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Isha Vial and her labmates in front of the Bronco statue.

Isha Vial and her labmates in front of the Bronco statue.

Get Ready for Research @SCU Event on Wednesday

Admitted students from the Class of 2026 get a chance to learn about undergraduate research opportunities during an online event hosted by Bronco Exchange on Feb. 16.

Admitted students from the Class of 2026 get a chance to learn about undergraduate research opportunities during an online event hosted by Bronco Exchange on Feb. 16. 

It didn’t take long for Isha Vial ’22 to find her first research opportunity at Santa Clara. In fact, it came in her very first chemistry class here. 

Vial was in “General Chemistry Honors” taught by Steven Suljak in the fall of her first year. Since the class had only 12 people, the students got to know Suljak well and learn about his research, which focused on developing assays for early-stage screening of ovarian cancer. At the end of the quarter, Suljak asked Vial if she was interested in working on a research project in his lab. 

Since then, Vial has spent several days a week getting professional experience in Suljak’s lab. Along with her lab partner, Vial has learned how to use capillary electrophoresis to select favorably binding aptamers (single-stranded DNA). The students run a laser to cause fluorescence in the sample when it binds with the desired protein.

“Working in the lab involves failing a lot, and requires being able to get back up and try something else without getting discouraged,” Vial says. “I have gained so much confidence just from working independently in the lab.” 

This experience is hardly unique for Santa Clara students. While research opportunities at most schools are only available to graduate students, Santa Clara offers undergraduates the chance to work alongside professors on research projects, regardless of major.

On Feb. 16, Vial and several SCU students will share their undergraduate research experiences during a live virtual event on the University’s online meeting portal Bronco Exchange. Admitted students from the Class of 2026 will be able to ask presenters about their current research projects and learn how they got involved. 

The students hosting “Research @SCU” come from a wide range of backgrounds and experiences, from STEM fields to psychology, political science, and anthropology. 

Caitlin Toth ’22, who will be one of the hosts, is a biology major who has done genetics research since her sophomore year at Santa Clara. During the research, she’s learned basic lab skills but also more advanced tasks like how to operate CRISPR Cas9 and learn about worm maintenance, strain building, and microinjection. 

Caitlin Toth

Caitlin Toth

The project even featured a relationship with Zurich University, so Toth traveled to Switzerland for four weeks over the summer to do research alongside graduate students. 

“Typically post-grads or grad students take the ‘glory’ work and leave the undergrads to do maintenance and cleaning,” Toth says. “In my research, if I find something that’s really interesting, I’m encouraged to pivot directions and take lead on that project.”

But research opportunities aren’t just for STEM students. 

Sydney Freeman ’23, who will also be at the Bronco Exchange event, was asked by one of her former political science professors, Naomi Levy, to work with an anti-racist coalition.  The committee is focused on implementing anti-racist training and pedagogy into the campus curriculum and culture. Since joining the group in May 2021, Freeman has helped the coalition develop anti-racist materials and schedule events like panels, speakers, and in-class activities in different units on campus.

Sydney Freeman

Sydney Freeman

“The faculty I have worked with in this role have been extremely committed to this work,” Freeman says. “We are not yet done with the project, but I have learned a great deal thus far. I learned how to turn data into a written report that is comprehensible and thorough. I also learned a lot about collaboration and working as a team to achieve a common goal.”

The event is scheduled for 30 minutes and is open to any admitted student. Students are encouraged to register for the event before the 5 p.m. start.

“Undergraduate research is not an incredibly common thing, but we are lucky that at SCU,” Toth says. “All you have to do is talk to your faculty and see what they’re excited about. If their projects spark interest for you, see if they have any openings for you to join.”



Isha Vial ’22 and her labmates in Steven Suljak’s research lab aren't just colleagues but friends, too. Vial will be one of the hosts for "Research @SCU" on Bronco Exchange this Wednesday.