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Drew University Students Gain Skills, Experience in the Drew Summer Science Institute

Part 2 of our series on the program providing real-world research opportunities for undergrads

August 2023 – The Drew Summer Science Institute (DSSI) is one of several unique opportunities for Drew University students to work directly with faculty on research projects in the lab.

Each summer, more than 50 students spend two months building hands-on skills and experiences in a true research environment in fields like anthropology, biology, chemistry, math, computer science, physics, psychology, and statistics.

We spoke with a number of the students who participated in the summer 2023 session about their experiences and takeaways.

Part 1 | Part 3

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Chaves-Gamboa with one of the frogs in her project.

Sophia Chaves-Gamboa C’25, Neuroscience and Biology double major

“One of the many things I took away from DSSI was how research actually looked—where an idea starts and gets shared and how it becomes a protocol and written about. DSSI showed me the reality behind research. It helped my studies in many obvious ways, but it also clarified my passion. I studied the environmental effects of the prevalence of Bd, a fungus working its way through the western world, and causing extinctions of many frog species. As a neuroscientist, I didn’t love working with lab animals, but the field seemed narrow if I wanted to study animals. DSSI introduced me to a conservation center where I could work with animals using my biology degree to study them through observation. I loved the research. I hope I’m always a part of research until I run my own lab.”

Sajjad Nazari C’25, Biochemistry major

“I gained a great amount of lab and science skills in DSSI this summer. At times I was required to use more advanced techniques, but at others, I also applied the common knowledge of science. Working in a group setting of three students and one mentor was different from any other lab work I had done, so it was nice to get used to. The experience was definitely worth it regardless of whether you have goals of working in research. DSSI will definitely look good on my resume, but the more important thing was gaining experience and learning new things. Down the line, I may write a thesis on my research topic or branch off into other related research.”

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Ardila looks for movement of mouses or chipmunks.

Emily Ardila C’26, Biology and Spanish double major

“I have gained so much from DSSI. I learned patience and to understand that not everything will go according to plan. I also learned how to communicate a lot more with a group, whether during an experiment or for a presentation. As a rising sophomore, DSSI was very exciting, but I was nervous. I thought I’d be the only person without experience handling small mammals, but everyone was patient and willing to help. DSSI helped me gain in experience in an area of biology which will help me determine the field I want to pursue after graduation.”

Maryann Dillon C’25, Biology and Psychology double major, Neuroscience minor

“DSSI taught me a lot about handling laboratory animals and tending to their needs. I was able to learn how animals’ behaviors are tested. I gained experience in working with animal samples, like blood, and testing them for their levels of different hormones. Also, presenting to a large audience that included professors made me much more confident and better prepared to respond to questions. My experience this summer will help me immensely because it gave me laboratory and research experience. This not only gave me something to put on my resume, but it helped me become certain that I am interested in both biology and psychology. Performing the dissections on the mice at the end of the summer helped me gain experience in working with surgical tools, as I want to become a surgeon in the future.”

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