Morgan Duffany '23, a double major in biochemistry and Spanish, is participating in Union’s summer research program. Colleen Connelly, assistant professor of chemistry, advises her.

Summer of love: Students and research a perfect pair

Publication Date

When Daniella Massa ‘23 was in the final stages of her college search, a key factor that pointed her toward Union was a visit to the CRoCHET Lab.

Housed on the bottom floor of the Wold Center, the Collaborative Robotics and Computer-Human Empirical Testing lab is an interdisciplinary hotspot that features robots and unique interfaces.

Summer research - Daniella Massa ‘23 - student  working at the computer

Daniella Massa ‘23 works on her summer research with VALERIE (Voice-Activated Laser Enabled Robot for Interactive Experiments) in the College’s CRoCHET Lab (Collaborative Robotics and Computer-Human Empirical Testing). Under the guidance of Kristina Striegnitz and Nick Webb, associate professors of computer science, Massa is hoping to develop a fully functional social robot that is able to communicate and interact with humans.

It is also the ideal place for Massa, a computer science and psychology double major, to spend her summer weekdays working on her research project.

Under the guidance of Kristina Striegnitz and Nick Webb, associate professors of computer science, Massa is hoping to develop a fully functional social robot that is able to communicate and interact with humans.

Named VALERIE (Voice-Activated Laser Enabled Robot for Interactive Experiments), the robot is an ongoing project for the Computer Science Department. VALERIE can move, speak and display a variety of facial expressions on her main screen.

Over eight weeks, Massa will agglomerate the functions into a graphical user interface (GUI) and design a variety of task-driven interactions for VALERIE to perform, including asking a person for information or physical help, or to deliver information, such as being placed in Admissions and answering questions from prospective students and their families.

"Having a well-designed GUI allows us to ensure that VALERIE behaves the way we want her to during an interaction," said Massa, of the hamlet of Hartsdale in Greenburgh, N.Y.

Massa is among more than 120 students across a multitude of disciplines working on summer research projects. Most projects are funded through the College’s undergraduate research program. Government or scientific society grants to faculty members, academic departments and foundation funding support the rest.

For nearly 40 summers, with the exception of the pandemic, Union has fostered close working relationships between thousands of students and faculty as part of its longstanding commitment to undergraduate research.

Heather Watson
Summer research is a great opportunity for students to get a taste of a professional research environment and to also really delve into a project that they may be passionate about, or learn about a topic that is entirely new to them. Having several weeks to focus on a single project allows a level of immersion in the research that isn't practical or available during the academic term. It can be a great jumping off point for an independent study, or thesis project."
-Heather Watson, director of undergraduate research and associate professor of physics and astronomy

In nearly every corner of campus, one can find students pursuing a diverse mix of projects.

Summer Reseearch - Luke Miranda ’23 with professor Kristin Fox in the lab

Luke Miranda ’23, a biochemistry major, hopes to understand the self-cleavage sites and structure of metacaspase proteins from the fungus Schizophyllum commune. He is working with Kristin Fox, the Florence B. Sherwood Professor of Physical Sciences.

Luke Miranda ’23, a biochemistry major from Fayetteville, N.Y., hopes to understand the self-cleavage sites and structure of metacaspase proteins from the fungus Schizophyllum commune. He is working with Kristin Fox, the Florence B. Sherwood Professor of Physical Sciences.

Julian Zapata-Hall, a mathematics major from Morelia, Mexico, is one of three students working in Schaffer Library on a project with Jennifer Grayburn, director of Digital Scholarship and Public Services. The students are part of the library’s Summer Institute for Digital Exploration at Schaffer (Summer IDEaS), which aims to introduce students from across the disciplines to the digital humanities.

Summer research - Julian Zapata-Hall ‘23

Julian Zapata-Hall ‘23, a mathematics major, is one of three students working in Schaffer Library on a project with Jennifer Grayburn, director of Digital Scholarship and Public Services. The students are part of the library’s Summer Institute for Digital Exploration at Schaffer (Summer IDEaS), which aims to introduce students from across the disciplines to the digital humanities.

The students will explore the College’s massive John Bigelow Collection through data visualization, including network analysis, mapping and text analysis. A member of the Class of 1835, Bigelow was a prominent author, lawyer, diplomat and distinguished man of letters in the 19th and early 20th centuries.

Gifted to the College nearly 60 years ago on behalf of the Bigelow family, the collection spans approximately 80 linear feet. It includes some 22,000 letters from prominent political, cultural and literary giants, including Theodore Roosevelt, Andrew Carnegie, Charles Dickens, Mark Twain and Frederick Law Olmsted, the landscape architect who co-designed Central Park.

Last year, the National Historical Publications and Records Commission of the National Archives awarded Union a grant to support the digitization of the collection.

