Though classes have ended for the 2013-2014 academic year, 109 College of the Holy Cross students are spending their summers on campus, engaged in prominent research spanning a diversity of disciplines: 64 students are researching in the sciences, 39 in the humanities and social sciences, and six in economics.
Students are “able to focus on questions that really matter to them, they’re able to have the undivided attention of their faculty mentors, and they’re able to marshal resources that they would not normally have to pursue their interests,” says Daniel Klinghard, associate professor of political science and director of the Mellon Summer Research Program. While students conduct research throughout the year for their classes, the nine-week summer research program provides students with the time, structure and resources to fully immerse themselves in their projects in an environment that goes beyond the classroom setting.
Nikolas Churik ‘15, who is working to create a digital, diplomatic edition of Book X of the “Iliad” from its text in the Venetus A manuscript, says the program has given him the opportunity to “investigate questions that arise throughout the year, during which we just don’t have time to answer them as fully as we would like.” Churik is working alongside Brian Clark ’15 with Mary Ebbott and Neel Smith, associate professors of classics, and Stephanie Lindeborg ’13 on the Homer Multitext project. Ebbott explains that in this research environment, the students become “research colleagues” and the “‘unknown’ factor allows students to get a real feel for research—and to experience how to approach a problem for which we professors don’t know the answer ahead of time.”
The high number of student researchers is paralleled by the vast range of topics being explored on campus, from research directed towards finding new ways of synthesizing beta-lactams being performed by Sheila Namirembe ’15 with chemistry professor, André Isaacs, to research about what “research” in the humanities might mean being done by Timothy Nowak ‘15 with philosophy professor, Joseph Lawrence.
Whether studying chemistry in a lab or philosophy in the stacks of the Dinand Library, the student researchers unanimously note their close work with professors as a highlight of their experiences. “As an undergrad, doing research with a professor is an invaluable experience,” shares Namirembe. “The professor challenges you and gives you the opportunity to learn in a discovery manner.”
The growth of the summer program and the ingenuity that continues to characterize the research topics is a reflection of “the creativity and intellectual curiosity of our students and faculty,” says Ebbott.
The summer research conducted on campus has produced published articles, websites, and film documentaries, as well as created opportunities for students to present at national conferences and to be given recognition and awards in their fields. Research begun in the summer research program has even been a springboard for further research in postgraduate programs.
Daniel Bitran, professor of psychology and coordinator of the summer science research on campus, says the summer research program overall is “a defining feature of a liberal arts education. Clearly the skills learned in the summer research program far outlive the nine-week summer research experience we provide.”
The student researchers will showcase their work at this year’s 21st Annual Summer Research Symposium on Friday, Sept. 5 from 1 – 4 p.m. in the Hogan Campus Center Ballroom.
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