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 the list of available projects below, think about what interests you, and fill out the online application form.

On Wednesday, September 17 at 4:30 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 19 by 4 p.m. online. Faculty sponsors will choose their SRP students by September 24.

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 2014-2015:




Dr. Brad Chase—Archaeology

Project Description: As an archaeologist, my research explores the ancient Indus Civilization, the first urban society located in the modern countries of India and Pakistan.  One of my research specialties involves the identification of animal bones excavated from archaeological sites.  The goal of this is to learn about the economic and social life of the people who lived at those places in the past.  In order to determine if the people were primarily hunters, farmers, or nomadic pastoralists, for example, it is necessary to identify the specific animal species from which the bones that we have recovered derive.  It’s kind of like Dr. Doolittle meets CSI.  I do this my comparing ancient bones from unknown species with modern bones from museum collections.  A major problem in my research area, however, is that accurate drawings of modern species from the region have not actually been published.  Towards this end, I have taken hundreds of photographs of animal bones from museum collections and am in the process of preparing technical drawings, both to demonstrate my findings and also to help other researchers working on similar problems.

Responsibilities: The student research partner will assist in the preparation of illustrations of animal bones for use in journal articles as well as for a comprehensive animal bone identification manual.  Most of the work will involve using Illustrator and Photoshop to digitally trace photographs that will be used to develop a series of composite diagrams that can be used to identify animal bones from archaeological sites: an “atlas” of animal bones for South Asia.

Qualifications: The most important qualities that I am looking for is an ability to work independently and a willingness to learn new skills.  While some artistic ability and familiarity with Photoshop and Illustrator would be nice, they are not necessary to begin—you will develop them!

Dr. Bethany Coston — Applied Sociology/LGBTQ Research

Project Description. Have you ever seen an ad in a magazine or on TV that just infuriated you? An ad so sexist, so racist, so homophobic, that you were upset it was even possible it got air time/ad space (let alone that so many other people find it so funny)? But, what if the ads weren't for clothing, new music, or TV programs, but ads aimed at preventing domestic violence... would that make you even more upset? This project is the continuation of a study on intentional and subliminal messaging within the public health sector's awareness campaigns to screen for, treat, and prevent intimate partner violence (IPV, a broader term for domestic violence (DV)). The first part of this project sourced out numerous advertisements on DV and IPV from the American Medical Association, the World Health Organization, and/or the National Institutes of Health, and coded them according to perpetrator, victim/survivor, and type of abuse (among others).

Now, it’s time to compare these messages to those from grassroots and non-profit organizations tasked with ending violence against all those individuals not depicted in the institutionalized campaigns (among others: those who experience same-sex violence, those who identify as transgender, young adults, and men), and determine how effective current DV and IPV campaigns are at getting help to those who need it the most.

Student Responsibilities. 1) Identify grassroots, activist, and/or social movement organizations and non-profits throughout the U.S. that provide DV and IPV awareness, education, and/or services to LGBTQ individuals, those abused by a same-sex partner, youth/young adults, and/or men; 2) catalogue and code advertisements put out by these groups; 3) analyze differences between mainstream public health sector ads and grassroots ads using both qualitative and (basic) quantitative techniques; 4) some work on journal article literature reviewing.

I will provide initial suggestions for places to search for ads and will also give training in cataloguing organizations and coding advertisements (in an excel spreadsheet), in addition to a basic background in analysis techniques. This is a great opportunity to learn some specifics of qualitative and quantitative research methods and how to link theory to praxis (research practice).

Student Qualifications. An interest in social justice generally and/or interest in sexualities/LGBTQ issues; the ability to work independently, follow instructions and ask for help when needed; the ability to meet in person and also virtually; and willingness to learn how to do electronic searches, read through and summarize articles, and complete basic quantitative techniques in SPSS or Stata.



