Summer Scholars showcase 10 weeks of collaborative research

Photo by Rebecca Slater '10 / By Rebecca Studios

Calli Clay '20 (left) and her fellow student Ella Graham '21 (right) collaborated with mathematics faculty Kristine Pelatt in their research project, "Finding Structure in Texts with Topological Data Analysis."

Photo by Rebecca Slater '10 / By Rebecca Studios.

Summer Scholars in 2019

Collaborative research doesn’t take the summer off, as a dedicated cohort of students and faculty members proved during the Summer Scholars Closing Celebration held at the end of July.

Fellow students, faculty, staff and family mingled in the Rauenhorst Ballroom as 10 teams of students and faculty shared research spanning the full gamut of disciplines — economics, art history, biology, and more.

Summer Scholars allows students and faculty to collaborate in professional research over the course of 10 weeks. For students, the projects are a valuable addition to their portfolio and a unique opportunity to gain real-world research skills, working alongside faculty who are active in the field.

“I enjoyed learning what math outside the classroom looks like,” said Ella Graham ’21, who worked with mathematics faculty Kristine Pelatt on a topological data analysis of text. “It’s much more open-ended than I thought.”

For Vy Phung ’20, the professional, collaborative nature of the program was key. “You’re all on the same level, working as a team,” she said, “not just as students.” Phung was part of the public health project with faculty Sister Angela Ekwonye, PhD.

For faculty, the program offers the opportunity to mentor promising students both in and out of their disciplines, benefiting from new perspectives. Allison Adrian, PhD, music and women’s studies faculty, emphasizes the importance of the curiosity and openness that students on her team brought to their research.

“There’s nothing better, as a faculty member, than students who want to learn,” Adrian said, referring to her student collaborators Erika Contreras ’22 and Rebecca Gibson ’19. “They helped me with decisions that were really difficult to make — the maturity and independence that they demonstrate is so impressive.”

Often the teams’ research continues past the end of the Summer Scholars program, accruing more collaborators, finding homes in journals and archives, and enjoying the spotlight at academic conferences. Every year as the program concludes, teams apply to present their research at conferences such as the National Conference on Undergraduate Research (NCUR), a yearly showcase of the nation’s best undergraduate scholarship. Over the past five years, the St. Kate's acceptance rate has been a formidable 100%, as compared to the national average of 83% over the past five years.

Summer Scholars program


Summer Scholars 2019 teams


Art and Art History

Listening for the Liberal Arts
Lucian Blanks '20, Amy Hamlin

Biochemistry and Biology

The Expression, Purification and Characterization of LIN-39 and LIN-39ccc16
Reba Surma-Heine ’20, Kristina Lodahl ’20, Kim Ha, Andrea Kalis


Labor Market Discrimination based on Sex and Sexual Orientation 
Kala Tiede ’21, Emily Young ‘22, Marina Mileo Gorsuch

Historic Trends in Labor Among American Indians and Alaska Natives
Briana Morales ’20, Isabel Pastoor ’20, Lauren Lenzen, Emma Kettle, Kristine West

Exercise and Sport Science

Novel Gait Training for Older Adults: Nordic Walking vs. Vizziq™ Training
Abbie Payne ‘21, Megan Ruppert ‘21, Lana Prokop, Joshua Guggenheimer


Finding Structure in Texts with Topological Data Analysis
Calli Clay ‘20, Ella Graham ‘21, Kristine Pelatt


Curating an Album of Cañari Music
Erika Contreras ‘22, Rebecca Gibson ‘19, Allison Adrian


Lower Atmosphere Neutron Detection Using Personal Neutron Dosimeters
Melissa Graham ‘20, Judy Panmany ‘20, Claire Weinzierl ‘20, Alisha Wiedmeier ‘20, Erick Agrimson

Using Coincidences to Investigate Zenith Angle Dependence of Stratospheric Cosmic Rays
Melissa Graham ‘20, Judy Panmany ‘20, Claire Weinzierl ‘20, Alisha Wiedmeier ‘20, Erick Agrimson

Public Health

Individual and Social Factors Associated with Test Anxiety, Sleep, and Academic Behaviors of Female Undergraduates at a Catholic University
Sydney Coxworth ’20, Vy Phung ‘20, Angela Ekwonye


About St. Kate’s Collaborative Undergraduate Research

The Summer Scholars program began in 2010 with five research teams comprised of five faculty and nine students. It has expanded since then to support 12 to 15 faculty-students each year. More than 25 disciplines are represented across the teams. To date, more than 100 teams have participated, with all presenting their work regionally, nationally, and/or internationally. Students have been invited to present at Posters on the Hill and MN Scholars at the Capitol. All students are funded to present at NCUR or another conference identified by their faculty mentor.

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