The BC Research Enterprise
spotlight on science
As a thriving research university, Boston College is dedicated to advancing insight and understanding while addressing pressing societal needs. The University's growing renown makes BC increasingly attractive to some of the world's most promising scholars and gives students extraordinary opportunities to work with top researchers investigating vital problems.
Through the Light the World campaign, donors have played a major role in BC's rise in this arena. Donor support of research comes in many forms—funds may foster the work of a faculty member, underwrite a graduate fellowship, or enable an undergraduate to work on a research project. Funds may be dedicated to a department or discipline, an area of investigation, or a type of research.
Supporting the University's research initiatives is a powerful way to make a difference at the Heights and beyond for the students working in the lab or the library today—and for all those who will benefit from their work in the future.
Alison and Joseph C. Hill '67
- Dr. Joseph C. Hill '67 Research Assistantship in Support of the Physics Department
- Dr. Joseph C. Hill '67 Research Assistantship in Support of the Integrated Sciences
As an undergraduate majoring in physics, Joseph Hill '67 was equally fascinated by math, philosophy, and theology. He earned his doctorate in electrical engineering and founded the defense electronics firm Hill Engineering, where he still consults. As he worked with engineers and scientists across various disciplines, he often found himself playing the role of translator.
"I realized that the broad, solid education I earned at BC had enabled me to look at the world in a different way," explains Hill.
On a visit back to the Heights, Hill met with Physics Department Chair Michael Naughton, who told him that BC was aiming to increase opportunities for undergraduates to work on research projects. In the lab, knowledge gained from the textbook and the lecture becomes tangible. But grants for undergraduates were rare.
"That resonated with me," says Hill. "The opportunity to work in the lab would have cemented what I was learning as an undergrad."
Hill established the Joseph C. Hill '67 Research Assistantship in Support of the Physics Department to ensure that promising physics students would have undergraduate research opportunities. Feeling that his own interdisciplinary training had been invaluable, he went on to create the Joseph C. Hill '67 Research Assistantship in Support of the Integrated Sciences to encourage interdisciplinary experience early in the academic process.
Last summer, Michael Boyarsky '12 and Timothy Sleasman '13 were awarded assistantship grants in physics to research meta-materials with Associate Professor of Physics Willie Padilla, while Michelle Cunningham '14 also investigated meta–materials under an assistantship grant from the integrated sciences fund. She will continue to assist Padilla's groundbreaking work this summer.
Meta–materials, a relatively new class of materials engineered to produce tailored responses to light, have produced stunning experimental results.
Ultimately, their development may lead to imaging and sensing techniques that could observe the formation of stars, detect the presence of cancer, and tell an airport security agent whether or not a hidden object is an explosive.
Cunningham shares Hill's appreciation of an interdisciplinary approach to the sciences. "I came to BC because I wanted to be sure I received a great education in science and outside the lab as well," she says. "And already I can see that happening. I am so fortunate to have these incredible opportunities."
John W. Kozarich '71
Rancho Santa Fe, Calif.
- John W. Kozarich '71 Undergraduate Student Research Fellowship Fund
Since graduating from BC with a bachelor's in chemistry (summa cum laude), and earning his doctorate from MIT, John Kozarich '71 has had a multifaceted career in academic and pharmaceutical research. He has been a professor at Yale Medical School and the University of Maryland and a leading pharmaceutical researcher at Merck Research Laboratories. Today, as chairman and president of ActivX Biosciences in La Jolla, Calif., he is both its scientific leader and chief executive.
"My career has taken me into the lab and the boardroom. I've always been a scientist, but I've also been an entrepreneur," explains Kozarich. "All require a willingness to take risks, work hard, and push forward confidently. You need a broad skill set to be successful. Undergraduate research is an important way to begin to develop those skills."
The John W. Kozarich '71 Undergraduate Student Research Fellowship Fund gives chemistry majors the opportunity to participate in full–time summer research projects at BC's Merkert Chemistry Center. Kozarich hopes that these students will not only engage in cutting–edge scientific research with faculty mentors, but will also emerge as versatile and resourceful leaders.
The three students who were awarded grants last summer—Patrick Wong '12, Leo Lamontagne '13, and Samantha Goetz '13—all anticipate exciting innovations resulting from the research in which they participated.
"I worked to modify a peptide called gramicidin A, looking for ways to improve its antimicrobial properties," explains Wong. "Ultimately, the goal is to create a new antibiotic that will work better than current drugs." Meanwhile, Lamontagne helped develop high–performance catalysts that optimize solar–to–chemical energy conversion, and Goetz joined BC's organic chemistry lab.
Goetz, who minors in studio art, is deeply appreciative of the transformative experiences her BC education is providing. "I'm contributing to this serious research that might someday lead to more affordable medicines and less pollution. Then I'm going across campus to make art," says Goetz. "I'm taking classes that have me thinking about the role I can play in the world. Where else but BC?"
Suzanne and Peter C. Minshall, P'13, '15
- Minshall Family Faculty Research Fund in Honor of Cathy Read
Suzanne and Peter Minshall, P'13, '15, have always known that their daughter Marguerite '13 would be a nurse. It's all she has ever wanted to do. She fell in love with Boston College as soon as she saw the campus, and getting accepted at the Connell School of Nursing was a dream come true.
Her first year was challenging, and the Minshalls credit the Connell School's Catherine "Cathy" Read, associate dean of the undergraduate program, with helping Marguerite succeed when she was struggling. "Marguerite worked incredibly hard, and she had this whole supportive community cheering her on. BC lit the way for Marguerite," says Suzanne Minshall.
The Minshalls were impressed by the school's commitment to excellence. As they point out, nursing is an area of health care that affects everyone. "At some point, we all need a nurse. If you're lucky, that nurse will be a BC nurse," says Peter Minshall.
By establishing the Minshall Family Faculty Research Fund in Honor of Cathy Read, the Minshalls are both supporting the Connell School and advancing the science of nursing.
"BC is at the forefront of nursing research, which is an important part of what makes it such an outstanding program," says Peter Minshall. "We are truly grateful every day to be able to give back to a school whose work is so critically important."
Nursing research—the science behind clinical practice and the foundation for improving patient care—addresses a wide variety of health issues, and BC is leading the way for the academic community.
For example, Katherine Gregory, assistant professor of maternal and child health nursing, conducts award–winning research that investigates some of the major clinical problems resulting from premature birth. A similarly pioneering project led by Danny Willis, associate professor of psychiatric and mental health nursing, explores healing in male survivors of childhood abuse.
These and many other projects at the Connell School are moving nursing practice forward while enhancing the undergraduate experience for students like Marguerite Minshall.