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SMC students receive SISTAR grants

| Wednesday, August 27, 2014

Over the summer, four Student Independent Study and Research (SISTAR) grants were awarded to Saint Mary’s student-faculty duos for projects ranging from researching patterns in TV shows to studying the reaction of Methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus (MRSA) with metals.

Senior philosophy major Tess Siver said the SISTAR grant provided her with one of the most fulfilling experiences of her Saint Mary’s career.

Siver began her senior thesis on empathy, other minds and the use of metaphor and questioning with the aid of the SISTAR grant.

“The SISTAR grant is intended to allow a student and faculty member to work together as equals, usually on parallel, but distinct projects,” Siver said.

Beyond the content she was studying, it was a rare opportunity to work side-by-side with a professor, Siver said.

“One of the most important things to me about receiving this grant was the opportunity to go above and beyond and to learn about being a philosopher by watching and working with Professor Sayre as she went about being a philosopher,” Siver said.

Senior sociology major Kelsey Collins received a SISTAR grant to research with professor of sociology Dr. Susan Alexander on representations of masculinity in television shows, specifically Breaking Bad and The Walking Dead.

Collins said her summer research experience helped her realize her dreams of being a career researcher.

“[I] plan on going to graduate school to be a criminologist,” Collins said. “The project gave me the necessary experience in research that I need to flourish in my future endeavors.”

Senior biology major Colleen Quigley spent her summer studying the susceptibility of a clinical strain of MRSA to various metals.

Quigley said the SISTAR grant allowed her to do research that wouldn’t have been possible during the regular school year.

“There were many days when I had to take measurements at specific times or do hours of prep work which would have been difficult with classes placed throughout my day,” Quigley said. “[The grant] allowed me to carry out my research from start to finish without large interruptions or other classes taking more of my focus.”

Quigley said her faculty partner was assistant professor of biology Dr. Reena Khadka, who specializes in microbiology. Together, they compared the growth of the strain of MRSA to two separate control strains when exposed to metal compounds.

“I was able to work closely with Dr. Khadka in a way that would be difficult when she has other students to advise and teach at the same time,” Quigley said. “We were able to work very collaboratively which was … a great experience.”

Quigley said she will write up her results from the summer research to contribute to her senior composition.

Siver said she appreciates the opportunity her SISTAR grant allowed her because it is unique to Saint Mary’s.

“By virtue of the sort of college Saint Mary’s is, students have an almost infinite number of opportunities to get to know their professors as more than just teachers and learn from both their explicit instruction and their more subtle cues,” Siver said.

“I would encourage any student looking to pursue a career in academia to apply for a SISTAR grant with one of their professors.”

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About Haleigh Ehmsen

Sophomore at Saint Mary's College double majoring in Communication Studies and English Writing.

Contact Haleigh