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, for a compensation of $10/hour. Up to $800 can be earned as a Student Research Partner over the course of the year.

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 (Found on Moodle/Coursewebs).

The Deadeline for applications has been extended to Monday, September 23 by 4 p.m. online. Faculty sponsors will choose their SRP students by October 4, 2019.

If you have questions, please contact either Dr. Vanessa McCaffrey () or Renee Kreger () for more information.

SRP 2019-2020 DESCRIPTIONS 

BIOCHEMISTRY - DESIGNING AND MAKING MOLECULES TO MANIPULATE BIOLOGICAL SYSTEMS with Dr. Craig Streu

Project Description 1: There are numerous ways to manipulate biological systems, but one of most common is to create small molecules that prevent an enzyme from performing its normal function in a cell.  Enzymes are responsible for a large number of the functions within cells and so malfunctioning enzymes are the cause of many or most human diseases. In some cases, the molecules that we design are used to learn more about how an enzyme or other biological molecule works in a cell by stopping its normal function. This works much the same way that flipping a light switch allows us to figure out what electronics that particular switch controls. In other cases, the molecules we make are designed to reverse an undesirable action of an enzyme or other biological molecule that is causing a particular disease.  In this case, these molecules have potential as pharmaceuticals. The latest work in this lab involves making molecules that can manipulate biological systems in response to light.  Lux Fiat!

Project Description 2:  I am looking for a volunteer to help me start a new area of research in my lab.  Specifically, biologics are the hottest area in pharmaceutical development right now.  New biological drugs are added to the market daily to treat everything from hepatitis to cancer.  There are many ways to develop new drugs, but the most efficient is essentially accelerated (directed) evolution.  This process involves making billions of billions of different proteins by genetic methods.  The DNA for each type of protein is added to a different yeast cell, which makes the proteins and displays on the cell surface.  We will then select from the giant mixture only those proteins/yeast that have the desired function.  We can then grow up more of the yeast and sequence the DNA.  Once we know the DNA sequence, we can make large quantities of the desired protein and test it for biological activity. Trust me, its cool, but its new so it’ll be slow going at first.

Responsibilities:  You must be able to work safely in the laboratory.  While this is not a truly independent project, you will learn the skills that will allow you to eventually work increasingly independently.

Qualifications: No prior experience is necessary, but an interest in the intersection of chemistry and biology will be key.  Since this project is designed to help you eventually work independently, the ideal student is one that intends to continue with research in chemistry or biochemistry fields following the completion of the SRP.
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ENGLISH - 2 PROJECTS

VIDEOS ABOUT CREATIVE WRITING CONCEPTS with Dr. Danit Brown
Project description: There are hundreds, if not thousands, of videos on the internet about various creative-writing concepts (e.g. similes, metaphors, plot, etc.).  Many of them, however, are geared toward literary analysis and exam preparation, and videos about poetry, in particular, are problematic in that they present poems as equations or riddles that need solving. Our goal is to discover and/or create our own high-interest videos that reflect Albion’s approach to poetry and fiction as means for creating and sharing experiences. Ideally, these videos will be used as supplemental material for English 205 (Introductory Creative Writing).

SRP Responsibilities: The student research partner(s) would be responsible for researching and cataloging short videos about writing and reading poetry and fiction suitable for use in English 205, as well as potentially writing, creating, and editing videos for Albion students studying creative writing. We are starting this project from scratch, and so the SRP should be prepared to research and learn to use software for making instructional videos.  

Student Qualifications: The SRP(s) should be the kind of people who read and write for pleasure, and who are interested in creative writing and the visual arts. Experience making videos and/or with animation would be fabulous but isn’t required.

PROFESSIONAL WRITING with Dr. Ian MacInnes
Project Description: As an Arts & Humanities Councilor for the Council for Undergraduate Research (CUR), I am responsible in part for creating content for the division's website (curartsandhumanities.org). I am looking for a student who will work with me to create search engine optimized (SEO) content for this site. Content will include best practices, news and announcements, tips, and descriptions of past undergraduate research projects. Check out the site to see what we've done so far. Participating in the project will help you understand the wide range of possibilities for scholarship and creative activity in your area of interest. It is also a great preparation for future free-lance writing, public relations, and marketing. You will learn about SEO writing, metadata, journalistic style, and managing a complex and active Wordpress site.

SRP Responsibilities: My student research partner will be responsible for working with me to manage the site, learning to write SEO content, and writing posts and pages. The SRP will receive byline credit for most content. 

Student Qualifications: Should have strong writing skills and a wide ranging interests in the arts or humanities.

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BIOLOGY - ECOLOGY: THE INVERTEBRATES OF MICHIGAN with Dr. Abigail Cahill

Project Description: This project will explore the invertebrates that live an inland salt marsh, an extremely rare habitat in Michigan. Due to the presence of an ocean in this area tens of millions of years ago, salt deposits exist in the region, sometimes close enough to the surface to influence the species that live there. Although some data exist about the plant species present in these communities, very little is known about the invertebrates (insects, worms, snails, spiders, etc.). The lab is sampling one of these communities to identify and classify the animals that are found there. Are they similar to animals found outside the salt marsh? Have they adapted to salt marsh life? So far we have found strong seasonal variation in the invertebrates living in the marsh, as well as a salt-associated set of animals, and we are beginning to ask questions about salt adaptation. We are working with animals from the salt marsh, from the Whitehouse Nature Center, and from a marsh near Lake St Clair.

