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/year 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.

We will be hosting a reception in the KC living room (time TBA) for interested students to meet and talk further with the faculty members. Completed applications are due on Saturday, September 19 by 4 p.m. online. Faculty sponsors will choose their SRP students by September 25.

If you have questions, please contact either Dr. Vanessa McCaffrey ( 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 2015-2016:


There are projects available in the areas shown below. Clicking on the subject will take you directly to the position description.

Anthropology/Sociology - 2 projects
Art/Art History - 2 projects
Communication Studies - 2 projects
Interdisciplinary (Physics/Library)
Modern Languages and Cultures
Political Science
 - 2 projects
Psychology - 4 projects




Archaeology with Dr. Brad Chase

Project Description: As an archaeologist, my research explores the ancient Indus Civilization, the first urban society of what is now 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 or farmers, for example, it is necessary determine whether they were eating wild or domestic animals.

I do this by comparing ancient bones from archaeological sites with modern bones from museum collections belonging to known species.  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.

Student 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.  There will also be some light data entry and more general research assistance.

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! I will be happy to consider any interested student for the position, although preference will be given to students who are interested in anthropology.


Cultural Anthropology with Dr. Allison Harnish

Project Description: In 1958, 57,000 Gwembe Tonga were forcibly displaced by the construction of Kariba Dam on the Zambezi River. The resettlement was a traumatic event for most of the Tonga, whose homes, ancestral grounds, and productive cropland were consumed by Lake Kariba. Although the Tonga bore the social costs associated with the dam, it was primarily people from outside the dam basin who enjoyed its benefits; the dam was built to increase the electricity supply to the mines in the Zambian Copperbelt. Other industries associated with fishing, tourism, and irrigation benefited from the new reservoir—which remains today the world’s largest by volume. Today, many of the relocated Gwembe Tonga struggle to eke a living in marginal lands with limited access to electricity and basic infrastructure. Tonga who have voluntarily resettled to fertile lands abutting Kafue National Park fear they may be relocated a second time to make way for wildlife tourism.  Meanwhile, the Dam itself is in crisis; poor engineering has necessitated emergency repairs to prevent the 420-ft wall from collapsing. Such a collapse would release over 100 square miles of water —enough to flood the Zambezi River basin in three countries, threaten the lives of 3.5 million people, and amount to a loss of 1.3 gigawatts of electricity-generating capacity across the region. Over the last sixty years, researchers have sought to understand the long-term social and environmental impacts of Kariba Dam while advocating for the Gwembe Tonga and other communities affected by similar large-scale development projects. This project is a continuation of such research. 

Student Responsibilities: The student research partner will (1) assist in the transcription and thematic coding of interviews conducted in summer 2014 and (2) help locate and annotate relevant literature. Much of the work will involve Microsoft Word and Google drive. The SRP will also work with qualitative data analysis and reference management software. 

Qualifications: Preference will be given to students with interests in anthropology and sociology, gender and women’s studies, public policy, international development, and/or environmental studies. Applicants must have good writing and time management skills as well as a solid work ethic. While applicants need not have prior experience with qualitative analysis or reference management software, strong organization skills and an ability to work independently are a must. 

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Smartphone Integration into the Photographic Curriculum with Dr. Ashley Feagin

Project Description: Ashley Feagin has been researching the acceptance and fluidity of integrating the smartphone’s camera into the canon of cameras taught to students in photo courses. This research is about a year in, and we will be seeking a book publication within the year. The Student Research Partner will aid Ashley Feagin and her three co-authors from a different institution in her research.

Job Description: The SRP will help collect data from different institutions about the structure of different photography programs. This data will be used a marker for our analysis of the co-authors experience with integrated the smartphone camera into our courses.

Qualifications: Strong organization skills, a firm grasp of Excel, and an understanding of Google drive is needed for this position. The student must also have a strong work ethic, time management skills and be able to set personal goals to see the assignment through. Enrollment in a photo course is not a necessity. However, proficient understanding of smartphone technology is needed (iPhone and Droids). The student will work directly with Ashley but will communicate on behalf of the project to other institutions. Therefore, a strong grasp of writing and email/ phone etiquette is paramount. 

