Student-Faculty Collaborative Summer Research Experience | Fitchburg State University
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Student-Faculty Collaborative Summer Research Experience

Summer Research Projects Nashua River 2017The Fitchburg State Student-Faculty Collaborative Summer Research Experience offers a paid opportunity (30 hours per week at $12/hr) for students to engage in interdisciplinary projects focused on the environmental and public health of the Fitchburg community.

The projects that make up this summer research experience will involve a collaboration between students, their peers, and faculty across a variety of settings (hands-on field and laboratory work and personal and professional development).

To be eligible, students must:

  • Be enrolled in a degree program leading to bachelor’s degree at Fitchburg State University
  • Be entering their sophomore, junior, or senior year
  • Be able to work for the entire term, which runs Monday through Thursday, May 28th – July 25th, 2019

To apply, please download the application form (PDF). The deadline to apply is Friday, April 12th.

The Projects

Health of Fitchburg Communities - Physical Activity

The overall goal of this project is to better understand physical activity behaviors among Fitchburg residents and the influences of health literacy and socio-cultural factors on these behaviors. 

We hope to gain a better understanding of physical activity habits, including the following:

  • Types and amount of activity performed
  • Use of local parks and other outdoor or home recreation opportunities
  • People’s perceptions of physical activity
  • Factors contributing to or limiting engagement in physical activity

Additionally, we plan to link information on physical activity to health and risk for chronic disease through health outcomes data (blood pressure, body composition, blood glucose and cholesterol) collected during health screenings within our local community.

Faculty and students will work toward answering the following questions:

  • What type of exercise do Fitchburg residents engage in, where do they exercise, how much (level of intensity), and how often?
  • How frequently do Fitchburg residents use local parks and trails, and which parks and trails get the most use?
  • What types of home or outdoor activities are Fitchburg residents engaging in?
  • What motivates Fitchburg residents to be physically active?
  • What factors influence physical activity habits among Fitchburg residents?
  • How healthy are Fitchburg residents?
  • What is the relationship between physical activity and health outcomes (blood pressure, cholesterol, glucose, body composition)?

Depending on experience, students on the research team may be involved in:

  • Conducting quantitative surveys
  • ​Using accelerometers to objectively measure physical activity of participants
  • Conducting and analyzing qualitative focus groups


Deborah Benes, Nursing
Carolyn Gustason, Nursing
Danielle Wigmore, Exercise and Sports Science

Health of Fitchburg Communities – Employee Wellness

This study will investigate the types of incentives and communication channels used by companies in the city of Fitchburg to inform their employees about the availability and benefits of wellness programs on their health. Students will be trained to use quantitative and qualitative research methods for data collection and analysis, including surveys, interviews and focus groups. Study results will be shared with the local companies to improve the effectiveness of workplace wellness programs.


Viera Lorencova, Communications Media
Renee Scapparone, Business Administration

Health of the Nashua River

This project seeks to understand the health of the Nashua River and its relationship to Fitchburg communities by studying water quality indicators and connecting those to river and regional land use.

Students and faculty from Biology, Chemistry, Earth and Geographic Sciences, and Mathematics will work together toward answering the following research questions:

  • What is the health of the Nashua River from geological, biological, and chemical perspectives?
  • How has the land-use/water-use in the watershed region changed in the past century?
  • How are land and water use connected to water quality indicators?
  • What risk does river flooding pose to Fitchburg communities?

Students involved in this research may be involved in:

  • Analyzing GIS data of flooding and other river issues
  • Collecting and analyzing fish and macroinvertebrate populations in the field
  • Performing chemical analyses on water samples in the field and in the lab
  • Collecting and analyzing water particulates
  • Measuring and/or modeling river flow


Elyse Clark, Earth and Geographic Sciences
Emma Downs, Chemistry
Elizabeth Gordon, Earth and Geographic Sciences
Jane Huang, Earth and Geographic Sciences
Ben Levy, Mathematics
John Ludlam, Biology
Aisling O’Connor, Chemistry
Daniel Welsh, Biology

Regardless of background, all students will have an opportunity to learn about each part of the project.