Summer Program 2013
To participate in the CIRRUS Summer Program, you must apply to be a CIRRUS Scholar. The application deadline for the 2013-2014 CIRRUS Scholar Program is March 8, 2013.
The 2013 CIRRUS Summer Program will run from June 24 through August 2 on DePaul's Lincoln Park campus. This program offers you the opportunity to work in small teams on research projects in biology, chemistry, environmental science, mathematics, and physics. Other goals and highlights include:
- Training in research methods
- Field work
- Weekly group presentations of research results
- Visits to Chicagoland science institutions, including the Argonne National Lab, the Field Museum, and the Lincoln Park Zoo
- $3600 stipend
- Housing provided on DePaul's Lincoln Park campus
Each year the summer program ends with a poster session and a party. At the poster session the teams present several posters describing their research and conclusions. Each team presents their results to all CIRRUS Summer Program participants as well as to DePaul, Harold Washington, and Truman science and mathematics faculty members.
To be eligible for the CIRRUS Scholars Program, you must be enrolled at one of DePaul University, Harold Washington College or Truman College through the 2013-2014 academic year. You must also be a US citizen or permanent resident.
Highlights from Previous Summer Programs
Team Montgomery, led by Prof. Jim Montgomery of DePaul University, revisited a project from 2010 investigating the source of phosphorus in water leaving a restored wetlands north of Chicago. It was known that the water leaving the wetlands has a higher concentration of phosphorus than the water that enters the wetlands. The goal of the project was to continue work to try to isolate possible sources of phosphorus or processes within the wetlands that might release phosphorus. The team spent approximately two days per week at the wetlands taking samples of water and soil for analysis in the lab. They also looked at the biodiversity of the wetlands and examined the role that migrating geese and other birds play as a source of phosphorus.
Team Peszek, led by Prof. Sandra Chimon Peszek of DePaul University, looked at whether certain water-soluble natural products could inhibit the development of Alzheimer's disease. Team Peszek broke up into three sub-teams, each looking at a different substance: melatonin, curcumin, and milk thistle. Each team devised a procedure to isolate the substance in question, combine it with a beta amyloid peptide, and analyze the resulting products.
Team Tse, led by Prof. Ray Tse of Harold Washington Collge, looked at the anti-oxidant properties of various foods and substances, including nuts, tea, and sunscreen. The team prepared multiple samples of each item, varying parameters such as roasting time (for the nuts) or steeping time (for the tea). They then combined their samples with ABTS and used a spectrometer to measure the antioxidant properties of their samples.
Team Puche, led by Prof. Helena Puche of Truman College, examined the habitat connectivity of two forest preserves in the Chicagoland area. Students on this team measured the prevalence and diversity of aquatic plants, macroinvertebrates, frogs, and invasive terrestrial plants at both locations. They focused their measurements near and far from human created features such as storm drains and roads.
Team Montgomery, led by Prof. Jim Montgomery of DePaul University, performed an assessment of soil quality of the Lincoln Park neighborhood in Chicago. The team collected approximately sixty soil samples from the neighborhood and analyzed the samples' texture, pH, salt content, lead content, nitrate content, and moisture content. They then analyzed their data using GIS software to map out the variation in soil throughout the neighborhood and to look for correlations between the different measures of soil quality.
Team Sommer, led by Prof. Roger Sommer of DePaul University, used x-ray diffraction to analyze the dissolved solids in water around the university. They chose four different sources of water to sample: bottled water, tap water, river water, and lake water. After collecting samples they evaporated the water and examined the residue. They found that the most common dissolved solids were halite, calcite, and a variety of other compounds containing calcium, magnesium, and sulfur.
Team Onoda, led by Prof. Jim Onoda of Truman College, focused on projects to quantify pollution in air and water in Chicago. The team conducted a number of surveys using a colorimetric assay (the oxidation of potassium iodide) to determine ozone levels at various locations around Chicago. They also performed a similar survey using hand-held micro-particulate detectors. The group identified the highest levels near the electrical power plant, and high levels near Lake Shore Drive. Navy Pier was relatively free of micro-particulate pollution. Finally, the group surveyed the waters of Lake Michigan and the Chicago River for coliform bacteria, which is an indicator of contamination from raw sewage.
Team Lapik, led by Prof. Yev Lapik of Harold Washington College, built on its work from the summer of 2010 on phytoremediation. The team worked on several individual subprojects, including a hydroponics study, a study of germination, and a soil-based project. The teams examined the properties of several plants (mustard greens, radish, and sweet alyssum) with regard to their ability to tolerate both copper and salt in their environment and to take up copper from the environment. The team evaluated the plants' growth and germination rate when exposed to different levels of copper. They also used atomic absorption spectroscopy to analyze the amount of copper taken up by the plants during their growth.
