A Glimpse into Summer Research – Part 3: The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly

Dr. Mary Konkle shares her final installment of A Glimpse into Summer Research series. In spite of an unmet goal and budget challenges, her proposal was funded, student presentations were strong, and her batteries have been recharged!


This is my final blog entry in the CUR-Chemistry Summer Series. I would like to again thank CUR Chemistry for this opportunity to share my reality this summer.

The Good

Personally

  • si-budgetMy NSF-RUI proposal was funded! This was not the first submission for this proposal. I feel like it is important to disclose this for all the worthwhile projects out there that didn’t get the good news this year. I have been there too….
  • My batteries have been recharged through down time, spending time in the lab doing experiments myself, and some traveling to visit colleagues. I am starting to read science again for interest and fun and did not groan as I have worked on fall syllabi.

My batteries have been recharged through down time, spending time in the lab doing experiments myself, and some traveling to visit colleagues.

My Lab

  • Audrey Rex_Konkle
    Audrey Rex presents her research

    My student, Audrey Rex, presented her summer work at the Departmental Student Summer Research Symposium. Audrey will be a sophomore in the Fall and taking the opportunity to present is a victory from my perspective.

  • We made progress on several new avenues of research. We confronted and conquered issues to end Summer on a high note and with clear experimental plans for the Fall Semester.
  • Several EIU Department of Chemistry groups participated in a canoe trip to a local lake. For many students, it was their first time in a boat and nobody drowned! I think some might even do it again.

We confronted and conquered issues to end Summer on a high note and with clear experimental plans for the Fall Semester.

Undergraduate Research Community

Konkle_canoe.png
Konkle canoes!

I had the unique opportunity to be an audience member at three different end-of-summer Research Symposia. EIU (my home institution), Ball State University (my alma mater), and Trinity University (my post-doctoral institution). Each institution handled the number of participants, scope, and chosen method of communicating science differently. What each institution did was give students a chance to gain experience in communicating their work. This allows for reflection, pride, and ownership of the project by the student.

As a PI, I know it is hard to give up “data gathering time” to have students work on a poster or presentation. The sacrifice becomes even larger when it is a student’s first attempt. After my Symposium road show I again became convinced, it is worth it.

I know it is hard to give up “data gathering time” to have students work on a poster or presentation…I again became convinced, it is worth it.

The Bad

Personally

My goal of getting two publications submitted remains… a goal. Yes, progress was made. Yes, the holes in experiments were clarified and put on the list for the summer/fall. However, I still fell short on a goal

My Lab

  • Why didn’t we get more data? Is this all we have to show for it?
  • The last couple of precious summer weeks were spent purifying protein. Every. Day. This seems like such a waste, but I know it is necessary to set ourselves up for generating data in the Fall.
  • Where did the Summer go???
  • My students are not ready for the disappointing transition to school year productivity (see Blog Post 2).

My students are not ready for the disappointing transition to school year productivity

The Ugly

Similar to what the Dahls’ described in their blog post, I am working at an institution that has been beleaguered by drastic cuts to the state University system by the government of Illinois. Dr. Jennifer Dahl described the situation and deleterious effects of what so many professors and students are enduring at Comprehensive Universities around the country. It will most certainly have lasting effects on Undergraduate Research communities for years to come.


Konkle-head shot~Dr. Mary Konkle is an Associate Professor of Chemistry at Eastern Illinois University where she works with undergraduates on making small chemical changes to elicit large biological impacts.

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