Back in 2008, when Isa Fritz was a rising junior at Carthage, she spent her summer break studying optical trapping with physics professor Brian Schwartz. Now, six years later, Ms. Fritz has a master’s degree in aerospace engineering from Purdue University, and a position as an orbit dynamics engineer with Space Systems / Loral in Palo Alto, Calif.
She considers her SURE experience critical to her success.
“Because the Carthage SURE program is designed to mimic professional research labs, I gained valuable experience with designing and building my own research experiment,” said Ms. Fritz ’10. “Unlike in the classroom, where problems and methods are now laid out in front of you, SURE students quickly learn how to create a research question, get background information, design the experiment, fix their inevitable mistakes, and conduct the test.”
Carthage’s SURE program has been a hallmark of the College’s curriculum since the mid-1990s. The program pairs Carthage students with faculty mentors to conduct significant research during the summer months. Students work full time on campus for 10 weeks, and receive room and board, a stipend, and a small research budget for their work. The program is possible due in part to the generous support of alumni and friends of Carthage.
In 2012, the program expanded from the natural and social sciences divisions to all six academic divisions at Carthage. Thirty-six students were selected for the 2012 SURE program, doing research in the humanities, arts, natural sciences, social sciences, education and interdisciplinary studies.
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Erin Zimmerman ’11 participated in the SURE program in 2009, studying enantiomers of beta blockers with chemistry professor Kevin Morris. Enantiomers are molecules that are mirror images of each other; they look identical but, in pharmaceuticals, can have very different and sometimes dangerous effects.
“That summer made me realize that I actually liked doing research,” said Erin, who graduated in May with majors in chemistry and theatre, and a minor in biology. Now she is headed for the University of Wisconsin-Madison, where she will pursue a Ph.D. in analytical chemistry. “The SURE program was my first research experience. It helped me land other research internships the next two summers, and ultimately helped me get accepted into graduate school. … I would not have even considered research as a career path had I not participated in the SURE program.”
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Biology major and football player Max Machurick ’15 spent his first summer as a Carthage student researching alternative cancer treatment methods with Prof. Kristopher Kouldelka. He was selected for the 2012 SURE program after taking a J-Term course with Prof. Koudelka and expressing an interest in using modified procapsids as a source for cancer treatment.
“The ability to participate in the SURE program as a freshmen is incredible,” said Max, who plans to become an orthopedic surgeon. “Being introduced to this kind of research at such an early level is extremely beneficial in preparation for medical school.”
“Some of my favorite things about Carthage are the opportunities available for freshmen and the relationships you can form with professors due to the small class sizes,” Max said. “As a freshmen, I was enrolled in Phage Hunters Course, where I isolated and characterized my own mycobacteriophage in lab. I presented my findings at the Celebration of Scholars, and at poster and oral presentations at Howard Hughes Medical Institute Janelia Farms in Virginia.”
The SURE program allowed him to grow even more as a scientist.
“I love that what I’m doing in the lab has a direct correlation to clinical applications,” Max said. “Being able to see the big picture and how experiments in the lab relate to the outside world makes me appreciate the research I am doing. Dr. Koudelka is a great teacher and mentor. Working with him all summer will expand my knowledge in the sciences, specifically biochemistry.”