Research projects

Plants, coral and well-being: Wellesley students present their summer research projects | Projector

The Wellesley Summer Research Program is an annual chance for students to fully immerse themselves in a scientific research project. They can either dive deeper into a subject that already fascinates them, or take time to explore something that doesn’t normally fit into their regular school schedule. Anyway, judging from the presentations during the poster session on July 28, which took place in the newly renovated science complex, it seems that the 106 students, who conducted research with 49 members faculty and staff at Wellesley, have had a rewarding and fulfilling summer.

Students presented their research projects in a wide range of subjects, including hard sciences (physics, chemistry, astronomy, biochemistry, neurosciences), social sciences (anthropology, psychology, sociology, women’s and gender studies), the natural world (environmental studies, biology, geosciences) and virtual reality (computing). There were also students who completed internships at three of Wellesley’s specialist institutes: the Paulson Ecology of Place Initiative, the Wellesley Centers for Women and the Botanic Gardens.

Malika Top ’24 presents at the July 28 poster session.

Photo courtesy of Amber Celletti

Maeve Galvin ’25, Kayli Hattley ’22 and Kathryn Zaia ’25 were three students who spent their summer at the Botanical Garden. Hattley, who was a biological science student and worked at the Botanical Garden for the four years before graduating last spring, said she loved how the group bonded by spending “hours outside together to sweat”. Hattley was initially drawn to work at the Botanical Gardens because she thought she was “not smart enough for science”, but nature and botany seemed like a doorway for her. “I wanted to spend a full summer devoted to horticulture,” Hattley said. Zaia and Galvin are both sophomores, so they haven’t officially declared their majors, but both also worked at the Botanical Garden in their freshman year and wanted to spend more time there during the summer. “I wanted to have a chance to really immerse myself,” Galvin said. They have degrees in prospective psychology, but already know they want to work outdoors, finding ways for nature to support people’s mental health. Zaia, a prospective biology or environmental studies student, was thrilled to have the chance to “change the landscape and make it more welcoming to the community of Wellesley”.

Three students speak during the July 28 poster session.

Maeve Galvin ’25, Kayli Hattley ’22 and Kathryn Zaia ’25 spent their summers interning at the Botanic Gardens.

Photo courtesy of Amber Celletti

Jen Enriquez ’24, meanwhile, was drawn to the summer research program because she knew nothing about the scientific research process and wanted to try it. Enriquez is a computer science major, but he’s interested in how biology intersects with technology. She worked with a team that explored two different projects: discovering how a virtual reality classroom can be used to teach subjects such as marine science, and developing an app that will help citizen scientists take better photos of corals in dive. Enriquez hopes his work this summer is just the beginning and plans to continue developing and building the app this fall.

A student present at the July 28 poster session.

Marcela Silvera Tafur ’25 presents at the July 28 poster session.

Photo courtesy of Amber Celletti

Jade “Aliyana” Young ’24, a political science major, was excited to explore a new department as part of the summer research program. Young, who has pursued her own research in the political science department to investigate why black women resist welfare, applied to work on a project with Smitha Radhakrishnan, Luella LaMer professor of women’s studies and professor of sociology, on why social assistance funds are not reaching those in need. “It’s harder to qualify for welfare funds in some states than it is to get accepted to MIT or Yale,” Young pointed out, as she explained her research. Young and Radhakrishnan have studied how funds for temporary assistance to needy families are not getting into the hands of those who need them most, and how states have in fact been sitting on welfare funds throughout the pandemic. While Young will return to work in the political science department in the fall, she said the things she learned from the sociology project will help inform and shape her research. “It all boils down to anti-black and gender-biased assumptions about people who need welfare,” Young said.

A student present at the July 28 poster session.

Andrea Romero ’24 (left) presents her poster on applying a multidimensional poverty index and framework in the United States to a low-income Latinx neighborhood in Chicago at Jade “Aliyana” Young ’24.

Photo courtesy of Amber Celletti

After two years of a Zoom summer research program based on the festive atmosphere of the poster session, students and faculty seemed thrilled to be able to work together in person again.