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By Andrew Faught
As the world increasingly turns to renewable energy sources, Charles Zhou ’15 is at the leading edge of scientific inquiry. The mechanical engineering major researches the impact of underwater turbines — used to convert a river’s current into power — on aquatic life.
Charles Zhou ’15 is working with Professor M. Laura Beninati to gauge the impact of underwater turbines on aquatic life.
“River beds are habitats for countless animals, and even a small change can disturb the delicate ecosystem,” says Zhou, of Scotch Plains, N.J. “The challenge is to create a long-term sustainable energy source that is not detrimental to the environment.”
Zhou is one of 61 Bucknell students who this year took part in the summer Program for Undergraduate Research (PUR). Thanks to generous donor support, students engage in a variety of projects with faculty mentors that not only yield important findings, but also give undergraduates early exposure to research opportunities unavailable at many peer institutions.
Because of limited academic department budgets, students receive $3,000 stipends funded by donors. The allowances are awarded on a competitive basis by a faculty advisory committee that represents all of Bucknell’s academic divisions.
“These gifts are essential,” says Zhou’s adviser, M. Laura Beninati, a professor of mechanical engineering.
The investment in research, she adds, pays dividends beyond graduation.
“Critical thinking is learned only by engaging in it,” Beninati says. “Research in which students feel motivated to think and learn is the best way of developing a skill set that will set them apart from students who only took classes as undergraduates.”
Students have benefitted over the years by gifts from supporters such as Becky and James Roser ’50. (James Roser, who served on the University’s Board of Trustees, died in 2008. The James L.D. and Rebecca Roser Research Fellowship is the second-largest source of undergraduate research funds at Bucknell.) Rather than limit their gifts to certain disciplines, the Rosers felt strongly that their endowment should be available to all majors.
“You never know what kind of collaborative opportunities will evolve between people in certain departments,” Becky Roser says. “And it’s a chance for students to get involved in something they might not otherwise have taken the opportunity to do.”
Recent research projects include “Rockets and Religion: The Religious Dimensions of the Recent War in Gaza,” “Atheism and Non-Believers’ Values Regarding Parenting and Child-Rearing” and “Exploring Worker Cooperative Models for Sustainable Local Economic Development in the U.S.”
PUR participants will take part next spring in the Kalman Research Symposium, during which they will present research results. Namesake Ernie Kalman ’56, whose gifts fund hard science and engineering research, says such opportunities “put more gas in students’ tanks, and it can help them travel further on that [research] road, or faster, or with a bigger load.”
In addition to creating the Kalman Fund for Undergraduate Research in the Sciences in 1999, he also initiated the Kalman Fund for Biomedical Education the same year.
Kalman, an entrepreneur with a background in the restaurant industry, is the largest contributor to PUR — and to engineering and biomedical sciences research at Bucknell. He has met and discussed projects with undergraduate researchers, and Kalman doesn’t parse words in describing their talents: “They’re totally amazing.”
Undergraduate research at Bucknell is comparable to work being done in graduate programs, say faculty mentors who work closely with students throughout the summer.
It’s not unusual for students, in turn, to publish research findings in journals that benefit the scientific community, says Peter Judge ’77, professor of psychology and animal behavior and director of the Animal Behavior Program.
“I’ve had graduate students who come to Bucknell and marvel at the opportunities, resources and commitment that the University provides to undergraduates,” Judge says. “They wish they had the same opportunities.”
Professor Peter Judge, psychology, Mattea Rossettie ’14 (left) and Lindsay Schwartz ’14 test the cognitive abilities of Newton the monkey.
Judge oversees research on four different species of monkey, and undergraduates investigate the animals’ social behavior and cognitive abilities. Because human DNA so closely resembles that of other primates, student research could shed new light on species distinctions between humans and monkeys.
“It helps us decipher how that small difference in DNA makes us human and how much we differ from our closest primate relatives,” says Lindsay Schwartz ’14, a double major in animal behavior and classics from Toronto. With a nod to her work at the University, she plans to pursue a doctorate in primate cognition. “I feel that I’m in a unique position at Bucknell,” she says.
