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Senior Research

Every student at Governor's School completes an independent research project, mentored by working scientists and business professionals in South Carolina and around the globe.

SPRI (Summer Program for Research Interns) and its international arm, the Research Experience Scholars Program (RESP), are exciting programs unique to GSSM. For six weeks between their junior and senior years, students conduct research at university or industrial facilities under the mentorship of professional scientists, entrepreneurs or engineers.  Most of the students work with their research mentors and Governor's School advisors during the senior year to compile and analyze their research findings, prepare formal research papers, and present their work at a school-sponsored colloquium and at the SC Junior Academy of Science annual meeting.

Since the summer research program is required of all rising seniors, the Governor's School Foundation provides a fellowship for each student through private support so that no student's family bears the cost of the program.

Potential Research Fields include:

  • Biochemistry
  • Computer Science
  • Physics
  • Zoology
  • Astronomy
  • Molecular Biology
  • Engineering
  • Microbiology
  • Economics
  • Entrepreneurship

Previous Research Projects

Kayla Sommers, GSSM Class of 2014
Subject Area: Economics

Research Location: IT-oLogy, Columbia, SC
Project Title: Understanding Job Market Trends of Women in IT
Project Description: Working with a local database and special-purpose programming language SQL—designed for managing data held in a relational database management system—Kayla focused on determining the long-range trends in the IT workforce in the Upstate of South Carolina over the past 10 years. Kayla found that the number of women in the IT workforce has steadily declined over the past eight years, and has significantly declined since the economic recession in 2008. She hopes to secure additional data during the coming months to hypothesize why there is a notable shift in the trends, specifically for women. Her work cross-cuts the fields of economics, computer science and computer programming.

Ali Hamilton, GSSM Class of 2014
Subject Area: Engineering

Research Location: University of South Carolina
Project Title: Exploring Wireless Energy Transmission Along Air Frequencies
Project Description: Would you like to power your cell phone anywhere, at any time, without using an outlet? Ali studied wireless energy harvesting by building a transformer and a rectifying circuit to investigate the transmission of electrical energy from a power source to an electrical load. Ali noted that in order for wireless energy to be economical, most of the energy sent out by the generating plant must arrive at the receiver. Ali’s work focused on making the transformer and rectifying circuit more efficient and therefore more economical.

Tobias Holden, GSSM Class of 2013
Subject Area: Medicine

Research Location: German Cancer Research Center in Heidelberg, Germany
Project Title: The Effects of Angiopoietin-2 Stimulation on Human Brain Pericyte Quiescence, Protein Expression and Microvesicle Production
Project Description: Tobias studied Angiopoietin-2 (Ang-2), a protein growth factor that promotes blood vessel formation, and its effects on human brain pericytes, central nervous system cells that are essential for proper brain function.  Using immunofluorescent staining and Western Blot protein analysis, he tested for changes in morphology, microvesicle production and the expression of the proteins platelet-derived-growth-factor receptor-beta and desmin.  This research could help scientists develop a way to control tumor angiogenesis (blood vessel formation), which would limit the supply of oxygen and nutrients to tumors.

Chris Steele, GSSM Class of 2013

Subject Area: Biophysics
Research Location: Korea Advanced Institute for Science and Technology in Daejeon, South Korea
Project Title: Determining Fluorophore Identity and Concentration in Mixed Solutions with Laser Fluorescence Spectroscopy and Lifetime and Intensity Analysis
Project Description: Chris’s research was designed to determine the identities and concentrations of different fluorophores (chemical compounds that fluoresce, or re-emit absorbed light).  Using laser fluorescence spectroscopy and lifetime and intensity analysis, he determined that it is possible to determine not only the identities but also the concentrations of fluorophores that have been mixed together in a solution.  Fluorophores are commonly used for fluorescent tagging in medical research, and Chris’s results could make them available for a wider range of biomedical applications.

Sona Chowdhary, GSSM Class of 2012

Subject Area: Medicine
Research Location: Harvard University
Project Title: The Effect of the Transcription Factor cRel on the Gene Expression of IFNb
Project Description: The focus of Sona’s project was to test whether the transcription factor cRel promotes or inhibits the production of an inflammatory protein called interferon beta (IFNb). Her results indicated that cRel inhibited the production. In inflammatory diseases, the immune response is too strong, meaning too many inflammatory proteins are produced. IFNb is one of these main proteins. Therefore the potential application of Sona’s research is to develop ways in which cRel could inhibit IFNb in order to treat inflammatory diseases.

Virginia Tkacik, GSSM Class of 2012

Subject Area: Astronomy
Research Location: Pisgah Astronomical Research Institute
Project Title: The Milky Way Radio Plume
Project Description: Virginia used a radio telescope named Smiley to observe a plume in the Milky Way and record its motion. This particular plume, which may be made up of hydrogen, was discovered in the 1980s, but it has not been observed or recorded until now. Tracking the plume’s motion can lead to a better understanding of our galaxy, which in turn will help us better understand galaxies and our universe.

Camara Sharperson, GSSM Class of 2011

Subject Area: Exercise Science
Research Location: University of South Carolina
Project Title: The Effects of Exercise and Fish Oil Supplementation on the Development of Anemia in a Colorectal Cancer Mice Model
Project Description: Camara researched the role of fish oil and exercise as countermeasures to cancer cachexia (the physical wasting that accompanies debilitating chronic disease, including loss of weight and muscle mass). Her SPRI work involved the homogenization of tissues for study and the creation of protein extracts. By developing an understanding of the causes of wasting, this study may lead to ways to prevent and treat wasting in cancer patients and increase their chances for survival.

Alice Sudlow, GSSM Class of 2010

Subject Area: Ecology
Research Location: Francis Marion University
Project Title: Ecology of Diamondback Terrapins
Project Description: Alice worked in the Department of Biology at Francis Marion.  Her research was part of a long-term study of the diamondback terrapin population in the estuary at Hobcaw Barony in Georgetown.  Alice seined the creeks of the estuary to collect terrapins, then recorded information about their sex, size and weight and marked them with notches on their shells before releasing them.  She also examined terrapin nesting, looking for nests that had been destroyed by predators before hatching.  Her research will help biologists learn more about diamondback terrapins, as little is known about them.