School’s not out for summer

By Andrew Barbero

With Bermuda Shorts Day right around the corner, most students are getting ready to reject all things academic for four months. For the many U of C undergrads doing research projects over the spring and summer, the work is just beginning.

Whether students have won awards or grants, been lucky enough to land a position under a professor’s funding or were simply accepted overseas, a myriad of opportunities exist for undergrads looking to broaden their research base over the vacation months.

“Anything people want to do that is academic, but not necessarily for credit, would be considered research,” said Students’ Union vice-president academic Brittany Sargent, who also explained that funding options are available for these projects.

“Research Services is the resource students would want to get in touch with for money and support for academic projects over the summer,” explained Sargent, noting most deadlines for grant applications have passed.

Awards and grants often facilitate research, such as the Programs for Undergraduate Research Experience awards. The winners get funding to research alongside U of C professors during the summer months.

“If I want to have a career in archeology, then the summers are when I need to visit the actual digs,” said fifth-year archeology major and PURE award-recipient Julie Martindale, who was happy to snag the honour. “The PURE awards give me the opportunity to do that. [The award] was being advertised around and I just had to explain what my research would entail and what I would get out of it.”

Martindale will travel to Latin America to do primary research alongside professors and graduate students from the archeology department to study possible pre-Hispanic trade routes between Ecuador and Nicaragua by looking for a particular sea-shell that was used as currency.

“If I can identify where these routes are, I’ll be able to establish whether there was contact or not,” explained Martindale, who will be working alongside U of C archeology professor Geoffrey McCafferty in the previously untouched site of Tepetate, in Nicaragua.

Asked if she’d rather be sipping drinks on a Calgary patio this summer, Martindale stressed that in her discipline, on-site work never loses interest.

Other students will be focusing their research closer to home.

“My summer job plans fell through and I was looking all over the place for a research job,” said second-year biological sciences major Stevi Vanderzwan, whose specialty in ecology granted her a spot as the sole research assistant of a graduate student doing work on the Bow River.

For Vanderzwan, the rewards extend much further than fulfilling academic curiosity.

“It’s not really school for me; it’s more research on ‘do I really want to do this for the rest of my life,’” she said. “I did the office thing last year and it’s just so boring. I didn’t feel like I’d accomplished anything at the end of the summer, whereas this, even though it’s half the money, is going to be a good experience.”

Vanderzwan admitted getting funding for summer research projects can be difficult.

“The awards you can get that offer funding are pretty competitive,” she said. “I was lucky that I found someone who had the funding to hire somebody.”

If students would like their research to include travel, the best on-campus resource is the International Centre, It helps students coordinate internships, overseas academic exchanges and programs that involve students in the developing world.

Of course, students just looking to continue their programs of study can take advantage of the full gamut of spring and summer classes being offered. The SU will also remain an asset for students over the summer months.

“All our resources are available,” said Sarge- nt. “All the executive and staff will be here.”

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