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

Project description: In Summer 2014, we and our research students recorded House Wrens (small birds) with both video and audio recorders to examine nocturnal and early morning behavior.  We also used IButtons, small temperature dataloggers, to collect information on patterns of female incubation of eggs, including times that females leave nests in early morning.

SRP responsibilities: Our student research partner would be responsible for working with us and our research student on videotapes, transcribing the number and actual time of various nocturnal and early morning behaviors and examining whether nocturnal restlessness in nests is associated with poorer incubation.  The SRP may help an upper-class research student examine audiotapes by analyzing vocalizations using Avisoft LabSAS, a sound analysis software program. The SRP 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 will present the results of the project at the Biology Research Symposium and perhaps at the Elkin Isaac Student Research Symposium in Spring 2015. 

Student qualifications: The SRP 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 needs to be able to work at least one afternoon per week (not Monday) as well as other times on this project.

Dr. Ken Saville — Genetics, Molecular Biology, Bioinformatics
Description: The project will involve genetic experiments with the fruitfly Drosophila melanogaster.  Possible projects, depending on student interest and project availability include:  Helping to develop a Drosophila model of Parkinson disease;  helping investigate virus/cell interactions, again using a Drosophila model; Investigating the biology of “jumping genes” or transposable elements (pieces of DNA that jump around in the chromosomes);   Using bioinformatics to investigate how genomes evolve over time (a lot of time).  Bioinformatics,  an important and cutting edge field, is the application of computer-based technology to the analysis of DNA, RNA and protein sequences, and other large biological datasets.  Don't let this scare you though, there are some very basic projects available in this area to introduce you to these concepts.

Responsibilities: Students will be responsible for making flyfood, maintaining fly stocks, and doing fly crosses.  Bioinformatics projects would involve mainly computer-based analyses, but no programming or other specific computer expertise would be required. 

Qualifications: Students interested in genetics or molecular biology research, including pre-health students, or perhaps those interested in computer science are welcome to apply for this position.



Craig Bieler —  Project 1 - Water Analysis 

Project Description:  In this project we are interested in analyzing natural water samples for ‘emerging contaminants’.  Currently, we are focusing on studying detections methods for low concentrations of caffeine.   The research will involve water sampling, contaminant extraction and concentration, and analysis using gas chromatography – mass spectrometry (GC/MS).

Responsibilities: A student working on this project will be responsible for collection and initial preparation (filtering) of the water samples.  As the project progresses there will be the need for analyzing the data collected using the analytical instruments employed in the study.

Qualifications:  You will need to have blocks of time (minimum 2 hours) available to work on the project. 

Craig Bieler —   Project 2 - Thermodynamics of clathrates

Project Description:   Clathrates are a form of solid water in which small molecules can be confined.  Clathrates are found naturally and are formed under high pressures and lower temperatures.   Our lab aims to study the physical properties of clathrates in order to better understand the processes behind their formation and decomposition. 

Responsibilities:  A student working on the project will be responsible for maintaining the experiment in which the vapor pressure of clathrate samples can be measured.  The apparatus consists of a low temperature liquid bath and a spectrophotometer.  The student will be responsible for collecting data and monitoring the constant temperature bath.

Qualifications: The data collection must occur at the specific intervals of time, and the student will need to follow this time line.  It is a bonus if the student is familiar and comfortable with using the Microsoft Excel computer program.



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

Project Description:   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 425 of these objects have been found.

Responsibilities:  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.

Qualifications: 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

Project Description:     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. 

Responsibilities:  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.

Qualifications:  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. Heather Betz: Year of Wellness Intern

Description:As we launch into the Year of Wellness, there are lots of activities, events, and details that need to be dealt with on a weekly basis.  The Year of Wellness Intern will help with the planning and execution of these activities and events.  This could entail helping to publicize the monthly speakers to creating bulletin board displays on topics that fall under the seven areas of wellness.  This person will gain valuable experience in planning and organizing events from small to large and working with a variety of people, both on campus and within the community.    