“Having access to small fragments of people's lives is great, being able to give them a second life through research and divulgation is awesome,” said Zapata-Hall. “We are currently learning about the computer techniques used to convert antique written material, such as letters, into useful data sources and how we can use this data to gain a further understanding about the lives of their authors or era in general.”

Natalie Prevenza ’23 doing research

Natalie Prevenza ’23, a neuroscience major, is participating in Union’s summer research program. Colleen Connelly, assistant professor of chemistry, advises her.

The summer research program at Union includes weekly elevator pitches for students to share their projects with other students and faculty. There are also weekly seminars related to career development and campus resources that may be useful for research.

“I have really enjoyed my summer research experience so far,” said Massa. Her research will form the basis of her senior thesis. “You get to work at your own pace, but you still have to meet certain deadlines. And seeing what other students are working on has been interesting.”

A poster session highlighting many of the summer projects will held Friday, Aug. 5, in the Wold Atrium.

“Regardless of their ultimate career plans or major, the experience gained from summer research will help students learn more about what they love doing, and hone their problem solving and communication skills,” said Watson. “Summer research also gives students a chance to gain independence in their work, and discover their own strengths.”

Visit the website to learn more about undergraduate research at Union.

  • Click to see all summer 2022 research projects
    Student Class Year Major Title of Project Faculty Advisor
    Jacob Abbott 2023 Environmental Science Developing High Resolution Models of Groundwater Metal Exposures in Northern Plains Indigenous American Tribal land Mason Stahl
    Maya Acampora 2024 Biomedical Engineering Flexor Hallucis Longus Muscle Activation in Dancers versus Non-Dancers Amy Loya
    Eyosyas Achamyeleh 2024 Electrical Engineering Soccer 3D- Trajectory Tracking System Traver Cherrice
    Justin Aguirre 2024 Political Science Google in China: Android, Massive Modularity and the New Geopolitics of Technology Mark Dallas
    Nang Quoc An 2023 Computer Science + Math HTCondor Scaling and Parallelization Matthew Anderson
    Tingwei Ao 2023 Mechanical Engineering Aerogel-Based Insulated Windows Ann Anderson
    Emily Armlin 2023 Biochemistry hFSH Signaling of Caveolin Binding Motif Mutants Brian Cohen
    Baibhav Barwal 2025 Computer Science Implementing Scalable Strong Uniquely Solvable Puzzle Search Algorithms Matthew Anderson
    Samhita Bheemireddy 2023 Chemistry & Anthropology ID Major Assessing Attitudes of BIPOC Youth and Community Stakeholders Towards the Police in Schenectady, New York Robert Samet
    Andrew Boyd 2024 Biomedical Engineering The Effects of The Life Handle Jennifer Currey
    Melanie Boyle 2023 Physics and Political science Different Salt Water Compositions Freezing and High Pressures on Europa Heather Watson
    Aidan Briney 2023 History How Similarities Between Colonial and National Governance Affect Life in Nairobi Today Brian Peterson
    James Brouder 2023 Computer Engineering Using Dual Nozzle 3D Printers to Fabricate non-planar Circuit Boards Cole Belmont
    Maia Carty 2024 Mechanical Engineering Turbulent Flow over Local Heterogeneities in Model River Vegetation Canopies Ali Hamed
    Nuo Chen 2022 Psychology The Effect of Repeat Checking on Memory Vividness, Detail, and Confidence; The Effect of Known Language(s) on Episodic Memory Daniel Burns
    Alice Cheng 2023 Biology-Psychology Managing anxiety, agitation, and restlessness among home hospice patients at the very end of life Carol Weisse
    Young Jun Chun 2025 Computer Science Reusing general model of movement of 3D robots to make experimental trials more efficient John Rieffel
    Kennedy Clark 2024 Biomedical Engineering Sports Science and Analytics Sparking STEM Interest Amy Loya
    Avery Clavel 2023 Environmental Science El Niño Frequencies Determined By Isotopic Values from Modern and Aged Stalagmites and Impacts on South American Summer Monsoon Donald Rodbell
    Elizabeth-Veronica (Eva) Crowley 2024 Physics Lightcurve Analysis of a Koronis Fragment with the Union College Observatory Francis Wilkin
    Ryan Cudworth 2025 Political Science on the Pre-Law Track A More Perfect Union: A Statistical Analysis on How Best to Increase Voter Turnout in the United States Clifford Brown
