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Science Over the Summer: Mudders Conduct Research Projects

Every summer Mudd students disperse across the country and even world to work at internships, visit families and explore. However, each year some Mudders also stay right here in Claremont, taking advantage of the opportunity to do interesting, impactful research with professors and students from Mudd. Research varies from department to department, but almost all professors have space for students to lead summer research projects. Some of these projects even continue throughout the academic year, which allows students to research and mentor one another in a variety of settings.

“I’m excited to do research and see what it’s like to do research in a lab and be here over the summer and not have homework outside of research.” said Hannah Slocumb ’19. She will be doing research with Prof. Gerald Van Hecke ’61 in the Chemistry department this summer. In fact, Prof. Van Hecke is allowing his research students to pick the direction of their research since they are starting new projects this summer. Self-led projects such as these are not uncommon for Mudders to take on, which is great experience for when they write thesis or do clinic as seniors. Even students who have a more set direction for their research projects still get the opportunity to have a lasting impact in their research field.

“Awesome Transdermal Team (ATT) is examining whether mechanical stretching of the skin can increase the potential for transdermal drug delivery, and it’s really cool that as undergraduates, we have the opportunity to have a significant impact on the scientific community,” Marissa Lee ’18 said. She began working for one of Prof. Nancy Lape’s research teams this semester and will continue doing so this summer. Starting research in the semester leading up to the summer gives students a chance to learn from upperclassmen who have previously worked on the project. This allows students to have a running start when they begin researching on their own during the summer.

“I’m looking most forward to having the opportunity to work on a wide variety of elements within this project, from imaging skin topography to modeling diffusion to conducting in vivo trials,” Lee said. “Together, these elements can help us investigate whether mechanical stretching of the skin can allow for additional applications of transdermal drug delivery.”

Doing research with Mudd professors over the summer can give students the opportunity not only to collaborate with their fellow classmates, but sometimes also to work with students from universities around the country and world. For example, Prof. Lori Bassman from the Engineering department takes her research team to Australia each summer, where the lab for her research is based. Another example is Phillip DiGiacomo ’18, who, as a member of Prof. Tom Donnelly’s research group in the Physics department, will get the opportunity to work with some of the best lasers in the world.

“Donnelly’s group uses lasers that turn on and off in a femtosecond. The pulse of the laser can be used to generate high intensity light, which can deposit energy into a substance, creating high-energy-density states of matter. This experiment can also be used to study laser-driven nuclear fusion and heating mechanisms that allow solid-density materials to absorb energy on short timescales,” DiGiacomo explained. “We are going to the University of Texas at Austin for the month of July to work with some of the most powerful lasers ever built.”

As students wrap up finals and classes on campus, many are preparing for exciting opportunities to use what they’ve learned throughout the school year in order to do meaningful work this summer. These summer experiences encompass Harvey Mudd’s mission statement, as students seek to assume leadership in their fields and provide a lasting contribution to the area of research they are pursuing.

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