Summer Scholars Program: Helping Students Refine Career Interests

Brian Hennessy

Brian Hennessy (B.S. in Biology, ’12, five-year secondary education program, ’13) working in the lab of Dr. Catalina Arango, presented a poster on his research at the American Society for Microbiology national meeting. He is combining his interest in research with his passion for teaching by serving as a fellow in the GeoKids LINKS program. (see for more information)

Now in its seventh year, the Summer Scholars Program continues to enable more than 90 students from both colleges to engage in faculty-mentored research or creative work for a ten-week period. This summer students worked with faculty mentors from 17 departments in the College of Arts & Sciences on projects as diverse as “Nineteenth Century Irish Immigrants of Philadelphia,” ” Gendered Visions of Family and Careers,” “The Study of Jesuit Influence in El Salvador,” and “An Analysis of Behavior in a Fungal Pathogen of Corn.” As in the past, the single largest group of Summer Scholars pursued projects in the natural sciences.

A unique feature of the program is that students pursue their own creative or scholarly interests rather than simply assisting faculty with their research. By engaging in scholarly or creative projects full-time, Summer Scholars experience the work that professionals do in different academic disciplines on a daily basis. For many, these experiences confirm their career interests and professional goals. Surveys of past Summer Scholars in recent years have shown that a majority become more deeply engaged in the discipline as a result of their Summer Scholars experience.

Faculty mentors, embodying the Jesuit ideal of cura personalis (care for the individual), do not receive monetary compensation for mentorship.  They participate in the program to help some of our best and brightest students to further their intellectual development while having the opportunity to explore with the students new areas within their own scholarly field. Because of this close collaboration between faculty and students, many Summer Scholars co-author professional papers and present their work at regional, national, and international conferences.

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(L) Patrick Bishop, Class of 2013

Some examples of Summer Scholars Projects

Patrick Bishop, ’13, major in the new Music, Theatre & Film Department, embarked on a unique Summer Scholars project when he auditioned and was cast in the professional production of Miss Saigon at The Fulton Theatre in Lancaster, Pennsylvania. His project involved an intensive three-week rehearsal process, rehearsing six days per week, eight hours per day and learning an intricate score vocally as well as challenging choreography.   In addition, he researched the war in Vietnam, meeting with his faculty mentor once per week to discuss the research and how the research applied to his process as an actor in the piece. The production ran a full professional schedule of five weeks of performances at eight performances each week, which can be grueling even for the seasoned actor.  Patrick was invited to join the Equity Membership Candidacy program, which allows him to receive credit toward his membership in Actors Equity Association, the professional union of actors in the United States.

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Leigh Anne Tiffany, Class of 2015

One of the primary functions of the Biodiversity Laboratories is the maintenance of endangered turtle species. As part of this work, Dr. Scott McRobert and his team constantly analyze their methods for the care and housing of these rare and complex animals. This summer Leigh Anne Tiffany worked on a study to investigate tank design as well as enrichment of the captive housing for the turtles. As part of this work, Leigh Anne examined the use of a plastic platform that provided adequate basking space while increasing the size of the swimming area and enhancing filter performance. The enrichment project involved the addition of colored balls to the tanks to determine whether the turtles demonstrated play behavior, but the results did not indicate true play.

Robert Carden_ James Ohanet

Robert Carden and James Ohane, Class of 2014

This summer Robert Carden and James Ohane synthesized new tungsten and molybdenum complexes of carbon dioxide. These unusual compounds will help scientists develop new catalysts that can use carbon dioxide from the atmosphere as a starting material for making useful chemicals. Such catalysts would allow greener chemical products since inexpensive, abundant, and unwanted atmospheric carbon dioxide would replace petroleum starting materials in the production of everything from pharmaceuticals to plastics.


Kelsey Kostelnik, Class of 2014

Kelsey Kostelnick ’14, worked with Dr. Richard Warren, Associate Professor of History, to analyze the state of contemporary research on the cognitive dimensions of learning with a focus on developing tools to improve understanding and retention of historical information.  Kelsey is pictured here with some of the sketches that he integrated into a set of visual learning aids and concept maps applicable to the University’s new General Education Program course in History, entitled “Forging the Modern World.”  Extra credit for each face the reader can identify!

More information about the program and descriptions of student projects from previous years are available at the Summer Scholars Program web site at