    Maeve Daby 2023 Sociology and Spanish and Hispanic Studies Responsible Recreation: Established by Education David Cotter
    John Daly 2024 Computer Science 2D Voxel-Based Soft Robot Simulation John Rieffel
    Jason D'Amico 2024 Computer Science/Sociology Double-Major Understanding Older Adults' Use of Fitness Tracking Applications Poorna Talkad Sukumar
    Siddhant Deka 2024 Electrical Engineering Investigating Error Tolerance in the Cohn-Umans Algorithm Matthew Anderson
    Emma Drake 2023 Environmental Science Risk model for Woolly Hemlock Adelgid on Conservation lands in Otsego County Steven Rice
    Dang Duong 2024 Computer Science Improving 3D SLAM Reconstruction by Applying Human-Aid Suggestions Matthew Anderson
    Hung Duong 2024 Computer Science A Research on Unbounded Real-Time Data Streaming And Big Data Processing for Machine Learning and Deep Learning Models Roger Hoerl
    Ella Harper-Schiehl 2023 Neuroscience Exploring the Implication of Cortisol Receptor Sensitivity on Incidence of Depression Brian Cohen
    Spencer Hatfield 2024 Mechanical Engineering The Permeability of Graphene Oxide Membranes in Use with Fuel Dehydration Yijing Stehle
    Sebastian Kania 2024 History The Comfort Women in American Memory- American Public Memorials to Japanese Sexual Slaves during the Second World War Joyce Madancy
    Abhay Kashyap 2025 Computer Science 3-DIMENSIONAL OBJECT DETECTION AND LOCATION TRACKER IN REAL-WORLD Aaron Cass
    Laura Kaso 2024 Undecided Unofficial and official economy, corruption and economic development; The modern Albanian style of Economy Bradley Lewis
    Josh Kent 2023 Biomedical Engineering Cryopreservation of Human Mesenchymal Stromal Cells to Preserve Immunomodulatory Factor Secretion for Off-The-Shelf Treatment Sudhir Khetan
    Parsa Keyvani 2023 Computer Science and Economics An Econometric Analysis of the Major Choice of First-Generation College Students and International Students in the United States Stephen Schmidt
    Avanti Khare 2023 Neuroscience Downstream effects of semantic context and accentedness on memory Chad Rogers
    Luke Kilby 2023 Mechanical Engineering Graphene Oxide supercapacitors Stehle Yijing
    Hannah Lane 2023 Biology with Interdepartmental Major in Philosophy Spare Receptor Hypothesis and FSHR Brian Cohen
    Rebecca LaVenture 2023 Biomedical Engineering Cytotoxicity of Octyl Dimethyl Para-Aminobenzoic Acid (OD-PABA) on Normal Human Dermal Fibroblasts (NHDFs) and Effect on Gene Expression Sudhir Khetan
    Vu Le 2024 Computer Science Implementing Scalable Strong Uniquely Solvable Puzzles Search Algorithms Matthew Anderson
    Megan Lee 2023 Biology Tamias striatus exploitation of anthropogenic foods across an urban gradient Kathleen LoGiudice
    Yeonjae Lee 2023 Chemistry Synthesis of potential inhibitors for S. commune Metacaspase Joanne Kehlbeck
    Shizhe Li 2023 Economics-Mathematics An Algebraic-Topological Approach to Intrinsically Knotted Graphs Brenda Johnson
    Olivia Logan 2024 Physics Theoretical and Computational Physics Nelia Mann
    Daniella Massa 2023 Computer Science & Psychology Rendering Facial Expression Within a Social Robot to Enhance Communication and Human Interaction Kristina Striegnitz
    Bailey McAtee 2024 Mechanical Engineering 3D flow analysis of the turbulent boundary layer over 2D roughness with localized blowing Ali Hamed
    Emily McCann 2023 Biology Genetic Variations in Endocannabinoid System Genes as a Predictor for the Increased Risk of Developing Anorexia Nervosa Brian Cohen
    Vasileios Megas 2024 Electrical Engineering Low-Cost Volumetric 3D Ultrasound for Cancer Imaging Jue Wang
    Luke Miranda 2023 Biochemistry Characterization of ScMCA-Ia and Related Mutants via Autoproteolysis Kristin Fox
    Abigail Mitty 2023 Psychology and Spanish & Hispanic Studies Interdepartmental Major Tracking Mental Health Challenges of Hospice Patients in a Residential Home for the Dying Carol Weisse
    Muhammad Talha Mushtaq 2023 Computer Science and Economics Modularity, Ecosystems and Standard-setting: The Business and Geopolitical Implications of Google's Android OS. Mark Dallas
    Saliha Nazir 2023 Environmental Science and Visual Arts double major Stable O and C isotopes in Peruvian stalagmites as paleoclimate archives in the Southern Hemisphere David Gillikin
    Hung Nguyen 2024 Computer Science Using Machine Learning and Deep Learning Models to Estimate Stocks' Prices in Real Time Roger Hoerl
