Undergraduate Students Doing Graduate-Level Research Over the Summer

Posted on 7/8/2016 1:57:11 PM

Ashley Miller Studies freshwater streams near fracking sites at RESSWater is vital to human life, and that’s why Ashley Miller is so interested in protecting it.

As part of her work in the Research Experience for Summer Scholars (RESS) program at IUP, Miller has spent time taking core samples from the bottom of nearby Blacklick Creek, hoping to discover the long-term effects of the discharge of wastewater from natural gas fracking operations into the freshwater stream.

This is the third year for the IUP RESS program, open to undergraduate and graduate students. Students must have a faculty mentor for their research and must include a letter of recommendation in their application in order to be accepted for the program.

The RESS is coordinated by Justin Fair, Department of Chemistry, and includes faculty mentors in several departments.  IUP’s 10-week program is modeled after the National Science Foundation’s Research Experience for Undergraduates (REU) programs, and offers students the chance to participate in a cutting-edge experience that links knowledge and skills learned in coursework to real-work scientific and societal problems.

Miller, a native of Hooversville and a graduate of Conemaugh Township High School in Somerset County, is using the RESS program to bolster her résumé as she seeks a bachelor’s degree in geoscience at IUP. The program, which students must apply to, allows them to spend their summers doing field and lab research in various fields, giving them valued information about the topics they learn in the classroom.

“This program will help me get a good job,” said Miller, who hopes to someday work as a physical scientist for the US Geological Survey. “Having this kind of experience is a big thing.”

For her summer project with RESS, Miller, along with Katie Farnsworth, an associate professor in the Department of Geoscience, has teamed up with some faculty members and graduate students from Penn State to work on this project together. That’s another reason Miller is excited for her RESS opportunity.

“I’m doing graduate-level research here as an undergrad,” she said. “I’m really excited about the work that I’m doing. It’s a really great opportunity for me to be working on this project.”

Miller started her college career at another university, but she transferred to IUP after making a change in her career plans. The decision has led her to doing research that she’s passionate about and that will help her secure a rewarding career.

“I really like IUP,” she said. “I have a lot of opportunities because I came here, ones that I wouldn’t have had somewhere else. I love it here.”