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Project with Dr. Katie St. Claire

Project Description: Katie St. Clair has been developing ways to include the viewer in the process and succession of layers of her time-based paintings. The student research partner will assist Katie in producing a time lapse film to expose the process of her paintings, as well as to work as a studio assistant.

Job Description: The SRP will be in charge of shooting footage, media management, organization and a small amount of video editing for the time lapse film.  They will be working with a video artist who will be doing final editing. During down time, the SRP will be asked to work with Katie in the experimental processes of painting and building surfaces in the studio.

Student Qualifications: This is a creative job that requires a SRP with a strong work ethic, problem solving skills and artistic eye. Ideally the student would be versatile, able to adapt to many different creative projects while demonstrating independence and good organizational skills. Proficient understanding and experience using a camera and video editing platforms like Final Cut or Premiere is important. Student must also be comfortable doing studio work such as stretching, priming and sanding canvases.

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Cell Physiology and Cancer Biology with Dr. Brad Rabquer

Description:  Cancer, at the cellular level, is characterized by uncontrolled cell proliferation caused by a loss of control of the cell’s normal cycle of growth and division. This loss of control usually results from irreversible cell damage, primarily mutation of the cell’s DNA, which would normally result in programmed cell death, or apoptosis. Many anti-cancer therapies, such as cytotoxic chemotherapy, trigger activation of pathways that induce this cell death. For the past three years, my research team has been analyzing the effects of novel vanadium-based complexes (designed by Dr. McCaffrey in Chemistry) on various types of cancer cells.  To date we have identified several that have shown the ability to inhibit colon and breast cancer cell growth.  We are continuing this line of research in an effort to further characterize the anti-growth capabilities of these vanadium-based compounds.

Student Responsibilities: Students will be responsible for maintaining a laboratory notebook, culturing cancer cells, and performing cell-based in vitro experiments.

Qualifications: Highly motivated students interested in molecular and cell biology, cancer biology, or biochemistry.  No prior training is necessary.

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Synthesis of Organic Precursors with Dr. Vanessa McCaffrey

Description: Magnetism arises from the interactions of unpaired electrons on two or more atoms in close proximity. Typically, the atoms are inorganic ions such as manganese, copper, chromium or iron, just to name a few. However, organic scaffolding can be designed that will bind the inorganic ions and also influence the magnetic interactions between two or more ions. In this project, student will be synthesizing and purifying the organic starting materials used to build the organic scaffolding.

Student Responsibilities: The student will be responsible for maintaining a laboratory notebook, synthesizing diformyl aromatic compounds and purifying them by a variety of techniques. Student/s will also be responsible for reading old lab notebooks and organizing the data from previous students’ work.

Student Qualifications: The right student will be self-motivated and have an interest in chemistry. No experience in a lab is necessary. Up to two students may be chosen for this project. Students MUST be available to work Thursday and Friday afternoons. 

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Media Artifacts Research with Dr. Andy Boyan

Project Description: This project involves researching and cataloguing obsolete media artifacts such as records, film, pinball machines, video games, telegraphs, typewriters, and other obscure, and not-so-obscure media from the past. There will be handling of antique items, organizing, internet research, and typing.

Student Responsibilities: The student will confer with me on a set of media artifacts to research in a given week. The student will investigate each object for defects or damage, see how they work, and research their purpose and history online. The student will then write short summaries of each object (3-4 sentences each) as if it were for display in a museum. Occasionally this research may include items that have not yet been purchased. In this case the student will assist in the logistics of purchasing, shipping, and storing the artifacts.

Qualifications: A passionate interest in music, film, and other media. The ability to write clear, concise text without grammatical errors. The ability to work on a variety of tasks and track progress across multiple sub-projects. Be an interesting person. Be willing to listen to the occasional tangent. Have an open mind to ALL genres of music, even if you prefer some over others. 

The proposal is open to students at large.  Would be open to one or possibly two students.

