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Grant funds student-faculty research

Ashley Charnley | Friday, January 22, 2010

Saint Mary’s Center for Academic Innovation (CFAI) has been working to fund faculty and student research grants since 1993. One of these is the Student Independent Study and Research grant (SISTAR), which provides a student-faculty member team with money for research projects during the summer months.

The grant allows a student to work closely alongside a faculty member from an area of their choice. Laura Haigwood, Interim Co-Director for Faculty Development for CFAI, said students find the program helps them discover the kind of work they might want to do after graduation.

“Students can write about [SISTAR] in their statement of purpose and set themselves apart from other students as they move to graduate work,” Haigwood said.

The program gives students a taxable stipend of $3,500 plus lodgings for an eight-week research project on campus. In addition, the faculty member they are collaborating with will receive $3,500 in support of their research, Haigwood said. Once the research is complete, CFAI will also provide funding for the pair to travel to a professional conference during the next academic year if they so choose.

“Students have said that SISTAR helped them clarify goals for after graduation,” Haigwood said.

Past collaborations have come from a wide variety of majors, with topics ranging from Latin music to drug intermediates. One 2009 SISTAR team, including Kara Joseph, a junior chemistry major and Isabel Larraza, a chemistry and physics professor, will be presenting their findings during the month of February.

Joseph and Larraza spent the summer researching, resulting in a paper titled “Hexabromoacetone and Ethyl Tribromoacetate: A Novel Green Path to Drug Intermediates.”

Joseph said the project works on “making drug intermediates in more environmentally conscious conditions.”

“If this method works under more environmentally conscious conditions, making drugs can then be made in better conditions that are less harmful to the chemist and environment,” Joseph said.

Joseph said the inspiration and applying for the grant were a combined effort with her and Larraza.

“It was an opportunity like nothing else and I definitely could not pass up trying to receive the grant,” Joseph said. “We talked about the topic, each designed our own project and came together to write a joint proposal.”

Students interested in applying for the grant but aren’t sure what they will research should approach one of their professors, Haigwood said.

“If you found a topic in a course that touched on what you most are about and whatever deeper values you may have then go back to your professor and ask if they are interested in doing SISTAR,” she said.

Haigwood also said there is even value in the application process if you are not chosen for the grant.

“No step of the process is a waste of time. It can be enormously helpful in developing a sense of who you are and what you want to understand through research,” Haigwood said.
Students interested in applying for a SISTAR grant or who would like more information can contact CFAI located in Room 115, Spes Unica Hall, or visit their Web site at www3.saintmarys.edu/sistar