Fourteen undergraduates presented their summer research at the annual Rosenfeld Research Symposium at Davies Auditorium on Friday to an audience of a few dozen students and faculty members, as well as the donors who financed the fellowship, Morton and Maggie Rosenfeld.
The symposium, now in its second year, marks the continued growth of Yale’s fellowship opportunities for undergraduates interested in scientific research. Run by Associate Dean for Science and Quantitative Reasoning Education Sandy Chang and the Yale College Dean’s Office, the Rosenfeld Science Scholars Program provides support for a summer research experience at Yale for students who have shown excellence in their coursework and commitment to research. This year, the 14 fellows were selected from a pool of 140 applicants.
“I really enjoyed the opportunity to delve deeper into my research project and to focus on it full time,” said Nicole Eskow ’19, one of the Rosenfeld Scholars. “That’s not an opportunity that you can get during the school year, when you have to balance research with your classes and extracurriculars.”
The scholarship is part of the research program of the Office of Science and Quantitative Reasoning, in which 24 donors supply almost $400,000 to fund undergraduate research. The office, run by Chang, also funds the Dean’s Research Fellowship in the Sciences, Tetelman Fellowship for International Research, Robert C. Bates Summer Research Fellowship, First-Year Summer Research Fellowship and STARS Summer Research Program.
The Rosenfeld Scholars are chosen from the same applicant pool as recipients of the Dean’s Research Fellowship; the 50 students with the top GPAs in the pool are considered for the Rosenfeld award. Chang said he and several other Yale science professors then review these students’ proposals and select the most promising projects.
Friday’s symposium began with a poster session in which eight fellows presented their summer research. After welcoming remarks from Chang, six selected students gave 15-minute presentations.
Spanning six departments, the projects included stem cell development, solar cell design, tissue-engineered lung cells and DNA damage response mechanisms.
Before the symposium, the Rosenfeld Scholars were invited to lunch with Chang and the Rosenfelds to share their experiences in a more informal setting. The Rosenfelds are the parents of two sons who are Yale graduates, one of whom received his undergraduate and master’s degrees in chemistry in 2007. Daniel Rosenfeld ’07 spent each of his summers at Yale doing research, which inspired the funding for Rosenfeld Science Scholars, a group originally known as Yale Science Scholars.
Chang emphasized the importance of research laboratory experiences at the undergraduate level.
“To become a scientist, you just can’t sit in a lecture hall and listen to your professors to be motivated to become a scientist,” Chang said. “Being a scientist means that you have to work with your hands to do real research — to do something tangible that is yours. To make those discoveries, you have to go into a lab.”
He added that the opportunities for students to find mentors in their labs can be just as valuable in their research experiences.
One of the other large research fellowship programs run by the Yale College Dean’s Office is the First-Year Summer Research Fellowship in the Sciences and Engineering. This year, the office funded 75 first years out of 85 applicants — an all-time high funding rate of 88 percent, according to Chang.
“After I became dean in April 2017, I made every effort to increase the success rate of Yale first-year summer fellowships to encourage first years to enter labs as early as possible,” Chang said.
Overall, the Office of Science and Quantitative Reasoning distributed over $1 million this summer to fund undergraduate research, with almost $600,000 allocated toward first-year projects. Chang said he is grateful for the support that his office has received from Yale College Dean Marvin Chun, University Provost Benjamin Polak and University President Peter Salovey.
“President Salovey’s mission is to make Yale the top research university with the best undergraduate teaching, and undergraduate STEM experience is a big pillar for what President Salovey wants to do,” Chang said. “I think the next capital campaign will be focused on STEM. And that’s important: We have an increasing number of Yale undergraduates majoring in STEM areas, and it’s important to give them the best experiences possible.”
Chang said he hopes to continue to expand Yale’s fellowship programs so that the University can fund more student research over the summer and hold a larger symposium for research fellowship awardees.
Additionally, Chang, a member of the Yale College class of 1988, is currently collaborating with four other alumni to establish their own fellowship program to fund student research at Yale.
More than 95 percent of undergraduate science majors at Yale do research with faculty members, according to the Office of Undergraduate Admissions.
Amy Xiong | firstname.lastname@example.org