At Minnesota private colleges, there are ample opportunities for students to engage in valuable research, both individually and collaboratively, and across a variety of disciplines. From geospatial research that informs U.S. Supreme Court cases to anthropological research that connects cultures and advances public health, students are leading research efforts that are relevant to our state and our world. Explore the excerpts of research projects happening across our colleges.
Focus on community guides Carleton summer research trip to Peru
Summer research projects allow opportunities for Carleton students and faculty to collaborate on important work outside the classroom. Whether it’s a Student Research Partnership (SRP) through the Humanities Center, one of the many Integrated Math and Science research fellowships or an independent study, Carls participate in a broad spectrum of intellectual undertakings every summer.
This year, Dr. Sarah Kennedy, Robert A. Oden Jr. postdoctoral fellow for innovation in the humanities and archaeology, traveled to Puno, Peru with five Carleton students for her research project entitled “The Ongoing Environmental Impacts of Silver Refining in Peru,” usually referred to by its Spanish acronym PAMA (“Proyecto Arqueológico Medio Ambiente”). Four of the students—Claire Boyle ’25, Collin Kelso ’25, Ezra Kucur ’25 and Kalju Maegi ’23—participated in an SRP and one—Sophie Baggett ’23—was there for an independent student research fellowship. The SRP students conducted archaeological and anthropological ﬁeldwork while Baggett, with her background in Spanish and public health, established goals and guidelines for community interaction.
The PAMA research project, which extends beyond these students’ involvement, was created to assess the ongoing environmental impact of colonial-era silver reﬁning by establishing a rigorous universal survey methodology for the evaluation of heavy metals in soils, waterways and vegetation. The fieldwork is integral to a larger project goal of decolonizing archaeological and anthropological research.
Gustavus Adolphus College
Mayo Clinic Fellowship opens doors to passionate Gustie researchers
An advanced degree in the sciences takes years in the making, and at Gustavus, it often begins with undergraduate research. This summer, eight Gustie students were selected for the 2022 Summer Undergraduate Research Fellowship (SURF) at Mayo Clinic. They conducted groundbreaking research at one of the country’s leading medical centers.
“It was great to see so many Gustavus students and have someone in my corner,” said Katie Lillemon ’24, a biochemistry and molecular biology major who lived in Rochester, MN, with two fellow Gusties during the program. “The fact that this opportunity has been made available to so many Gusties is just awesome.”
Lillemon, who was accepted to the Virology & Gene Therapy department, spent her summer studying how COVID-19 infects cardiovascular cells. Other research areas included bioengineering, immunology, and neuroscience.
Lillemon began her journey as an undergraduate researcher through the First-Year Research Experience (FYRE) Program at Gustavus, which helped her make the leap to research at a large institution. Working with professors and fellow students in FYRE taught her valuable lessons that transferred well to the larger stage of Mayo Clinic research. For instance, she said, “It’s really important to plan everything out and establish good teamwork, because science doesn’t get anywhere without collaboration.”
Saint Mary’s University of Minnesota
With help of students, Saint Mary’s GeoSpatial Services submits testimony used in Supreme Court case
With years of expertise in geographic information systems and natural resource management, Saint Mary’s University of Minnesota’s GeoSpatial Services was tasked with compiling data that was used as testimony in a legal case that went before the Supreme Court in early October.
The case, Sackett vs. the EPA, focuses on a portion of the Clean Water Act that defines “waters of the United States,” and whether wetlands apply to that definition.
For the testimony that was submitted to the court, GeoSpatial Services engaged in modeling work that demonstrated what it would mean for wetland environments if the definition of “waters of the United States” were to be modified. According to Andy Robertson, director of GeoSpatial Services, the testimony is a culmination of five years of work mapping and modeling wetlands across the country.
“No other organization nationwide has access to data like this,” Robertson said.
Because GeoSpatial Services hires undergraduate and graduate students, many Saint Mary’s students were involved over the years collecting this data. Students were also involved in quickly compiling data after GeoSpatial Services was approached to assist in the case, which Robertson says was a quick turnaround.
St. Catherine University
New data “just the beginning” to unpacking Ramsey County stories
Since 2017, St. Catherine University students and faculty have been engaged in "Welcoming the Dear Neighbor?," an interdisciplinary research effort initiated by the Center for Community Work and Learning, partnering with the University of Minnesota’s Mapping Prejudice project to address structural racism in home ownership. On June 15 in Rauenhorst Ballroom, members from these teams unveiled new data from Ramsey County.
"Welcoming the Dear Neighbor?"’s team of faculty and students research, map, and analyze racial covenants in Ramsey County housing deeds. Racial covenants are discriminatory clauses stipulating that a house cannot be sold to specific racial or cultural groups — specifically targeting African Americans, and often other racial groups. Covenants date to the early 1900s and were only ruled unenforceable in 1968, under the Fair Housing Act. In 2020, Mapping Prejudice released a map of racial covenants in Hennepin County, and "Welcoming the Dear Neighbor?" partnered with them to expand this critical work and research to Ramsey County.
After introductions by President ReBecca Koenig Roloff ’76 and sociology faculty member Daniel Williams, PhD, speakers from "Welcoming the Dear Neighbor?," Mapping Prejudice, and the Just Deeds Project spoke about the compiled data and the significance of mapping racial covenants.
University of St. Thomas
In the News: Dr. Mahmoud Kabalan on School of Engineering's microgrid
KARE 11 featured the School of Engineering's microgrid in light of Hurricane Ian. The grid is a "self-contained energy network" that can provide buildings with power in the event of outages.
From the story: Dr. Kabalan says they're more reliable than central or state power grids, like the one in Texas that went down during a winter storm last year, leaving millions without electricity and hundreds of people died.
"A microgrid is much more than simply a standby system or an emergency system," Dr. Kabalan said. "A microgrid can be your home, can be a hospital, can be university campus or can be even a neighborhood."
The one on the St. Thomas campus will eventually power up to five buildings, including a new one going up across the street that will house mathematics, science and technology. The microgrid's run by several energy sources including solar and batteries.
Hear more from students leading research projects across disciplines, programs and private colleges at our annual Scholars at the Capitol event the morning of Feb. 15, 2023. This free showcases and celebrates the rigorous, relevant research being conducted by Minnesota Private College students.