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In the absence of a symposium, students reflect on their summer research experiences

November 3, 2023

This year, about 200 students stayed on campus over the summer to complete research ranging from genetics to the study of political systems in the United States. The President’s Summer Research Symposium was postponed due to the College’s recent lockout. Three of the 170 students who were selected to present share their perspectives on summer research at Bowdoin.

A summer flown by: Sam Koegler ’26 researched fly genomes

Sam Koegler ’26 stayed on campus this summer to conduct research in Professor of Biology Michael Palopoli’s lab. Koegler scanned stretches of DNA in fly genomes called enhancers, to find sections of DNA that are potential causes for diversity within and between species.

“We’ll dissect [the flies’] brain tissue, and we’ll look for fluorescence because of the structure of the plasmid that we create. You’re only gonna see fluorescence if the thing that you’ve inserted is an enhancer,” Koegler said. Koegler initially got involved in this research by attending summer research information sessions hosted by various science departments at the College.

“I came into college, and I knew I really wanted to do biochem, and I was really into biology. I’d always had in the back of my head [the idea of] doing research,” Koegler said.

Koegler’s research ties into her future career aspirations, as she hopes to pursue an MD–PhD and eventually use her research experience in genetics and molecular biology to tackle diseases like cancer.

Koegler enjoyed the slower pace of the summer and winded down by spending evenings with her roommates, cooking dinner and swimming at Simpsons Point.

“It was really nice because we got to create our own schedule based on what Professor Palopoli told us we needed to do, and you also get some opportunity to direct things yourself,” Koegler said. “It was like working a 9 to 5 and then going home and making dinner for yourself, which is not like my life normally on campus.”

Stating the facts: Gwen Gleason ’25 analyzed Secretary of State speeches

Gwen Gleason ’25 conducted research for 12 weeks of the summer on campus with Professor of Government Janet Martin to create a database of Secretary of State speeches from 1993 to June of this year. Gleason then uploaded the database into the program Envivo to analyze the use of phrases such as “climate change” and “climate refugees.”

“I feel like it’s an important topic that I don’t really need to explain. But those words were interesting and just not talked about as much as I thought they would be,” Gleason said.

Her summer consisted of a flexible work schedule, which allowed her to also easily grab dinners with friends or take occasional trips around New England to attend concerts. Her actual work day mostly consisted of work on her computer and meetings with Martin.

“I could just wake up and take my computer with me wherever I went to work,” Gleason said.

Martin actually offered Gleason the opportunity to help with her research over the summer. Gleason recommends that any students interested in conducting government research over the summer should reach out to professors who they want to work with or whose research they are interested in.

“I think it’s a really good way to get to know a professor one-on-one. I became, I would say, good friends with my professor over the course of the summer. We get dinners now,” Gleason said. “It’s also really cool to actually get to see what professors do and what the research aspect of their job is like.”

Gleason’s summer was funded by the Bowdoin Research Award, which both covered her housing and provided a stipend.

A summer of voting: Gracie Loney ’25 looked into Federal Election Commission votes

This summer, Gracie Loney ’25 analyzed the polarization of the Federal Election Commission (FEC) over time with Professor of Government Michael Franz.

“I collected data on the Matter Under Review, which is where the FEC votes on certain regulatory actions…. And so I recorded all of their votes and all of the commissioners that were doing these votes and seeing if they like voting aligned with a certain party,” Loney said.

Loney started her research with Franz by asking him about his upcoming research plans, and Franz took her up on the offer to help.

“I asked him if he had any future plans for work or any help that he needed, and he actually did have this project that he has been continuing for years,” Loney said. “It sounded interesting to me.”

Even though Loney does not exactly know what she intends to do after Bowdoin, she knew she wanted to do some kind of research on campus over the summer. She recommended interested students to not hesitate to approach professors, even if they do not have specific career goals yet.

“I had no idea—I still don’t know—what I want to do after Bowdoin or exactly where I want to go in terms of my [Government and Legal Studies] and Africana Studies double major. But that did not stop me from being able to find summer research and a professor who was willing to help me,” Loney said. “It’s very doable, and professors are willing to help if you take the time to talk to them.”


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