Hamline News

Students Take the Lead With Summer Research


For several years, Abby Thompson has challenged why there aren’t more female content creators in Hollywood. Thanks to Hamline University’s Summer Collaborative Undergraduate Research (SCUR) program, she’s taking matters into her own hands.

Thompson, who will be a senior Digital Media Ethic and Cinema flex major this fall, used this summer’s SCUR to develop her research project, entitled “The Exploration and Application of Female Representation in Narrative Cinema” -- a film with all-female creators and cast.

Hamline provides SCUR as a competitive, grant-funded research opportunity to any undergrad who wants to explore an interdisciplinary topic of interest over the summer. From areas of science to art, students have the freedom to choose their own passion to delve deeper into. They receive pay for their research like a full-time job and have the opportunity to take SCUR for up to six free credits.

Students applied in March, defining what their research would be, what their methodology would look like, and what the end goal for their project was.

When students are accepted into this program, they develop their projects from June to August, conducting research, and collaborating with a Hamline professor along the way. They also attend a weekly seminar where they present work to their peers, share feedback, and discuss the “ups and downs” of research-- as well as listen to various panel speakers of SCUR alumni or professors.

Summer projects range from examining contemporary asthma rates, questioning potential agents for alfalfa bacterial stem blight disease, to research on using theatre to affect social change, and a film incorporating themes of sexism in the film industry.

Thompson just finished production on her film and is currently starting the post-production stage. Her film explores the underrepresentation of women in film in terms of being content creators. She’s been passionate about this issue ever since she started film in high school, and has seen this underrepresentation in her own experience and with other women she has worked with.

“This is a big concept right now with Hollywood having an overhaul of all these large male figures, but something missing from the conversation is putting more female content creators at the front of the project,” said Thompson. “If we’re missing an entire half of the population’s experience through aesthetics of cinema then we’re really missing a lot. Film is such a medium that we can all experience and when only one side of the story is portrayed, it limits our vision of what the world actually is.”

Student researchers spend 30-35 hours a week on their projects, but are able to work flexibly at their own pace. Although students collaborate with professors on their projects, the amount of collaboration is also flexible depending on the topic and the needs of the student.

Thompson is in constant communication with Women’s Studies Professor Colleen Bell and Adjunct Professor Richard Pelster-Wiebe, who has a background in film, but only meets with them every other week. Other students, such as those whose projects require lab work, meet with professors much more frequently.

This collaboration and the abundance of resources available to Hamline’s student researchers makes our program stand out at the National Conferences of Undergraduate Research (NCUR), a competitive conference where students from all over the country present their research. Hamline is well-represented at NCUR each year, and has built a strong reputation there.

“Every presentation done by a Hamline student researcher at NCUR is above and beyond all expectations,” said Affiliate Faculty in Public Health Sciences and Sociology Professor Sharon Preves. “All I hear from professors at other universities is, ‘Wow! What is in the water at Hamline?’ Our students are very practiced at presenting their research, and I think it is because of the structure and support they get here.”

“I think there is really strong faculty at Hamline who really are passionate about their students and are excited about working with students and their ideas,” said Thompson. “I also think there’s this big push at Hamline to do this interdisciplinary research and that’s probably pretty rare among other institutions. I think those two things are at the forefront of why we do such a good job.”

The next NCUR is in April 2019 so students have all summer to prepare before they can start applying in October. Student researchers are also invited to present their research at the Hamline Undergraduate Research Symposium on Thursday, September 20.

For more information on SCUR or how to present at the symposium, contact Irina Makarevitch at imakarevitch01@hamline.edu, or Sharon Preves at spreves@hamline.edu.