Summer Opportunities: Summer Research Scholars and the Office of Community-Based Learning Student participants stay in Lexington to develop research techniques and obtain valuable work experience.
“Working on our research project has helped me realize that I want to find opportunities that will allow me to do research during my gap year between undergraduate and graduate school.”
~ Cecily Stern ’23
As summer winds down and the campus welcomes students into the 2022–2023 academic year, we continue our series exploring the various opportunities our incredible students experienced this summer. From at home to abroad, W&L provides a wide scope of possibilities for work experience, community engagement, research and adventure during the summer months.
This week’s series installment highlights opportunities available to students who are interested in spending their summer on campus or in Rockbridge County. From the Summer Research Scholars program to positions with the Office of Community-Based Learning, students who are eager to explore all that the Lexington area has to offer during the summer months have many options.
The Summer Research Scholars (SRS) program supports students participating in collaborative research supervised by W&L faculty. This year, participants in the SRS program included 99 undergraduate students and 51 supervising faculty representing a diverse range of academic disciplines. The program encourages the development of research techniques within a particular discipline, as well as assists undergraduate faculty in their research activities by providing them student researchers eager to explore a topic relevant to their studies.
Summer researchers and their mentors were invited to the Collaboration Gallery of the Harte Center on June 15 for a round of “elevator pitches” about their research. Facilitated by Associate Provost and Harry E. and Mary Jayne W. Redenbaugh Professor of German Paul Youngman, the event encouraged students to mingle with fellow researchers across disciplines and share what they’re working on. It also serves as preparation for the program’s brown bag lunch series, which invites students to give more formal presentations on their research findings throughout the summer.
“Working on our research project has helped me realize that I want to find opportunities that will allow me to do research during my gap year between undergraduate and graduate school,” said Cecily Stern ’23, who completed summer research with Professor David Marsh and three other students on an amphibian and reptile urban ecology research project. “I have really enjoyed the whole process of doing research, including the challenges and successes, and delving deeper into my curiosity of the field of biology, so I would definitely like to pursue more research opportunities in the future.”
Aishwarya Vemageri ’25 spent her summer working with Sarah Blythe, associate professor of biology and director of the neuroscience program, in Blythe’s diet-induced obesity lab as part of a data analysis team. Vemageri worked alongside four current students and an AIM Scholar completing behavioral analysis testing through a coding program called BORIS; running metabolic, hormone, and protein panels; and conducting laboratory testing.
“I think the best thing about my lab experience was the people that I worked with,” Vemageri said. “My lab mates really made the experience enjoyable. The vibe in our lab was open and friendly, and our passion for our research drove us to explore different avenues that interested us.”
In addition to compiling a final report of their research experience, Summer Research Scholars present their work at the Fall Showcase of Student Summer Research, which is usually held during Parents and Family Weekend. These students are also strongly encouraged to participate in “Science, Society, and the Arts,” the undergraduate research symposium that takes place at W&L every other year.
Taylor Graham ’24 credits her previous experience as a Summer Research Scholar with igniting a passion for research that opened the door to her internship this summer. Graham worked with Professor and Hal F. and Barbra Buckner Higginbotham University Librarian K.T. Vaughan to develop ways to recruit undergraduate students — particularly minoritized students and those majoring in the humanities — to library jobs, whether it’s connecting them to student employment opportunities at W&L or encouraging them to explore the profession as a post-graduate career. Graham’s internship is part of the Institute for Museum and Library Services-funded “Leading the Charge: Advancing the Recruitment, Retention, and Inclusion of People of Color Within the Library and Information Science Field.” W&L’s library is one of nine participating libraries, with each focusing on with different initiatives.
Much like Graham, Margaret Witkofksy ’24 wanted to tailor her summer experience around a project that would benefit the surrounding community. Witkofsky spent her summer researching grants for the city of Lexington as part of the internship program offered through Office of Community-Based Learning (CBL). CBL summer interns work with a faculty member and community organization to complete a project that fulfills a need in the Lexington area. These projects typically correspond with a student’s areas of interest, such as history, social justice, education and community development.
Witkofsky said that her CBL internship, combined with the opportunity to shadow a judge in town, allowed her to gain valuable work experience while enjoying campus and the surrounding community this summer.
“It can be difficult to get a law-related internship as an undergrad,” said Witkofsky, who plans to go to law school. “Plus, I wanted to stay in Lexington because I heard from my friends that summers here are really fun.”
Learn more about students doing work in and around campus in the summer here.
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