Basque Country, existential dread, code switching: This year’s student research symposiums at Pomona, Scripps and Mudd

Students present their research on posters in Scripps College Seal Court.
Research symposiums at Pomona, Harvey Mudd, and Scripps offer an opportunity for students to share summer research projects. (Florence Pun • The Student Life)

Where can you learn about monitoring seabirds in the Gulf of Maine, Asian American music and soccer in the city of Pomona? At Pomona College, Scripps College and Harvey Mudd College, students presented their summer work at events celebrating these college-funded projects.  

Pomona hosted a weeklong symposium from Sept. 19 through 23 showcasing research and internship projects across 60 disciplines. 

“You can’t just be a passive consumer of knowledge,” Associate Dean of the College Pierre Englebert said. “Producing knowledge really helps you learn about scholarship, the academic world and how knowledge is produced — and that’s part of learning.”

“Producing knowledge really helps you learn about scholarship, the academic world and how knowledge is produced — and that’s part of learning,” Englebert said.

At Pomona, summer opportunities were funded via the college’s Summer Undergraduate Research Program (SURP) and the Pomona College Internship Program (PCIP). 

Naomi Tilles PO ’22 received funding to pursue a project called “El Derecho a Decidir: The Right to Decide in the Spanish Basque Country.” Tilles spent the summer in Bilbao, Spain, to conduct interviews with leaders from various Basque parties about what self-determination means to them. 

Tilles was grateful to have received funding for international research and told TSL she hopes research opportunities for students pursuing international projects will continue to expand as COVID-19 restrictions loosen. 

“I understand that COVID restrictions made Pomona decide to not allow [most international research] this year, but I really hope that in two, three years more students will have the opportunity to do that,” Tilles said. 

Oluyemisi Bolonduro PO ’23 enjoyed creating “Mirrored,” a creative writing project about her Nigerian nationality and Yoruba roots. 

“I think it’s a grand shift when it comes to college pursuits and sends a very strong message that all types of thought can be funded and supported,” Bolonduro said. 

Pomona provided stipends of $3,000 to over 150 students this summer. Englebert, who leads student research at Pomona, is working to expand funding for summer opportunities. 

“We’re doing fundraising, and we hope to be able to fund even more,” Englebert said. “We hope to be more generous — we want to make sure we provide fair opportunity.” 

Scripps also showcased student research over afternoon tea on Sept. 21. 

“Having ownership of their scholarship encourages students to see themselves as independent scholars, provides them with key training and gives them the necessary skills and confidence to apply to top graduate schools and/or a position previously considered out of reach,” Associate Dean of Faculty Jennifer Armstrong said via email.

“Having ownership of their scholarship encourages students to see themselves as independent scholars,” Armstrong said via email.

Students who received summer funding submitted a report, presented posters over tea at Seal Court and created a video for Instagram. 

Mirabella Miller SC ’24 received summer funding through Scripps’ Esterly Award, which supports what would otherwise be an unpaid internship. It also provides access to independent summer research projects or collaborating with a professor on research over the summer. Miller pursued a project called “Dystopian Sweetheart,” spending the summer creating a podcast and website. 

“I explored young women’s online presentations and how they relate to existential dread,” Miller said. “I was interested in pursuing [this project] because it felt very relevant to my life, and it was something I encountered daily on social media.”

Miller said the process of receiving funding was straightforward and accessible. 

“I filled out one form to apply to multiple different funds,” Miller said. “And then as the deadlines for funds passed, [Scripps] let me know what I did and didn’t get.” 

Nina Howe-Goldstein SC ’25 received summer funding from Scripps through the Mellon Interdisciplinary Humanities Initiative to research Morris Cafritz, the largest real estate developer in Washington D.C. from the 1920s to the 1960s. 

Howe-Goldstein said she wishes the Scripps administration had provided more guidance to students doing research over the summer. 

“It confused me that very little was seemingly asked of us in the end,” Howe-Goldstein said. “It’s interesting to look at the way Scripps quantifies the deliverable products of this research.”

At Harvey Mudd, students presented their summer research Sept. 22 at an in-person poster session at Hixon Court. 

As part of their Summer Undergraduate Research Program, Harvey Mudd student researchers completed 10 weeks of faculty-sponsored research spanning disciplines from biology to computer science. Each summer, close to 200 Harvey Mudd students pursue projects alongside nearly 40 faculty members across every department of the College, according to Harvey Mudd’s website

Lilian Zhu HM ’26 conducted a project titled “Code Switching: Semantic Density and Programming Language Learnability.” Zhu felt that the summer research experience gave ample opportunities to explore code switching from different angles.

“I got to learn other areas of computer science that other students were researching through weekly CS chats with everyone,” Zhu said via email. “Professor Bang and everyone else were very supportive throughout the whole summer, and my experience has ignited my passion for math and computer science.”

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