Students receive mentoring in research as second year of summer internship program gets underway

By Alice Yin, FIMS Communications Staff

June 17, 2021

After a successful launch in 2020, FIMS and Western’s Undergraduate Summer Research Internship (USRI) program have partnered again this year to provide undergraduate students with the opportunity to undertake a research project under the direction of a faculty mentor. The USRI program allows students to learn new research methods and techniques while gaining first-hand experience in conducting research. FIMS received funding for 11 projects this cycle.

Between May and August approximately 14 students and 15 researchers will participate in the program. One research project, tentatively named “Forest City Memories: Rethinking London’s Past and Present,” analyses the physical features – such as monuments, memorials, and public art installations - present in London in order to generate a rich, alternative and critical narrative about areas of the city.

“We’re concerned with the City of London’s landscape – from commemorative and memorial statues to street signs to site specific art – and how that landscape has been curated over time,” explains professor Basil Chiasson, faculty lead on the project. “When considered from a ‘bird’s eye view’, what do these artefacts and the landscape more broadly tell us about London?”

Professor Chiasson and his two interns, both fourth-year MIT students hired through the URSI program, aim to produce a critical guide of London that both citizens and tourists can use to navigate and critically engage with the city’s landscape. Chiasson sees the USRI program as a great opportunity for his students to gain experience and training in research, and build transferable skills in collaboration, critical thinking, and design.

Kaitlyn Adam
4th Year MIT Student

Athena Nadalin
4th Year MIT Student

Basil Chiasson
FIMS Professor

Athena Nadalin, one of the interns working with professor Chiasson, hopes that the USRI program will boost her research capabilities prior to her entering a master’s program in the fall.

“I'm looking forward to learning about how academic research is conducted, including what it's like to do field research, and the process of conducting personal interviews,” she says. “I'm hoping this experience will be a great stepping stone into the world of future research.”

For Kaitlyn Adam, this will be the second research project she’s worked on through the USRI program. “I completed the Undergraduate Summer Research Internship program last summer and experienced tremendous growth in a very short period. Last summer taught me that our colleagues are springboards for our professional, personal, and intellectual development – they teach us, inspire us, and make us better in unexpected ways,” she says.

Also beginning a master's program in the fall, Adam hopes to further develop her confidence as a researcher through this project under the supervision of professor Chiasson.

“Crafting a research project in its completion – from initial conceptualization, to data collection, to writing, to publication – taught me invaluable lessons about the world of academia and boosted my confidence tenfold. When I was offered the opportunity to complete this project with Dr. Chiasson this summer, I knew I’d only continue to learn and grow as a researcher and collaborator,” she says.

USRI research projects like “Forest City Memories” are impactful for all parties. The London community, and visitors to the area, will have access to enhanced information about the city. Professor Chiasson and his team receive funding to further their academic goals, while interns like Adam and Nadalin receive personal mentorship and research experience. The USRI program lets opportunities like this open up across the university.

When reviewing internship applications, faculties are strongly encouraged to consider the diversity of their awardees and provide opportunities for students from under-represented groups, such as Black, Indigenous, students of colour, students with disabilities, students who self-identify as LGBTQ2S+, and women as part of the ongoing commitment Western has made for equity, diversity, inclusion (EDI) and Indigenization.

More than 300 internships have been provided across all faculties and schools through the USRI program this year. Each internship is valued at a minimum of $7,500 for a 16-week term through May to August 2021. This program is made available through a partnership between Western Research, Student Experience, and Western Libraries.