Student Research Partners Program

Students gain hands-on experience with scholarship in a specific field with the Student Research Partners ProgramGeared toward incoming first-year students, this program pairs a student with a faculty mentor to work on a project related to the faculty member's research or creative area. Students gain hands-on experience with scholarship in a specific field, and may elect to continue during their sophomore year. Participation is selective, based on high academic achievement.

Students are expected to work a maximum of 7 hours per week; a stipend of $800 is provided as compensation for this work.

If you are interested in this program, view last year's description of the available projects. The list of this year's projects should be available before Labor Day. At that point you can fill out the online application form.

On Wednesday, September 18 at 4:15 p.m., we will be hosting a reception in the KC living room for interested students to meet and talk further with the faculty members. Completed applications are due on September 20 by 4 p.m. online. Faculty sponsors will choose their SRP students by September 26.

If you have questions, please contact either Dr. Ian MacInnes ( This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. ) or Starr Weaver ( This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. ) for more information.

Here is the (growing) list of projects available for 2013-2014:



Dr. Allison Harnish—Ecological Anthropology

Project Description: As an ecological anthropologist, my work examines the complex, dynamic interactions between humans and their environments. This means exploring effects of human civilization on environmental processes and investigating the effects of environmental legislation and ecological change on human populations. This year, I am co-editing the Second Edition of the textbook The Environment in Anthropology: A Reader in Ecology, Culture, and Sustainable Living and am in need of an EDITORIAL ASSISTANT.  This is an excellent opportunity for a student in the natural or social sciences to gain exposure to current, interdisciplinary scholarship on the socio-ecological dimensions of population growth, industrialization, globalization, identity, conservation, and green consumerism. The responsibilities associated with this student research partnership will also provide valuable work experience for a student majoring in English or Communication Studies.

Responsibilities: Editorial assistants perform a range of administrative and editorial tasks that move books, magazines and other materials from the concept stage to the actual publication. The student research partner will act as an editorial assistant to the editors of The Environment in Anthropology: A Reader in Ecology, Culture, and Sustainable Living. In particular, the editorial assistant will:

  1. contact the person/publisher who holds the legal rights to material aimed for inclusion in the text to request its use (a sample contact letter will be provided), 
  2. maintain a database and accompanying file of who was contacted, when, and any replies received,
  3. reissue requests as required, and
  4. copy-edit 8 entries to the text and evaluate all 8 entries for readability (entries are abridged versions of longer articles, books, or book chapters).

Qualifications: The ideal student research partner for this project is a reliable individual, with professional writing and communication skills, who is able to work independently and who pays careful attention to detail.  

Dr. Lynn Verduzco-Baker --- Sociology/Social Justice

Project Description: Unintentional racism and economic inequality are two important issues our country and our college face. Over the next several years, I will be working to bring dialogues about race and other inequalities to our campus community and to create a bridge between young adults attending Albion and those growing up in the city of Albion. The project will eventually offer students the opportunity to take sociology courses focused on social justice and social research and then to conduct research and social activism through community service work led by Albion community members. This student research project is the first step: gathering information about how other colleges across the country (and, perhaps, world) have approached these issues and assisting in the creation of a plan for Albion College.

Student Responsibilities: The student research partner will find, read and organize information about 1) efforts made on other college campuses to begin conversations and activities around the subject of race and 2) efforts made on other college campuses to bridge the “town” and “gown” divide in settings similar to Albion College. This will require the student to search academic and other databases for reports and articles about these projects, to read and summarize those reports and, in conversation with me, to develop a proposed plan for Albion College. 

Student Qualifications: An interest in social justice generally and/or interest in anti-racism efforts; the ability to work independently, follow instructions and ask for help when needed; good communication skills; and either experience doing or willingness to learn how to do electronic searches and to read through and summarize articles.


Drs. Dale Kennedy and Doug White  --- Bird Behavior

Project description:  In Summer 2013, we and our research students recorded House Wrens (small birds) with both video and audio recorders to examine: (1) responses of adult wrens to different nest threats (models of hawk, snake, wren; human; control); and (2) responses of nestling wrens to alarm calls and food calls of adults.  In addition, we recorded nocturnal behavior inside nest boxes of several incubating females.  

SRP responsibilities: Our student research partner(s) would be responsible for working with us and our research students on videotapes, transcribing the number and actual time of various behaviors, and on audiotapes, learning to analyze vocalizations using Avisoft LabSAS, a sound analysis software program.  The SRP(s) may be involved in other activities, such as creating and maintaining a spreadsheet of information, transferring some video clips to a computer (we have the software for this), and carrying out a literature search on related research projects.  We anticipate that the SRP(s) will present the results of the project at the Biology Research Symposium and perhaps at the Elkin Isaac Student Research Symposium in Spring 2014. 