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

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



Dr. David Seely – The evolution of excited states in a highly-charged ion beam undergoing radiative cascade after formation by charge exchange

Description: Spectral line ratios for light emitted from highly charged ions following collisions with atoms or molecules can yield very valuable information about the environment in which the collision occurs.  The excited ionic states that lead to photon emission evolve, however, because of radiative transitions from higher states (so-called radiative decays).   This is a computational project to construct a cascade model for Lyman-series spectral lines produced by N7+ ions which undergo charge exchange with H atoms. Cascade models for Ne9+, and Mg11+ will also be constructed if time permits. 

Student Responsibilities: The student will recreate cascade calculations that have already been made for O8+ and C6+using both Excel and Mathematica.  It is preferred that the new calculations be done in Mathematica.  The student will enter theoretical quantities called “total cross sections” which are functions of energy, and then “correct” these values with the cascade calculation.  Weekly meetings and a summary presentation at a future Physics seminar are expected.

Qualifications: Some prior computer programming experience is necessary.    An interest in Physics is strongly desired.  The student should possess good communication skills (written and oral) and be self-motivated.

Dr. Charles Moreau – Positron Emission Tomography (PET) Imaging, Medical Physics

Project description:  This project is to development a low-cost PET imaging unit for use in research and teaching.  PET imaging relies on detection of gamma photons that are coincident in time.  The gamma photons are the result of the annihilation of an electron/positron pair inside of the tissue being imaged.  The positrons are emitted from radioactive tracers such as 18F which when introduced into the body accumulate preferentially in tumor cells.  In this way tumors can be localized within a patient.  

Responsibilities:  Students will integrate a full gamma photon detection channel, including identification and assembly of scintillation material, photomultiplier tube and power supply, and multi-channel analyzer. Students will confirm linearity of the analyzer pulse-height response using Matlab.

Qualifications:  Students taking Analytical Physics and interested in physics or engineering are encouraged to apply for this project.


Dr. Holger Elischberger - Developmental/Educational Psychology

Description: The study is designed to examine the linkages between senior high school students’ academic motivation and aspirations for the future, and a range of predictors at the level of the individual (e.g., time spent doing homework), home environment (e.g., occupations of adults in the student's household), school (e.g., equal treatment of all students regardless of race), and hometown (e.g., feeling safe in the community). It capitalizes on two unique features: (1) the availability of high school senior survey data from 1994, which will allow us to look at generational (cohort) differences, some of which may have been caused by the economic recession, and (2) the recent merger of two high schools in the area, which will allow us to look at how changes in a student's comparison peer group may affect their motivation and aspirations.

Student Responsibilities: The student will assist an upper-class student in entering survey data into SPSS (a statistical software package used to analyze data) and in researching literature on the topics of socio-economic status and academic performance/motivation and hopes for the future (using the PsycINFO database, and/or Web of Science, Google Scholar, etc.). If desired, we'd be more than happy to also teach the Student Research Partner how to run basic analyses using SPSS.

Student Qualifications: Attention to detail is crucial; experience using Excel or similar programs would be useful, but is not strictly required; experience carrying out web-based research for scholarly information would be useful as well, but also not strictly required; having an interest in psychology and/or education would be great!

Dr. Tammy Jechura - Sleep, Jet Lag, and Circadian Rhythms in Humans and Crustaceans

Description:  Blending information from psychology, biology, and neuroscience, my research focuses on the behavior and physiology of animals that is driven by circadian rhythms. Circadian rhythms are physiological cycles that repeat approximately every 24 hours, such as sleep and wake cycles. Research in my lab typically examines sleep, jet lag and recovery, stress, and aspects of the human condition related to sleep and jet lag. The current non-human work in my lab is focused on examining rhythms of crayfish and the effects of light shifts on their behavior. Students in my lab interested in human-oriented work are currently researching the effects of sleep in college students and how it affects various aspects of their lives, as well as how odors influence decision-making.

