“I think that the Randolph College Summer Research Program is one of the best and most important things that we do here on campus,” says assistant professor of chemistry Bill Bare, one of nine dedicated Randolph faculty spending eight weeks this summer working side-by-side with students doing hands-on research in subjects as varied as physics, global studies, psychology and theatre.
“The process of research, in which there truly is no clearly defined path to from questions to answers, requires students to be very creative and to integrate concepts and strategies from many different courses,” adds Bare, whose student/colleague this summer is Shirae Leslie ’09, a sophomore chemistry major from Kingston, Jamaica.
Leslie and Bare’s project, measuring toxicity levels of lead paint in local Lynchburg homes and buildings, is partially funded by a grant from Lead-Safe Lynchburg. Their lab work will contribute to a larger project initiated by Bare and Laura Dupuy, the executive director of the Lynchburg Neighborhood Development Foundation, a local nonprofit that works to make safe, affordable housing available to low-income families.
Leslie, who came to the U.S. two years ago to study at Randolph, wants to eventually pursue an MD PhD, combining her love of research with a strong calling to serve those less fortunate. She and Bare have actually been working on lead research for almost a year and decided to continue the project into the summer.
“She is the first student that I have had who has been on a project long enough that she is able to legitimately take some ownership of it,” says Bare, adding that Leslie already knows what questions to ask and what new experiments will help find the answers.
Past Summer Research students have presented papers and reports at regional and national conferences, often winning high honors.
Because of the independent, in-depth nature of each student’s research, the summer program is also a great launching point for graduate school. Bare says that over half of his recent chemistry Summer Research students are currently enrolled in PhD programs at major research universities, including the University of Southern California, the University of North Carolina and Tufts University.
Bare also believes that having so many international students on campus—12% of the student body from 40 different countries—makes for a vibrant and fun learning environment. “ In our research lab, we are all learning a lot of chemistry, but from Shirae, we are also learning about Jamaican food and culture.”