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Science and Math Summer Research

2019 SRE Students and Faculty2020 SRE Students and Faculty.  Photo courtesy of Dr. Nicholas Zoller.

The 2020 SNU Summer Research Experience (SRE) will take place from May 13 to June 26, 2020.  The SRE is sponsored jointly by SNU and the Oklahoma NASA Space Grant Consortium (OSGC).  You can read more about OSGC activities here

Current SNU students may apply for the 2020 SRE if they have completed their first one or two years of study in an academic major offered through the SNU Biology, Chemistry, Computer Science/Network Engineering, Mathematics, or Physics Department.

Project Descriptions

A description of the 2020 research topics in each area is given below along with the respective research adviser(s).


Dr. David Hoekman

Project Title: How do beetle communities change across an elevational gradient in a Costa Rican cloud forest?

Elevation can have significant effects on biological diversity, particularly among insects. While these effects can vary between locations, species richness tends to decline with increasing elevation, and concomitant decreasing temperature. Thus, insects on elevational gradients must have thermally-mediated life history traits adapted to temperature regime in their respective elevational bands. While some work has been done in the tropics on ground-dwelling insects and moths along elevational gradients, little is known about other taxa, particularly at a fine scale. We will collect bark beetles and ground beetles along the elevational gradient at QERC, in the Talamanca mountains of Costa Rica and study how species richness and community composition changes along the 1000-meter gradient from the Savegre River to Cerro Buena Vista. Preference will be given to applicants who have had an insect class, which may be taken at Au Sable between the end of the spring semester and the beginning of the summer research program, but any motivated students are welcome to apply.


Dr. Caio Franca

Project Title: Mosquito-borne disease surveillance in Oklahoma (MODSO)

Vector-borne diseases are a major burden for public health. Arboviruses (viruses transmitted to humans and other animals by arthropod vectors) have emerged in the last decades as an important public health threat, causing significant morbidity and mortality among humans. In the United States, the number of mosquito-borne diseases reported increased an order of magnitude from approximately 4,800 cases in 2004 to more than 47,000 cases in 2016 according to the CDC. According to the Oklahoma State Department of Health, West Nile virus (WNV) was introduced to Oklahoma in 2002 and three major outbreaks have occurred since then resulting in 814 clinical cases of WNV disease and 58 deaths. The mosquito fauna of Oklahoma has 64 known species of mosquitoes from nine genera; a total of 12 mosquitoes’ species, including native and invasive, are known to be vectors of WNV in Oklahoma. Moreover, all the counties in Oklahoma have reported the presence of an invasive mosquito from southeast Asian known as Asian tiger and parts of south central Oklahoma have reported the occurrence of the yellow fever mosquito. These medically important mosquitoes are major public health concern as they can transmit diseases like Zika, Chikungunya, Dengue and Yellow fever.

This current landscape of mosquito-borne illness in Oklahoma highlights the need for an active disease surveillance system that provides an early indication of an emerging epidemic and inform public health interventions. The goals of our MODSO program are to monitor the mosquito vector population in the Oklahoma City metro area and detect the presence of important viral pathogens. Our collaborators include the vector control department of Oklahoma City county health department and University of Oklahoma. We use a multidisciplinary approach that applies vector biology, molecular biology, genetics, public health, ecology, and virology into arboviral disease surveillance.


Dr. Shawna York

Project Title: Instrumental / Computational Characterization of Tautomers

Tautomers are isomers which differ in electron/proton position within the molecule and which may rapidly interconvert. A common example is keto-enol tautomerism. A series of tautomers will be characterized via NMR relaxation times, ESI-Mass Spec, spectroscopy, and computational chemistry.

Summer Support and Stipend

Participants are eligible for free room in a SNU dorm facility. Each participant will receive $3,000 as a stipend for research. Payments will be made throughout the summer program; a final installment will be paid at the conclusion of the program. Participants are expected to commit to 40 hours of research a week as scheduled by the research adviser, generally from 8:00 am to 5:00 pm, Monday through Friday. If participants anticipate being gone for any reason during the program, they should make alternate arrangements with their research adviser for making up research. Additionally, participants must present the results of their research in two different settings during the 2020-2021 academic year:

  • During the weekly Math and Science research seminar
  • At an off-campus academic conference or at the annual SNU Undergraduate Research Symposium (in March or April 2021)

Application Requirements

Applicants must be SNU freshman or sophomore students who have declared an academic major offered through the SNU Biology, Chemistry, Computer Science / Network Engineering, Mathematics, or Physics Department. Applicants should expect to complete their first one or two years of study in their major by the end of the Spring 2020 semester. U.S. citizenship is required. Participants are expected to be available Monday through Friday, 8:00 am – 5:00 pm, for the entire six-week period (from May 13 to June 26). If applicants anticipate being absent for any reason, they should report the duration and reason for absence on the application form.

Each applicant must submit three recommendations – two of which must come from SNU professors. Applicants should email the recommenders and provide the URL (see below) for the online recommendation form. If a paper recommendation (rather than the online form) is needed, please contact Dr. Nicholas Zoller at


Applicants must complete their online application forms and have all required documentation (recommendations, etc.) completed by Friday, March 6, 2020. If the applicant must submit paper copies of application materials, then they should be delivered to Dr. Nicholas Zoller in Beaver Science 202D. Successful applicants will be notified by Friday, March 13 of their acceptance into the program. If you have questions, please contact Dr. Nicholas Zoller at You are also encouraged to discuss your interests with any of the research advisers listed above.


  • Apply Online - Log in with your SNU Gmail account
  • Recommendation Form - Copy and paste the URL (web address) into your e-mail requests to your recommenders. Recommenders must submit their recommendations by the application deadline of March 6, 2020 in order for your application to be considered complete.

Our Nazarene Heritage
Founded in 1899, Southern Nazarene University is a private, Christian, liberal arts university - a service of the Church of the Nazarene. Located on a 40-acre campus just west of Oklahoma City, SNU grew out of several small colleges committed to educating people for lives of service to God, leadership, and reconciliation toward their neighbors and within the global community. More than 32,000 alumni work and serve throughout the United States and the world. Read About Our Heritage

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