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Celebrating Summer Research

Celebrating Summer Research

On Friday, August 5, 175 research students presented their summer research in Schow Atrium at Williams College. The poster session is an annual event that gives students a chance to share the work they have completed during their summer research experiences on campus and serves as an example of the fruitful relationships students can develop with professors.

Matthew Hosek '12, Alice Sady '13, and Aven King '12 (not pictured) teach a small collection of visitors and fellow students about planetary nebulae and the models their lab created to study them.

Summer research positions in the sciences offer students the opportunity to do graduate-level research on campus. Students apply through individual departments and are selected based on the amount of funding available from the college and outside grants. Positions are granted to a mix of advanced thesis students and less-experienced researchers.

“For all students doing research, it is a chance to really see first-hand how different research is from classroom science,” says physics professor and Science Center director Tiku Majumder. “Even in teaching labs, experiments do not have the open-ended, exploratory nature of research projects. [This] is extremely valuable for students as they begin to make longer-term choices about their own future careers.”

The summer experience is particularly invaluable for thesis students, who are able to learn research techniques and work full time with additional attention from advisors. This gives them a foundation of work before the school year, which allows them to become more independent and productive during the semesters. Michelle McRae ’12, a member of the crew team, is grateful for this opportunity to focus on her research without taking time out of practice. “Being able to work in lab all day has made what would normally take a few months during the semester possible to complete in a couple of weeks,” she says.

One student shares the poster detailing her research with a group of fellow students.

Faculty benefit from the summer research program as well. “Williams students learn very quickly, and in many cases can become not just research students, but junior colleagues, helping to guide the progress of research projects, first in small ways and later helping to think about and contribute the overall scientific progress,” Majumder says. “In many cases, the scientific partnership can eventually lead to joint presentations at professional conferences, as well as co-authored journal publications.”