Exploring Passions Through Creative Projects

The Cherng Summer Scholars program allows Honors College students at the University of Missouri to explore their passions through research projects aimed at questions they are interested in analyzing.

Students who are accepted into the nine-week program participate in projects that are individually designed, with the support and mentorship of a Mizzou faculty member.

“What I love about this program is that you get to create your own project,” said Faith Quist, a senior double major in journalism and international studies. “You aren’t picking from a list of topics and doing something that you may not have much of an interest in. Each of us have the freedom to explore our passion and make the projects our own.”

This summer, 14 students pursuing the Honors certificate were named Cherng Summer Scholars. The program is supported by a gift from Andrew and Peggy Cherng and the Panda Charitable Foundation. One of the many Honors programs that the Cherng family supports, Cherng Summer Scholars receive a $7,000 award and access to a $1,000 project expense account.

“This program introduces the students, as undergraduates, to the typical funding process pursued by research faculty on campus,” said Susan Lever, an associate professor emerita of chemistry. “The training experience is invaluable, and funding provided by the Cherngs allows the students the freedom to explore more than just research; it permits the introspection needed to see if a career in independent research might be a future path. Thus, the program gives students jumpstarts on their careers at a formative time in their lives. The investment in a Cherng Scholar pays great dividends.”

Lever leads a weekly class with the students, where they meet to discuss their projects, as well as any challenges or successes that the past week held. That course also allows students to share the exciting steps on their research journeys.   

“It’s been really nice to interact with the other Scholars and nerd out about our work,” said Anvitha Boosani, a sophomore biochemistry major. “It’s also enjoyable to see their thought processes and explore our passions together. We’re building friendships and the entire experience has been amazing.”

The program ends with the students presenting at the Summer Undergraduate Research and Creative Achievements Forum, hosted by the MU Office of Undergraduate Research. The forum gives each student the opportunity to showcase their discoveries.

“This program is an excellent opportunity for our students to grow and develop as researchers, whatever their field of study,” said Catherine Rymph, dean of the Honors College. “It also shows the variety of research that undergraduate students can pursue at MU. We are very thankful to the Cherng family for making an opportunity of this nature possible.”

Learn more about this year’s cohort of Cherng Summer Scholars: