On Thursday, Nov. 17, from 4:30 p.m. to 6:30 p.m., Gamma Sigma Epsilon—Drew University’s chemistry honor society—hosted a STEM Research Expo in HS4 in the Hall of Sciences. Intended primarily for freshmen and sophomores, this event gave students the chance to learn about research opportunities at Drew.
The event featured professors in the biology, chemistry, neuroscience and environmental science departments as well as RISE fellows. RISE, or Research Institute for Scientists Emeriti, is a unique program in which Drew students perform research under the mentorship of retired industrial scientists. Drew students who currently work in faculty research labs accompanied faculty and RISE fellows.
Each professor or RISE fellow created a poster that summarized the particulars of their research lab, including the lab’s focus, goals, applications and methodologies. The posters also listed the student lab members and the STEM fields explored by the lab. The posters were arranged around HS4, and attendees could walk around the room and examine each poster. Professors, RISE fellows and student lab members also verbally explained their research to attendees while answering individual questions.
While listening to the presentations and reading the posters, attendees could jot down notes on pamphlets with contact information for each of the research labs. Refreshments such as sandwiches, pretzel bites and cookies were also provided.
One professor in attendance was chemistry professor Dr. Christopher Fazen, who runs two research labs. One lab focuses on increasing enzyme efficiency to promote green chemistry, and the other explores methods of combating antibacterial resistance.
When asked what role students play in his research, Dr. Fazen said, “The role undergrads play is critical. In my lab in particular, the undergrads are involved in everything from experimental design to actually doing the experiments and doing all the data analysis. I try to give [students] a lot of independence and let them try to take ownership of their projects.”
Gabby Tronosky (’23) is one of the students working in Dr. Adam Cassano’s research lab, which explores methods to inhibit aldo-keto-reductases. These molecules are enzymes that speed up chemical reactions. When asked about her role in the lab, Tronosky said, “I attempt to decrease substrate inhibition by adding salt, and now I’m looking at the effects of this with different pH levels and different salts.”
Gamma Sigma Epsilon faculty advisor Dr. Kimberly Choquette emphasized the importance of doing research as an undergraduate. “You learn skills in [a teaching] lab, but you really learn how to think and problem-solve and be independent in the research lab,” she said. “You also get opportunities to do actual things that you might do in the real world and not just in the teaching lab that’s trying to teach you a specific skill.”
Overall, the STEM Research Expo was an excellent way for Drew students to learn about faculty research labs and make an informed decision about which research labs to join. The expo also highlighted the significance of undergraduate research. Whether performed during the school year or as part of the Drew Summer Science Institute, research is a valuable opportunity for students to gain practical skills and develop a stronger connection to their field of study. To learn more about student research at Drew, you can contact Dr.Brianne Barker, the director of undergraduate research and the Drew Summer Science Institute, at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Abigail Goldman is a first-year student double-majoring in biochemistry and molecular biology.