SRP Responsibilities: The SRP will identify invertebrates that have been collected in the marsh and Lake St Clair metropark this year, using both morphology and genetic techniques. The SRP will also have the chance to help with future sampling dates at any of our field sites, including potentially this fall. The student will (schedule permitting) take part in regular lab meetings to become familiar with the system and techniques that we use, and will be able to develop the lab’s direction moving forward.

Student Qualifications: The SRP should have an interest in biology, as well as a willingness to work both outside in the field and inside in the lab. I expect the student to be responsible, reliable, and able to work independently.

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ANTHROPOLOGY & SOCIOLOGY - ARCHAEOLOGY with Dr. Brad Chase

Project Description: I study the ancient Indus Civilization, the first urban society in what is now India and Pakistan.  One of the most ubiquitous—yet least studied—objects produced by Indus artisans were small white beads made of fired steatite (soapstone).  These objects were mass produced from rare raw materials using what at the time was a “secret” technology and circulated widely distributed throughout the civilization: they have many physical properties of currency, similar to metal coinage in later historical periods.  While I know that these beads are widely distributed based on my personal experience with excavations and publications, the distribution of these objects in time and space needs to be documented in a more systematic way than has yet been undertaken.

SRP Responsibilities: The student research partner will assist in the documentation of all occurrences of steatite beads at archaeological sites in India and Pakistan.  Previous SRPs have gone through 70+ years of the annual reports of the Archaeological Survey of India, the governmental body that oversees archaeological research in the country, tagging every occurrence of these beads along with information about the archaeological site from which they were found.

The next phase of the project that you would be working on this year will be to compile these listings into a standardized database.  Most work will be done on your own time wherever and wherever you want.  We will then meet once a week to go over you the work.  This is not just data entry.  You will need to be resourceful and enjoy working with maps!

Student Qualifications: The most important qualities that I am looking for is care, attention to detail, initiative, and the ability to work independently.  The first phase of the work will be done using Google Sheets, but that is very easy to learn if you haven’t used it before.

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PSYCHOLOGICAL SCIENCE - SCIENTIFIC STUDIES ON CREATIVITY with Dr. Andres Francis & Dr. Mareike Wieth

Description: The CCE Research Laboratory at Albion College, supervised by Drs. Andrea Francis and Mareike Wieth, has been investigating the relationship between technology, attention, eating patterns, moral decision making, and creativity. We are looking for help with a variety of projects. For all projects, students will learn how to conduct psychological experiments, including entering, coding, and analyzing of data.

Student Responsibilities: Responsibilities will involve assisting us in entering, coding, 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 psychological science. 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 analytical discipline.

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WOMEN'S STUDIES - GENDER/FOOD/HISTORY Research with Dr. Trisha Franzen

Project Description: How do our vegetable gardens make our personal histories visible?  How do our community gardens make the history of the people of Albion visible?  As the Albion Community Gardens completes its third year, it is clear that many people have brought their food traditions to our city.  The goal of this project is to document those food/gardening traditions through oral histories with Albion gardeners and analyze the findings within the developing field of food studies.

Student responsibilities:  Would include both traditional research, such as studying the history of Albion’s people and the food traditions from their cultures, and working in the community to set up and help conduct oral history interviews. Experience with making and editing videos is a major plus.    

Qualifications:  A student should have an interest in food and history, be willing to spend time doing research, helping film and editing videos. They should be reliable and organized, able to keep clear records, and work with film.   

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EDUCATION 

INTERPRETIVE EDUCATION: CULTURAL & ENVIRONMENTAL STORIES OF THE KALAMAZOO with Dr. Suellyn Henke
Project Description:  The Kalamazoo River is a treasured natural resource with exceptional educational value. The identity of the community of Albion is tied to the Forks of the north and south branches of the Kalamazoo joining here. The Albion River trail connects east and west parts of town, is a through-line for the recently annexed school district, and is part of Calhoun County Trailway that also links nationally to the North Country Trail.

Student Responsibilities: The SRP will be responsible for independently searching archives and public sources for local stories and resources about the Kalamazoo River.  Student will collaborate with faculty to help communicate with community partners and develop lesson modules.  

Qualifications:  The SRP should be interested in community and outdoor education and must be comfortable working independently as well as collaboratively. 

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MUSIC - MUSICAL EVENT MANAGEMENT-INTERCOLLEGIATE MEN'S CHORUSES with Dr. Clayton Parr

Project Description: Assist in the planning and management of the Intercollegiate Men's Choruses National Seminar, an event in March that will bring over 1000 singers and audience members to campus for three days of concerts and sessions.  15 male choirs from Michigan and around the country will be coming to perform.

