Mount scholars love research

October 01, 2013

Newburgh, NY -

The earthen smell of the Mohonk Preserve forest and the warm summer sun set the backdrop for Mount Saint Mary College student Brittni Troy’s recent research.

As part of the Montgomery, NY native’s Summer Undergraduate Research Experience (SURE), Troy, an interdisciplinary science major, performed an observational study of the forest understory. She surveyed the entire southern half of the nearly 7,000 acre preserve.

Using a small iPad-like device, Troy recorded the species, density, and height of the understory vegetation. She created a map to be used in land management decisions, such as where and when to set controlled burns.

The aspiring teacher and president of the Mount chapter of the Kappa Delta Pi education honor society said the hands-on experience was a major boon to her teaching skills.

“To teach science you need to have the kids involved,” she explained. “I hope to get the kids out in nature and use the scientific method to solve problems. That kind of thinking will not only help them in science, but a variety of subjects.”

Through SURE, Mount faculty act as mentors to Mount students over the summer, in subjects such as science, mathematics, education, the arts, business, and more. The college recently received a grant of $10,000 for the program from TD Charitable Foundation, the charitable giving arm of TD Bank.

More than 20 students participated in the program this summer. They presented their projects to the public recently, including research in creative economic development in the Hudson Valley and psychological case studies.

As in previous years, the program was a hotbed for research in the natural sciences. Professors James Moran and Suparna Bhalla supervised biology/pre-med major Hannah Mulhall, from Holbrook, NY, who spent her summer researching immune responses of lab mice to the cutting-edge blood substitute, OxyVita.

Mulhall presented her findings to the OXYVITA Corporation’s pharmaceutical and biotechnology professionals, including founder and CEO Hanna Wollocko. The undergrad masterfully fielded the scientists’ questions. They inquired about her research process, suggested new parameters for further testing, and congratulated her on a job well done.

OxyVita is a polymeric stroma-free hemoglobin developed by the OXYVITA Corporation in New Windsor, NY. When perfected, OxyVita could decrease the need for blood donations. Since it does not require refrigeration, it could be used in hospitals, combat situations, during power outages, and more. OxyVita can be manufactured as both a liquid and a powder, and is the first working blood substitute in powder form in the world.

Adam Earle“I’m looking forward to continuing this,” said Mulhall, active on campus as vice president of the local chapter of Beta Beta Beta, a national honor society for biology. “It’s really interesting to me.”

The Mount prepares students for graduate study; medical, veterinary, or dental school; and careers in industry and education, as well as other fields. At the college, students find supportive study groups, service opportunities, and research with faculty.

Other projects included Stephanie Weaver of Rockville Centre, NY, under the supervision of professor Daniel Shea, researching the artistic and political facets of Irish and Anglo art; and the nanoparticle research of Adam Earle of Merrick, NY (pictured at right), a chemistry major, and associate professor of chemistry Janet Petroski.

At the SURE culminating event, keynote speaker Bernard McSherry discussed “Connecting the Dots and Looking Backwards: The Importance of Personal Interests in Motivating Research.”

A former governor of the New York Stock Exchange, McSherry advised students to research what they love – something he learned firsthand while obtaining his doctorate degree.

“What makes you happy? What makes you excited?” he asked. “If you’re going to take on a research project… it takes a long time and a lot of emotional investment. Find out where your heart is taking you, and if you’re not feeling it, find something else.”

McSherry is a 33-year Wall Street veteran, and longtime member of the New York Stock Exchange. He founded McSherry & Company in 1988, before joining Cuttone & Co., Inc. as senior vice president for strategic initiatives in 2007.