HIGH POINT — High Point University’s three summer research programs for students have returned to full operation after last summer’s disruption by the COVID-19 pandemic.

The Summer Research Programs in the Sciences program was paused last year because of the pandemic, and while research in other summer programs continued, it was done remotely or with distancing and other precautions in place to protect participants, said Pam Haynes, assistant vice president for communications.

Students from all academic schools are participating, but this is the first year summer research is taking place inside the Wanek School of Natural Sciences because it only opened in fall of 2019, and it falls under the research program that was paused last summer.

Science projects underway include studying star systems in a project funded by NASA, testing different combinations of drugs on bacteria growth and reproducing minute polymer films, said Brian Augustine, chair of the Department of Chemistry and director of Summer Research Programs in the Sciences.

“The films have potential applications in technologies that require materials with a high surface area, such as battery technology, catalytic materials and engineered surfaces for cell growth,” Augustine said. “One of my students is patterning materials on a nanoscale. She’s helping me figure out some cutting-edge projects we will use in the lab of our nanoscience class, like controlled patterning of structures on the nanoscale.”

Dr. Matthew Kuennen, assistant professor of exercise science, is working with two Summer Research Fellowship students, junior Rachael Badaeu and senior Rachel Kowis, in the Congdon School of Health Sciences’ Human Biomechanics and Physiology Lab to determine whether people who had COVID-19 respond differently to prolonged work or exercise in hot conditions. There has also been discussion on whether people with certain viral infections are at a greater risk for heat stroke from exertion.

Kowis, a major in neuroscience and psychology, said the work is a welcome change from the usual classwork during the school year.

“We’re able to continue a specific project over a long period of time, and it’s exciting to see it all come together,” she said.

Research in the Summer Research Institute includes topics from biology, psychology, exercise science, history, gaming, education and communication, and students in it will finish their summer research with an elevator pitch event July 29 to engage in conversation with faculty and staff to share their research.

Aurijit Sarkar, assistant professor in basic pharmaceutical sciences, is working with three students this summer in the Fred Wilson School of Pharmacy to find ways to target bacterial pathogens that are resistant to medicine.