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Mediated Communication Studies/Education with Dr. William McCully

Project Description: Technology plays an important role in the college classroom but its integration has created numerous problems for students. In many instances students and professors are at odds over ineffectively integrated classroom tools, digital resources that function poorly, or a lack of necessary computer skills. This study explores the problems cause by technology in the classroom through the lens of both the digital divide and the diffusion of innovations. Considering both generational and socio-economic differences, data will be collected and analyzed, both qualitatively and quantitatively, concerning (a) how students perceive technology in the classroom, (b) how students deal with problems related to academic technology, and (c) how students express frustration for the use of technology in the college classroom.  

Student Responsibilities: Student will be responsible for a wide range of skills related to the research process depending upon interests and abilities. These skills will include some combination of qualitative data coding, finding background literature, collecting interview data, and potentially running basic statistical tests using R (or SPSS). 

Student Qualifications: Student must have a passion for new technologies and understand how their use affects interaction. Skills with online survey software and quantitative data analysis are helpful but will be taught. The nature of this research is such that being current on practices and trends in educational technologies is essential. The student for this work will need to be interested in staying up-to-date on what important technologies are on the horizon. 

This proposal is open to any interested student. 

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History of Astronomy at Albion College with Dr. Nicolle Zellner (Physics) and Justin Seidler (Library)

Project Description: One student is needed for archival research on historic events, people, and astronomical equipment at Albion College. These tasks support efforts to document significant contributions to the astronomical community by Albion College students, alumni, and faculty.

Student Responsibilities include reading background material to become familiar with the research topic,  finding information in the Albion College archives and on-line, organizing this information, and reporting results.           

Student Qualifications: 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. Interest in history and astronomy is strongly desired, and membership and active participation in the Albion College Astronomy Club is strongly encouraged. 

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Symmetries of Scottish Carved Stone Balls with Dr. David Reimann

Overview: C​arved 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 (4000­2000 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 three­dimensional scanner to produce a surface model that can be used to analyze the surface patterns, specifically symmetry.

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

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Multiculturalism in Germany from World War II to the Present: A History of Migration and Interaction with Dr. Perry Myers

Project Description: At the end of World War II Germany lay in ruins. Industrial infrastructure was destroyed and its work force depleted by death, disease and injury. As Germany re-built with the assistance of the Allies and the Marshall Plan workers were desperately needed beyond what the German workforce could provide. In response to this dilemma Germany sought “guest workers” during the 1950s from other European countries like Italy, but the majority came from the Republic of Turkey. Thus began a long, intense, and often acrimonious relationship between Turks and Germans in the Federal Republic of Germany that has continued after reunification to the present day. This relationship has been fraught with cultural prejudice, racism, economic tensions, questions of national identity and language, all of which have found expression in “migrant” literature, political debates, film, television and academic studies in Germany. This project seeks to trace the development of and catalogue this expansive archive of material and corresponding secondary literature regarding Turks and other nationalities in Germany from the end of World War II to the present day. As the world continues to become increasingly “entangled”--diverse across traditional borders and cultural boundaries due to migration and global interaction, an increasing need has emerged to explore theoretical models of how national cultures and identities are derived and defined. Given the recent massive migration of asylum seekers primarily from war-torn Syria to Europe this topic has become critical to understand the cultural and political landscape of Europe. This research will provide the framework for establishing new research initiatives and case studies for exploring these questions not only in Germany, but is applicable to broader questions of global intercultural contact. Additionally, this work is critical to maintain and update courses that I teach at Albion College (Intercultural Understanding and Global Issues; Multiculturalism in Germany: 1945 to the Present).

Responsibilities: The Research Partner will explore, locate, and catalogue relevant primary and secondary material for this project through library and online sources. The research assistant will provide annotation of the sources when possible and time permits.

Qualifications: The Research Partner must have an interest in literary studies and history, and more specifically, post WWII German history and German-Turkish issues. The Research Partner should be at least at the high intermediate level of German.

