Following two years of hybrid learning and virtual presentations, Wellesley College held a fully in-person Summer Research Program over the summer of 2022. The program provided students with the opportunity to conduct research in the natural or social sciences while working closely with faculty members of associated departments. This year, the College offered two research programs: the Social Science Summer Research Program (SSSRP) and the Science Center Summer Research Program (SRP). Wellesley students who participated in the program expressed that it helped enhance their understanding of classroom learning and helped them gain confidence in their ability to conduct undergraduate research.
Chemistry major Mary Martinez Nunez ’23 first learned of the Science Summer Research Program through posters displayed on the college campus. In regards to conducting research focused on antimicrobial peptides as a means to treat infections, Martinez Nunez mentioned having access to a wide range of resources and support throughout the duration of the program.
“We had Dr. Don Elmore and Dr. Louise Darling [available] to answer any questions at any moment when we felt like we needed something,” Martinez Nunez said. “We also had people that were running the Science Center Program. We could go to them anytime.”
Martinez Nunez commented on the diverse pool of students who she worked with and the opportunities to interact with students and professionals outside of Wellesley that helped deepen her understanding of the work she was involved in.
“In my lab, there were two people that have never done research before. And then it was me and another person who had done research before. So, it was a good balance and we made sure we helped each other,” Martinez Nunez said. “Every Wednesday, we had seminars from experienced scientists from different fields. It could be in biochemistry, psychology…They would come in and give us a lecture on the work they do. And we also had a panel of people who went into the industry and didn’t specifically [attend] graduate school. So that was really helpful.”
For economics and women and gender studies student Andrea Romero ’24, the Social Science Summer Research Program was helpful in connecting participating students to the program director and professors, who served as important resources.
“We learned a lot more from professors on campus who were in the middle of their own research. We learned more about the practices of how to present,” Romero said. “There were also check-ins with one of the directors and we were able to ask questions to get a feel of how the rest of the program would play out.”
Romero expressed her thoughts on the social environment of campus over the summer. “Wellesley is a bit isolating. It was nice to connect with other people who were doing the program to get that sort of stress relief. But, at the same time, I wish there were more resources for keeping up with students’ mental health,” she said. “However, I was able to work on my public speaking and it felt like a really comfortable space to do that.”
Participating students expressed their key learnings from the research program and its role in helping them refine crucial skills.
“I think my biggest takeaway from doing research was that now I feel confident to explore fields that are research intensive or go into academia after Wellesley, so I really appreciate that about the program,” Romero said.
The programs concluded with a presentation by the students accompanied by posters displaying students’ research and its probable future applications. Some students, like Martinez Nunez, who are part of the McNair Scholars Program, received the opportunity to present their research at the prestigious McNair UMBC 30th Annual Conference held in Baltimore, Maryland.