From biology to media studies, undergraduate students from disciplines across campus shared their research projects for Scholars Day, presented by the Shaheen College of Arts & Sciences and the Ron & Laura Strain Honors College. Activities included a Shakespeare marathon reading session in honor of Bill Dynes, professor of English, and Shakespeare’s birthday.
Brad Neal, assistant professor of chemistry, and Jim Williams, assistant professor and interim executive director of the Honors College, organized the event. Students moderated conference sessions on topics ranging from the sciences to arts performance, while others held poster presentations of their academic research.
Neal said Scholars Day highlights the University of Indianapolis’ emphasis on student-focused learning as well as student-faculty collaboration.
“It’s great to see how many projects were started based off a lecture in class, where a student got excited and their instructor then helped the student grow and foster the project into what we have today. This kind of individual support for our student projects helps make the lessons in the classroom connect to the world at large in a practical way,” Neal said.
Junior Karli LaGrotte, a psychology major, worked with Kendra Thomas, assistant professor of psychology, for her poster presentation, “Belief in a Just World Among Brazilian Adolescents: Differences Across Age, Race and Religion.” She appreciated the opportunity to collaborate with Thomas on the international research project.
“My big takeaway is that learning is a journey. It’s not a destination. I could continue developing what I’ve learned for five or ten more years,” LaGrotte said.
Organizer Jim Williams said the experience prepares students both for graduate work as well as the workplace. “If they want to apply to graduate school, the fact that they’ve already done academic research puts them on a whole different playing field in terms of preparation,” he said. The academic research experience also provides students with a distinct advantage when applying for jobs as they learn to work collaboratively.
Senior mathematics major Joshua Track explored the activity of motoneurons, which are specialized cells that transmit signals to the muscles, under the supervision of Lochana Siriwardena, assistant professor of mathematics and computer science. The research has potential applications in the study of motor neuron disease.
Focusing on one part of a larger process was a common theme in the student presentations. “It’s another building block that makes it more comprehensive,” Track said.
Ghost-hunting might sound like an unusual subject for academic research, but that was the focus of freshman Mikayla Williams’ poster. An archeology major, Williams worked with Christopher Moore, associate professor of anthropology, to study the devices that ghost hunters use to detect “supernatural” activity and found they can be easily manipulated to produce misleading results.
Senior Erica White, who is graduating with a degree in English literary studies and creative writing, presented her research on “Folk and Feminism in Poetry and Art,” which included her own paintings. White will be teaching in Latvia for the 2017-18 school year on a Fulbright Teaching Assistantship.
“I wanted to celebrate how women and feminine people break boundaries of gender identity,” White explained. She pointed out that her work was just a small part of a greater theme. “This is just one dot in a whole range of many different perspectives on what it means to be a feminist, to be feminine, to be a person.”