Side-By-Side: Student-faculty research provides students with valuable, hands-on learning experience

SISTAR partners Professor Isabel Larraza
and Kara Joseph '11
One of the best ways to explore a topic you’re passionate about is to pair up with a well-known expert. That’s exactly what Saint Mary’s students get to do each summer as part of the Student Independent Study and Research (SISTAR) project.

Each year, the Center for Academic Innovation (CFAI) chooses student-faculty partners to receive SISTAR grants, providing them with an entire summer, and the following semester, to “get their hands dirty.” The projects are sponsored by Maryjeanne Burke and Daughters.

The resulting experience enables students to conduct research that is applicable in the real world, and most likely in their future professions. Students often go on to present their findings at national conferences. “The project took my learning experience to the next level,” says Kara Joseph '11. She has been working with chemistry professor Isabel Larraza on a research that will make the process of creating certain pharmaceutical drugs more eco-friendly.

“The program was created to enable students to spend a summer researching, writing about, or practicing a subject or an art form that they are passionate about,“ according to Laura Haigwood, English professor and CFAI’s Interim Co-Director.

Haigwood adds, “Besides being a deeply rewarding intellectual pleasure in itself, this also gives them a strong advantage when applying for jobs or to graduate schools.”

Last year, four faculty-student partnerships were selected to receive the SISTAR award. You can read more about them here.

To learn more about the experience, read about alumna Andrea Krebs ’09, who conducted her summer research on Little Corn Island, Nicaragua.

—Alicia Smith '12