Student qualifications:  The SRP(s) should possess curiosity and interest in animal behavior and biology, be reliable, well-organized, and willing to observe and carefully transcribe many hours of videotape and analyze vocalizations.  The SRP(s) should make this project a priority over extra-curricular events that arise in the semester.  


Dr. Lisa Lewis, Dr. Craig Bieler, Nicole Smeltekop -- A History of the Albion College Chemistry Department

Description: We are looking for a student to help with researching the history of the Chemistry Department at Albion College.  When was it established? How has the department grown over the years? What disciplines and research interests have the faculty represented? Through archival research and personal interviews we hope to learn more about the history of chemistry and the curriculum here at Albion.

Responsibilities: The student assistant will be responsible for gathering information from College catalogs and other archival materials available in the Albion College library.  The student will be asked to interview former members of the faculty and alumni as appropriate.  The student assistant will be expected to write about and visually document the history of the Albion College Chemistry Department for display and inclusion in the Albion College Archives.

Qualifications: An effective research partner for this project will be self-motivated and be able to work on their own combing through print materials. The assistant needs to be comfortable with interviewing strangers. The ideal assistant has a basic knowledge of chemistry and an interest in researching and writing about history.  The student must have some time free to work when the Albion College Archives are open (Monday-Friday from 8 am - 5pm).

Dr. Kevin M. Metz  --- Sustainable Chemistry

Project Description: Catalysis plays an important role in chemistry. In fact, 90% of chemical products produced in industry are created in catalyzed reactions. Catalysis is a surface driven process, which means that the smaller the catalytic particles are the more cost effective they are. As a result, nanoscale catalysts are highly cost effective. While catalysts are not consumed in a chemical reaction, recover of nanoscale catalysts presents a particular challenge because the particles are so small that they cannot be recovered by typical means, e.g., centrifugation or filtration. One way around this problem is to attach a nanoscale catalyst to a larger support that can be recovered. 

In this project, the SPR will explore the creation of carbon based supports from biomass. Thus turning waste into a useable resource. They will also explore the synthesis of catalytically active nanoscale particles directly on top of their carbon supports. 

Student Responsibilities: This is a laboratory based student research project. Thus, the selected student will be responsible for reading chemistry research literature, designed and executing experiments (typically replication of the literature procedures), carrying out those experiments, and analyzing their results. 

Student Qualifications: The student must be mature, motivated, and highly organized. Comfort in a chemical laboratory is necessary, previous experience in a laboratory is a plus. The student should have a working knowledge of chemistry consistent with the Chem123 curriculum.


Guy Cox --   Digital Humanities moving toward Digital Liberal Arts

Description: Assist in the collection and curation of pedagogies, activities, projects, and research that represent “digital liberal arts” at Albion College. The types of things collected could be completed, in process, or proposed, however all would have some involvement with digital technologies. This could be as the subject/object of the work, data, methods and techniques, or used in the instruction. This information will be used in working with the GLCA Digital Liberal Arts Initiative, facilitating cross campus collaborations, preparing grants proposals, and possibly in student recruitment.

Student Responsibilities:  Student will be responsible for:

  1. Assisting in the collection related materials (documents, descriptions, photos, hyperlinks, etc.),
  2. Helping to catalog materials (in a digital environment, possible a digital archive, more likely a WordPress site),


·  Student should be well organized and posses good communication skills.

·  Student should have moderate to advanced computer user skills. (Familiar with Web 2.0/social media applications, able to manage a blog – digital media creator/maker skills would be a plus).

·  Student should have solid written communication skills (aspiring journalist/communications major/marketing person would be a plus).


Dr. Mary Collar - New Course Development in 20th C British Literature

Description: I am developing a new 300-level selected topics course currently entitled Forster, Woolf, and Their Legacies. While I have taught individual major works by both authors, I would like to update my knowledge of some of the contexts for a broader and deeper approach to the two most important literary figures connected to the Bloomsbury group. One gave the name to and meaning of "liberal humanism"; the other is the mother of feminist literary criticism. Important information has only recently become available to scholars, and the legacies of the two continue to materialize. I'd like the course to visit some of those manifestations contemporary with us. I could use some assistance.

Student Qualifications: I am looking for a student, regardless of major, with an interest in the literature and/or history of the twentieth century, a respect for accuracy and detail, and strong reading and writing skills.