    Minh Nguyen 2024 Mechanical Engineering Conductivity and stability improvement of electrode on a hydration sensor Yijing Stehle
    Andrew Nordell 2023 Mechanical Engineer Effect of an upstream cylinder on flow characteristics around a downstream cylinder Ali Hamed Ali Hamed
    Emily Olenik 2023 Psychology and Sociology Pediatric parenting stress, family stability, and physical and emotional functioning in children with chronic illnesses Jennifer Malatras
    Natalie Preveza 2023 Neuroscience Using Biophysical Assays to Investigate Conformational Switch that Occurs in Precursor MicroRNAs Colleen Connelly
    Shams Qureshi 2025 Biomedical Engineering The effect of the Menstrual Cycle on the biomechanics of the Achilles Tendon Amy Loya
    Jillian Ramey 2023 Psychology Pediatric parenting stress, family stability and physical and emotional functioning in children with chronic illness Jennifer Malatras
    Maryam Ramjohn 2023 Environmental Science Stalagmites as paleoclimate archives- analyzing Peruvian cave stalagmite isotope levels to illustrate paleoclimate up to 500,000 years ago. Donald Rodbell
    Travis Rathwell 2023 Neuroscience and Physics Coarse-grained models for DNA-protein complexes Cecilia Bores-Quijano
    Paulo Reyes 2023 Mechanical Engineering Effects of Hydrophobic Aerogel Film on Drag Ann Anderson
    Bianca Ring 2024 physics Freezing Points of Salt Water Solutions With Relevance To Europa Heather Watson
    Ethan Romero 2024 Biochemistry Development of a Stereo- and Enantioselective (Ipc)2BH-mediated Mukaiyama Aldol Reaction Lee Pedzisa
    Aavasna Rupakheti 2025 Computer Science Investigating Error Tolerance in the Cohn-Umans Algorithm Matthew Anderson
    Dante Sasso 2023 Psychology Investigating the Encoding Benefits of Retrieval Zachary Buchin
    Arun Schroder 2025 Mechanical Engineering Design of Molds for Aerogel Manufacturing Ann Anderson
    Natalie Shearing 2023 Mechanical Engineering and Spanish double Liebau Pumping in Embryonic Hearts Bradford Bruno
    Daniel Singer 2025 Geology Ultraviolet Filter Chemical Sorption in Sediments Laura MacManus-Spencer
    Ansh Singhal 2024 Computer Engineering Soccer Ball 3D-Trajectory Tracking System Cherrice Traver
    Alicia Slavit 2023 Biomedical Engineering microCT imaging analysis of Drosophila melanogaster to study the effects of muscle aging Amy Loya
    Hailey Stoltenberg 2023 Environmental Science Tropical paleoclimate reconstruction from a Peruvian speleothem David Gillikin
    Gwyneth Sultan 2023 Biology Use of Peptides to Investigate the Interaction Between hFSHR and Caveolin Brian Cohen
    Christine Swanson 2023 Environmental Science Determining Aquifer Hydraulic Properties from Water Level Fluctuations in Response to Barometric Pressure Changes Mason Stahl
    Chau Tran Minh 2025 Biomedical Engineering The effect of metal ions on the surface tension of 2D materials at the air-water interface. Ellen Robertson
    Tuan Trinh 2023 Computer Science Multiple subject detection with moving cameras. Aaron Cass
    Dana Truini 2023 Biology and Spanish Using a Motion Capture System to analyze jump performance in Schistocerca americana Scott Kirkton
    Veronica Turek 2024 Biology The Improved Purification Process of Metacaspase Proteins Kristin Fox
    Nicole Turpin 2024 Biomedical Engineering Ultrasound Neuromodulation in an Earthworm Takashi Buma
    Marileisi Vizcaino Perez 2023 Psychology "I Don't Like Her Anymore": Masculine Honor Beliefs and the Effects of Romantic Rejection on Perceived Mate Value Conor O'Dea
    Diep Vu 2024 ID Computer Science and Economics Financial Narrative Engines using Natural Language Generation Kristina Striegnitz
    Lani Waggoner 2024 Biochemistry Comfort Medications Used in Home Hospice Patients at the Very End of Life Carol Weisse
    Logan Walker 2023 Computer Science Further Exploration of the Behaviors of Silicone Robots John Rieffel
    Luodi Wang 2025 Computer Science Realtime Human-Aided Correction for 3D SLAM Algorithm in Robots Matthew Anderson
    Caitlin Williams 2023 Biology Testing UV and Polarized Light Perception in Bearded Dragons Leo Fleishman
    Nuo Xu 2023 Managerial Economics The century-long diffusion of the automobile in the U.S. states from 1996 to 2020 Dong Cheng
    Conor Fryer 2025 Mechanical Engineering Using sustainable biocomposites as an alternative to synthetic fibers in sporting goods Ronald Bucinell
    Anton Tatus 2024 Managerial Economics Ukrainian Resistance: Formal, Informal, and Interconnected Jeffrey Witsoe