Student Responsibilities: Plan and carry out promotion and marketing for the event, especially on social media. Help develop content to be included on seminar Website. Supervise communication with performing choirs and their directors, providing hosting information. Assist with artist relations for visiting professional ensemble Cantus. Assist in other aspects of planning as circumstances warrant

Qualifications:  Good interpersonal skills, Knowledge of social media, good writing skills, Experience with choral music preferred

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COMMUNICATION - CONTENT ANALYSIS OF VILLIAMS IN ANIMATED FILMS with Dr. Katey Price

Project Description:  This empirical research project will be a content analysis project. It is in very early phases right now, but will be an exciting project to get going this year with the right student researchers helping! The project will be analyzing animated film (Disney) content for a number of themes in the form of both verbal and non-verbal communication.

SRP Responsibilities: Compiling a list of all Disney films, both animated and live action, watching Disney films and coding for content based on a code book, having weekly or bi-weekly meetings with other coders and the lead researcher to have discussions and check inter-coder reliability. All student researchers will have ample training on what a codebook is and how to code film. There will be practice sessions and discussions before students are asked to begin coding film on their own. The Disney library of animated films is quite large and based on the final sample size, it is highly unlikely that this project will be finished by the end of the academic calendar 2019-2020. This project would probably continue through the summer of 2020 and into the school year of 2020-2021 and would allow any interested students who end up enjoying the work to continue working on the project should they wish to continue to do so.

Student Qualifications:  Students who would be best for this study would be those who have a fine attention to detail, would have a handful of hours each week to devote to watching film and analyzing it, are interested in social science research specifically, and work well in a team.

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POLITICAL SCIENCE - 3 Projects

METHODOLOGICAL TRAINING IN COMPARATIVE POLITICS with Dr. Dawid Tatarczyk

Project Description: The student(s) will help Dr. Tatarczyk continue to create a new dataset. The goal of the project is to examine the extent to which top comparative politics journals in America and Europe publish articles using QCA (Qualitative Comparative Analysis) methodology. 

Student Responsibilities: The student will conduct original research by searching for QCA articles in top comparative politics journals. The student(s) will also create bibliographies in Excel, copy-edit manuscripts and help get them publication-ready. 

Qualifications: Student applicants should be self-motivated and able to work well independently. Successful applicants will have strong written and oral communication skills, be attentive to detail, reliable, and have strong interpersonal skills. Open to all majors, but students with interest in comparative politics are preferred.

THE UNITED NATIONS SECURITY COUNCIL & INTERNATIONAL CRIMINAL JUSTICE with Dr. Carrie Walling

Project Description: This project is part of a larger research project that examines how the justice norm (the norm of individual criminal accountability for human rights violations) both shapes and has been shaped by United Nations practice. The project aims to empirically measure the strength of the justice norm and identify the global governance practices that enable and constrain it.

Student Responsibilities: The student will assist Dr. Walling in the development of a database composed of official Security Council documents that reference principles of justice and accountability for international crimes. This includes learning how to collect, code and analyze qualitative data.

Qualifications: Student applicants should be self-motivated and able to work well independently. Students must be highly organized, able to meet deadlines, attentive to nuance, and detail-oriented. Successful applicants will have strong interpersonal skills and a working knowledge of Microsoft Excel. Open to all interested applicants but students with a demonstrated passion for political science, human rights, international security, the UN, or international criminal law are preferred.

HUMAN RIGHTS AND DIGNITY FOR ALL with Dr. Carrie Walling

Project Description: The student will work with Dr. Walling on her book project, Human Rights and Dignity for All: Exploring Rights Claims in America and Around the World.  The book starts with a simple premise: human rights is an empowering framework for understanding and addressing rights and justice issues at local, domestic, international and global levels. The book introduces students to the legal and political framework that has been created to prevent and punish human rights violations as well as the strategies and tactics used by advocates to promote human rights change.

Student Responsibilities: The student will assist Dr. Walling in identifying relevant literature and key resources (including primary documents, scholarly publications, policy analyses, human rights organizations, human rights reports, and human rights defenders) for the cases in the book. The student will help compile an appendix of human rights resources and help to identify potential human rights defenders to be included. The student may help construct outlines of biographical profiles and may be asked to read and summarize literature. 

Case studies in the book include:
Juvenile justice in the United States
China’s repression of Uighur Muslims in Xinxiang Province
The Flint Water Crisis
ISIS sexual enslavement of the Yazidi
Rohingya genocide
Human trafficking
Criminal accountability in Argentina
South African Truth & Reconciliation Commission
Greensboro, NC Truth Commission

Qualifications: Student applicants should be self-motivated and able to work well independently. Students must be highly organized, able to meet deadlines, attentive to nuance, and detail-oriented. Successful applicants will have strong interpersonal skills, good writing skills, familiarity with electronic databases, and an interest in research. Previous research experience or work experience at a library or bookstore desired but not required. Open to interested students pursuing majors in the social sciences or humanities. Students with a demonstrated passion for civil and/or human rights preferred. 

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