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Ilana Ben-Ezra

Scholars spend summer pursuing research,
   creative activities

The rest of the 2014 Summer Scholars

by Geoffrey Wilson

While many students consider summer to be a hiatus from academics, a handful of Harpur students took advantage of the three-month break to further pursue their research.

The Summer Scholars and Artists Program awards undergraduate students with funding for their own original research and creative projects. Students pair up with a faculty mentor, and each pair receives $3,000 and $1,000 respectively to fund their work.

"The Summer Scholars and Artists Program provides support that allows students to dive into projects begun during the academic year with an intensity and focus that yields impressive results: elegant, in-depth papers, posters and creative work that is often presented at conferences, galleries or festivals and is sometimes published in peer-reviewed journals," says Donald Nieman, executive vice president for academic affairs and provost at Binghamton University. "It's a truly satisfying, deeply enriching process."

Recipients are chosen based on the project's potential quality and value as well as the student's prior experience and preparation. Furthermore, the faculty mentor must be prepared to fully support the student in his or her work.

"Pursuing original research with a faculty mentor helps students learn to ask the right questions, hone their problem solving skills and experience the excitement of creating new knowledge," Nieman says.

Thirteen of the 15 students who earned the fellowship for summer 2014 came from Harpur College. Student projects ranged in diversity, encompassing the three main sections of the school: fine arts and humanities, social sciences, and science and mathematics.

Samantha Meadows, an integrative neuroscience major, hopes to find a new treatment for Parkinson's disease, eliminating some of the side effects associated with current treatments.

"I've been working in the lab with this drug all (spring) semester, so the program has given me the opportunity to continue my research," Meadows says.

Working alongside Chris Bishop, associate professor of psychology, Meadows continued her work on the L-DOPA drug both on her own and alongside graduate students. Bishop says he was confident in her abilities.

"Samantha embodies the spirit of a budding researcher in neuroscience," Bishop says. "I suspect that by the time she leaves, Sam will be one of the most accomplished undergraduate researchers I've had the pleasure to mentor."

However, not all summer scholars are bound to the natural sciences. Eric Lee, a double major in history and medieval studies, examined the culture of China's Song dynasty and the role of corruption in its government.

"You think that corruption is embezzlement, misappropriation of funds, bribery, nepotism — but in the Song dynasty, the legal codes don't discuss these much," Lee says. "And we know from the sources that these kinds of corruptions were often overlooked if they were not causing significant problems."

Other students took an interdisciplinary approach, combining their passions with their work. Evan Flury, a double major in music and history, is composing an opera focused on his love of history titled "War and Consequence."

"Music, to me, is a cultural thing," Flury says. "History is a bunch of stories. But when you realize that, you wonder how you could apply music to that. If I'm interested in people and culture, there's a large part of that in music and stories where people express themselves."

Yet other projects have a more personal goal. Marcella Green, a double major in English and studio art, wants to capture the effects of hydraulic fracturing in her hometown through photography. Rather than make a political statement, Green says she wants to capture the social side of the issue, highlighting the people involved.

"A big aspect of art for me is expressing myself, yes," she says. "But it's more about the voice that I have just through that art. If I were to push anything, it would be getting the people's voice out there."

For more on the Binghamton University Undergraduate Research Center's Summer Scholars and Artists Program, including past winners, eligibility requirements and applications, visit binghamton.edu/undergraduate-researchcenter/ summer-scholars-and-artists-program.

— Shira Gelfand, Amanda Gurock, Marisa Monte and Annie Taylor contributed to this story.

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Last Updated: 3/1/17