Chemistry Lab

What is LAUREATES and How Do I Apply?

Written by Giannina Imperial

There’s no better way to end your summer than by stressing out over your plans for next summer. It’s that time of year, folks: Internship Application Season.

However, if you’re a junior science major looking for a research opportunity, look no further than home-sweet-Hillsdale for a paid summer internship.

The LAUREATES program lasts six weeks into the summer and offers a select few rising seniors a monetary grant to perform their own research at Hillsdale. The program culminates with a completed research paper and a poster presentation at the annual Spring Research Symposium during Parents Weekend.

The program is open for applications from juniors studying any of the divisional sciences (biology, biochemistry, chemistry, and physics) as well as psychology and mathematics. Dr. Chris Van Orman, dean of the natural sciences at Hillsdale College, oversees the entire program.

“It’s basically just an REU program, where we pay students to work one-on-one with a faculty member,” Dr. Van Orman said. “In the sciences, everyone’s required to do a senior thesis before they graduate, so this could be one of the things you can do in order to write your thesis.”

Though Dr. Van Orman takes both overall and major GPAs into account when choosing LAUREATES scholars, do not let that stop you from applying. He reads through each application, which includes a proposal for intended research, and chooses those he deems the best.

Here are some things to keep in mind to make your LAUREATES application stand out.

Choose the right research topic.

Your research topic should be interesting to you and to the scientific community overall. However, the best research aims to update scientific knowledge. What can you do that past researchers have missed, and how can it better inform the scientific community about your field of research?

You do not need to pursue pioneering, cancer-curing research, however. Ideas of all kinds are welcome.

“Some of the research people are doing here is basic research. It’s not going to be groundbreaking, but it is important,” Dr. Van Orman said.

Choose the right research advisor.

It will be best to choose a research advisor whose specialty relates to your topic of interest. You can continue your advisor’s research or approach your advisor’s research from a different perspective, if you have trouble choosing a research topic on your own.

“Some students will look at our research and ask, ‘What if we did this instead?’ and we might say that it seems like an awesome idea,” Dr. Van Orman said. “But whatever the students come up with needs to go through a faculty member.”

Your advisor will be your best friend during the LAUREATES period. Keep him/her involved in all stages of your research, and don’t be afraid to reach out for assistance when you’ve hit a roadblock.

Start compiling literature early.

To best develop your hypotheses and investigate successful research methods, you will need to read through a lot of literature. Do yourself a favor and begin reading as early as you can. Your advisor can help you use the resources Hillsdale has to find helpful scientific literature.

Remember to be patient with your literature review. Though tedious and time consuming, it is a necessary step in developing informed research concepts, hypotheses, and research designs.

Think thoroughly about your research design.

Be sure to use aspects of research designs from past studies that have been shown to work. It would be an incredible waste of time to run your six-week study only to come up short because you used wacky methods. Keep in mind the resources that Hillsdale offers, and be sure that you have access to the instruments and materials you plan to use.

“Whoever the student is going to work with will need to help decide whether the project might work, if it make sense, and if we have the equipment that they need to test it,” Dr. Van Orman said.

Also, remember to always cite your sources for all aspects of your research.

Be precise and understandable.

Your proposal should be about three to five pages long. Be concise, well researched, and clear. If the Dean of Sciences doesn’t understand your research, then the people who browse your poster at the Spring Research Symposium (scientists and nonscientists alike) won’t understand either.

“It doesn’t have to be long,” Dr. Van Orman said. “I just need a succinct summary of the project you want to do: What’s been done, what kind of results they got, what you want to do either differently or to add on to that, and how you plan on doing it.”

Aim to be published.

Though you might not get published, you should still pursue a publication-worthy topic with publication-worthy methods. And if you do get published, applying to grad schools will be that much easier.

“With most graduate schools, the first thing they look at is the research experience they’ve had, and those people are definitely set apart from the others immediately because they know you’ve been in some sort of research program,” Dr. Van Orman explained. “Ours is more hands on, and the work is one-on-one with us in the lab. I think that’s an advantage we have over other REU programs.”

Scientific research is one of the many ways Hillsdale students pursue truth. Be sure to take advantage of this opportunity to further the efforts of researchers across the nation, as well as to help you shape your scientific career. Good luck and charge on, young scientists!

Giannina ImperialGiannina Imperial, ’18, is a psychology major and biology minor from Jackson, MI. If she isn’t in the Psychology Suite running research participants or in AJ’s immersed in her biology textbooks, you’ll find her in the music hall for one of the dozen rehearsals she’ll have that day.  She loves God, neuroscience, dancing like no one’s watching, getting ice cream with friends, and trying out every Filipino recipe in her mother’s arsenal of cookbooks.