October 19, 2023

Paid Summer Research Enables Faculty-Student Collaboration

Over the summer, Lewis & Clark offers students paid, hands-on research experiences that rival those of graduate-level institutions.

These opportunities are offered through L&C’s Rogers Science Program and the Collaborative Faculty-Student Research Program for social sciences, arts, and humanities. Check out the rich variety of faculty-student research projects!

John S. Rogers Science Program

Albert Bae (he/him) 

Title: Visiting Professor of Physics
Project: The Dynamics of Microswimmers: Optical Trapping as a Tool to Explore the Physics of Swimming C. reinhardtii

Albert Bae Tell us about your summer research.

Our group is fascinated at how small single-celled organisms navigate through the microscopic world in which they live. In particular, what forces do these cells use to move around? To investigate this question, we use a technique called optical tweezers: we use (infrared) light to hold the cells in place and measure how much force the cells exert as they try to push their way out of the tweezers.

How are students involved?

I have two wonderful students, Lily Johnson BA ’24 and Hugh Pettitt-Kenney BA ’25, who have been instrumental in setting up, aligning, and developing many needed components for the optical tweezer setup. They are starting to gather data on live swimming algae cells.

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

I enjoy the camaraderie shared by the students, as well as their curiosity, problem-solving skills, tenacity, and courage to face challenges and find creative solutions.

Read Albert’s full Q&A.

Anne Bentley (she/her)

Title: Associate Professor of Chemistry
Project: Noble Metal Nanoparticle Shape Control

Anne posing outside, wearing a gray sweater. Tell us about your summer research.

Students in my lab are making tiny crystals of gold in different shapes. Each shape presents a different type of crystal facet. If we can control the crystal facets that grow, we can use the different facets to study important chemical reactions, like the reduction of carbon dioxide.

How are students involved?

The students working in the lab make all of our samples, do measurements to figure out what they’ve made, and analyze the data to think about how to proceed next. They also keep the place tidy, manage any lab waste, and prepare lots of beautiful graphs and images that describe their progress.

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

Lewis & Clark students are curious, hardworking, and are always interesting people to get to know.

Read Anne’s full Q&A.

Peter Drake (he/him)

Title: Associate Professor of Computer Science
Project: Rehearsing Disaster: Understanding Earthquake Preparedness in an Interactive Environment

Peter Drake Tell us about your summer research.

Our interdisciplinary project asks what motivates 18- to 29-year-olds to prepare for disaster. Specifically, we’re building a series of video games that focus on the looming Cascadia Subduction Zone earthquake and exploring their effectiveness.

How are students involved?

The computer science students I work with are building the games themselves. This is a massive feat of software engineering—larger than anything that happens in a class. It is also, in some ways, a quintessential liberal arts project, involving aspects of computer science, art, theatre, writing, geology, mathematics, rhetoric and media studies, and psychology.

Additional students, supervised by Associate Professor of Psychology Erik Nilsen, run the psychological experiments (where people play these games, fill out surveys, and meet in focus groups) and analyze the resulting data.

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

It is challenging to learn to use sophisticated tools and wrestle with difficult problems in game design and software development. I enjoy exploring these things in conversation with our students, who bring diverse perspectives and positive energy.

Read Peter’s full Q&A.

Jessica Kleiss (she/her)

Title: Associate Professor of Environmental Studies
Project: Trust in Data: How Consistent Are Low-Cost Air Quality Sensors?

Jessica Kleiss headshot Tell us about your summer research.

My research is focused on air quality observations and exposure to air pollutants. We were motivated by the activism in the Parkrose-Argay neighborhoods of Portland, where the neighbors are resisting the construction of a 38-bay diesel distribution center for online retail delivery (summer 2023). We are spinning up a new research project involving collaborative learning and citizen science with Parkrose-Argay community members.

How are students involved?

