Five students from Catholic colleges across the nation were selected as inaugural recipients of undergraduate research stipends through the Research Experience for Students at Catholic Colleges (RESACC) program to conduct research at the University of Notre Dame in the Department of Chemistry and Biochemistry this summer . The program, which was directed by chemistry faculty members Seth Brown and Steve Wietstock, provided a stipend of $4,000 for full-time work during the ten weeks of the program, as well as housing and research supplies.
The participants, who were sophomores and juniors studying chemistry or biochemistry at Catholic colleges, had the opportunity to select from a wide variety of projects in chemistry and biochemistry, ranging from topics in nanotechnology and computational chemistry to enzymology, protein structure, and catalysis to drug design and development.
The students are working with their respective Notre Dame faculty members on cutting edge research during the ten-week program. They also interact with Notre Dame students, participate in research group meetings, take part in workshops on science ethics, technical writing, and career development, and enjoy Notre Dame campus life, the surrounding South Bend area, and Chicago through social events and group outings. They will eventually each present their research results at an undergraduate research symposium.
Kayla Lewis, a student from Aquinas College, is researching organometallic compounds under the direction of Kenneth Henderson, professor of chemistry. Lewis claims, “an average day of research for me is like a nine to five job, but sometimes that changes depending on the reaction I’m running. When I’m in the lab, I never do exactly the same thing.” As for her overall research experience, she says, “so far, my research has been going very well – I’ve managed to make what we wanted and we’ve learned a lot about my reactions… And my overall experience has been great too! I’ve met a lot of people from chemistry, physics, and bio and we’ve done a lot of cool things so far on the off hours.”
Katie Muhlenkamp, a student from Ohio Dominican College, is currently researching the turn over rate of an enzyme using fluorescence. She spends an average day either “reading theories on how to [measure the rate of the enzyme] and to better understand the technical aspects of the machinery” or “go[ing] into the lab and test[ing] aspects using the fluorometer,” a device used to measure parameters of fluorescence. Muhlenkamp claims that working with a graduate student on her research has helped her greatly: “I [haven’t] had a background in most of stuff I am doing, so she has been helping me find resources and then helping understand the resources. She has also helped me to learn how to use the equipment.”
The Research Experience for Students at Catholic Colleges program displays the College of Science’s commitment to the education and training of students at other Catholic universities. The program aims to supplement the research experiences possible at smaller Catholic colleges by providing students with funding and support to take advantage of the faculty and facilities available at Notre Dame. Some students may be invited to return to Notre Dame for a second year of supported research.