A new Dedman College program provides a range of undergraduate research opportunities to encourage students to pursue graduate school. The approach is working.

“All I have learned about the application of chemistry to the real world, as well as the process of lab work, has aided me in the past year in my pursuit of a medical career,” wrote Laura Roberts ’09 in a thank-you letter to Jack Hamilton and his wife, Jane Hamilton, benefactors of the Hamilton Undergraduate Research Scholars program.

Roberts, a biological sciences major, was one of nine inaugural Hamilton Scholars. She and Patty Wisian-Neilson, professor of chemistry, studied the properties of new polymer phosphazenes. Currently Roberts attends Baylor College of Medicine in Houston.

The Hamilton Scholars program pays stipends to students assisting faculty with their research.

“Undergraduate research is important – through the Hamilton program in particular – because it gives students the opportunity to work closely with faculty members on important questions and to develop the kind of close mentor-student relationship that is a privilege and a treat as part of a university education,” says Caroline Brettell, Dedman Family Distinguished Professor of Anthropology and director of the program.

The Hamiltons created the program at the suggestion of Brettell, who formerly served as interim dean of Dedman College. Jack Hamilton also serves as a member of the Dedman College Executive Board. Student scholars included economics major Brian Jacobowski ’08, who studied mergers and acquisitions with Thomas Fomby, professor of economics, and biological sciences major Sara Gingrich ’10, who studied a new method of insulin delivery with Brent Sumerlin, associate professor of chemistry.

Anthropology major Katy Pocklington ’10 used historic photography from the Works Progress administration to study Depression-era childhood in New Mexico. Her work with Sunday Eiselt, assistant professor of anthropology, is part of the SMU-in-Taos Childhood Archaeology project. Pocklington plans to study anthropology in graduate school.

“We’re so pleased that we can help undergraduates become more involved with research and encourage them to pursue advanced studies. That’s the whole idea of education,” Jack Hamilton says.

“These days we need more independent researchers who know how to ask and answer important questions,” Brettell says. “Graduate school is the next step on this trajectory. We need students who will pursue advanced degrees and contribute to knowledge.”

To learn about supporting Dedman College, please contact Courtney Lee Corwin at 214-768-2691 or ccorwin@smu.edu.