Student Responsibilities: The student will assist in background research for contextual materials for the course, may be asked to construct bibliographies, to write brief abstracts of articles and to assemble visual and audio materials.


Heather Betz: Physical Activity and Childhood Overweight and Obesity

Description: In hopes of expanding my work with the students in the Albion Public School district and creating research opportunities for my Exercise Science students, I would like to move forward with a new research study.  This study is intended to look at the association between weight status (normal weight, overweight, obese) and balance in elementary school children (possibly 3rd through 6th grades).  Additional physical measures may also be examined as a secondary purpose.  To get this project going, I would like to work with a Student Research Partner to gather the current literature, write the literature review and methods section, and create the materials necessary for IRB approval.  Depending on the amount of time those tasks take, I could see the Student Research Partner also being involved with the data collection.  This involvement may lead to the Student Research Partner presenting the findings at a state, regional, or national conference.  

The Student Research Partner would be expected to help with the following:

• Use Pubmed to identify relevant peer-reviewed journal articles.

• Compile and organize the relevant journal articles.

• Summarize the literature in a summary table.

• Assist in the writing of the literature review and methods section.

• Assist in the IRB submission process.

• Assist in scheduling and organizing data collection.

• Assist in data entry and possible data analysis.

The Student Research Partner is expected to have the following qualifications:

• Able to organize and summarize large amounts of information.

• Able to write clearly.

Excited about working with school-aged children!

Dr. Bob Moss & others - Balance Research in Different Populations

Project description: The project is the beginning of a series of investigations using a new piece of equipment called the Balance Master, a specially designed force plate, by Neurocom™. Balance is an essential, but often overlooked, aspect of everyday life. We take it for granted and the gradual loss of balance often goes unnoticed as it often occurs in such small increments. Using the Balance Master we can measure these subtle increments of balance loss, incorporate some activities to increase balance, and then re-measure the balance. We also have normative data to compare an individual’s balance to the norm for their age group. The Balance Master is also capable of measuring many other movement parameters and we will proceed with projects as areas of interest develop.

Responsibilities: The student assistant will help with all aspects of the project. These aspects will include the review of literature, data collection and analysis, and the project write-up.

Qualifications: The ideal candidate will be a hardworking, well-organized and dependable student who is interested in the study of human movement. S/he must be attentive to detail, be able to follow directions and work independently. The candidate must be curious and willing to learn new things.


Dr. David A. Reimann --- Project 1 -- Symmetries of Scottish Carved Stone Balls

Overview: Carved stone balls are petrospheres, usually round and rarely oval.  They have from 3 to 160 protruding knobs on the surface.  Their size is fairly uniform at around 2.75 inches or 7 cm across, they date from the late Neolithic to possibly as late as the Iron Age (4000-2000 BC) and are mainly found in Scotland, but also elsewhere in Britain and Ireland.  They range from having no ornamentation (apart from the knobs) to extensive and highly varied engraved patterns.  A wide range of theories have been produced to explain their use or significance, without any theory gaining very wide acceptance.  Just over 400 of these objects have been found.

Task: I am creating a database of information pertaining to each of these objects.  The information includes size, location of discovery, material, description of decorations, and present location.  The student will assist in creation of this database.  Ultimately, I would like to scan each object with a three-dimensional scanner to produce a surface model that can be used to analyze the surface patterns, specifically symmetry.

Skills Needed: The successful student will have basic computer skills.  Suitable for students interested in history, art, archaeology, and mathematics.

Dr. David A. Reimann --- Project 2 -- Mathematics of Rope Rosettes and Mats

Overview: The use of rope for decorative and utilitarian purposes dates back over 10,000 years.  Some ropework is highly symmetrical and can be modeled mathematically using basic trigonometric functions.  

Task:  I am interested in creating a Mathematica program to help design decorative rosettes and mats using rope.  Such a program would, at a minimum, allow the user to visualize the final product and calculate the length of rope needed.

Skills Needed: The successful student will have excellent mathematical skills (calculus), be comfortable using computer software, and enjoy creating knots with rope.  Suitable for students interested in history, art, archaeology, and mathematics.


Dr. Carrie Booth Walling  --- Human Rights, the UN Security Council and the International Criminal Court

Description:  I am looking for a student to assist me in completing a series of writing projects on the subjects of humanitarian intervention, the UN Security Council and the International Criminal Court. Together we will be looking at the tensions between sovereignty and non-intervention and prohibitions on violating human rights as well as debates about when and if military force should be used to protect human rights.  We will explore the evolving relationship between the United Nations Security Council and the International Criminal Court (ICC) as the ICC gains jurisdiction over the crime of aggression – an area previously regulated by the Security Council.  We will also monitor developments in Syria as well as its relations with the rest of the world.  Finally, we will work on projects related to understanding the international human rights movement.

