Date August 26, 2016
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Profiles in Summer Research

Think summer is quiet at Brown? Not for the University’s undergraduate researchers, who pursued their passions in depth and built skills in collaboration, innovation and more.

PROVIDENCE, R.I. [Brown University] — England’s early Unitarians. The dangers of e-cigarettes. Next-generation solar cells. Abraham Lincoln’s use of rhetoric. The hidden history of the Nightingale-Brown House.

The possibilities for summer research at Brown are nearly limitless — and often, the impact on the future studies and careers of the undergraduate researchers can prove as valuable as the findings themselves. 

For students at Brown, the Karen T. Romer Undergraduate Teaching and Research Awards — or UTRAs, as they are commonly known on campus — mean the chance to work shoulder-to-shoulder with faculty as they dive into scholarship on a wide variety of topics. From academic research to the collaborative development of new courses, hundreds of Brown undergraduates worked this summer on UTRA projects across all disciplines, both on campus and in 10 countries across the globe.

“The UTRA program is designed to strengthen undergraduate education through supportive collaborative research, course development and teaching activities between faculty members and students in all academic disciplines,” said Oludurotimi Adetunji, associate dean of the college for undergraduate research and inclusive science, who oversees the program. “Undergraduate research gives students a taste of how to be a good researcher and how to think critically. It also helps students to determine whether the field that they have chosen is the right one for them.”

And it’s not just the hands-on experience that makes UTRA projects so rewarding, Adetunji said. The collaboration and innovation that emerge from the program are integral as well.

“The degree of collaboration, beginning with how well the faculty mentor and student have worked together to create a proposal, is at least as important as the quality of the research being proposed,” he said. “Additionally, the UTRA program allows faculty and students to pursue a line of inquiry that is without the institutional restrictions that often accompany grants from outside agencies. This enables faculty and students to experiment with new ideas, many of which will lead to future proposals to outside funding agencies.”

This story package — Profiles in Summer Research — offers just a glimpse into the depth and breadth of this signature Brown program. 

Science and Technology

Profiles in Summer Research: Nari Lee

A progression of summer experiences with faculty has left the rising senior with an expanding set of research skills and medical school aspirations.
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A summer class, a transfer to Brown and an inspiring professor led rising senior Jacob Ihnen to an UTRA project focused on the rhetoric of Abraham Lincoln.
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For the history and education studies concentrator, a summer-long dive into the lives of early Unitarians in England meant the chance to contribute to faculty scholarship and an upcoming book.

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With a passion for problem-solving, the engineering concentrator is focused on the fundamentals of light and playing a role in promising research on next-generation solar cells.
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The rising sophomore took part in an intensive research project that not only piqued her interest in colonial-era history, but diversified her academic interests.
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