HPU Students and Faculty Conduct Compelling Summer Research

Jul 15th, 2021

HPU Students and Faculty Conduct Compelling Summer Research

From left to right are senior Ashley King; Dr. Meghan Blackledge, associate professor of chemistry; and senior Maggie Mauer conducting research in High Point University’s Wanek School of Natural Sciences this summer. Blackledge helps her students examine biofilms as a part of their summer research project.

Research topics range from if a person who had COVID-19 might be impacted by exercising in hot climates to a NASA-funded grant.

HIGH POINT, N.C., July 15, 2021 – High Point University’s campus is bustling this summer with creativity as faculty and students collaborate in three unique summer research programs.

Students from all academic schools are participating in three programs that students applied for during the spring semester. The programs are SuRPS (Summer Research Programs in the Sciences), SuRI (Summer Research Institute) and SuRF (Summer Research Fellowship).

“There are tons of opportunities to do research at High Point University,” says Maggie Mauer, a senior biology major from Rome, Georgia. “It has helped me build relationships and gain experience in research. The skills I’ve learned here in the lab will carry over to grad school and beyond.”

“Getting to do research in college at HPU does influence what I’d like to do in the future,” says Andrew Lawrence, a junior majoring in chemistry. “Being in research has definitely opened my eyes to the research field and directing what kind of chemistry I’d want to be around after graduation.”

Summer Research Programs in the Sciences (SuRPS)

This is the first year summer research is taking place inside the Wanek School of Natural Sciences, which opened in fall 2019. The research program was paused in the summer of 2020 due to the pandemic. Dr. Brian Augustine, chair of the Department of Chemistry and director of SuRPS, says faculty and students are excited to utilize the impressive equipment, lab space and state-of-the-art classrooms.

Their projects include studying star systems in a project funded by NASA, to testing different combinations of drugs on bacteria growth and reproducing different minute films of certain polymers.

“The films have potential applications in technologies that require materials with a high surface area, such as battery technology, catalytic materials and engineered surfaces for cell growth,” says Augustine. “One of my students is patterning materials on a nanoscale. She’s helping me figure out some cutting-edge projects we will use in the lab of our nanoscience class, like controlled patterning of structures on the nanoscale.”

Summer Research Fellowship (SuRF)

Dr. Matthew Kuennen, assistant professor of exercise science, is working with two SuRF students in the Congdon School of Health Sciences’ Human Biomechanics and Physiology Lab. Rachael Badaeu, a junior, and Rachel Kowis, a senior, are using a specially designed environmental chamber to determine if people who had COVID-19 respond differently to prolonged work or exercise in hot conditions. There has also been discussion on whether people with certain viral infections are at a greater risk for exertional heatstroke. The blood markers and cardiovascular data that are examined in this study could answer this question.

“Getting to focus on one research project at HPU in the summer is a really interesting experience because it’s not like our normal lab work with classes where we do something new every week,” says Rachel Kowis, majoring in neuroscience and psychology. ”We’re able to continue a specific project over a long period of time, and it’s exciting to see it all come together.”

Summer Research Institute (SuRI)

Students from different majors both in and outside of the sciences are taking part in SuRI this summer. Research in this program includes topics from majors in biology, psychology, exercise science, history, gaming, education and communication. Dr. Joanne Altman, director of HPU’s Office of Undergraduate Research and Creative Works, leads the program to collaborate with students and faculty from a variety of majors.

Dr. Aurijit Sarkar, assistant professor in basic pharmaceutical sciences, is working with three students this summer in the Fred Wilson School of Pharmacy to find ways to target bacterial pathogens to fight off superbugs that are resistant to medicine.

“I have learned a lot of amazing lab techniques and expanded my knowledge through this research,” says senior, Allison Tucker, a neuroscience major. “It’s wonderful to be invested in a lab like this because it’s also a graduate-level lab, and you are running your own experiments and interpreting your own data with guidance.