While some people associate summer in Maine with beaches and lobster, others have a different view. At Colby, more than 100 students stay on campus in the summer to conduct full-time academic research with Colby faculty.

In late July student researchers present their work to their peers and professors at the annual Colby Undergraduate Summer Research Retreat in The Forks, Maine. Following a full day of presentations and poster sessions, they hear from a distinguished keynote speaker—this year, Colby President David A. Greene. In his first address to students as president, Greene spoke about the value of the discipline, creativity, and collaboration that comes with this kind of rigorous research.

“Some of you are going to go on and you’re going to make your life in research one way or another,” he said, “and the kind of training that you’ve been getting this summer and that you’re getting at Colby in general is going to serve you extraordinarily well. And some of you will go on and research will not become a part of your everyday life. And what you did today, what you’ve been doing this summer—what you’ve been doing at Colby—will serve you equally well.”

Research like this, Greene said, “can inform the way that you look at the world.”

Following his reflections on the day’s research presentations, Greene turned his address into a conversation. He asked students to react to some of his ideas for Colby, including making experiences like the research retreat available to more Colby students.

For a sampling of this year’s posters and oral presentations, see below and watch the video at right, which highlights three projects from varying disciplines.


Lisa FujitakeLisa Fujitake ’17
East Asian Studies
Sexism in Japanese Textbooks
Singapore | United World College South East Asia
Major: Undeclared

While gender roles in Japan have changed dramatically in recent decades, gender representation in Japanese textbooks has not. This, according to research by Lisa Fujitake ’17, who spent her summer analyzing the portrayal of women in five widely used textbooks. Women are depicted in traditional roles—cooking and washing dishes, for example—and are shown in traditionally female professions such as teaching and nursing. Recently revised guidelines for textbook authors, Fujitake said, do not seem to have influenced gender bias.


Shelby O’NeillShelby O’Neill ’15
Socioeconomic Status and Political Participation in Belgrade, Maine
Corfu, N.Y. | Pembroke Central School
Majors: Government, Philosophy

For his senior honors thesis in the Government Department, Shelby O’Neill ’15 is seeking to determine whether a correlation exists between socioeconomic status—factors like income and education level—and people’s participation in the political process in the small lake town of Belgrade, about a half-hour from Waterville. This summer he interviewed about 30 local residents, and in the coming year he will analyze trends as part of the quantitative portion of his research.


Melissa PreziosiMelissa Preziosi ’15
Made-Up Memories: The Study of False Memories
Wilmington, Mass. | Wilmington High School
Major: Psychology-Neuroscience

To illustrate a mental process that leads to false memory, Melissa Preziosi ’15 began her CUSRR presentation with a simple memory test. Just as she did in the memory and language lab at Colby this summer, she tested people’s memory for words that were all related to the word window, which was not on the list. It took only about a minute for roughly one-third of the audience to have a false memory: they remembered seeing the word window on the list. The research has implications for eye-witness testimony by demonstrating how fallible and susceptible to distortion our memory is, Preziosi said.


Olek LatoOlek Lato ’15

Irena Sendler: Heroine to Jewish Children in the Warsaw Ghetto
Quincy, Mass. | Concord Academy
Majors: Biology-Cell and Molecular/Biochemistry, Philosophy

In 1942-43, aid worker Irena Sendler rescued more than 2,500 Jewish children in the Warsaw Ghetto. For a forthcoming book by Piper Associate Professor of English Tilar Mazzeo, Olek Lato ’15 transcribed testimonials from Polish to English in an effort to determine what happened to the rescued youth. Mazzeo is the author of the New York Times bestseller The Widow Clicquot.


Maria GuerraMaria Guerra ’16
Investigations of Copper(I)-arene Complexes: Potential Differences Between Copper(I)-naphthyl Complexes
Falmouth, Maine | Falmouth High School
Major: Chemistry

Maria Guerra ’16 spent her summer gaining an understanding of the reactivity and bonding features of copper(I)-arene complexes. Her poster presentation focused on how she and her partners, Thabiso Kunene ’15 and Associate Professor of Chemistry Rebecca Conry, have been synthesizing these complexes in the lab.