Hamline News

Student Research Opportunities Abound at Hamline


The annual interdisciplinary research symposium highlights the depth and breadth of the collaborative research that takes place throughout Hamline.

“Hamline’s approach to collaborative research is distinct from student research opportunities at other colleges in that it asks undergraduate students to partner with faculty on substantive projects across all programs, including the arts, humanities, as well as natural and social sciences,” said Marcela Kostihova, the Dean of the College of Liberal Arts.

The University Honors program and the Summer Collaborative Undergraduate Research (SCUR) program are examples of the structured opportunities for working together available to students and faculty at Hamline.

SCUR has remained true to the original vision described by one of its founding faculty members, Theater Professor William “Bill” Wallace, as “a student-driven program” that provides undergraduates with an opportunity to work with faculty on interdisciplinary and purposeful research while receiving a stipend.

This year twenty-two students' proposals were accepted for participation in the SCUR program. During June and July students committed to full-time research. They collaborated with faculty on projects and participated in a once-a-week afternoon seminar to share their progress and practice talking about their research with students from different disciplines.

“One of the most important skills that students learn in this program is explaining the implications of highly specialized research to non-expert audiences,” said Professor Mike Reynolds who previously served as a SCUR director. “After all, the biggest research breakthroughs are inevitably made in collaboration with researchers from other disciplines. Explaining your project well is the first step in this direction.”

The 2019 SCUR seminars were led by the collaborative research co-directors, Professor of Sociology  Dr. Sharon Preves and Biology Department Chair and Exercise Science Program Director Dr. Irina Makarevitch.

“The seminars are the time when the interdisciplinary emphasis of the SCUR program really shines because, for example, we have students who are writing short fiction or conducting economics surveys asking questions of students who are performing bench experiments in the neuroscience lab, and vice versa,” said Makarevitch.

J.P. Thorn, who is working with Dr. Jen England, an English professor, on a project that explores depictions of mental illness in video games, echoed Makarevitch when discussing the benefits of weekly seminars.

“I learned a ton from the other students about ways to solve research problems during the seminars, even though their projects were different from mine,” said Thorn.

In addition to the weekly seminars, SCUR participants prepare research reports, posters, and develop abstracts. The abstracts will be submitted to the National Conference on Undergraduate Research (NCUR), a prestigious national event where Hamline students have annually presented since 1991.

“Hamline always brings many more students to NCUR than would be expected of an institution of our size. These students also perform exceptionally well and it’s in part because of the interdisciplinary structure of the SCUR program,” said Marakevitch.

In fact, it was NCUR that prompted the development of the SCUR program.

“The first NCUR we attended was at CalTech. We were successful and that really began the more formal collaborative research focus at Hamline,” said Wallace.

In addition to achieving success during college, students who participate in collaborative research build skills that can help them succeed in their professional lives after graduation.

“My experience with collaborative research was more about the process than the outcome. I learned how to how to adjust and adapt, even though it may not end up as you thought it would,” said Olivia Austin who conducted archival research with Dr. Mael Embser-Herbert, a sociology professor, on a project looking at the role of drag queens in LGBTQ+ activist movements in the late twentieth century.

Faculty also benefit from collaborative research. Students provide Hamline faculty members with skilled professional research assistance. For example, Ryan Skinner worked with Dr. Larry Masterson a chemistry professor to better understand certain mechanisms of antimicrobial peptides, an important line of research for Masterson. Similarly, Lila Khan is collaborating with Dr. Erik Asp a neuroscience professor to further explore the neurological response to doubt as expressed on subjects’ EEGs.

“Lately, I have been working with people who are interested in the research that I naturally do, which is on pyramid scheme fraud,” said School of Business Associate Professor Dr. Stacie Bosley who is working with Sarah McCollum on a project that is investigating ways to prevent students from being victims of pyramid schemes.

Faculty members also have the opportunity to explore new topics within their discipline through their collaborations with students.

“The collaboration with students helps me with my teaching because it pushes me to explore new areas,” said Dr. Leif Hembre, a professor in the biology department. This summer he collaborated with Remy Brisbois who examined the effect of caffeine in lake water on zooplankton.

Learn about all of the 2019 SCUR Projects.

Read about NCUR 2019.

Written by staff.