I’m sponsored on this study trip through the Rotary Foundation’s Group Study Exchange program.
As a graduate student focusing on agricultural policy and education, this experience is a perfect fit with my academic and professional goals. We’re planning to stay with host families on farms, so we’ll get to interact directly with French farmers and agriculturalists on a daily basis. Food and culture are very closely intertwined, and the immersion emphasis gives me the chance to experience French food and agriculture in a really authentic way.”
Master’s student, science, technology and environmental policy
Humphrey School of Public Affairs
Mapping ancient bones
“Our research revolves around the well-preserved, 1.85 million-year-old fossil deposit discovered at the ancient settlement of Dmanisi, Georgia. This will be my third summer as part of this ongoing excavation and research project, which is funded through an NSF grant awarded to associate professor Martha Tappen.
We study the taphonomy of the bones, which, in basic terms, is the study of the processes that bones go through from the moment an animal dies to the moment it is recovered by archaeologists. I employ GIS techniques and map the bones according to similar features each bone exhibits. And I try to determine if there are areas of the site that contain clusters of these features, which may help interpret how our early ancestors and carnivores were surviving and interacting.”
Doctoral student, anthropology
College of Liberal Arts
Developing critical therapies
“My involvement with the Center for Orphan Drug Research has centered on a clinical study with the goal of improving and developing a therapy for children with cerebral adrenoleukodystrophy (c-ALD), a rare, X-linked genetic disorder. This summer, I’ll assist in evaluating the use of N-acetylcysteine (NAC) as an adjuvant therapy to hematopoietic stem cell transplantation. I’ll also work on the development of a new study, which will focus on the potential use of the oral form of NAC in boys with c-ALD.
I initially wanted to get involved in pharmacology research because my post-undergraduate plan was pharmacy school. The experiences I’ve had over the past two years have extended this plan to include research as an integral part of my career as a pharmacist.”
College of Biological Sciences
Managing food waste
“I’m working on an organic waste management project with 10 restaurants that are located in Stillwater, White Bear Lake and the 55102 area code of St. Paul. I was hired by the Minnesota Technical Assistance Program (MnTAP), but I’m working on a portion of the Resource Recovery Project that is managed by Ramsey and Washington counties.
I’ll assess and analyze each restaurant’s waste output to find ways to prevent landfill disposal and utilize options such as donations to food shelves, composting, food-to-hog programs or anaerobic digestion. And I’ll develop a replication model that restaurants can use to implement their own waste reduction project.”
Senior, environmental sciences, policy and management
College of Food, Agricultural and Natural Resource Sciences
Conducting pharma research
“The focus of my Melendy/Peters summer research scholarship is the identification and characterization of substrates for the bidirectional membrane transporters OATP5A1 and OATP6A1. These barrier cell transporters have been recently implicated in cancer cell biology. Our long-term goal is to develop new drugs targeting or inhibiting these transporters.
I chose to work on this project in assistant professor Jon Rumbley’s laboratory because I find the research process fascinating. The idea that this research could lead to the development of novel drugs to better treat medical conditions makes our studies particularly appealing to me.”
Third-year pharmacy student
College of Pharmacy (Duluth campus)
Engaging new parents
“For the past three years, I’ve worked as a graduate research assistant with professor Jeffrey Edelson on the Global Research Project to Mobilize Men in Violence Prevention (MMVP). The work I’m doing this summer is an extension of MMVP.
It’s a local project called First Time Fathers, which is a collection of two studies looking at engaging new and expectant parents, with a focus on engaging fathers to prevent child exposure to domestic violence. We’ll finish data analysis and write up the study in the form of two publishable papers. Also, we want to host a community forum to engage other practitioners, researchers and community members.”
Doctoral candidate, social work
College of Education and Human Development