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An Eye on the FUTURE

The FUTURE Summer Research Program provides research opportunities to incoming and first-year Ursinus students.

A new program that can be used to detect cyberbullying on Twitter. Discoveries that can prevent antibiotic resistance in the body. Uncovering critical information about brain development related to fetal alcohol syndrome.

These are just some examples of revolutionary research projects that may one day have a profound impact on society, and they all have one thing in common: Ursinus College students were leading the effort this summer.

Nine incoming or first-year Ursinus students participated in the FUTURE Summer Research Program, which provides research opportunities to members of underserved populations to encourage and equip them with the necessary skills to become the scientific and civic leaders of the future.

“This is a way to reach out to students who have not yet had an opportunity to do research and get them involved in their own projects,” says Amanda Reig, an assistant professor of chemistry at Ursinus and FUTURE Summer Research Program director. “By building connections with their peers and our faculty, the students become part of the research community here at Ursinus. It’s a nice way for them to learn what research is all about, and the earlier they start, the more experience they’ll have when they go on to postgraduate education or start their job search.”

The opportunity to perform undergraduate research is one of the hallmark experiences for Ursinus College students and the FUTURE (Fellowships in the Ursinus Transition to the Undergraduate Research Experience) program allows them to work closely with peer and faculty mentors, immersing them in research prior to — or immediately following — their first year at Ursinus.

Students in the program participated in a four-week summer research experience closely mentored by a faculty member and a FUTURE student mentor. In addition, the students participate in a course titled, “Science and Mathematics in Society;” present their research findings at a regional or national conference; and are strongly encouraged to continue research in subsequent years.

Zonia Rueda ’19, of Trenton, said she studied the effects HIV has on resident immune cells of the brain during her FUTURE research experience.

“The FUTURE program helped me develop more confidence in using my scientific skills,” said Rueda, a biology major. “It also helped me learn even more complex techniques that built upon the techniques I learned during my freshman year at Ursinus. The FUTURE program was a great way to network with many classmates and professors. With what I have learned in the FUTURE program, I would like to build upon more research techniques during my years at Ursinus.”

The FUTURE program was established in 2012 as part of the Center for Science and the Common Good (CSCG), which encourages students to consider the impact of their work on society. FUTURE scholars are encouraged to become FUTURE mentors and to participate in the CSCG.

Since its inception in 2013, 33 FUTURE students, 33 FUTURE mentors, and 21 faculty have participated in the program from a wide range of disciplines. The program culminates with a half-day research symposium in which each of the student gives an oral presentation describing their project and results.

The following students were FUTURE scholars for 2016: Caela Flake (Ashburn, Va.); Abigail McElroy (Randolph, NJ); Min Son (Newtown, Pa.); Codi Yhap (Princeton, NJ); Jordene Downer (Bowie, Md.); Zonia Rueda (Trenton, NJ); Serena Schaefer (Princeton Junction, NJ); Ethan Kabel (Delran, NJ); and Jessica Saunders (Philadelphia, Pa.). – By Ed Moorhouse