Founded to expand undergraduate research opportunities at Cornell, the Nexus Scholars Program welcomed its first cohort of students this summer for an eight-week paid research opportunity.
The Nexus Scholars Program is offered to Arts and Sciences students from any area of study in the college to conduct research in selected fields, including science and technology studies, Asian studies, feminist, gender and sexuality studies program, chemistry and chemical biology.
Students accepted to the program conducted research on the Ithaca campus alongside their faculty research advisor, also known as a principal investigator, from May 31 to July 22.
For some students, the program was their first exposure to undergraduate research whereas others took the opportunity as a way to continue and advance research from previous semesters.
According to Milani Aviles ’25, many of her peers fell into the first category.
“The Nexus Scholars Program was my introduction to research,”said Aviles, a Nexus Scholar who worked under Prof. Kerry L. Shaw in the department of neurobiology and behavior. “The majority of fellow scholars I met, specifically in the STEM fields, were rising sophomores who had not done much either,”
Others applied with more specific interests and plans, such as Shelby Williams ’25, who applied to the program with her faculty advisor and research topic that she had been a part of in Spring 2022. Williams, who works with Prof. Julilly Kohler-Hausmann, history, researching voting rights policies and legislations, applied as a way to dedicate her summer entirely to her research.
Nevertheless, for all participants, Nexus presented a unique opportunity to devote their summers to advancing their interest in specific disciplines.
This experience came with many benefits for students since it served as a paid launch into the mechanics of research design earning up to $7,000 for the summer. The amount of funding is determined by the project and the student’s hours per week. Furthermore, the program offers an opportunity for students to make long-lasting connections with faculty that can extend far beyond the summer.
Aviles explains that with a strong enough connection, many faculty advisors will invite their undergraduate researchers back into the lab in the fall and spring semesters to continue their work.
Despite its merits, participating in the program was not without its challenges. Some students found the beginning portion of the program difficult to navigate.
“It was a learning curve, especially for me, since I had never done research before and this was the closest thing I had to an adult job or experience,” Aviles said. “At first, it was hard to understand how things functioned or even figuring out whether I was doing too much or too little work. Finding balance was key.”
Students interested in the program can apply for the summer of 2023 in late October.