Grant-funded Research Fuels Student Curiosity

Fall 2014 Issue

Part of the college experience is learning to ask your own questions, but sometimes it takes more than a Google search to find the answers. Susquehanna provides students with many opportunities to answer their own questions and grow as research professionals. In the past year Susquehanna faculty members have received prestigious grants from the National Institutes of Health (NIH), the Richard King Mellon Foundation and the National Science Foundation (NSF) to pursue their research with the help of students.

Matthew Rousu, Warehime professor of economics, is studying smoking trends and e-cigarette use in the United States, thanks to an NIH grant. The student researchers working with him are learning about more than just blowing smoke. “They’re learning how to be managers, which is an important skill in life,” Rousu says of his students. Courtney Conrad ’17, a business administration and economics major from Selinsgrove, applied these skills last spring as she ran an auction for him in which participants evaluated e-cigarettes and bid blindly against each other based on the maximum they’d pay for the products. Conrad proved her ability as a leader, a position she never anticipated.

The Richard King Mellon Foundation award has allowed numerous professors and their students to examine the effects of ecological and environmental changes on the Susquehanna River and its tributaries. Research by Professor of Biology Jack Holt had a particularly strong influence on Ian Murray ’16, a biology major from Ringtown, Pa. Murray spent the summer conducting research on diatoms, unicellular organisms that can help determine some of the chemical content and relative health of a river. His research culminated in a presentation at the Landmark Conference Summer Research Symposium, hosted by Juniata College, in July. He worked with Susquehanna’s advanced research technology, such as a scanning electron microscope. Murray believes the experience will set him apart in the competitive field of ecological research. “If I have learned one thing while at Susquehanna, it is that hard work always pays off, and if you are willing to go the extra mile you can really achieve great things,” Murray says.

The NSF grant was awarded to Erin Keen-Rhinehart, assistant professor of biology. Her research focuses on the effects of nutrient restriction on prenatal development. This summer Julia Lesperance’15, a neuroscience and creative writing major from Duncannon, Pa., worked with Keen-Rhinehart to further the research. “She’s helped me as much with preparing for grad school as she has with understanding research,” Lesperance says of Keen-Rhinehart.

There are still plenty of questions on the minds of Susquehanna students and professors. Fortunately, ongoing research opportunities will enable them to continue these and other important scholarly pursuits.

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