July 10, 2022

Summer Research, Direct Experience

The summer gives students the chance to devote their full attention to research while learning from and collaborating with professors.

Lewis & Clark’s Rogers Science Research program offers students paid summer positions in science and mathematics. They learn to design experiments, draw their own conclusions, present their results, and educate other scientists, right alongside faculty who mentor and collaborate with them.

Some of our faculty answered a few questions about their research and what they most enjoy about working with students.

Professor Julio de Paula Julio de Paula

Title: Professor of Chemistry
Project: Chemical Archaeology in Mallorca, Spain

Tell us about your summer research.

We divide our time between the lab at Lewis & Clark and the field in Mallorca, Spain. Working with archaeologists from the University of Barcelona and chemists from the University of Portland, we determine the chemical compositions of artifacts recovered from the ruins of the ancient Roman city of Pollentia, and of Renaissance-era paintings housed in a church museum in the city of Alcúdia. For example, we use portable instruments to identify pigments used by artists in their paintings. Paints could be very expensive during the Renaissance, so the presence of certain pigments on a painting is evidence of its cultural importance. And we can tell the difference between pigments from the Renaissance and those that became available much later. On occasion we have found modern pigments, pointing to undocumented attempts at restoration. We share this information with members of the local community, so they may add to their understanding of Mallorcan history and culture.

How are students involved?

Students from Lewis & Clark and the University of Portland learn how to use the x-ray and laser-based instruments, how to analyze the data, and how to identify pigments. Some of the students have worked exclusively in the lab at Lewis & Clark, and others have gone to Spain to do field work. This article from the L&C Magazine tells the story from the perspective of one of our students.

What do you enjoy most about collaborating with Lewis & Clark students?

Lewis & Clark students are committed to their own success and the success of the entire research team. They are creative, perseverant, and do not shy away from a complex challenge.

Read Julio’s full Q&A.

Professor of Chemistry Nikolaus Loening Nikolaus Loening

Title: Professor of Chemistry, Director of Biochemistry and Molecular Biology program
Project: Exploring the Structural Basis of Dynein Regulation

Tell us about your summer research.

This summer my students are working on projects related to the dynein motor protein complex. Dynein is one of the proteins involved in moving cargo inside of our cells and also plays a key role in cell division. One big question about dynein is what processes are involved in regulating its activity; that is, what activates it, determines which cargo it moves, and controls how it behaves at different points in the life cycle of a cell. Our research focuses on studying the interactions between dynein and other proteins involved in its regulation using a number of different biophysical techniques.

How are students involved?

A big hurdle in studying proteins is getting a large enough sample (and in a pure enough state) to carry out biophysical characterization. Although my students are also involved in carrying out biophysical measurements using techniques such as nuclear magnetic resonance spectroscopy, isothermal titration calorimetry, and circular dichroism spectroscopy, the bulk of our time is spent generating our proteins using a technology called recombinant protein.

What do you enjoy most about collaborating with Lewis & Clark students?

One of the things I enjoy most about working with L&C students is that they are inquisitive, reliable, and motivated by a desire to learn more about the underlying science.

Read Nikolaus’s full Q&A.

Associate Professor Todd Watson Todd Watson

Title: Associate Professor of Psychology
Project: Exploring Dual Mechanisms of Cognitive Control, Resilience, and Empathy in the Context of the COVID-19 Pandemic

Tell us about your summer research.

This summer, my undergrad team and I are exploring how cognitive and personality traits might serve as buffers against the negative psychological effects of the pandemic. Specifically, we’re looking to see if different aspects of cognitive control relate to trait resilience (a tendency to bounce back from negative life events), empathy (the ability to compassionately and accurately infer others’ emotions), and differences in perceived stress levels during the COVID-19 era.

How are students involved?

Essentially all of my research involves students, and I want my lab crews to have an immersive experience. Students are involved in every aspect of the study, including programming experimental tasks, data collection and management, analysis, and presentation.

What do you enjoy most about collaborating with Lewis & Clark students?

I cannot imagine a lab without my undergrad collaborators! I love to watch my students develop into thoughtful, independent investigators. Even better is when—perhaps years down the road—they check in to let me know all the amazing things they’re doing in their lives after L&C.

Read Todd’s full Q&A.