Student research takes center stage at Summer Scholars Showcase

Student and researchers studying the Grand River
Biology major Colin Assenmacher, foreground, assists two Grand Valley researchers in their study of the Grand River. Assenmacher conducted similar research as part of the Student Summer Scholars program.
Image credit - Valerie Hendrickson

For 12 weeks this summer, biology major Colin Assenmacher studied the ecosystem integrity of the Grand River. Rylie Dorman, a natural resources management major, researched the public’s perception of the historically-polluted White Lake in West Michigan.

The pair, along with students in six undergraduate research programs, will exhibit their initial findings or projects September 9 to the Grand Valley community during the Summer Scholar Showcase at the Kirkhof Center.

Assenmacher and Dorman are part of the Student Summer Scholars, one of five undergraduate research programs participating in the showcase which are coordinated by the Center for Undergraduate Scholar Engagement. CUSE offers more than 20 programs and grants to support student research and scholarship.

CUSE programs presenting on September 9 include the Student Summer Scholars, the Modified Student Summer Scholars, Library Scholars, Research Scholars, and the Undergraduate Research Assistant Program. Students in the Ronald E. McNair Postbaccalaureate Achievement Program will also join the event.

While the September 9 event gives a glimpse of the students’ work thus far, it leads to their final presentation on April 13 at the annual Student Scholars Day

Sunrise on Michigan lake
Natural resources management major Rylie Dorman studied the historically-polluted White Lake and the public's perception of its remediation efforts.
Image credit - Kendra Stanley-Mills
Student looking at survey
Natural resources management major Rylie Dorman flips through a survey she created for her research project to gauge the public's perception of White Lake after its removal as an Area of Concern in 2014.
Image credit - Kendra Stanley-Mills

“It’s one thing to learn about this in the classroom, but it’s another to go out in the field and do it,” said Assenmacher, who worked with biology professor Eric Snyder. 

“You’re learning about your discipline and taking a deeper dive in what you might want to do. I haven’t decided on what I want to do, but this is a possible option. It’s been really helpful in helping me decide what I want to do in the future.”

Stipends are available to students totaling as much as $4,000 to help them devote their time and attention toward their work.

“The whole process tends to allow them to grow in their independence,” said Erin Carrier, assistant professor of computer science and one of the program’s mentors. 

“If students are working on it all summer without other obligations, then they tend to grow a lot more than they think they would. They’re thinking through problems, thinking of ideas, writing. They don’t necessarily see (their growth) or recognize it.”

Growing up near White Lake, Dorman, who worked with sociology professor Amanda Buday, was interested in seeing how the public viewed the historically-polluted lake since its removal as an Area of Concern in 2014.  

Dorman examined the public’s impression of remediation efforts, their perception of the lake’s water quality, and if they will be involved in the lake’s stewardship.

“It’s definitely time-consuming,” said Dorman. “You have to be dedicated to what you’re doing, and if you’re not, it’s easy to get behind and not accomplish what you want. 

“It put me on a tight schedule with research every day, and it was very rewarding.”

Based on his experience, Assenmacher encourages fellow students to pursue the opportunity.

“It teaches you so many things, professional goals, traits, qualities,” he said. “You do a lot of work in self-development, teamwork, and how to work in the academic and professional worlds.

“There are a lot of great things you can gain from this.”

To learn more about the students and their research, visit the Exposure page of the University Communications' photo staff.


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