Also working in the animal behavior lab this summer was Mattea Rossettie ’14, an animal behavior major from Corning, N.Y. Rossettie enrolled at the University because of the undergraduate research opportunities available to her and the chance to be an undergraduate researcher in Judge’s lab.
“I’m privileged with the rare opportunity to work firsthand with primates on a daily basis,” Rossettie says. “How often are opportunities like this an option for graduate students, let alone undergraduates like myself?”
Faculty advisers say students like Schwartz and Rossettie, already having nurtured strong research techniques, possess a competitive advantage as they move on to graduate school and careers. That’s in large part because of that strong faculty-student interaction, says Provost Mick Smyer.
“A hallmark of Bucknell’s success is the integration of faculty research and student learning, whether it’s on a dig in Thebes or in the lab in Lewisburg,” he says. “Donor support allows us to make more of these kinds of experiences available to our students. We know they have a lasting impact on our young men and women.
“A donor looking to make an impact on the intellectual life of Bucknell can be assured that this kind of support really makes a difference.”
Make your gift before Dec. 31 to enjoy beautiful images of campus all year long.
An interactive map of the ancient world will be one of the innovative projects presented at this year's Bucknell University Digital Scholarship Conference.
Robert Drake '73, managing director of NGM International BV, Maashaven Holding BV and Cygne AG, will speak at Bucknell University on Wednesday, Nov. 2, at 4 p.m. in the Elaine Langone Center Forum. This talk is part of the 2016 Walling Lecture Series and is free and open to the public.
Built by an interdisciplinary team of undergraduates, professors and Bucknell staff, the geodesic dome is a laboratory for sustainability research.
Among the treasure trove of fossils uncovered roughly 35 miles from campus is one of the oldest known fragments of a "fish with fingers."
Eighteen members of the Bucknell faculty from across the academic disciplines recently received tenure.
Bucknell biomedical engineering students will be the primary beneficiaries of the grant, which will fund student-research stipends.
The NSF-funded project will provide research and educational opportunities for years to come.
Wireless internet access streamlines workflow for garden volunteers and lays the groundwork for future research and design projects.
The 36,000-square-foot addition to the Bucknell University campus provides a new home for student health, wellness and counseling services, and a world-class wrestling training facility.
More than 50 Bucknell students shared what they did this summer and proved how research can make a difference at the annual Susquehanna Valley Undergraduate Research Symposium.
The program will increase the impact of Bob '45 and Doris Malesardi's $20 million commitment to support financial aid.
The success of WE DO has strengthened the University, and more opportunities lie ahead.
The humanities at Bucknell are getting new support through a recent $600,000 grant from the Mellon Foundation.
The third Bucknell Fabrication Workshop challenged students to improve disaster-relief efforts while building entrepreneurial prototyping skills.
Twelve graduates of Bucknell's Class of 2016 plan to put their education to work through the Peace Corps or Teach For America.
The Bucknell University undergraduate loves the logic and beauty he sees in mathematics.
A cohort of six engineering students are the first at Bucknell to complete the Grand Challenge Scholars Program, a National Academy of Engineering-sponsored effort to confront the big issues of the 21st century.
The April 29 event exhibited the amazing creations Bucknell engineers made in the 2015-16 academic year, including five first-ever interdisciplinary senior design projects.
The gift from Randy and Kathy MacDonald P'02 reflects their support for beyond-the-classroom learning.
Science, writing, nature and travel have inspired Brady to cultivate her own perspective and try to understand others'.
The Malesardi Family Quadrangle honors Bob '45 and Doris Malesardi's $20 million pledge to financial aid — the single-biggest commitment in Bucknell's history.
The one-day giving event broke participation records as it raised money to benefit students in every part of the University.
Haussmann, biology, is embarking on three-year study of the connection between prenatal stress and premature aging.
At the fourth annual Sustainability Symposium at Bucknell University, students, faculty and staff examined sustainability globally and locally.
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