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Bedrock Geology of the Black Hills with Dr. Beth Lincoln and Dr. Tim Lincoln

Description:  We are involved in a collaborative project to map the bedrock geology of a portion of the Black Hills of South Dakota.  As part of this project, during the academic year we study the samples collected in previous summers by analyzing their bulk chemistry using an x-ray fluorescence spectrometer and describing their textures and mineral assemblages using a petrographic microscope and we edit our map using geographic information software.  Assisting with this project will give the student researcher the opportunity to develop skills useful in geology and chemistry.

Responsibilities:  The student researcher will help with sample preparation for chemical and petrographic analysis.  This will include learning to slab, grind and fuse samples of rocks in preparation for x-ray fluorescence analysis, and working with the results of the analysis using spreadsheets and standard geologic software.  In addition, the student researcher may help prepare thin sections of rocks for microscopic examination and work with faculty on the preparation of a geologic map, using ESRI’s Arcmap software.

Qualifications:  No knowledge of specific software or lab techniques is required, but the student should be comfortable with computers, willing to learn to use a variety of pieces of equipment and careful with note-taking. Attention to detail and being handy are key to this work.

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Planetary Astrophysics: Lunar Sample Preparation and Analyses with Dr. Nicolle Zellner

Project Description: One student is needed for assistance in analyzing lunar data and prepping lunar samples for analysis by electron microprobe. These tasks support a long-running research project sponsored by NASA and the National Science Foundation.

Student Responsibilities include reading background material to become familiar with the research project,  selecting and polishing microscopic lunar samples for instrument analyses, sorting and graphing data, and reporting results.

Student Qualifications: 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. The student should also have a steady hand, be organized, and be able to pay close attention to details. The student should be familiar with and proficient in Excel. An interest in Physics is strongly desired, and membership and active participation in the Albion College Astronomy Club is strongly encouraged. 

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International Human Rights Change with Dr. Carrie Booth Walling, Political Science

Project Description: I am looking for one or two students to assist me in initiating or completing a series of research, writing and advocacy projects on the subjects of human rights fact-finding, human trafficking, illegal war and international courts and tribunals.  

Responsibilities: Project #1:  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, editing grant proposals, and assisting in the planning and preparation of research trips.  I am involved in 2 team research projects with colleagues at Harvard – the first is building a database on illegal wars in order to study the impact (if any) of international law on illegal war; the second is a project examining the relationship between the UN Security Council and the International Criminal Court.  The timelines and tasks for these 2 projects are fluid but as opportunities become available, the student researcher can assist on either or both projects. 

Project #2: 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 also be tasked with some editing responsibilities for a blog I manage for the Michigan Human Trafficking Taskforce called Voices for Change (see ).  This student will also help to develop communication materials and develop web content for the political science department webpage.

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 organized and self-motivated and able to work well 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.  Attention to detail and thoroughness when completing tasks is especially desired.

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Time of Day, Creativity, and Language; Cognitive Psychology with Dr. Andrea Francis & Dr. Mareike Wieth

DescriptionCognitive 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 Cognitive Psychology Research Laboratory at Albion College, supervised by Drs. Andrea Francis and Mareike Wieth, has been investigating the relationship between cognitive processes and creativity. Current projects include an investigation between language use and creativity, and time of day, creativity, and class performance.  

Student ResponsibilitiesResponsibilities will involve assisting us in 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 QualificationsIt 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.

Behavioral Science; Behavioral Neuroscience with Dr. W. Jeff Wilson (3 projects)
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. In the past 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 year.
Project 2: We have demonstrated that exposure to a bright light one time decreases the worm's later response to the light.  We want to examine the time course of this learning in more detail. Does the duration of the effect depend on the duration of the light? Will this behavioral change become more long-lasting with differing amounts of exposure? 
Project 3: (tentative) Projects might be developed to examine Pavlovian conditioning in the earthworm. Can a worm learn to associate a neutral stimulus with the occurrence of a dangerous or aversive stimulus? 

Student 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: The 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?
Contact Dr. Jeff Wilson ( This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. ) for more information.


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