STEM Learning Continues with Dr. James Girard SURE Program

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Summer STEM Learning Continues with Dr. James Girard Summer Undergraduate Research Experience

Published: September 23, 2019.

Seventeen Lewis University students of biology, chemistry, computer science, mathematics, engineering, aviation and physics spent their summer conducting research in a 10-week program. The program concluded with a research symposium, at which students presented to the community their accomplishments from summer research.

The STEM Undergraduate Research Experience (SURE) program is a collaborative experience for Lewis University students from multiple STEM disciplines to engage in undergraduate research over the summer. Working one-on-one with a faculty mentor, the program funds these students for the summer and offers an experiential learning environment that accelerates their research careers, with many students presenting their outcomes at conferences and/or via publications. 

Students researched a variety of topics:

  •       Michael Anonuevo of Romeoville presented “Efficiency of Hydrogels to Promote Human Dermal Fibroblast Production” with faculty mentor Dr. William Chura.
  •       Kavanaugh Dempsey of Mokena researched “Cracking Encryption with Graph Matching Algorithms” with faculty mentor Dr. Jason Perry.
  •       Karlie Cummins of Livonia, Mich. presented “Creating a Methodology to Study C. elegans that Express the Human Amyloid Beta Protein Present in Alzheimer’s Disease” with faculty mentors Dr. Daniel Kissel and Dr. Mallory Havens.
  •       Emily Bernhard of Channahon presented “Development of a Methodology to Monitor Biological Productivity of Soils Treated with Glyphosate over Time” with faculty mentor Dr. Jerry Kavouras.
  •       Allie Mikos of Geneva researched “Investigating the Effect of Molecular Structure on Passive/Active Film Formation to Tailor Cu CMP” with faculty mentor: Dr. Jason Keleher.
  •       Margaret Capalbo of Romeoville presented “A Novel Method of Measuring Airplane Thrust” with faculty mentor Dr. Ryan Hooper.
  •       Krystian Brzek of Romeoville and Steven Zeko of Plainfield presented their research “Cyclin D3 and Conserved Sequences Within Modified Genes” with faculty mentor Dr. Sarah Powers.
  •       Marco Pettinato of Mokena presented “Predictive Modeling and Analysis of Softball Using Linear Algebra-based Ranking Systems” with faculty mentor Dr. Amanda Harsy.
  •       Karan Nair of Joliet researched “Generating Nanophotonic Arrays through Capillary Self- Assembly” with faculty mentor Dr. John Parker.
  •       Austin Martorano of Shorewood presented “Fractal Dimension Acquisition Method to Aid in Diagnosis of Central Nervous System Disorders” with faculty mentor Dr. Young Jung Kim.
  •       Rudra Patel of Naperville researched “A Mathematical Model of Clostridioides difficile Transmission via Healthcare Workers” with faculty mentor Dr. Brittany Stephenson.
  •       Carly Graverson of Franklin, Wisc. presented her research “Implementation of ‘Soft’ Cleaning Chemistries for the Improvement of Post-CMP Cleaning” with faculty mentor Dr. Jason Keleher.
  •       Wesam Jabali of Orland Park researched “Determining Functional Roles in Networks using Topological Properties” with faculty mentor Dr. Piotr Szczurek.
  •       Paul Buldak of New Lenox presented “Laplacian Simplices Associated to Graphs” with faculty mentor Dr. Marie Meyer.
  •       Helen Popoola-Samuel of Orland Park presented “The Effects of Drosha During Cancer Trials and Gene Expression” with faculty mentor Dr. Mallory Havens.
  •       James Sparks of New Lenox presented “Modeling Fan Graphs in Self-Assembling DNA Using Graph Theory and Linear Algebra” with faculty mentor Dr. Amanda Harsy.


Computer science and mathematics major Marco Pettinato said, "SURE has been a great experience for me. I am considering graduate school, and this has given me some great exposure to what that would be like. It has been all that I could have hoped for and then some. I would definitely recommend it to all students.”

Keynote speaker and Lewis University alumnus Dr. James Girard donated $500,000 to the program. Hence, the SURE program will now be called the Dr. James Girard Summer Undergraduate Research Experience.

Girard is currently a professor of chemistry at American University in Washington, D.C. He attended Cathedral of St. Raymond School and Joliet Catholic High School before earning his Lewis University bachelor’s degree in chemistry, cum laude.

Current Lewis University faculty members Dr. Jason Keleher, Dr. Joseph Kozminski and Dr. Jerry Kavouras (founders of the program) were present to accept the donation and celebrate 10 years since the start of the program. Faculty member Dr. Susan Sheffer, who was also a founder of the program, was unable to attend the ceremony.

Lewis University is an innovative and forward-thinking Catholic university offering market-relevant undergraduate and graduate programs to 6,500 students. Sponsored by the De La Salle Christian Brothers, Lewis University is nationally recognized for preparing intellectually engaged, ethically grounded, globally connected and socially responsible graduates. Visit for further information.

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