Since this is a new project, students have played a key role in reading previous studies and helping to develop the research goals and questions. That’s been a lot of fun! Practically speaking, my students have been field testing and calibrating small hand-held air quality sensors. The goal is to understand the accuracy and limitations of these devices to enable people to better understand the air quality in their home, work, and school. The students then develop code in the R programming language to import, graphically display, and summarize the data. They also use Geographic Information Systems (GIS) to create maps for spatial analysis.

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

I find that our students are very responsible, respectful, and great communicators. I also love the moments of insight when students suggest things that I hadn’t considered. Sometimes I have been stunned by their insight and ability to connect different ideas from different issues. Since a lot of our work is computer-based, I try to get out of the office whenever possible. I’ve enjoyed taking students on hikes to help us get to know each other and build our community.

Read Jessica’s full Q&A.

Karl Peterson (he/him)

Class Year: 2023
Major: Environmental Studies
Minor: Earth System Science
Project: Trust in Data: How Consistent Are Low-Cost Air Quality Sensors?

Karl smiling outside, wearing glasses, a plaid button-down shirt, and a blue jacket. Tell us about your summer research.

My work this summer was not centered on one specific task, but instead was a refreshing blend of different questions, concepts, and pursuits. Our primary task was working to understand the limitations and potential applications of a fleet of low-cost personal air quality sensors, which will be used in the ENVS 220 Environmental Analysis course. They may also be used in a potential partnership with youth in Portland’s Parkrose and Argay neighborhoods to increase awareness and understanding of environmental justice concerns. Additionally, we developed the groundwork of a future project for ENVS 220 students to complete as an introduction to quantitative and qualitative methods including data collection, GIS mapping, and interview analysis. Further, we scoured the breadth of current literature on air quality topics to guide Dr. Kleiss’s future research.

What was the best part of this experience?

The best part of this experience was putting my coursework to use engaging with members of the Portland community and experts from government organizations and private firms. We’ve been working together toward a common goal.

How do you see this experience leading to a career in your chosen field and/or aiding in your career development after L&C?

Gaining practical experience in outreach and work with off-campus organizations will be crucial to my future work in environmental-adjacent fields. Additionally, the data analysis and GIS mapping techniques I’ve been honing stand as a testament to the interdisciplinary nature of both the environmental studies and Rogers Science Program and will serve me well in whatever’s next.

Read Karl’s full Q&A.

Sharon Torigoe (she/her)

Title: Assistant Professor of Biology
Project: Detangling Details of OCT4 and SOX2 Binding Site Affinity

Sharon smiling outside, wearing glasses, a pink and white striped button-down shirt, and gray pants. Tell us about your summer research.

In a single human individual, there are thousands, perhaps even millions, of different types of cells, which contribute to the vast variety of functions that must be performed in the body. What is intriguing is that every cell is (in general) genetically identical, having arisen from one single cell. This occurs because of differences in gene expression, leading to specific functions being available in each different cell type. Many research groups, including mine, want to answer the question of how gene expression is regulated to achieve different cell types. My lab, in particular, focuses on genomic sequences that contribute to gene regulation, such as promoters and enhancers, and we really want to understand how the sequences themselves inform cell-type specific gene activation.

How are students involved?

Students are the life force of my research lab. I want them to become independent scientists through being fully engaged in all aspects of the scientific process: asking questions, designing and carrying out experiments, and collecting and analyzing their own data. They also get to present their work at meetings and seminars, and if they do an honors thesis, they also write about their work. Sometimes, they know more about the progress of their own projects and results than I do!

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

Working and collaborating with students in my research lab is probably one of the most rewarding parts of my job. First, I love the energy and optimism that they bring to the lab. Even when a method or the cells are not cooperating, they are eager to troubleshoot and discover solutions. And, of course, they see the fun and joy (and perhaps some silliness) in the lab work. Second, because working in my lab is often a student’s first major research experience, I get to see them grow as scientists and human beings during the years that they’re at L&C and beyond.

Read Sharon’s full Q&A.

