At Ursinus, science students do not simply learn from books—they engage in an experiential education that has them working in labs and in the field, often side-by-side with faculty members.
Professor Carlita Favero has been running a lab at the College that studies fetal alcohol spectrum disorders (FASD) using a mammalian mouse model. In particular, she is interested in the cellular and molecular mechanisms underlying sensory processing defects in humans with FASD. With the help of current students, Professor Favero works with mice that were exposed to ethanol during gestation to analyze the development of brain connections and the cells that guide these connections to their final destination. The lab is also moving into working with zebrafish, which will enable them to look at the behavioral implications of ethanol exposure during the development of sensory connections. This research, while not on human subjects, has very real applications for people.
Several current students have been working with Professor Favero in her laboratory, with some even joining her pre-matriculation as part of the FUTURE program funded through a Howard Hughes Medical Institute grant and administered through the College’s Center for Science and the Common Good.
“I think the most valuable part of research is the opportunity to work with scientific professionals who have so much experience on a one-on-one basis,” says Samantha White, a sophomore student who has been working with Professor Favero since the summer before her freshman year.
Junior, Brian Henstenburg, adds, “It has been so valuable to be a part of the working process to perfect new techniques, and share in the excitement of procedures that have gone right.”
The opportunity to engage in undergraduate research provides students with a strong foundation of knowledge from which to draw upon for their futures. It also enables students to develop a clearer picture of their academic interests and career aspirations.
For Professor Favero, she finds researching with students both exciting and gratifying. “I love to see students’ reactions in my lab or my inquiry-based lab courses when they see the cell they stained for the first time,” she says, “or when they quantify their data and find there is a difference between treatment groups.” She continues, “The feeling you get when you are discovering something never gets old, and I love when students go on in the sciences and ‘join the club.’”
All science faculty members at the College run labs that engage students in research opportunities, and many receive funding through grants from the National Institutes of Health and National Science Foundation. Additionally, some students choose to explore different research experiences within multiple labs during their undergraduate years at Ursinus.