Amassing Knowledge Posted on September 1st, 2009 by

Scott Bur's research is being aided by a team of six students. (Photos by Amy McMullan '10)

Scott Bur's research is being aided by a team of six students. (Photos by Amy McMullan '10)

By Amy McMullan ’10

Although Gustavus does not hold summer classes, opportunities for academic learning continue. This summer, several Gustavus students are partnering with faculty members to conduct research.

Assistant Professor of Chemistry Brandy Russell, who serves as the Kendall Center Faculty Associate for Undergraduate Research, is coordinating student-faculty research projects for 34 students.

“It [research] really gives you a first-hand glimpse into how scholars work; you get to see where new knowledge is created. In classes, you often just get the outcome of what scholars have done. But with research, you are in there creating it,” Russell said.

Below are some of the 2009 Gustavus Summer Research Projects.

  • Assistant Professor of Biochemistry Brenda Kelly and Chelsea Koepsell ’10 are exploring enzymatic structure in relation to its function.
  • Assistant Professor of Chemistry Scott Bur has assembled a team of six students to help him with research. Their goal is to “try to find new ways to make molecules that might be biologically active. The importance of that is to make drug-like molecules more efficiently and cheaper,” said Bur.
  • Geoff Alexander ’10 is assisting Associate Professor of Political Science Mimi Gerstbauer with her summer research on U.S. Foreign Relations in Vietnam, with a focus on the possibility of diplomatic forgiveness between nations. This research has many unique elements to it. Gerstbauer and Alexander are spending their summer in the library, pouring through books. Together, they will write a paper that will become a chapter in a book Gerstbauer is writing.

Research provides a much different learning environment for Gustavus students. Hands-on research opportunities give students “a different foundation of understanding,” Russell said. Gustavus students who are involved with faculty-student research agree.

We spend the school year learning all these concepts in chemistry—to be able to spend your summer applying that is really gratifying,” said Kristen Jahr ’11, who is working in the chemistry lab with Bur.

“You garner the reality that goes into making these things right. Just knowing in theory how you do it is a much different feeling,” Noah Setterholm ’11 said.

For Gustavus faculty, research conducted in collaboration with students is an expansion of their passions for their disciplines and teaching.

“This is the truest form of teaching students because neither of us knows the answer to the question. We are both learning and pursuing answers to questions together,” said Kelly.

“It’s another way of teaching. I really like working individually with students and watching them grow,” Russell added.

Many student-researchers anticipate that their research experience will lead to greater success in continuing their education after their graduation from Gustavus.

“I plan to pursue graduate school and I felt that this would be a good opportunity to find out what exactly people do when they do research in the social sciences,” said Alexander.

“What you do doesn’t really matter unless you tell somebody,” Russell said. As such, those students involved with scientific research will share their achievements at Gustavus Adolphus College’s Summer Research Symposium. This year’s presentation is planned for Friday, Sept. 11. Further information will be available at a later date.


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