Katya Schwieterman (she/her)

Class Year: 2024
Major: Biochemistry and Molecular Biology
Minor: Neuroscience
Project: Detangling Details of OCT4 and SOX2 Binding Site Affinity

Katya smiling outside wearing a red flannel shirt over a white top. Tell us about your summer research.

I’m working with Dr. Sharon Torigoe on a project that examines pluripotent stem cells. Specifically, I’m using electrophoretic mobility shift assays with a tiny piece of DNA and a protein to evaluate how proteins bind to “junk” DNA and help regulate when and how pluripotency genes are expressed. This means that I spend my days with a centrifuge, acrylamide gel, and micropipettes, making short chunks of fluorescent DNA and mixing them with protein.

What was the best part of this experience?

I love learning about the other Rogers Science projects! My lab mates are the coolest, and the collaboration and support we can give one another when the lab gods are angry makes it all so much fun. Every week, we learn about a few of the other Rogers labs, and their projects are fascinating. It’s incredibly empowering to see our young scientists grow.

How do you see this experience leading to a career in your chosen field and/or aiding in your career development after L&C?

Working in an L&C lab has been a fabulous introduction to research. I have autonomy over my project with lots of support from my faculty leader and the help of my lab mates. This kind of experience is uncommon for undergraduates, and I know it will bolster my applications for laboratory jobs and graduate school.

Read Katya’s full Q&A.

Jack Waite (he/him)

Class Year: 2023
Major: Biochemistry and Molecular Biology
Project: Detangling Details of OCT4 and SOX2 Binding Site Affinity

Jack Waite BA '23 Tell us about your summer research.

As a full-time summer research intern, I am studying the ways in which cells have evolved to selectively turn on and off genes under different conditions. This ability, known as gene regulation, has enabled life to develop a wide diversity of structures. But how genes are activated at precisely the right time and place remains mysterious. Over the summer, I’ve been investigating how one particular cell type—embryonic stem cells—expresses a gene that is key for maintaining pluripotency. I am using genome editing techniques to make mutations to the regions of DNA—known as enhancers—that are thought to regulate this gene.

What was the best part of this experience?

The best part of this experience has been learning to conduct scientific research independently. I am learning to plan and carry out experiments on my own, think critically about their results, and follow up with further experiments. The rewarding part is getting to learn about how the world works!

How do you see this experience leading to a career in your chosen field and/or aiding in your career development after L&C?

The Rogers Science Program has given me the ability to experience life as a full-time graduate student. I’ve learned countless experimental techniques and have a good handle on my area of study. But most importantly, I’ve learned how to adapt and to think like a scientist. This will be invaluable in a future PhD program that demands me to constantly be learning new things.

Read Jack’s full Q&A.

Collaborative Faculty-Student Research Program

David Campion

Title: Dr. Robert B. Pamplin Jr. Associate Professor of History
Project: Exploration, Discovery, Colonialism, and Piracy

David posing outside. He is wearing glasses, a dark suit with a light shirt, and a red tie. Tell us about your summer research.

My two student researchers and I are examining concepts of criminality and exploration through a close and critical study of a selection of rare books and manuscripts in Lewis & Clark’s Special Collections in Watzek Library. These artifacts range from the 17th to 19th centuries and cover such topics as commerce and piracy in the Atlantic World, early European exploration of the interior of Africa, and the ivory trade in the Belgian Congo.

How are students involved?

Student researchers are involved in all aspects of this project, from the earliest conception to the finishing touches. This includes background research on the subject of each book or manuscript; investigation about their authorship, publication, and provenance; writing and editing the content for panel displays and the exhibition catalog; and layout, design, and curation of the exhibition as a whole.

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

Lewis & Clark students are reliable, energetic, and hardworking. Those in the history major are also highly skilled and ready and eager for advanced research. Most of all, they are not bound by the academic presumptions and habits of thought that are often found among more senior historians. I find that they always bring a fresh perspective and often ask the unexpected question. Student researchers, in particular, help me reimagine ways of understanding history and make me reconsider conclusions I have long held about subjects I have studied for years. It is an experience that is both humbling and invigorating.

