News and Events

FURSCA Feature: Rachel Kohanov, '14

Rachel Kohanov, '14

Your Major:


Your Adviser:

Dale Kennedy

Briefly explain your FURSCA project.

My project focuses on the sensitivity of nestling house wrens to food and alarm calls made by parent birds. It has been suggested that birds are developmentally restricted in hearing different frequencies upon hatching. Food and alarm calls are given at different frequencies. A food call serves to let nestling wrens know that a parent bird has brought a morsel back to the nest. The nestlings respond by gaping their beaks and vocalizing. This noise can potentially alert predators to the location of nests. Because house wrens are cavity nesting birds that reside in safer shelters than exposed, vulnerable cup nests, it is expected that they will show early sensitivity to food calls over alarm calls.

What have you learned so far in doing your research?

The analysis portion of my research is still in progress, but this summer has been an excellent opportunity to give me a peek into the world of fieldwork. The most rewarding discovery has been learning how to relate what I have learned in previous courses to my everyday experiences during research. I find new connections every day; the application of that knowledge has been very exciting and rewarding. In addition, I have learned the ups and downs that come along with research -- from the excitement that comes with a successful day in the field to having to be flexible and find creative solutions when electronic equipment or birds don't cooperate as hoped.

Why did you pick this particular project?

I am a pre-veterinary student who has always been interested in animals. I have been fascinated with the communication aspect of animal behavior after taking an Honors Animal Communication course with Dr. Dale Kennedy last year. For my final project in the class, I conducted a small observational study on black-capped chickadees in the Whitehouse Nature Center. I really enjoyed the experience; it inspired me to look into other opportunities to study animal communication.

How will this FURSCA project help you after Albion?

I am planning to pursue a career in veterinary medicine, so a project focused on animal communication is a great foot in the door to behavioral courses I will be taking in the future.

What's next for your project?

My thesis will focus on the findings of my study. Because I have not yet completed analysis, I'm not exactly sure what it will detail as of now!

Looking back, how has the project worked out?

I loved working on my FURSCA project. It is a unique side of learning application that I would have otherwise been unable to experience. It has given me the opportunity to grow as a student, researcher, and scientist.

FURSCA Feature: Emma Schaff, '14

Your Major:

Psychology and Spanish

Your Adviser:

Mareike Wieth and Andrea Francis

Briefly explain your FURSCA project.

My project examines the relationship between creativity and pronoun use, if such a relationship even exists.

What have you learned so far in doing your research?

I learned that though research has the reputation of being monotonous and difficult, it can actually be really interesting and applicable to many other areas of life outside your field.

Why did you pick this particular project?

Being a double major, I am always looking for opportunities to connect my areas of study and found the project that moved in the direction of doing just that. When combined with the interests of my advisers, we created a project that interested all of us.

How will this FURSCA project help you after Albion?

This project has been incredibly beneficial for exposing me to the elements of what doing good research means. The knowledge I have gained this summer will be invaluable at grad school and beyond. I feel better prepared to take the steps needed to achieve my academic and career goals.

What's next for your project?

The foundation I have built this summer will serve to inform my Honors thesis that I will work on throughout my senior year. I also hope to do an Elkin Isaac Symposium presentation on it.

Looking back, how has the project worked out?

The project didn't get the results I had expected, but I've definitely had fun in the process despite that. Participants were asked to tell stories in my study and it was quite amusing to listen to all of them. Psychology in general has always fascinated me, so it was very rewarding to be able to investigate topics that were relevant as well as interesting to me personally.

Student Research: Highlights from a FURSCA Summer

Bian Wang works on her documentary at the Whitehouse Nature Center.

This summer, 40 Albion College students from multiple academic disciplines developed an independent research project, and presented their findings, through grants received from The Foundation for Undergraduate Research, Scholarship, and Creative Activity (FURSCA).

"For many students, FURSCA research will lead to national presentations and publications," Ian MacInnes, English professor and FURSCA director, says. "These can help them enroll in graduate programs and succeed in their fields."

MacInnes says FURSCA helps students plan and study independently, and to problem solve over the course of their summer research. That independent project management experience is a hallmark of the liberal arts, he says.

"I was impressed with this group of students," he says. "The quality of their work, and particularly their presentations, was very high."

