The Library, the Writing Center, the SURF program, and Academic Technology Services are offering the following programs for Amherst College students doing research on campus during the summer, as well as other members of the community. All workshops require advance registration; see links in the descriptions below.

Any questions? Please contact Andy Anderson (Academic Technology), Stephanie Capsuto (Library), Jessica Kem (Writing Center), or Jess Martin (SURF).

For an iCal-compatible calendar grid with exportable events, click here.

For a Google Calendar grid with duplicatable events, click here.

2021 Schedule


The Research Process

Summer Thesis Research Table Ethics Discussion
Summer Research Student Presentations Documenting Your Research with Zotero



Exploring Data with Excel Scholarly Communication in Science
Statistically Speaking with R Manipulating Images with Adobe Photoshop
Scientific Programming with Python Creating Drawings with Adobe Illustrator
Debugging and Version Control for Programming Producing Presentations with PowerPoint
Analyzing Data with Mathematica Writing Scientific Papers with LaTeX
Mapping Geographic Data with ArcGIS Designing Posters for High-Impact Communication
Investigating Networks with Gephi  




Summer Thesis Research Table

The thesis research table is a regular meet-up for students who are starting work on a thesis project or other similar long-term research project. Each week's discussion will focus on an aspect of the research and writing process; topics will be determined by the group. Drop in or attend regularly. Hosted by Frost Library & the Writing Center. Contact Blake Doherty (Research, Instruction, & Outreach Librarian, Frost Library) for details.

  • First meeting: Thursday, June 10 from 1-2PM on Zoom
  • Following meetings: Tuesdays from 1-2PM on Zoom
  • Group will meet weekly through July 13 (no meeting week of 7/6)


Annual Summer Student Research Presentations

Join us for a showcase of original student research from this summer! Student researchers will share works in progress, summer research stories, thesis ideas, and experimental results. This showcase is open to AC students who completed both on- and off-campus projects, and other students working with Amherst College faculty.

All students, faculty, and staff are welcome to attend!

View previous summer student research and “Best of” winners!

  • First week of the Fall semester. Physical or virtual? Details to be announced!


The Research Process


Ethics Discussion

Many student researchers are required to take ethics training, formally known as Responsible Conduct of Research (RCR). At Amherst College this requirement is fulfilled through online training and through faculty-student discussions. Prof. David Hansen, our SURF Faculty Director, will lead the session with talk on research ethics. This will be followed by an open discussion that will address scenarios that student researchers might face. Students will be encouraged to explore ethical questions related to their own research process and consider what to do when presented with an ethical dilemma. This workshop is mandatory for SURF students and strongly encouraged for SRP students. Other summer research students are also encouraged to attend, as well as take the online training.

  • Asynchronous


Documenting Your Research with Zotero

Want to make your research process more organized and efficient? Attend a one-hour tutorial to get started with Zotero! Zotero [zoh-TAIR-oh] is a free program that helps you collect, manage, and cite your sources. It's available in all computer labs on campus and you can also install it on your personal computer for free. Tutorials and documentation are also available.

  • Live Zotero Workshop, Monday June 7th, 2021




Exploring Data with Excel

Excel is an essential tool for organizing and exploring data from all fields of research. Its flexible tabular format provides a convenient display of data, and it provides many functions for basic statistics, selection, summary, and graphing. In addition, if you understand Excel, you will also be familiar with Google Sheets. If you’ve been a casual user of Excel, there are many capabilities and tricks that you may not be aware of. Come and find out what you’ve been missing. Excel is part of Microsoft Office, which Amherst students, faculty, and staff can download and install for free.


Statistically Speaking with R

The R Project for Statistical Computing is a high-level programming language focused on statistical analysis. It can be applied to a wide variety of statistical models and includes functions for high-quality graphical display. It is most commonly used in the social, environmental, and biological sciences, as well as by statisticians. This class will provide a very basic introduction to R and present a few standard statistical applications. (The Department of Mathematics and Statistics provides a more thorough program of study.) R is open-source software and can be downloaded and installed for free. The integrated development environment RStudio is recommended and can also be downloaded and installed for free.


Scientific Programming with Python

Python is a high-level general-purpose programming language that has become very popular for everything from scripting applications and web-page generation to machine learning and solving scientific problems, most commonly in the physical sciences. It shares many basic characteristics with languages like Mathematica, Matlab, and Labview, and has an extensive set of numerical and scientific modules. In this course we will use Python to build instructions describing scientific problems, and solve them using the college computing cluster. Python is open-source software which can be downloaded and installed for free. Anaconda is the recommended distribution for scientific computing, providing many important modules for Python such as numpy, scipy, and pandas, along with the integrated development environment Spyder.

This workshop is in four parts:


Debugging and Version Control for Programming

Want your computer code to be perfect? Start by realizing that you will make mistakes when writing it! In this class you’ll learn how to discover and fix your errors. We will cover basic principles of debugging applicable to any programming language, though examples will use the Python language and its standard debugger pdb. Sometimes you’ll also want to try out new ideas without ruining the code that’s already working. We will therefore learn the basics of using the Git version control system, which makes it easy to fall back to an earlier version of your code if necessary. Git is also an important tool for collaborating with others, so that you can safely experiment with fixing errors in their code and taking it in new directions. This course will use the Anaconda distribution of Python along with Github Desktop, a free GUI that simplifies Git quite a bit.