Read David’s full Q&A.

Maddie Selby (they/them)

Class Year: 2025
Major: History
Minor: Religious Studies
Project: Exploration, Discovery, Colonialism, and Piracy

Close up of Maddie. They have brown hair with bangs and dyed pink tips. Tell us about your summer research.

I’m cataloging and researching items surrounding exploration, discovery, colonialism, and piracy in Special Collections in order to help create an exhibition for Watzek Library.

What was the best part of this experience?

The best part of this experience is getting to work with Professor Campion—a faculty member I deeply respect—and getting to work extensively, and hands on, with historical materials outside of the setting of a classroom. I believe this experience will be very valuable to my educational goals in the future.

How do you see this experience leading to a career in your chosen field and/or aiding in your career development after L&C?

I’m not really sure what my career will be after graduating, but I hope to continue my education in history and religious studies after earning my bachelor’s degree. I believe this summer research opportunity will give me greater insight into what career options may look like for me as a history student.

Read Maddie’s full Q&A.

Jolina Ruckert (she/they)

Title: Assistant Professor With Term of Psychology
Project: Investigating Nature Connection

Jolina Ruckert Tell us about your summer research.

This summer I am working with Cloe Moreno BA ’24 on two projects. With the first, we investigated the meaningful outdoor experiences parents share with their children and the special role animal encounters play in supporting the bonds among parents and children and their broader relationships with the natural world. We analyzed a set of stories shared by parents. The parents spoke of rich emotions they and their kids felt, impactful conversations they shared, and ways the animal encounters had inspired their love for each other and the natural world. We are presenting our findings in a paper we just submitted to a peer-reviewed journal. With the second project, we are developing a research study that will explore the ways our relationships with nature can act as a protective factor for those who are experiencing discrimination and violence. These two projects are part of a larger research question: how do our relationships with the natural world support our individual health, our relationships with each other, and our ability to create a more sustainable future?

How are students involved?

My students and I are a collaborative team—we meet daily and discuss the literature we are reading, the data we are analyzing, the connections and implications we are identifying. The students have learned challenging qualitative research analysis techniques. They are applying their critical thinking skills to understand and identify the gaps in the literature. They are coauthors working on preparing a manuscript for publication. They are assisting with future research design, including developing survey methodology.

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

L&C students are some of the brightest, most curious, loving, and hardworking people. Collaborating with them is the best part of my work. Together we get to ask questions that impact our lives and the lives of people we care about. We can learn from each other and our varied backgrounds and perspectives. In doing so, we get to expand our understanding, our curiosity, and our hope for a better world.

Read Jolina’s full Q&A.

Cloe Moreno (she/her)

Class Year: 2024
Major: Psychology
Minors: Health Studies and Art (double)
Project: Investigating Nature Connection

Cloe standing outside on the undergrad campus. She is wearing a blue striped top, red pants, and sandals with socks. Tell us about your summer research.

I am working with Professor Ruckert on two different projects. At the beginning of the summer, we worked on coding data from her dissertation, where parents responded to a question asking them about a meaningful experience with their child in nature. During that process, I worked with a student who had graduated from L&C to come up with thematic codes based on concepts from previous research. Once developed, we applied these codes to the stories and then worked on writing a paper about the data. The other project we are working on is centered around access to nature. I have been researching scales and measures used in previous research in order to assess which would be best in our study. The goal of our study is to create a questionnaire that looks at challenges to accessing nature, such as a lack of resources, equity issues, and discrimination.

What was the best part of this experience?

Honestly, the best part of the experience this summer has been working with Jolina. I have been in three of her classes and have worked as a teaching assistant for another. I have had an incredible time learning from her. It has also been great to be in Portland during the summer where there is so much to do, including climbing and hiking. I have been able to do things with friends after work or on the weekends that, during the regular semester, might have been harder to set up because of classes and other demands.

How do you see this experience leading to a career in your chosen field and/or aiding in your career development after L&C?

I think it has definitely given me a broader sense of the different research opportunities that are possible in psychology. It has also given me more confidence in my research skills.

Read Cloe’s full Q&A.

Todd Lochner (he/him) and Ellen Seljan (she/her)

Titles: Dr. Robert B. Pamplin Jr. Associate Professor of Government (Lochner); Professor of Political Science (Seljan)
Project: Examining the Relationship Between Campaign Finance and Polarization in Oregon State Congress

Political science summer research team: (top, left to right) Madeleine MacWilliamson BA '24, Valerie Naborska BA '24; (bottom, ... Tell us about your summer research.

Our research investigates whether small donors (individuals who give less than $200 to a political campaign over the course of an election cycle) exacerbate political polarization. Current research demonstrates that individual donors—as opposed to PACS or political parties—are more likely to give money to extreme candidates on both ends of the political spectrum. However, researchers are now investigating whether there are significant differences between small individual donors and large individual donors as well. Ellen and I, along with two students—Madeleine MacWilliamson BA ’24 and Valerie Naborska BA ’24—are conducting an empirical analysis of campaign spending in Oregon state legislative elections to see if this is true.

How are students involved?

Both Valerie and Madeleine are involved in every facet of the paper, from research design to data collection to compiling a literature review to analyzing the final results.

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

Ellen and I have collaborated with many students over the years, and we really love the enthusiasm, professionalism, and expertise they bring to our research. We view student-faculty research collaboration as a great way to show students exactly what it is political scientists do, and we enjoy helping students hone their social science skills.

Read Todd’s full Q&A. Read Ellen’s full Q&A.

Valerie Naborska (she/her)

Class Year: 2024
Major: Political Science
Project: Examining the Relationship Between Campaign Finance and Polarization in Oregon State Congress

Valerie posing outside wearing a blue long-sleeved sweatshirt. Tell us about your summer research.

We are researching the effects of small donors on polarization in Oregon’s state legislature. I am primarily helping Professor Lochner with researching articles and drafting the theory portion of the paper. Additionally, Madeleine MacWilliamson BA ’24 and I have been working with Professor Seljan to collect and sort data sources through rCloud.

What was the best part of this experience?

I appreciate the focus on Oregon politics and how it has familiarized me with state legislative processes. I want to continue working with local governments in the future, and the focus of this research project has greatly inspired me to continue monitoring local policy developments!

How do you see this experience leading to a career in your chosen field and/or aiding in your career development after L&C?

I want to pursue a career in policymaking and analysis. The experience of developing policy critiques with my professors through multiple stages of communication and research has informed my process of developing my own research questions.

Read Valerie’s full Q&A.

Madeleine MacWilliamson (they/she)

Class Year: 2024
Major: Political Science
Minor: Data Science
Project: Examining the Relationship Between Campaign Finance and Polarization in Oregon State Congress

Madeleine MacWilliamson BA '24 Tell us about your summer research.

I am researching the role of donors in contributing to polarization in the Oregon State Congress. I focus on compiling public data, wrangling that collected data into a dataset, and then analyzing the relationships between variables.

What was the best part of this experience?

I am learning valuable skills in data science, like text analysis and developing experimental methodology. One of the issues in our dataset is that we wanted to include unelected challengers, but we needed a way to score their ideology. Our elected individuals in the dataset had ideology scored based on their voting record. To create a counterpart for challengers, we leveraged the voter pamphlet ballot text available through the Oregon Secretary General of State. We are still in the process of conducting the analysis stage, but I am thrilled to see how this next stage turns out (especially after copying and pasting 200+ candidate statements by hand)!

How do you see this experience leading to a career in your chosen field and/or aiding in your career development after L&C?

Ellen is an expert on internships and has consistently championed my career growth by facilitating various valuable connections. Through my experience as a research assistant, I have honed my skills significantly, allowing me to confidently assert my proficiency. I am endlessly grateful for the opportunities that the political science department has provided to its students.

Read Madeleine’s full Q&A.