Responsibilities:  Student responsibilities include conducting scholarly literature searches, creating annotated bibliographies, reviewing literature in the field, editing manuscripts and helping to get them publication ready, helping to prepare conference presentations and assisting in the planning and preparation of research trips.  The student will also be tasked with monitoring developments on the war in Syria and debates about the use of military force there by international actors.  The student will have the opportunity to provide feedback on a newly developed human rights website from a student user perspective and may choose to dedicate some research time to developing new web content for this webpage from a provided list of topics.   See  The student will learn how to use Endnote and how to write research and funding proposals.  Students who are interested in conducting their own independent research on a related question of human rights and international politics may be granted program hours to initiate this research as time becomes available.   

Desired Qualities for Student Research Partner:  I am looking for a student research partner who is interested in learning more about human rights, international organizations or international politics.  The student should be self-motivated and able to work independently but still have room in their schedule to meet with me on a regular basis.  The student should have good written and oral communication skills and be willing to learn new things.  The student should be reliable and have good interpersonal skills.  If partnership is mutually beneficial, there is a possibility of extending the partnership for a second year.  Interested students must submit a statement of interest and resumé to be considered for the position and are welcome to meet with me to ask questions.


Dr. Nicolle Zellner -- Astronomy: Telescope Use and Pier Maintenance

Students are needed for continuing development of the observing facilities and imaging capabilities of Albion’s telescopes on the roof of Palenske Hall.  In particular, in order to mitigate building vibrations, all of the telescope piers will need to be filled with sand.

Responsibilities include:

- taking apart the telescope piers, filling them with sand, adding rubber washers
  and stoppers, and then reassembling the piers; 

- learning how to operate the telescopes;

- learning how to operate the CCD camera and imaging software; and

- acquiring stable images and color images of celestial objects (e.g. Ring nebula).

Qualifications: The student should be familiar with tools and have the ability to lift 50+ pounds (with assistance during normal business hours). An interest in Physics is strongly desired, and membership and active participation in the Albion College Astronomy Club is strongly encouraged.  The student should possess good communication skills (written and oral) and be self-motivated, which includes the ability to solve problems and to learn on his/her own. Some proficiency with a computer is desired.  The student schedule should allow for working during the evenings.


Dr. Andrea Francis & Dr. Mareike Wieth: Creativity and Language

Description: Cognitive psychology is the branch of psychology that studies mental processes including how people think, perceive, remember, and learn. As part of the larger field of cognitive science, this branch of psychology is related to other disciplines including neuroscience, education, and linguistics. The members of the Cognitive Psychology Research Laboratory at Albion College, supervised by Drs. Andrea Francis and Mareike Wieth, have been investigating two broad areas of cognition: creativity and language. Current projects include an investigation of how family closeness relates to creativity, research on how anxiety influences language production, and a study investigating how language and creativity are related. 

Student Responsibilities: Responsibilities will involve assisting us and senior psychology students in collecting, entering, and analyzing data across these ongoing projects. In addition, participation in project and lab meetings is expected, and opportunities will be available for helping organize, design, and complete appropriate follow-up experiments. In addition to the usual SRP benefits, the student will have the opportunity to be an author on resulting conference presentations and/or publications related to this project. 

Student Qualifications: It would be best if the student had an interest in one or more of the following academic areas: psychology, education, English and/ or neuroscience. A high school course in statistics would also be helpful, but is not essential. This position will provide an excellent grounding for continued study in any of these analytical disciplines.


Clayton Parr  -- Professional Choral Ensemble Marketing and Publicity

Description: With the support of an FDC grant, I created a new ensemble comprised of music teachers from around the state.  This ensemble is called Michigan Educators Male Ensemble (MEME -  The group met in a summer retreat, rehearsed, presented a concert, and recorded a demo.  The FDC grant is intended to be startup funding for an ensemble that will become self sustaining through performance fees, doing workshops for schools and other organizations.

The student worker would assist me in marketing the ensemble, through print, e-mail, and other forms of online marketing, to let our target audience (choral music teachers around the state, churches, local arts series and organizations) know about us.  Under my supervision, the student worker will search for appropriate contact lists, design, print and mail flyers, and create e-mail campaigns.  There may also be travel to one or two music teachers' conventions throughout the year to market in person.

Qualifications: willing to learn about ways to do the above -- writing skills, "people skills" on the phone and in-person, familiarity with basic word processing and database functions, willingness to learn e-mail marketing techniques.