In 2010, Team Lapik worked on a project to study the feasibility of using plants to remove copper contamination from the environment. The team worked on four individual sub-projects: a short-term hydroponics study, a long-term hydroponics study, a study of germination, and a soil-based project. The team examined the properties of several plants (mustard greens, radish, and sweet alyssum) with regard to their ability to tolerate copper in their environment and to take up copper from the environment. The team evaluated the plants' growth and germination rate when exposed to different levels of copper. They also used atomic absorption spectroscopy to analyze the amount of copper taken up by the plants during their growth.
Team Montgomery examined the role that phosphorus plays in a restored wetlands north of Chicago. It was known that the water leaving the wetlands has a higher concentration of phosphorus than the water that enters the wetlands. The goal of the project was to try to isolate possible sources of phosphorus or processes within the wetlands that might release phosphorus. The team spent approximately two days per week at the wetlands taking samples of water and soil for analysis in the lab. They also looked at the biodiversity of the wetlands and examined the role that migrating geese and other birds play as a source of phosphorus.
The students of Team Cheng, led by Prof. Likwan Cheng from Truman College, focused on projects to quantify metal contamination in air and water in Chicago. The group used an existing high volume air sampler to collect particulate pollution in the atmosphere. They then extracted the material from the filter and used atomic absorption spectroscopy to analyze their samples for copper, manganese, zinc, and lead. They also correlated their results with the prevailing atmospheric conditions and weather patterns. In a second project, the team collected water from Lake Michigan and analyzed it for the presence of the same four metals.
In 2009, Team Onoda continued to focus on an environmental assessment of Chicago. The team members conducted a number of controlled survey studies to determine ozone levels on Navy Pier, Chicago beaches, and near coal-burning electrical generating plants (know to be sources of air-borne pollution). The team next performed a survey of the same areas using hand-held micro-particulate detectors. The group identified the highest levels near the electrical power plant, and high levels near Lake Shore Drive. Finally, the team surveyed the waters of Lake Michigan and the Chicago River for coliform bacteria, which is an indicator of sewage contamination.
The students of Team Pando, led by Prof. Jesus Pando of DePaul University, sought to measure cosmic rays as a function of height in the atmosphere. Their approach was to build a detector and place it as the payload on a high altitude balloon. The project required the eleven team members to design the optical systems needed for the detector, design and build the amplification electronics, design and build the digital logic electronics, and design and build the mechanical systems that housed the experiment. The experiment was launched three times, with two of the three launches yielding very good results.
Team Davis, led by Prof. Mike Davis of Harold Washington College, worked on a simple paper based microfluidic analytical device for cost-effective, remote diagnosis. In this project, a water-repellent layer was deposited over paper to create channels. At the end of those channels, various colorimetric tests were dropped onto the paper. These tests were designed to detect glucose, proteins, and pH in clinically relevant ranges. The goal was to produce a business card sized diagnostic tool, which could be used in third world countries with little resources or technical expertise. The team's goal was to modify an inkjet printer to make this a high throughput system.
In 2008 the eleven students of Team Davis analyzed and optimized fruit dyes, semi-conductors, and dopant metals to create a solar cells that would convert light into current with maximal efficiency. Several students worked on dye extraction from various berries and plant leaves. Other students worked on analyzing the metals used to "dope" the titanium dioxide semiconductor. One student attempted to explore the relationship between the color of the light hitting the cell and solar cell's efficiency. Since titanium oxide is a known photocatalyst, other students ran tests to determine whether or not it would be destroy the absorbing dye and cut down on the cell's efficiency.
The six students of Team Pando built two radio telescopes to examine the behavior of Jupiter and the Sun. Construction of the receivers for the telescopes involved soldering, circuit reading, and testing the receivers. Over the course of the summer, two nights of Jupiter observing and 6 days of solar observing were completed. The team used the telescopes to correlate sun spots and storms on Jupiter with a particular radio signature. They analyzed the data using computer software to filter out background noise and compared their recordings against known spatial radio signals for accuracy.
The eight students of Team Onoda collected soil, sand, and air samples around Chicago. Students examined the CTA orange, red, and blue lines to assess their ozone levels, and took water samples from Lake Michigan and the Chicago River to look for the presence of coliform bacteria. They also examined sand and soil samples from North Avenue Beach and Jackson Park. Samples were examined in the laboratory using modern biology techniques such as EMB differential plating and x-ray fluorescence detection. Most samples yielded minimal contamination detected, but significant levels of heavy metals were found at both Jackson Park and North Avenue Beach, suggesting further studies are necessary.