Now in its sixth year, Barnard’s Summer Research Institute (SRI) welcomed its largest cohort yet, empowering 187 students to investigate pressing scientific questions in labs on campus and throughout New York City. The 10-week program is fully subsidized through a combination of grants, programs, and the generous support of individual donors, attesting to the College’s ongoing commitment to women in STEM.

The SRI program, part of the Beyond Barnard initiative, offers an immersive opportunity for students interested in pursuing careers in biology, chemistry, environmental science, mathematics, neuroscience and behavior, physics and astronomy, and psychology to work closely with faculty mentors in labs at Barnard and around the metropolitan area. In addition to their laboratory research, students attended lectures and workshops designed to help hone the skills they’ll need to become successful scientists.

“I think SRI is great because they really try to get people the research experience that they want to have,” said Victoria Brock ’20, who spent her summer working alongside Kayla Ablin ’20, Stephanie Garcia Sosa ’20, and Julia Frederica Reichel ’22 — all of whom were engaged in psychological research  on whether children between the ages of 3 and 6 perceive the world through a local or global processing bias. “It was a really supportive community, and I am taking away a really realistic experience of what research is,” said Brock.

Bringing It Together

On July 31, SRI student-scholars presented their work at the capstone Lida A. Orzeck ’68 Summer Research Institute Poster Session. The room buzzed with activity as SRI students shared posters summarizing their research with family, friends, and members of the public.

“It’s so exciting to see the culmination of thousands of hours of work by the students and by the mentors,” said SRI’s co-director and associate professor of psychology Koleen McCrink in her welcoming remarks. “I can’t tell you how excited I am to learn about the incredible variety of science that has taken place this summer, from nanocrystals to honeybee ecology to the communication between cancer viruses.”

Martin Stute, professor of environmental science and co-director of SRI, echoed McCrink’s excitement. “This morning is really the highlight of my summer. Seeing all of you and all your work — it’s fantastic,” Stute said to the crowded room. “It’s a celebration of our students’ work.”

The poster session was renamed this year to honor Orzeck, a social psychologist, entrepreneur, and member of the Barnard Board of Trustees. “I thought this was a very important program to support — very important for today’s women,” Orzeck said. “Science has been looked at from a male point of view for millennia, and it’s just critical to have another lens on every field in science.”

In her remarks at the start of the event, President Sian Leah Beilock encouraged students to engage with the work of their peers and remember that SRI is only the beginning of their scientific careers. “Get outside your disciplines, ask questions, learn something today, and go out there and affect the next great discoveries and change in science,” Beilock said. “We’re all counting on you.” 

Lab Research

In the videos linked below, students discuss the research they conducted this summer with guidance from their mentors.

Magdalen Kwarteng ’20 spent the summer researching aggression in betta fish with the help of mentor Claire Everett ’17, a Ph.D. candidate in neurobiology and behavior at Columbia. In the Bendesky Lab at Columbia’s Mortimer B. Zuckerman Mind Brain Behavior Institute, Kwarteng used computer-simulated fish to try to map a circuit of aggression in the brain that responds to visual threats and compared these reactions to real fish.

Livia Martinez ’21 studied chloroplast inheritance in plants while working in the Pfizer Plant Research Laboratory at the New York Botanical Garden. There, she extracted DNA from the tree pollen and ovules of the ginkgo biloba, which, as one of the world's oldest tree species, has been called a living fossil. Sedelia Rodriguez, a lecturer in environmental science at Barnard, served as her mentor.

Sanjana Rana ’21 worked with chemistry professor Dina Merrer in the Vagelos Computational Science Center on computational chemistry, which Rana describes as “moving chemistry into the 21st century.” Rana ran computer-simulated experiments to discover information about how different chemical molecules would interact in real life, which is crucial to fields like drug design and development.

Gabby Sahyoun ’21 worked in the Jerome L. Greene Science Center with her mentor, Georgia Pierce, a Columbia Ph.D. candidate in neurobiology and behavior. Sahyoun researched the portion of the thalamus that is associated with touch, making slides of brain tissue to monitor activity in that region.

Photos from 2019’s poster session event:

Lida A. Orzeck '68 Summer Research Institute Poster Session 2019