Students present summer research and internship summaries


Photo by Libby Sykes ’22

Libby Sykes, Staff Writer

Last Friday, Sept. 17, students from across disciplines got a chance to show off their summer research and internships. President Suzanne Rivera and Provost Lisa Anderson-Levy addressed and welcomed the students. Students presented summaries of their internship experiences and posters of their research in a science fair-style exhibit.

“This is my first time attending this event,” Rivera said. “I’m delighted to see how many of these projects involve deep and meaningful collaboration with community partners.”

Macalester Career Exploration hosts the event each year. This year’s topics ranged from graphing the ability to predict air pollution based on neighborhood income to local internships with art collectives to telling inmates’ stories.

Erin Leary ’23 conducted on-campus research on Perovskite solar cells this summer for the Physics and Astronomy Department. They said at the fair that, like graphene entrepreneurship, their research is promising for the future of solar energy production. However, the underlying Perovskite process contains lead, so the manufacture of Perovskite may need to be improved in further research, Leary said.

Sun Tun ’22 and Julia Ricks ’22 studied dinosaur and turtle eggshells collected at a site in Montana. They spent most of the summer researching the amniotic samples of fossil layers.

Daniel Chechelnitsky ’22 presented a poster on his internship for Flutter, an up-and-coming mobile app to calculate user health risk. He said he got his internship by running into a math, computer science and statistics department professor and mentioning his interest in summer programs.

Through a Facebook group, he was then able to apply to many different internships, including this one.

“Don’t be afraid to reach out to faculty,” Chechelnitsky said. “There are many opportunities for you to get funding.”

Macalester typically makes an effort to get students acquainted with internship and research opportunities, but last year that was difficult due to the pandemic. The research showcase in 2020 was online-only.

Interim Dean of the Faculty and Associate Provost for Strategic Initiatives Dianna Shandy wrote in an email to The Mac Weekly that the online version of the showcase was very well received, so they continued with a hybrid event in 2021.

“A new adaptation for 2021 was the inclusion of digital posters, in addition to the traditional paper posters,” Shandy wrote.

Macalester’s summer research programs are funded by various donors. The W.M. Keck Foundation awarded Macalester a $500,000 grant in 1997 to support student-faculty summer research collaborations in any discipline.
Part of this award formed the basic funding for the program. That was then matched in additional grants to create a $1.2 million endowment.

There are now over a dozen different funds for summer research reserved for certain types of projects, majors or topics based on the donor’s objective. These funds enable students to undertake paid, full-time research positions in collaboration with faculty while becoming eligible for free on-campus housing over the summer.

A call for research proposals is sent to faculty toward the end of fall semester inviting applications for funding which will occur later this year. The Strategic Planning and Analysis Committee ranks the applications and makes recommendations to the Provost for funding, after which students and faculty are notified if their proposal is approved.

The website for the 2021 Macalester summer showcase is now updated to show students’ summer work.