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August 8, 2012

The foyer of the Moakley Center was crowded and noisy as [b]Haylie Hancock[/b], '13, of Brockton, was sharing the details of her summer research project with a visitor. The project dealt with creating molecules that will hopefully bind to DNA and be useful to treat or detect certain types of cancer.

She made the complex procedures and the science behind it all seem pretty simple, though it was clearly far from that. Her project was just one of the nearly fifty that were showcased during this year's annual Adrian Tinsley Program (ATP) Summer Research Symposium.

This year marked the largest group of ATP summer researchers in the history of the program.

The benefit of forgoing the usual summer fun in the name of scholarship is a trade-off these students say they were happy to make.

"It's a unique experience to have one-on-one training from someone who is an expert," said student presenter [b]Matthew Gagne[/b], who took an audience of students and faculty through his work on the Chalkin-Wilf Tree. [b]Dr. Shannon Lockard[/b], assistant professor, mathematics and computer science, was the mentor he worked with.

Summer is not a long time in the world of research, but much gets done, as evidenced by the findings presented at the symposium.

"Just watching their growth from their first week to the end of the tenth week is remarkable," said chemistry Professor [b]Steve Haefner[/b] an ATP coordinator and mentor to three summer researchers. "They're doing a lot of the analysis.

"This is the next step they need to do professional work or to attend graduate school," he said.

Of this year's summer projects, 42 were funded through the Adrian Tinsley Program for Undergraduate Research, three by BSU's Center for Sustainability, and four were funded through a special research program with NASA.

Many of the projects had local connections. The New Bedford Regional Airport, Plimoth Plantation, and the town of Middleboro each figured in this year's research, as did issues on campus, such as diversity and student involvement.

No matter the topic, the work students did this summer can benefit them in many ways, said [b]Dr. Teresa King[/b], professor of psychology and ATP coordinator and mentor.

"Conducting research teaches you so many skills that are simply important life skills," she said. "Besides critical thinking skills, students also learn the importance of patience and flexibility. They learn as much from the failures as they do from the successes. But I think the greatest benefit to students comes from the increased confidence this type of experience engenders. They learn that they are capable of producing an independent scholarly work that others are interested in hearing about. When they present at the symposium they become the educators, instead of the student.

"This can be incredibly powerful," Dr. King said.

[b]Watch videos of all the oral presentations [link]here|[/link][/b].

(Story and photo by John Winters, G' 11, Office of University Advancement, video by TVS)

Haylie Hancock explains her science project to an attendee at the annual Adrian Tinsley Program Summer Research Symposium