Off-campus summer research broadens undergraduate students' experience

Author: Naya Tadavarthy

Monica Mesecar 1200

University of Notre Dame students traveled around the country this summer to participate in research in medicine, chemistry, and beyond. Through their investigations, they hoped to improve human health on earth and even discover some of the secrets of space. Here, a few of the many students who conducted research away from the Notre Dame campus reflect on their formative summer experiences, as they gained new insights about science and themselves away from home. 


Leah Bode

Leah Bode '21

Biochemistry major, Compassionate Care in Medicine minor
From Avon, Indiana

Leah participated in gynecology research with Dr. Bownsyne Tucker Edmonds at the Indiana University School of Medicine in Indianapolis, where she studied how mothers view methods of extremely preterm delivery. They investigated the extent to which mothers can use this information to make their own decisions about their medical care. 

“It is so interesting to read how each mom approaches her pregnancy a little bit different than the next, and then trying to piece together the puzzle of these women’s shared experiences. I’ve learned a lot so far, and I look forward to applying all of my learning experience this summer to my future career as a physician.” 

Louise Bengtsston

Louise Medina Bengtsson '22

Neuroscience and Behavior major; Bioengineering minor
From Rio de Janeiro, Brazil

At the MD Anderson Cancer Research Center in Houston, Texas, Louise investigated how a drug that blocks the fibroblast growth receptor in prostate cancer affects the spread of this disease to the bones. 

“I’ve been learning many new techniques and protocols for experiments,” she said. "Most of the research done here is focused on improving patient care and survival, so I feel like that my work has practical applications.”

Monica Mesecar

Monica Mesecar '21

Neuroscience and Behavior major, Compassionate Care in Medicine minor
From West Lafayette, Indiana

Monica worked in an analytical chemistry lab with Dr. Karl Booksh in the Science and Engineering Leadership Initiative-Research Experience for Undergraduates at the University of Delaware. She identified components of Martian meteorites using Raman Spectroscopy, a method in which she observed how molecular bond vibrations caused characteristic amounts of light scattering. 

“I really enjoyed the chance to learn a new analytical technique that I hadn’t even heard of prior to this program, because doing so showed me how much left there is for me to learn,” she said.  “Because my program was specifically for STEM students with disabilities, it was great to be on my own in a new state and meet people who are in my same situation and share my interests.”

Rhea Desouza

Rhea Desouza '21

Biochemistry major
From Mumbai, India

Focusing on the ineffectiveness of prostate cancer treatments in obese men, Rhea researched at the MD Anderson Cancer Center in Houston, Texas, how high-fat diets and metabolic rates weaken the immune system and increase cancer growth .

“I’m enjoying living a very professional life and having research as my sole focus over the summer. During the school year, I can’t spend more than a few hours in lab, but now, 40 hours per week in lab has allowed me to have an independent project.," she said. "This gives me a lot of responsibility to determine the path of my project and assimilating data to present.”