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

Part 3 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 2

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Sirica collecting field data in one of the ponds in Drew's Zuck Arboretum.

Rachel Sirica C’24, Environmental Science and French double major, International Relations minor

“We worked on various projects in the realm of amphibian conservation. I learned pond data collection methods to gather specimens to be studied in the lab, where I gained lab experience with cell culturing, DNA extraction, and QPCR protocol and analysis. DSSI provided me an opportunity to refine my public speaking and communication skills, especially when it came to sharing my lab’s work with people outside of the specific field. DSSI affirmed my desire to continue with field work while also cultivating a greater appreciation for lab work.”

David Hoyt C’24, Biochemistry & Molecular Biology major, Public Health and Anthropology double minor

“In my third DSSI, I was very focused on maturing as a researcher now that my technical skills are more established. I really wanted to grow in how I thought about experiments and understood the projects I embarked on. In past years, I focused on picking up skills and just being able to complete the experiments, but I was following protocols rather than asking why. This summer I was really able to engage with Dr. [Brianne] Barker, [associate professor and chair of biology], and Dr. [Stephen] Dunaway, [professor of biology], and take that next step forward. DSSI obviously serves as a resume builder, a way to gain experience in the field that most grad schools will be looking for. However, I also see a lot of value in the preparation for life in graduate school that DSSI provides. The flexibility required for experiments, the highs and lows of results, the troubleshooting. These are all issues that will arise in graduate school that I now already have experienced.”

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Khandelwal in the lab.

Jay Khandelwal C’24, Biochemistry & Molecular Biology major, Business minor

“DSSI was a wonderful, fun, rigorous, intensive fruitful experience! I got a lot out of DSSI, especially gaining in-depth knowledge about how researching like a scientist in the real world works. I also got a chance to explore some critical aspects of a research setting in biological sciences. I got to dive deeper into the insights of planning experiments, improvisations, and the importance of punctuality. Lastly, I learned the importance of presenting your work to an audience in a way that makes sense. I now feel more confident with my technical lab skills and confident in my journey to become an independent scientist. I want to thank [RISE Fellow] Dr. [John] Perkins for mentoring me, and Drew for this wonderful program.”

Devan Sutaria C’26, Biology and Business double major, Psychology minor

“The research was conducted at a level I had never seen before. Our faculty mentors were able to make high-level skills and practices very accessible to all students, especially me, who, as a first-year student, had never been exposed to many of them before DSSI. Aside from the research itself, my most valuable takeaway from DSSI was learning how to work efficiently with a team in an academic setting. Whether it was engaging in research practices like running gel electrophoresis, sequencing, or PCRs, offering new perspectives on the many obstacles that arose in our projects, or working on the final presentation, we often found ourselves leaning on each other for ideas and support. DSSI also developed problem solving abilities like no other experience had. Problems would arise and we’d have to go off-script and spontaneously come up with new solutions. DSSI gave me the creative freedom to expand on this skillset and it is undoubtedly something I’ll carry with me throughout my academic career.”

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