Science & Math Summer Research Experience

Faculty and students in the 2023 Summer Research Experience

The 2024 SNU Summer Research Experience (SRE) will take place from May 16 to June 27, 2024.  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 2024 SRE if they have declared an academic major offered through the SNU Biology, Chemistry, Computer Science, or Mathematics Department.

Project Descriptions

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

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 important 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. It has 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 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) Use geographical information system maps to understand mosquito vector ecology in central Oklahoma; and (iii) utilize NASA earth observations in an early-warning system for WNV disease outbreak in Oklahoma.

Dr. Daniel Rocha

Project Title: Factors that Affect Terrestrial Mammal Distributions

Why do some species occur in high densities at some locations but are absent at other locations? Why do some areas exhibit such rich diversity of species while other areas show such poor diversity? How do different species respond to an environmental feature? How are human-driven factors affecting species’ communities? For centuries, naturalists and biologists have been interested in this type of ecological question.

Terrestrial mammals are notably sensitive to habitat disturbances and have fundamental importance in the maintenance of the structure and function of ecosystems. For the past years, I have been using camera traps (cameras that are automatically triggered by movement in its vicinity) to study terrestrial mammal distribution in different areas. Building on previous research, we will use already collected camera trap data from the Oklahoma City Metro area, combined with NASA-derived earth observation data (e.g. satellite) to identify the main factors that influence patterns in mammal (and possibly bird) distributions. 

This project also aims to equip undergraduate students with basic knowledge and tools to process and use spatial data in independent ecological research. Importantly, we want these tools to be available to the students when they no longer have access to the university resources. Therefore, we will use only free source and open software (mainly QGIS and R) during data processing and analysis.

Dr. Shawna York

Project Title: Comparison of analytical methods for measuring chlorophyll and CDOM

Quantitative analysis of chlorophyll and Colored Dissolved Organic Matter (CDOM) in natural waters has been the subject of study for decades.  Traditional methods have relied on sample collection, transport, and lab testing, while more recently remote sensing of optical properties via satellite has been employed, especially for coastal and oceanic waters.  In general, the satellite tools have not been used much to  characterize CDOM and chlorophyll in smaller bodies of water such as lakes and streams.   In this project, we will compare spectroscopic and chromatographic methods of analysis for specificity and sensitivity.  Of particular interest in the comparison is the sample preparation time and cost as well as comparisons of the hazards of the sample treatment methods. 

Data Analysis
Dr. Nicholas Zoller

Project Title: A Study of SNU Chapel Attendance Patterns

SNU requires its students to attend a minimum number of chapel services each semester.  Chapel provides space for students, faculty, and staff to spend time together in worship, listen to the Bible, pray together, and hear inspiring sermons.  

Students may earn chapel credits by attending chapels held at various times throughout the week.  This study seeks to uncover patterns in chapel attendance according to student demographics.  Does chapel attendance vary among male and female students? First-year students, sophomores, juniors, and seniors?  Residential and commuter students?  The study will also examine which particular chapel services are most attended and least attended.

We will make data displays to summarize what we find and use statistical tests to measure how much different groups of students differ in their chapel attendance patterns. Finally, we will present our findings to the Office of Spiritual Life to help it plan for future chapel offerings.

Dr. Rusiri Rathnasekara

Project Title: Synthesis and Characterization of ZnO Nanoparticles via Microwave Method

The primary objective of this endeavor is to undertake the synthesis and characterization of ZnO nanoparticles utilizing an innovative microwave method. This research aims to delve into the intricacies of nanoparticle synthesis, contributing valuable insights to the field of physics and materials science. 

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 2024-2025 academic year:

  • During the weekly Math and Science Division research seminar
  • At an off-campus academic conference or at the annual SNU Undergraduate Research Symposium (in March or April 2025)

Application Requirements

Applicants must be SNU students who have declared an academic major offered through the SNU Biology, Chemistry, Computer Science, or Mathematics Department. Preference will be given to applicants who expect to complete their first one or two years of study in their major by the end of the Spring 2024 semester. Participants are expected to be available Monday through Friday, 8:00 am – 5:00 pm, for the entire six-week period (from May 16 to June 27). 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 8, 2024. 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 15 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 8, 2024 in order for your application to be considered complete.

Ready to Apply?

Apply now

Ready to Apply?

Apply now