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Summer Scholars

Summer ScholarsFor a group of Tufts undergraduates, the summer was spent in labs, libraries and the field as they worked with faculty on a wide range of research projects. Boston.

Boston [08.15.03] Instead of working a summer job or vacationing on the beach, a group of Tufts students spent their summer months in labs, libraries, and in the field. Through an innovative new program at Tufts -- believed to be the most comprehensive of its kind for undergraduates -- the students teamed up with faculty from across the University to conduct a broad array of research projects - from cardiovascular genetics to the roots of jazz.

"Students are beginning to understand how important an in-depth study of one particular topic in their field is," Tufts senior Mitch Lunn - a coordinator of the "Summer Scholars" program - told The Chronicle of Higher Education.

To give them a head start, Tufts Provost Jamshed Bharucha launched the new program this summer, which provided 30 undergraduates with stipends of $3,500 each, as well as up to $1,000 for research and lab supplies.

"The Summer Scholars program enhances Tufts unique combination of schools by providing undergraduates with the opportunity to work with faculty across the University's eight schools and its teaching hospitals," Bharucha said.

Students like Alexandra Kosiba - who learned about the program while studying abroad in Spain - jumped at the unique opportunity.

"I was looking for a position that interested me enough to hopefully be a base for a senior thesis," Kosiba, a senior and biology major, told E-News. "My advisor, Sara Lewis, informed me about a new program at Tufts and urged me to apply. I was enticed by the generous pay as well as the much needed research stipends. It seemed to be just what I had been looking for."

Nearly 90 students applied for the 30 spots and more than 100 faculty members offered to mentor students.

The opportunity to work with leading researchers on Tufts' health sciences campus in Boston was also a major draw for Kosiba.

"I was specifically looking for genetic and biomedical research," she told E-News. "I knew that there were great doctors working at Tufts' Sackler School of Graduate Biomedical Sciences and some of the most novel technology and discoveries as well."

Faculty mentors like Dr. James Marchand, who is overseeing Kosiba's research, have made the experience hands on for the undergraduates.

"Dr. Marchand assists me in planning experiments and we spend a lot of time adjusting protocols and examining past experiments," Kosiba told E-News. "I read a lot of papers by scientists conducting similar research and talk to doctors and graduate students in the building for advice on techniques."

But the program isn't limited to students interested in hard sciences.

"The Summer Scholars Program is open to any undergraduate student, regardless of their major," a University spokesperson told the Chronicle.

History major James Clark dedicated his summer to the work of jazz piano great Wynton Kelly. Instead of reporting to a laboratory every day, Clark spends much of his time in the Boston Public Library.

"I spend a lot of time going through old magazines and also have to find and listen to as many of his recordings as I can," Clark told E-News. "I'm going to New York this week to interview some people that knew him."

For many of the undergraduates, the summer program offered an opportunity to build connections with leading Tufts faculty.

While researching parent/child relationships, senior Alexandra Kenney developed a close relationship with her mentor, Dr. Ann Easterbrooks.

"It's amazing to be able to ask Dr. Easterbrooks questions, and then go to the library and see how much of the current published research in this field has been pioneered by her!" Kenney told E-News. "No matter how busy she is with a million different projects, Dr.Easterbrooks always has the time to answer my questions and help me. If it had not been for the summer scholars program, I probably would not have had the opportunity to work with her."

Giving undergraduate students the same opportunities to work in positions typically available only to graduate students was one of the main goals of the program.

"I have learned a great deal. I think that it is an invaluable program and service to undergraduates," Kosiba told E-News, "I know now that I want to pursue a career in research. I have gained a better understanding of what type of research this will be and where I would like it to take me."

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