SNU Students Complete Summer Research Experience ’22

Summer Research students

During SNU’s 6-week Summer Research Experience Program, four groups of students tackled research projects in math, chemistry, biology, and ecology. The students who participated in this program were Emma Dilbeck, Dylan Gann, Clayton Hooper, Caitlynne Hudgens, Raina Miller, Sydney Oliver, Luis Ontiveros, Victoria Peter, Vicente Rios, and Natalie Shreffler. Each group was led by at least one faculty mentor who guided their research efforts. The students performed research each day from 9:00 AM to 5:00 PM, with some groups staying later to finish exciting work. All of the students were expected to read outside material and other research to have a better understanding of their project.

Each research group has an overall goal for the greater good. The biology group, nicknamed the “mosquito group,” researched mosquito-borne disease surveillance in the Oklahoma City area with the main objective to detect arboviruses such as West Nile Virus, and its impact on public health. The students were responsible for trapping and identifying mosquitoes by genus and species. Then, they extracted RNA from the mosquitoes, and, out of the many species collected, those that are known carriers of diseases were tested by RT-qPCR. When asked about how research has contributed to her goals, biology research student Emma Dilbeck said, “ [that] this experience has been wonderful and has pushed and inspired me to want to continue doing research through an MD/P.h.D. dual program.”

The chemistry group took on the challenge of using different magnetic adsorbents to remove dyes and aid in water purification. The students were tasked with making magnetic composites and dyes while also determining the concentration and absorbance of the solutions. When asked about her experience so far, chemistry student researcher Victoria Peter stated, “This experience has been much better than I was expecting. Usually, I shy away from things like this, but I’ve learned a lot and I have been able to sharpen my skills.”

summer research students
Pictured is the biology group working on identifying mosquitoes and data entry
Left: McNair student Dennis Green, Emma Dilbeck; Right: Raina Miller, Vicente Rios

The ecology group focused their research on data that was already obtained from their faculty mentor Daniel Rocha, P.h.D, who studied terrestrial mammals throughout the Amazon Rainforest using camera traps. The ecology group investigated covariates that could affect the distribution of terrestrial mammals throughout the Amazon, such as environmental factors or human impact. They also collaborated with students at Point Loma Nazarene University who are continuing this investigation throughout regions in Costa Rica. Both groups of students used the software program R to analyze camera trap data and to run models that account for the imperfect detection of animals. Ecology student researcher Caitlynne Hudgens reflected on the experience, “The collaboration [with Point Loma] was a one-of-a-kind experience that introduced us to the troubleshooting process of analysis in research, and built a community of enthusiastic, ecology-loving, students.”

Much like the ecology group, the math group used data provided by their faculty mentor. Nicholas Zoller, P.h.D., compiled and anonymized data for the student researchers, but they applied the data by making graphs and looking for commonalities. Their goal was to see which factors have predicted Calculus 1 success with daily responsibilities such as using the software program LaTex and organizing data. Math research student, Dylan Gann, said that “[his] experience with summer research has been enjoyable.” 

Dr. Zoller has served as the Summer Research Experience (SRE) director since the summer of 2012. He extends his gratitude to those who have served before him such as Mark Winslow, P.h.D. When asked about his experience with SRE Zoller said, “Serving as a faculty mentor has made me a better researcher. I have developed a habit of looking for research projects that both interest me and seem suitable for undergraduates to tackle. It’s not difficult to accomplish the former, and experience has been a good teacher for the latter.” He went on to explain that he is grateful that serving as a faculty mentor has forced him to branch out from his Ph.D. dissertation and dive into research about other fascinating mathematics. Most importantly, Zoller finds that working with students each summer helps make him a better teacher, Christian, and person. Zoller said, “The more I do this, the more I pay attention to my student researchers as whole persons who have rich lives beyond our interactions around our summer research project. I’ve been especially humbled by hearing some of their Christian testimonies. God is doing good things in the lives of faculty mentors and student researchers each summer in the SRE.”

Being able to provide students with unique skills is what SNU is all about. Experiences such as these are what make SNU stand out from other universities and are one of the many reasons why our students are highly successful after graduation. The SRE students would like to thank Dr. Nicholas Zoller, Dr. Daniel Rocha, Dr. Shawna York, Dr. Lisa Crow, and Dr. Caio França for their willingness and time dedicated to help them learn and grow. They would also like to thank the university, sponsors, and student researchers that came before them. The students’ final research presentations will start at 1:30 pm on June 30th in Royce Brown Auditorium and are open to the public. SNU is proud to have students contribute to the ever-growing field of research and invites all to attend this unique event.

Pictured is the ecology group on a hike in San Diego, California
Left to Right: Sydney Oliver, Dr. Daniel Rocha, Caitlynne Hudgens, Natalie Shreffler.

In the feature image above are some of the student researchers on a field trip at the Museum of Osteology. Left to Right: Victoria Peter, Caitlynne Hudgens, Emma Dilbeck, Natalie Shreffler, Sydney Oliver, Clayton Hooper, Dylan Gann, Luis Ontiveros.

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