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Tuesday, Sep 21, 2021

What were the bears up to this summer?

Over the summer, the bears left the den for three months — but what exactly were they up to during this time? Mercer’s Center for Career and Professional Development boasts about their ability to help students find summer internship opportunities so that students can gain academic credit or experience. 

Joshua Dupaty, a fourth-year biomedical engineering major, spent his summer participating in a Research Experiences for Undergraduates (REU) program sponsored by the National Science Foundation. 

“I had heard about this REU from Dr. Thomas and thought it would be a great opportunity to broaden my interests within biomedical engineering,” Dupaty said.  

He worked in Dr. Martha Gillette’s lab on imaging neuron cultures and conducted research on different biomarkers for neurological disorders to see if he could find correlations between them.

Joshua Dupaty spent his summer conducting research on different biomarkers for neurological disorders during the Research Experiences for Undergraduates (REU) program. Photo courtesy of Joshua Dupaty

A part of the program involved participating in the Illinois Summer Research Symposium to present the research they had conducted that summer through both poster and oral presentations. Dupaty received an honorable mention for an outstanding oral presentation at the two day conference.  

However, some bears didn’t stray too far from the den. Junior Nashaya Bartolo, double-majoring in Law and Public Policy and English, spent her summer working at the Parish House of St. Paul’s Episcopal Church in downtown Macon.

The church is home to a summer program referred to as the Freedom School, which offers programs for helping elementary students improve their reading skills and learn self-empowerment. The program is funded by the Children’s Defense Fund, whose motto states that “reading is the key to unlocking a child’s unlimited potential.” 

Bartolo worked as a servant leader intern as one of the teachers of the Freedom School. Before the start of the program, the servant leader interns and the site coordinators completed a full week of training in Knoxville, Tennessee.

“The greatest lesson I’ve learned through this experience would be the power of positive influence,” Bartolo said. “While there were times when I had to practice patience, this position made me realize that a lot of the scholars see Freedom School as a safe place where they can be who they are and feel their true emotions.”

The program refers to their students as "young scholars" and gives them opportunities for personal growth and enrichment through a variety of activities and field trips to the Ocmulgee Mounds and to Dickey’s Peach Farm. 

“The greatest reward is seeing your children change positively throughout the program, whether it is a child becoming more outgoing, more independent, more compassionate or most importantly: more literate,” she said. 


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