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SXU Holds EXPLORE STEM Research Symposium


Saint Xavier University (SXU) recently held the EXPLORE STEM Research Symposium, where 18 EXPLORE STEM research fellows presented projects in various areas, including biology, chemistry and computer science. During the fellowship, students engage in high-impact learning experiences that prepare them for graduate studies and beyond.

Under the National Science Foundation (NSF) Hispanic-Serving Institution (HSI) Grant (No. 1832511), the EXPLORE STEM summer research fellowship provides students an opportunity to gain the skills needed to become competitive at the graduate level. The fellowship also removes the financial barrier a summer research experience may present, paying students a $4,000 stipend for 8 weeks of research. Students are paired with expert faculty members and work 10-15 hours per week.

Students studied the brains of reptiles, examined the curative properties of medicinal herbs, analyzed datasets of X-ray microscopy data to create 3D models on open source imaging software, modified built-in plugins within images into custom plugins to represent an image pixel intensity, assessed the efficacy of home disinfectants and natural products against household bacteria, and more.

Upon completion of their projects, students created a poster presentation for the symposium, where they presented to professionals from different STEM fields in a conference-style setting.

This year, SXU partnered with two external laboratories for mentorship: Argonne National Laboratory and Daubert Cromwell Laboratory. Two students conducted research in computer science virtually with Argonne and two students conducted hands-on laboratory research at Daubert Cromwell. Two other students conducted independent research, also new to the grant this year. All other students conducted their research under SXU faculty guidance.

Giana Pietkiewicz, a biology senior and one of the students who worked with Daubert Cromwell, was offered a full-time job at the laboratory as a quality lab control technician. For her project, she conducted physical testing on volatile corrosion inhibitors for Daubert Cromwell, which specializes in the protection of metals from corrosion.

At the symposium, students reported that the experience was incredibly positive, eye-opening and impactful on their undergraduate experience.