Here are six projects from this summer's FURSCA session:

FURSCA Feature: Callie Bussell, '14

Your Major(s):

Theater and Economics and Management

Your Adviser:

Robert Starko

Briefly explain your FURSCA project.

My project follows the growth and development of the profession of the actor from its western origins in Greece to present day by studying the various styles throughout history.

What have you learned so far in doing your research?

The amount I have learned is limitless, but something that I find invaluable is the connection in body and voice while working on a Shakespearean Monologue.

Why did you pick this particular project?

Callie Bussell, '14, with Prof. Robert Starko
Prof. Robert Starko and Callie Bussell, '14

Many factors went in to this choice, the main being my need to hone my skills as an actor and help me learn skills that I normally wouldn't learn in such a small department as Albion's, but I'm also using it as a way to better our tiny department. With my extra knowledge I will be able to help the other actors in our department.

How will this FURSCA project help you after Albion?

This project is essentially a direct course in preparing me for a successful career in acting. I hope to have a very strong understanding and talent of each of the styles I've selected to study. This will give directors much more confidence in their decision to cast me in the professional world.

What's next for your project?

I will use the tools I've learned this summer and apply them to everything I do in the department next year. I hope to continue this research and perhaps present my findings at the Elkin Isaac Symposium.

Looking back, how has the project worked out?

The project proved to be so much harder than I expected it to be because of its vastness, but everything about it was fruitful to my development as an actor. I enjoyed every single second I spent because acting is passion and I love nothing more than a challenge that pushes me to my limits which my adviser has done for me.

FURSCA Feature: Andrew Franklin, '12

Andrew Franklin collects samples in Rice Creek

Graduation date: December 2012

Where do you call home? Albion, MI

What are you studying? Biology major. Philosophy and History minors

Activities as a student:

Sigma Nu fraternity, Beta Beta Beta National Biological Honor Society, Student Alumni Association, Whitehouse Nature Center assistant

Why did you choose Albion?

I chose Albion for two main reasons. The first reason is the college's proximity to my home. The second was the typically small class size. I have often found the one-on-one time that I've needed in order to fully grasp certain concepts outside of class. I attribute this to the amount of time that many of my professors have to allocate to each of their students in need, whether by office hours or individually scheduled meetings. With too many students in classes, I fear that this important one-on-one time would be reduced.

What is one of your favorite Albion memories?

Aside from general shenanigans involving the brothers of Sigma Nu, friends graduated and not, I'd have to say that my fondest memories of Albion will be of some field components in my biology classes, studying abroad, and also my FURSCA experiences during this summer of 2012.

What are you doing this summer for FURSCA?

An oil spill near Marshall, Michigan in July 2010 by an Enbridge Energy pipeline discharged nearly one million gallons of heavy crude oil into Talmadge Creek, a tributary to the Kalamazoo River. My research project emphasis is on biological monitoring, which is to estimate, assess, and analyze the overall health of a particular ecosystem by characterizing its habitats, as well as by sampling the organisms that inhabit it.

Macroinvertebrates, such as very small insect larvae, crustaceans, and aquatic worms, rely on streams for all, or at least part of, their life cycles. Many of these species are invaluable bioindicators of change within stream environments, as they have differing tolerances to chemicals that may be naturally present or added to the system.

In accordance with the Great Lakes and Environmental Assessment Section Procedure #51, my team and I will conduct macroinvertebrate sampling and habitat evaluations at five sites on Talmadge Creek and the Kalamazoo River. Through this methodology, we may offer ecological suggestions as to what, how, and why the conditions for life in Talmadge Creek are like -- and most importantly, how they have changed over a relatively short period of time after this tragic accident. Additionally, a branch of my research will be focused on the analysis of certain chemicals in these areas of the watershed. Plus toxicology studies on amphipods, which are small shrimp-like crustaceans, and periphyton, a bacterial and algal community that colonizes organic substrates and is centrally important to the structuring of freshwater communities in lakes, streams, and rivers.

What are your plans after you leave Albion?

I intend to make it into a graduate program for a master's degree in marine biology, where I can realize my dreams of being a field biologist. I want to conduct research that can contribute to our greater understanding of the world around us, and the organisms that we share our Earth's resources with.

What have you learned from your FURSCA experiences?

I believe that the most important lesson I have learned during the course of my FURSCA research experience this summer is that good science cannot be rushed. It must be conducted patiently, with unbiased expectations -- and with both dedication and passion.


More Articles ...