Science & Math Summer Research Experience

The 2022 SNU Summer Research Experience (SRE) will take place from May 18 to June 30, 2022.  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 2022 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. 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 (camera that is automatically triggered by movement in its vicinity) to study terrestrial mammal distribution in different areas in the Brazilian Amazon. Building on previous research, I would like to use already collected camera trap data from the Brazilian Amazon as well as new data from Oklahoma, 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 sources and open software (mainly QGIS and R) during data processing and analysis. This project may also include a one-week camera trapping survey in Oklahoma and a trip to Point Loma Nazarene University for collaboration with a Point Loma faculty member.

Dr. Shawna York and Dr. Lisa Crow

Project Title: Investigation of Water Purification with Magnetite-Silica Gel Composites

Water purification and catalytic degradation of pollutants with various magnetite composites made on silica gel surfaces of thin layer chromatography plates and magnetite-silica gel nanoparticles will be explored using chemistry lab instrumentation (UV-Vis, ESI-MS, ICP-OES, and IR). Binding, removal, and reactions of a selection of metals (copper, nickel, aluminum, zinc, magnesium, calcium, potassium), microplastics (polystyrenes, polyesters), and related organic pollutants (styrene, benzaldehyde, phenyl ethanol, acetophenone, terephthalic acid, ethylene glycol) from aqueous solutions will be studied with the magnetite-silica gel surfaces.

Mathematics Education
Dr. Nicholas Zoller

Project Title: Revising Prerequisites for Calculus Using Student Data

A growing body of research suggests that success in college-level calculus courses affects student decisions to choose STEM majors and to continue in STEM majors.  Calculus placement is a well-studied problem and a frequent topic of discussion among post-secondary mathematics educators.  Some institutions use a placement test, some use ACT Math scores, some use course prerequisites, and some use a mixture of these methods.  

SNU adopted the course prerequisites model.  At this time, both College Algebra and Trigonometry are required before SNU students may enroll in Calculus I.  However, disruptions caused by the COVID-19 pandemic and discussions among Math and Science Division faculty prompted a review of the effectiveness of these course prerequisites.  

This project will attempt to determine the best way to measure readiness for Calculus I at SNU.  Toward that end, we will gather quantitative and categorical data about students who completed Calculus I over the last six years, including but not limited to course grades, high school GPA, high school math courses completed, college math courses completed, and ACT Math scores.  We hope to gather enough data to decide whether and how we need to revise the existing Calculus I prerequisites.

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 2022-2023 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 2023)

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 2022 semester. Participants are expected to be available Monday through Friday, 8:00 am – 5:00 pm, for the entire six-week period (from May 18 to June 30). 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 11, 2022. 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 25 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 11, 2022 in order for your application to be considered complete.

Ready to Apply?

Apply now

Ready to Apply?

Apply now