Student Responsibilities:   Student research partners working in my lab will help me and senior lab members collect, enter, and analyze data. Responsibilities will also include helping to maintain the crayfish colony and attending lab meetings.

Student Qualifications:  An interest in animal behavior will be helpful, as the student working with me will be expected to handle and care for animals. Interests in psychology (behavior and/or health), biology or neuroscience would be beneficial.

Dr. Jeff Wilson - Behavioral Science; Behavioral Neuroscience

Description:  My lab examines behavior of earthworms.  We are especially interested in learning and memory, but also want to examine fear and the effects of anti-anxiety agents. See a recent publication at

Project 1: Senior thesis student will block the earthworm’s NMDA receptor (which normally responds to the neurotransmitter glutamate) with the drug MK-801, then see if the worm can learn to escape from a bright light. This past summer we found that doses of 0.1 and 1.0 mg/ml of MK-801 interfered with this learning; we will assess the effects of lower doses this fall.

Project 2: Senior thesis student will examine the rate at which earthworms learn, and the duration of memory. Worms will be able to escape a bright light by crawling; rate of crawling will be examined at high temporal resolution over the first hour of learning in an effort to see how quickly this learning proceeds.  Worms will then be tested at various times after learning to see how long the memory has persisted.

Project 3: (tentative) Project will be developed to assess fear in the earthworm. A signal will be presented indicating that a bright light will be turned on; movement during the signal will prevent the light, motivated in part by fear of the light. We will examine the effects of an herbal anti-anxiety therapy on this learning. Student Responsibilities:   Student research partners working in my lab will help me and senior lab members collect, enter, and analyze data. Responsibilities will also include helping to maintain the crayfish colony and attending lab meetings.

Responsibilities: Student will be expected to meet weekly with the lab team to discuss lab activity. Student will learn  how to care for earthworms, how to use our computerized behavioral equipment to measure behavior, and how to organize data, while  assisting more advanced students with research projects. Expect to spend 6--8 hours per week in the lab.

Student Qualifications:  Effective research partner will be:
- Caring: Must respect life and treat animals with care and compassion.

- Responsible: Must show up when expected, and must treat the experience in the lab as if it matters, because it does.

- Curious: A sense of wonder and a desire for knowledge about the world always helps.

- Responsible: Did I mention responsibility?



Dr. Clayton Parr  -- History of Albion College Lessons and Carols

Description: Lessons and Carols was established as an annual tradition on campus by Professor Emeritus Dave Strickler in 1966.  This year marks the 49th annual event.  The student researcher will help compile the history of the event, by going through Music Department documents, programs, photos, yearbooks and College archives, with the goal of producing a book, in print and/or electronic form, to be published next year to commemorate the 50th anniversary of the event.

Gather and compile information and photos from College and Music Dept. archives.
Work with Dr. Parr to draft text for the publication.

Work with Dr. Parr on layout and physical appearance of final published product.

Ability to work independently on research
Basic computer skills (use of scanner, word processing, etc.)
Good writing skills
Publication layout experience welcome but not required



Dr. Lisa Lewis  -- Mobile Webapps for Teaching Chemistry

Project: : I have developed a series of mobile educational apps and webapps for the iPhone, iPad as a companion to courses in chemistry, and I am in the process of revising and assessing these apps in the classroom.  

Responsibilities: My webapps are at various stages of development and I would like to have a student assistant help me with assessing them in the classroom.  While the student assistant does not need to understand chemistry or pedagogy, an interest in science education, technology and/or research design is helpful. I will provide the content and a programming framework for developing these webapps.  The student assistant will work collaboratively with me to assess current webapps and to create new webapps.    

Qualifications: I am looking for a hardworking, reliable student who is attentive to detail and who is curious to learn new things. You must be organized, be able to carry out detailed instructions, and have solid communication skills (written and verbal). Basic technical skills are required - word processing, organizing files, and information management. An ideal candidate will be familiar with HTML5 and Javascript.