DC students have unique summer research opportunity

July 13, 2022

The Defiance College STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics) Summer Undergraduate Research Program just completed its second year. This summer, students had the opportunity to work directly with faculty research fellows to conduct research in their field of interest. Student scholars are students in their first year of the program, and student research mentors have previously completed a research program. Some of these groups will continue their research next summer to establish a long-term assessment study.

female student with net in water gather samplesDC students conducted research and received a stipend for the work they completed. The students worked one-on-one with faculty doing hands-on research projects in which they collected and analyzed data and then presented their findings. The College's Summer Undergraduate Research Program aims to engage students as active researchers and problem solvers. The program also increases oral and written communication skills, interpersonal skills, and critical thinking, supporting students' career success.

Dr. Mollie Sorrell, Assistant Professor of Biology, led Riley Alcorn, Jordan Nighswander, and Seth Pearson as student scholars, with Lauren Criblez as the student research mentor. Dr. Sorrell's group examined trends in water quality in local rivers by taking samples. Continued water sampling will allow the researchers to compare readings and establish the overall health and water quality of the bodies of water in the Defiance area.

Dr. Brown's group focused on understanding the environment in the Tiffin and Maumee river, similar to Dr. Sorrell's research. Dr. Sabrina Brown, Assistant Professor of Environmental Science, guided Michaela Hunt and Sloane Livingston as student scholars and Autumn Sadler as the student research mentor. They tested river sediments and water around Defiance to understand current and past environmental conditions. They used diatoms (a type of algae) to understand environmental disturbances. They collected data in the field and processed tests in the lab.

Dr. Amanda Gilbert, Assistant Professor of Education, led Emily Vargo and Clover Worrell were the student scholars, with Noelani Schmidt as the student research mentor. They hosted a five-day STEM summer science camp for children. In this camp, the students taught the children about the human body, plants, owl pellets, and more. The researchers studied the impact of inquiry-based science education on student learning, including science content knowledge, interest, and critical thinking skills.

female student and faculty member hunched over trees/bushes hitting them with a stick collecting what falls into an umbrellaAnother group's fieldwork was done in the early morning hours under the guidance of Dr. Linda Tucker Serniak, Assistant Professor of Biology. Cherokee Agnew was the student scholar, with Paige Rohloff as the student research mentor. They counted birds and "beat" honeysuckle to determine what insects were found on it. They were trying to determine the effect of non-native invasive species on wildlife and other plants.


Dr. Somnath Dutta, Professor of Chemistry, led Rylee George and Hannah Sanderson as the student scholars, with Autumn Sadler as the student research mentor. Their research was "spectrophotometric determination of sulfite content in wine and other food products." Some people are sensitive to sulfite in their food, which can help people. This research was focused mainly in the lab with less field work than the other projects.

The groups presented their research at a college symposium at the end of June. The next steps for these research projects are opportunities to present on a local, state, and national level. Currently, presentations are planned at the North American Diatom Symposium, the McMaster Symposium and Academic Colloquium, and the Ohio Academy of Science 2023 Annual Meeting.

Chartered in 1850, Defiance College is an independent, liberal arts-based institution in Northwest Ohio, offering more than 40 undergraduate programs of study as well as graduate programs in education and business. Defiance College has received national recognition for its educational experience of service and engagement. DC has created a unique career readiness program called Jacket Journey to help students learn career skills in and out of the classroom. The four pillars of its mission guide the College: To Know, To Understand, To Lead, and To Serve.