Science & Math Summer Research Experience

Student researching

The 2021 SNU Summer Research Experience (SRE) will take place from May 12 to June 25, 2021.  The SRE is sponsored jointly by SNU and the Oklahoma NASA Space Grant Consortium (OSGC).  You can read more about OSGC activities here

Current SNU students may apply for the 2021 SRE if they have completed their first one or two years of study in an academic major offered through the SNU Biology, Chemistry, Computer Science/Network Engineering, Mathematics, or Physics Department.

Project Descriptions

A description of the research topics in each area is given below along with the respective research adviser(s).

Dr. Jeff Griffitts

Project Title: Microplastics Survey

Microplastics are found in many consumer products and are now showing up in oceans, rivers, and lakes around the world.  They may have negative effects on humans, plants, and animals living in or near bodies of water.  This project will use SNU lab equipment to study the levels of microplastics in water samples.   

Dr. Caio Franca

Project Title: Mosquito-borne disease surveillance in Oklahoma (MODSO)

West Nile virus (WNV) is the most widely distributed arbovirus (viruses transmitted to humans and other animals by arthropod vectors) and the most import and widespread mosquito-borne disease in the U.S. According to the Oklahoma State Department of Health WNV was first detected in Oklahoma in 2002 and have since produced three major outbreaks and it’s established as a seasonal endemic disease causing human clinical cases and death mainly during May to October. 

Infectious disease surveillance and forecasting have greatly improved with the development of new analytical and modeling tools. NASA Earth-observations (EOS) data have been used to track the ecological impacts of changing climates and landscapes and the implications of these changes for ecosystem and human health. From the vintage vantage point of space, satellite observations can provide information to determine disease-favoring conditions in the environment.

Our goals are to i) assess the correlation between environmental factors, mosquito surveillance, and epidemiological data; ii) utilize NASA earth observations in an to test the accuracy of an early-warning system for WNV outbreaks in Oklahoma.

Dr. Shawna York and Dr. Lisa Crow

Project Title: Computational modeling of water purification methods

In this project, the students will first undertake a literature review of common computational chemistry methods including molecular mechanics, ab initio, and density functional theory and test the methods for a variety of systems using molecular modeling software. This part of the project will culminate in the creation of a database of available and reliable computational methods. Having assembled this toolkit of methods, the students will then choose a problem of interest in the field of water purification and apply the appropriate computational methods to solve the structural, conformational, spectral, and/or charge potential trends of interest in the water purification problem.

Dr. Nicholas Zoller

Project Title: Kepler’s Laws in Taxicab Geometry

Kepler’s Laws describe how planets orbit the sun in our solar system.  They assume Euclidean geometry.  In this project, we will study what happens when we substitute taxicab geometry instead.  Taxicab geometry is the geometry of a grid of city streets.  Distance is measured in city blocks instead of “as the crow flies.”  Previous studies of taxicab geometry show that it has interesting properties.  We will attempt to find out how it affects the properties of planetary orbits.

Summer Support and Stipend

Participants are eligible for free room in a SNU dorm facility. Each participant will receive $3,000 as a stipend for research. Payments will be made throughout the summer program; a final installment will be paid at the conclusion of the program. Participants are expected to commit to 40 hours of research a week as scheduled by the research adviser, generally from 8:00 am to 5:00 pm, Monday through Friday. If participants anticipate being gone for any reason during the program, they should make alternate arrangements with their research adviser for making up research. Additionally, participants must present the results of their research in two different settings during the 2021-2022 academic year:

  • During the weekly Math and Science research seminar
  • At an off-campus academic conference or at the annual SNU Undergraduate Research Symposium (in March or April 2022)

Application Requirements

Applicants must be SNU freshman or sophomore students who have declared an academic major offered through the SNU Biology, Chemistry, Computer Science / Network Engineering, Mathematics, or Physics Department. Applicants should expect to complete their first one or two years of study in their major by the end of the Spring 2021 semester. Participants are expected to be available Monday through Friday, 8:00 am – 5:00 pm, for the entire six-week period (from May 12 to June 25). If applicants anticipate being absent for any reason, they should report the duration and reason for absence on the application form.

Each applicant must submit three recommendations – two of which must come from SNU professors. Applicants should email the recommenders and provide the URL (see below) for the online recommendation form. If a paper recommendation (rather than the online form) is needed, please contact Dr. Nicholas Zoller at


Applicants must complete their online application forms and have all required documentation (recommendations, etc.) completed by Friday, March 12, 2021. If the applicant must submit paper copies of application materials, then they should be delivered to Dr. Nicholas Zoller in Beaver Science 202D. Successful applicants will be notified by Friday, March 26 of their acceptance into the program. If you have questions, please contact Dr. Nicholas Zoller at You are also encouraged to discuss your interests with any of the research advisers listed above.

  • Apply Online – Log in with your SNU Gmail account
  • Recommendation Form – Copy and paste the URL (web address) into your e-mail requests to your recommenders. Recommenders must submit their recommendations by the application deadline of March 12, 2021 in order for your application to be considered complete.
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