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College of Science and Mathematics

Enhancing lives through learning, discovery and innovation

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More than 200 Students Spend Summer Doing Research

Group of students in the lab
Biology Professor Sandi Clement (fifth from left) and her summer research team.

 

Thanks to a generous donation, more than 200 students from all seven undergraduate majors in the College of Science & Mathematics participated in real-world research projects with faculty mentors this summer. This was almost three times the size of the summer research program in previous years.

Most students received a $2,500 Earn by Doing stipend and spent at least 40 hours a week in the lab.

"These students worked on substantial and meaningful research projects," said Dean Phil Bailey. "There's no substitute for the problem-solving skills and confidence that students learn doing research."

"I have never learned so much in such a short span of time," one of the student researchers said. "It has inspired me to continue researching throughout my career."

Students undertook a wide array of projects, from computing the theoretical properties of black holes to investigating carbon nanotubes that may be of use in biomedical applications. Three of the projects are highlighted below:

Biology: Working to Prevent Autoimmune Disorders

Though DNA gets a lot of publicity, it's actually mRNA that tells each cell in the body what to do — whether to make a skin cell or a liver cell, for example, or when to produce antibodies, and, importantly, when to stop. Unfortunately, sometimes an mRNA's on/off switch gets broken, so cells never get the message to stop reproducing or fighting an infection. This leads to cancer and to autoimmune disorders such as rheumatoid arthritis and Crohn's disease. Not much is known about how exactly the off signal gets blocked, so Biology Professor Sandi Clement and her students are trying to find out.

Read more about autoimmune research

Chemistry: Computing Ways to Stop Virus Reproduction

All viruses — HIV, flu, ebola — work by taking over their host's cells and forcing those cells to reproduce the virus. The challenge is, scientists don't know much about the molecular interaction that triggers reproduction. That's what Chemistry Professor Ashley McDonald and her students are hoping to find out using computer models. If they can change the interaction between the molecules, the virus won't be able to reproduce.

Read more about computational research on viruses

Statistics: Analyzing Infrared Video of the Moon

Cal Poly statistics students may have been the first in the world to take thermal, infrared, digital video of the moon from Earth's surface. Statistics Professor Gary Hughes and his students are using the moon as a test case for a thermal mapping technique that may help them figure out what asteroids are made of.

Read more about the thermal mapping technique

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