About halfway through viewing all 14 Creighton University undergraduate research projects launched this summer under their benevolence, Randolph Ferlic and Teresa Kolars Ferlic – both Creighton alumni – paused to reflect at what they were seeing.
Here at the Ferlic Research Fellows Poster Presentation were sophomores, juniors and seniors who, having spent 40 hours a week in Creighton laboratories over the course of 10 weeks this summer, had a real-world experience in scientific research of the headiest kind.
They were studying cell elasticity, the biodiversity of Nebraska’s unique Sandhills ecology, honeybee behavior, and ways of combating Lyme disease, tuberculosis and the scourge of river blindness in West Africa.
“It’s truly inspiring to see the work, the dedication, that these students have shown,” said Dr. Ferlic who, with Mrs. Ferlic, has sponsored the Ferlic Summer Research Fellowship for Undergraduate Research since 2006. “It’s the best return on our philanthropic gift that we could ask for.”
And the opportunity to become immersed in such research is what continues to land Creighton on national lists of the best colleges for undergraduate research.
The Ferlic Fellowships are one way the university’s Center for Undergraduate Research and Scholarship (CURAS) ensures every student who wants to take a greater hand in exploring an academic interest has a chance to work with faculty toward those goals.
“Finding out what I’d be able to do at Creighton, as an undergraduate, I was not going to go anywhere else,” said Hannah Swift, a junior chemistry major and Ferlic Summer Fellow who undertook a project with chemistry professor Stephen Gross, PhD, on finding more effective materials for filling dental cavities.
“Being able to spend 40 hours a week in a laboratory, doing this kind of research has made me even more passionate about going to dental school and keeping up with the latest research and what’s behind the latest trends,” she said.
Creighton President the Rev. Daniel S. Hendrickson, SJ, addressing the Ferlic Fellows, highlighted the integral role their projects have played not only in an academic sense, but in furthering the university’s Jesuit, Catholic mission, as each project found applications in humanitarian goals.
“The thing I like most about this program is that it is a wonderful example of how research and faith walk hand in hand at Creighton, and they have for more than 100 years,” Hendrickson said. “Through research, we strive to alleviate pain and suffering, find answers to complex problems confronting us, uncover new knowledge, and ultimately, care for one another and our world more completely.”
Shilpa Nair, a junior biology major, was a relative newcomer to lab research when she earned her Ferlic Fellowship for the summer to work with Anna Selmecki, PhD, in the Department of Medical Microbiology and Immunology, studying abnormal chromosome structures called isochromosomes.
With plans to attend medical school, Nair said the chance at engaging in full-time, hands-on research is also an opportunity to learn about the interplay of the laboratory and the clinic.
“It’s hard to find that as an undergraduate, and I’m very excited I got the chance,” she said. “This is a project I can see myself continuing to pursue while I’m in medical school and beyond. The experience to learn in a lab by doing the research was something I remembered when I was looking at Creighton and here I was, getting that exact opportunity.”