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Three Earn DAAD Awards for Study in Germany

Emma Parker '24, Kayla Anderson '24, and Kaitlyn Gerstler '23

Left to right: Emma Parker '24, Kayla Andersen '24, and Kaitlyn Gerstler '23 all won DAAD awards to support study in Germany during Summer 2022. (SUNY Geneseo photos/Keith Walters '11)

Biophysics major Emma Parker ’24, geological sciences major Kaitlyn Gerstler ’23, and physics and sustainability studies double major Kayla Andersen ’24 have been awarded internship scholarships to do research this summer in Germany.

Parker, from Slingerlands, NY, will intern at the Leibniz Centre for Agricultural Landscape Research (ZALF) in Müncheberg, near Berlin. Gerstler, from Niskayuna, NY, will work at the University of Greifswald’s Institute for Geography and Geology in Greifswald. Andersen, from Penn Yan, NY, will study at the University of Reutlingen in the southern German state of Baden-Württemberg.

Parker and Gerstler each won DAAD RISE (Research Internships in Science and Engineering) scholarships, which offer undergraduate students from North America, Ireland, and the UK summer research internships at German universities and research institutions. DAAD received 1,365 total applications (891 from US universities) and will award 320 scholarships for Summer 2022. Parker and Gerstler join six past Geneseo students who have won RISE awards, two each in 2015, 2019, and 2020.

Parker’s ZALF project will involve hands-on research on reducing fungal infection in crops like wheat, a growing problem due to climate change.

Gerstler’s project will involve field research and analyzing sediment core samples from one of the largest lakes in Northern Germany using sedimentological and geochemical methods to track historical environmental and climactic changes.

Andersen, who received a full DAAD STIBET scholarship, will join the University of Reutlingen team whose project involves research on eliminating transportation reliance on fossil fuels by creating more energy efficient mobility through improved semiconductors used in vehicle electrification.

Geneseo offers numerous research opportunities to undergraduates like Andersen, Parker, and Gerstler, thanks to its high-quality research facilities, supportive staff, and dedicated faculty mentors. The College ranked #2 in Best Undergraduate Teaching among regional universities in the North in U.S. News & World Report’s Best Colleges 2021 guidebook. Approximately 450 Geneseo students per year earn directed study academic credit for research, and up to 60 annually undertake summer research experiences through internal and externally funded grants from sources such as DAAD RISE, National Science Foundation (NSF), NASA, and the Department of Energy. Approximately 170 student research/travel grants, assistantships, and fellowships per year are supported by the Geneseo Foundation, Student Association, and endowments.

 

Emma Parker ’24

Stephen Padalino, a SUNY Distinguished Teaching Professor of Physics, has worked with Parker as a professor, research advisor, mentor, and employer and describes her as “a scientifically motivated person who is curious about nature.” Her work ethic makes her an ideal undergraduate research assistant, he says. “She has on many occasions come to work on weekends or at night to check on an experimental run to ensure the success of the experiment.”

During Spring 2021, Parker performed radioactive decay experiments with Padalino’s research team; that summer, she became a full-time research assistant studying positron annihilation produced by radioisotopes. The project required her to work with sophisticated gamma ray detectors and the associated electronics to collect data and analyze it on a gamma-X radioisotope system. She is currently leading a team in the Geneseo Energy Garden to build a large solar air heater for a student greenhouse.

Emma Parker, Stephen Padalino, Kayla Andersen
L to R: Parker, Padalino, Andersen

“I have always wanted to travel to Germany after hearing my father’s stories about his time there in the military; however, due to the financial limitations, doing so was not possible,” she says. “The RISE experience will be a wonderful opportunity to do research and finally see the world.” After graduation, Parker plans to apply for an MS in natural resource sciences at either Washington State University, Colorado State University, or the University of Vermont.

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Kayla Andersen ’24

Like Parker, Andersen became a research assistant under Padalino and studied positron annihilation produced by radioisotopes. She also conducted research involving sophisticated gamma ray detectors and the associated electronics needed to collect the data and analyze it on a gamma-X system.

“Kayla is an exceptional young woman who has demonstrated in both the classroom and the laboratory that she has a strong intellect and is scientifically motivated,” says Padalino. “She is an extraordinarily well-organized person, who is curious, a problem solver, an excellent communicator and motivated to do good things for society through sustainable practices.”

Andersen presently leads a team of six Geneseo students in the creation of solar collectors to sustainably supply heat to the college’s greenhouses as part of the Student Ambassadorship grant she won last year. After graduation, she plans to enroll in a graduate program to study sustainable innovation, involving engineering or energy processes.

 

Kaitlyn Gerstler ’23

Jacalyn Wittmer-Malinowski with Kaitlyn Gerstler
Wittmer-Malinowski (L) and Gerstler

Jacalyn Wittmer-Malinowski, assistant professor of geological sciences, focuses her research on stratigraphic and conservation paleobiology, combining sequence stratigraphy and paleoecology to investigate environments and ecological communities through time. Since June 2021, she has overseen Gerstler’s field and lab intensive research project on the sedimentology and conservation paleobiology of Conesus Lake.

“It is rare to encounter an undergraduate student with the drive, skills, and self-confidence to participate in research like Kaitlyn,” Wittmer-Malinowski noted. “Research by its nature is an exploratory journey, and she has shown resilience, passion, and determination along her path toward becoming an independent young scientist.”

Gertsler, who is minoring in German, traveled to Germany during high school to attend Freiherr-vom-Stein-Gymnasium in North Rhine-Westphalia. Her plans involve both a master’s and a doctorate in geology, with the intention of researching the causes of global climate change and how its effects can be mitigated for the most vulnerable populations.

 

STEM undergraduates interested in the DAAD RISE or other summer research programs should contact Director of National Fellowships and Scholarships Michael Mills at millsm@geneseo.edu or 585-245-6002. Visit Fellowships and Scholarships for more information about all the DAAD programs and other nationally and internationally competitive scholarship and fellowship programs.

—Michael Mills