Analyzing Data with Mathematica

Mathematica is a multifacted tool for doing mathematics on computer, from algebra and trigonometry through calculus and beyond. It can perform both symbolic and numeric calculations, and it provides numerous mathematical and statistical functions, letting you work with many different data formats, solve equations, and fit data to arbitrary functions. It can also graphically display functions and numerical data in two and three dimensions, allowing visualizations that you can easily manipulate. It is used by mathematicians and statisticians, scientists, engineers, economists, and even game developers. Mathematica can be installed on student-owned computers from the Amherst Software Collection; faculty- and staff-owned computers must obtain a home-use license.

This workshop is in two parts:


Mapping Geographic Data with ArcGIS

Geographic Information Systems (GIS) are a powerful tool to discover spatial relationships and illuminate your research with intuitive maps:

• Illustrate historic sites and extract features from old maps;
• Spatially correlate census, economic, and other data;
• Display geologic formations and delineate watersheds;
• Track human, animal, and plant populations; and
• Map locations from a GPS receiver.

You will learn about:

• Constructing and Sharing Maps (including with Google Earth);
• Mapping Named Data (including census data and street addresses);
• Mapping Coordinate Data (including using a GPS receiver);
• Mapping Image Data (including scanned maps and satellite data); and
• Analyzing and extracting geographic data.

ArcGIS can be installed on faculty, staff, and student Windows computers, or on Macs running Windows under Parallels (note link to the Student Edition) or a similar virtual machine (16 GB of total RAM is highly recommended!). Download ArcGIS 10.8.1 from the Amherst Software Collection.

This workshop is in four parts:


Investigating Networks with Gephi

Gephi is a freely distributable tool for exploring and analyzing networks, with or without a geographic component. Related items can be associated with each other with different colors based on their properties, and clusters of connections and other patterns can be easily visualized as you rotate and arrange the network. Terrific for social network analysis, e.g. who’s writing to who, as well as economic analysis, e.g. what one country is selling to others, and even for studying biological networks!




Scholarly Communication in Science

A panel of SURF faculty will discuss their own experiences with scientific communication: presenting posters and talks at conferences, submitting papers, and other avenues for sharing research. Hosted by Jessica Kem, director of the Writing Center, and Stephanie Capsuto, science librarian.

  • Thursday, June 24, 1 PM – 2 PM


Manipulating Images with Adobe Photoshop

Adobe Photoshop is the industry-standard program for image creation and editing. Images created in Photoshop can be incorporated into other documents such as Word, InDesign, PowerPoint, and Web pages. Using Photoshop you can easily crop and merge photos (e.g., “Photoshop me in!”) and retouch them to create sharper, more vibrant, and blemish-free images. Students must have Photoshop on their own computers, but if it’s not already installed, registration must occur by Thursday, July 1 to allow time for licensing and installation.


Creating Drawings with Adobe Illustrator

Adobe Illustrator is a superior tool to create diagrams, trace images, and transform the graphical output of other programs such as Excel. Its illustrations can be included in other documents such as Word, InDesign, and PowerPoint. Students must have Illustrator on their own computers, but if it’s not already installed, registration must occur by Friday, July 2 to allow time for licensing and installation.


Producing Presentations with PowerPoint

This workshop will help you produce a slide presentation that will get your message across to your colleagues at Amherst and at external conferences. We’ll discuss adding text, photos, illustrations, charts, and other graphic features, and applying special effects. We will use Microsoft PowerPoint, a popular program to build computer presentations, but Google Slides is very similar. PowerPoint is part of Microsoft Office, which students, faculty, and staff can download for free.


Writing Scientific Papers with LaTeX

LaTeX is a computer language for the creation of high-quality scientific and technical documents. In addition to structuring your writing in the usual paragraphs and sections, its features include mathematical equation typesetting, bibliographies, and automatic numbering of sections, equations, references, tables, and figures. LaTeX is built upon a lower-level typesetting language called TeX, and is open-source and free to use. It’s available in a number of implementations that you can install on your own computer, and is most easily composed using a dedicated editor and interpreter. We recommend the following:

Macintosh: MacTeX + TeXShop
Windows: MikTeX + TexStudio


Designing Posters for High-Impact Communication

All summer research students are invited to describe their efforts and results at the annual Summer Research Poster Presentation at the beginning of the Fall semester. This class will help you produce a large-format poster that will get your message across here and at many other conferences.

Through examples, analysis, and discussion, we will determine what makes a research poster successful. We will discuss visual design and rhetoric, effective use of graphics, and how to engage your audience. This workshop will build on these principles to show you how to lay out your poster, including adding text, photos, illustrations, and graphics, and applying special effects. You have two technology options:

  • Microsoft PowerPoint is a popular program to build computer presentations, and it can also be used to lay out print posters. It is not the best tool for the job but it is more readily available and perhaps more familiar to you. PowerPoint is part of Microsoft Office, which Amherst students, faculty, and staff can download and install for free. Note that Google Slides is very similar.
  • Adobe InDesign is the industry standard tool for creating posters as well as newsletters, brochures, and other print media. Its tools are very similar to Photoshop and Illustrator but it has other features that make it the best tool for combining text and graphics. Students can use InDesign on their own computers with an Adobe Creative Cloud license.

This workshop is repeated four times, with different tools:

  • PowerPoint: Wednesday, July 14, 2 PM – 4 PM or
  • PowerPoint: Tuesday, July 20, 2 PM – 4 PM Cancelled
  • InDesign: Wednesday, July 21, 2 PM – 4 PM
  • PowerPoint: Monday, July 26, 2 PM – 4 PM

All sessions will be held in: