Rewards of Research

Tuesday, Jul. 29, 2014 5:11 pm

“It’s really valuable to do research outside of your classroom lab,” says Emily Stuchiner ’15, a biology major with a concentration in environmental studies. She worked on a research project at Columbia University in New York. “If you’re an aspiring biologist or scientist, this is the springboard for what your future endeavors could look like.”

With funding provided by the College, a half-dozen Grinnell students worked in labs across the country. The internships allow them to gain expertise in their chosen fields and expand their career options.

Research in a Lab at Iowa State University

Queenster Nartey ’16 in the labQueenster Nartey ’16, a biological chemistry major, developed an app that will allow Type 2 diabetics to learn how certain changes to their diet or exercise could affect their blood glucose levels. Nartey designed the app’s user interface and wrote its computer code at Iowa State University’s Department of Chemical and Biological Engineering.

“Studies have shown that people are more likely to take more action when they see immediate results,” she says. “By having this hypothetical case of what their blood glucose could have been if they altered these activities, they would be more likely to change those behaviors.”

Research in New York’s Black Rock Forest

As Stuchiner meandered through the picturesque Black Rock Forest in Cornwall-on-the-Hudson, N.Y., she carried a bag filled with the scientific equipment she used to collect air and leaf litter samples. Back in Columbia’s lab, she analyzed the materials. During her 10-week research project, she studied how oak disease affects the forest’s tree species.

“I’ve definitely learned what a long-term science project is like. This is the longest science project I’ve worked on,” she says. “It’s really exciting to see it all come together.”

Value of Off-campus Research

The projects have both students considering professional degrees.

Nartey says her research has bolstered her confidence, critical thinking skills, and problem-solving skills.

“It’s making me strongly consider medical research as a possibility that blends both doing research and studying something important to the medical field,” she says.  

Stuchiner has learned how to conduct a well-run experiment, the benefits of a well-funded lab, and experienced some surprises, she says.

“What’s really surprising is how utterly and thoroughly exhausting fieldwork is,” she says. “You really need to love what you’re doing.”

Both students agree their summer research projects will enhance their classroom experience.

“This opportunity has given me the extra drive and motivation I need to focus on successfully completing the next two years of my Grinnell education,” says Nartey.

Emily Stuchiner ’15, a biology major with a concentration in environmental studies, is from New York. Queenster Nartey ’16, a biological chemistry major, is from Chicago.