What Learning Spanish Through the Honors Enrichment Award Equipped and Provided Me With

        My name is Marina Topa and I am a Sophomore nursing student. I was one of the students who received an Enrichment Award last Spring. The Enrichment Award provides the opportunity for Honors students to either conduct research or study a foreign language of their choice. Students propose what they want to use the award to do during the summer and go through an application process near the end of Freshman year. The Honors staff is very helpful in guiding you with the application and finding the best plan for your research or studies.

        I used my award to learn Spanish this summer. I purchased Rosetta Stone and some books to practice Spanish. I practiced as much as my schedule would allow and was able to really strengthen my language skills. I wanted to learn more Spanish because I already learned some in high school and wanted to learn more in preparation for a mission trip to Peru I went on this summer. I traveled to Chimbote, Peru and volunteered at a maternity hospital.

        I was able to talk to people in Peru in their own language which really made a difference in communication. This was important since we were either in a hospital setting or peoples’ homes most of the time. People appreciated that I took the time and effort to learn some of their language instead of relying on the translator. The skills I learned really helped me connect with individuals on my trip and I formed many friendships. I can message my Peruvian friends in decent Spanish now and they help me improve my conversational skills.

    The Enrichment Award is a great way to do something that will build your resume for future opportunities. This may mean applying for a fellowship, internship, or job. Personally, my long term goal is to be a bilingual nurse because there is a huge demand for Spanish-speaking healthcare professionals. I strongly encourage you to look into the Enrichment Award and all of the opportunities that it has to offer. It definitely opened the door to many great experiences for me.


— Marina Topa



The Insightful and Diverse Perspectives of the Hertog Foundation’s Summer Courses:

        This summer, I participated in the Hertog summer fellowship in Washington, D.C. I engaged in a two-week intensive course, American Political Thought, and a variety of speeches from experts in different areas. Throughout the course, I read an array of classics in political philosophy such as Hayek’s The Road to Serfdom and Tocqueville’s Democracy in America. Discussions with professors and other students who have similar passions are both challenging and inspiring. In particular, both sides of controversial issues are brought to light and analyzed, allowing me to examine practical problems from multiple perspectives. Apart from regular seminars, I listened to talks by experts in foreign affairs, legislature, history, and political science. They supplemented the text we studied and extended theories into practice. I also met people from different places who share my intellectual and professional interests. Most of these students read extensively, encouraging me to proactively engage within my pursuit of political philosophy. Furthermore, the program directors are very helpful, providing useful guidance on internships and graduate schools. Overall, this experience at the Hertog Foundation has increased my understanding of political philosophy, as well as exposed me to various opinions.cNumZAsi_400x400


— Jiabi He

My Confirming Summer as an REU Student Researcher

        This summer, I worked at the Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute in their Biomedical and Biomanufacturing Research Experience for Undergraduates (REU) program. I worked under principal investigator Dr. Deva Chan with the help of graduate students Macaire Grobe and Matthew Getzin in the Chan Lab, a laboratory focused on the study of osteoarthritis.

        Osteoarthritis is a degenerative joint disease impacting the mobility and quality of life of over 27 million people in the United States alone. My project was to: (1) determine the optimal uptake conditions for a newly-developed iodine solution to track cartilage breakdown; and (2) use spectral computed tomography — a medical imaging technique — to demonstrate the ability of contrast-enhancement to distinguish between calcium and iodine signals. I immersed cylindrical plugs from juvenile bovine patellas in the iodine solution for various lengths of time and imaged as well as analyzed the effects. This fall, I will present my research at the Biomedical Engineering Society’s meeting in Atlanta, Georgia.

This summer’s program confirmed my interest in biomedical engineering and sparked a desire to pursue future education following the completion of my undergraduate degree. Next summer, I plan to intern in this industry or work in another research program.




— Cheri McChesney

My Experience with the Statistical and Applied Mathematical Sciences Institute

        This past May, I had the amazing opportunity to participate in a Statistical and Applied Mathematical Sciences Institute (SAMSI) Undergraduate Modeling Workshop held at North Carolina State University. This all-expense-paid workshop exposed undergraduate students to the research processes involved in applying mathematics and statistics to climate science questions. In addition to this privilege, we also learned about the Earth’s climate system from professionals. Climate can be defined as the 30-year average of weather. In probability terms, if weather is the random event, climate is the distribution. The basic idea behind this workshop was simple: the global climate is changing. Local changes in climate are becoming increasingly difficult to determine, and climate models that have been used for decades are no longer accurate. For the protection of this planet, as well as the entire human race, climate research must be considered a priority.

        The 35 of us were separated into groups of six to work with throughout the week. Each of the project topics were focused on different issues in the environmental industry today. These included analyzing spatio-temporal rainfall data from the Gulf coast, predicting the motion of sea-ice in the Arctic, representing currents and temperature in the deep ocean, understanding the effects of air pollutant exposures on human health, and quantifying changes in vegetation over time. The team I was assigned to assessed the biomass of remote Alaskan forests using a variable known as Above Ground Biomass (AGB). AGB is a variable used in forestry to quantify how dense said forest is. Our goal was to create a continuous map of predicted AGB with uncertainty quantification for the Bonanza Creek Experimental Forest of Alaska.  We received data from forest inventory plots, LiDAR plane lasers, and satellite imaging. To aid us in our research throughout the week, we received a tutorial on how to use R programming software. We were taught by Dr. Douglas Nychka, one of the authors of the R package, Fields. To conclude the workshop, each group gave a 30-minute presentation on our research process and ultimate findings.

        This workshop was an eye-opening experience. To meet professionals working in the environmental industry allowed me to gain an entirely new perspective as to what is possible for someone with a mathematical background. I also received a surprising amount of technical knowledge in only one week. Overall, it was a phenomenal experience, and I highly recommend SAMSI workshops for all undergraduate students.  Lastly, I want to extend my gratitude to Dr. VanDieren, for introducing this opportunity to me and assisting me throughout the application process.

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For more specific information regarding the SAMSI Undergraduate Modeling Workshop, please feel free to email Katrina Lewis at kllst200@mail.rmu.edu.

– Katrina Lewis