Summer SOAR Participants Covering New Ground

It's 10:00 a.m. in midsummer. Do you know where your students are?

If the students are participating in one of twenty SOAR (Student Opportunities for Academic Research) projects this summer, they could be knee-deep in the Little Lehigh, measuring the success of stream restoration practices; in the Arena Theatre, contributing to a new play based on 2,500-year-old Greek tragedies; or in Collier Hall of Science, using fluorescent DNA stain to investigate a promising new cancer treatment. SOAR students say they gladly turn down work with friends at the local supermarket and even family vacations for the chance to do one-on-one research with faculty members.

Jennifer Mead '10 and John Corbin '11 collect samples from the Little Lehigh near Emmaus, Pa., to measure the effectiveness of stream restoration work over the past decade. The composition of fish populations and macroinvertebrate communities are key indicators of stream health.

"When you consider the future professional advantages, working on a SOAR project is a much better use of time," said Jennifer Mead '10, a biology major who hopes to become a veterinarian.

Working with Professor Frank Kuserk, Mead and John Corbin '11 have spent much of their summer measuring the effectiveness of stream restoration efforts in the Lehigh River watershed. It's the first time such measurements have been taken since restoration of the local stream sites began seven to ten years ago; their findings will inform decisions regarding future habitat restoration in the area. "Municipalities and community groups will be better able to focus their money and efforts on restoration efforts that are working," explained Corbin, an environmental science major who plans to attend graduate school.

In the process, SOAR participants learn to do academic research that can lead to a scholarly paper, technical report, or and/or conference presentation. Students also receive a small stipend and campus housing. Often, the research builds upon the work of previous SOAR participants, incrementally advancing knowledge in a variety of disciplines within the sciences and humanities.

Faculty Interest Expected to Increase

Funding, provided by the Ervin J. Rokke Endowment for Student Faculty Research established by Mrs. Priscilla Payne Hurd, supports about twenty-four students. Carl Salter, SOAR coordinator and chemistry chair, launched the program ten years ago after he and Clif Kussmaul submitted a proposal. "The program supported only three students when it began, so the Rokke endowment has really allowed SOAR to expand," said Professor Salter. "But as new faculty members come on in the next few years, I expect the project proposals to increase to where we will need financial support for about three dozen of them."

SOAR proposals may be submitted only by faculty members (full-time teaching or adjuncts who have taught at Moravian for two full years or more). Besides contributing to the academic growth of students, participating in SOAR allows faculty members to advance or complement their own research, collaborate on publications and presentations, develop new courses, and serve the community. For more details, go here.