The first ever Olin Library Prize for Undergraduate Library Research was recently awarded to Ada Spahija ‘18. The $500 prize is a research award for students who demonstrate excellence in a sophisticated use of library collections for a research project.
Out of 14 total entries, Spahija won the award for her biology paper, “The Genetics of ADHD: A Review of Polymorphisms in Neurotransmitter System Genes.”
All currently enrolled undergraduate students who have completed a research project for a credit course at Rollins were eligible to apply. The prize is unique in that it focuses on the research process rather than the final product.
Its goal is to celebrate the research done by students and encourage more sophisticated research methods. Dorothy Mays, associate professor and head of public services at Olin Library, said that many Rollins students “have shown great creativity and diligence in their research, and we wanted to celebrate that.”
“As librarians, I’m afraid we often see students take the path of least resistance when doing research,” said Mays. “Good research involves a much more thoughtful approach in framing a research question, refining it throughout the search process, and looking at a problem through creative angles to find supporting materials.”
The winner was determined by a panel of six faculty judges: an Art History professor, an English professor, a Psychology professor, and three faculty librarians.
Mays was one of the judges. The projects covered diverse topics, including “personal reflections, literary analysis, the use of primary documents to track historical movements, and several projects that analyzed videos and artwork for political messaging. The overall quality was very high, which made judging such diverse projects a real challenge,” she said.
However, Spahija’s project stood out from the crowd. “Ada’s paper blended both technical excellence with the creative integration of historical material to look at aspects of ADHD. She made every judge’s short list…” said Mays.
Mays also said that, “…we had a lively debate as we discussed the merits of each entry.”
Spahija shared her excitement for winning the award. “It felt like my hard work on the paper was validated.” She said that she plans to use the money towards paying off her student loans.
Since it was the first year that this prize was offered, the judges were elated by the response. They enjoyed seeing the wide range of projects that students were working on. “We hope to sponsor this contest annually, and encourage students to keep their eye out for the Spring of 2019 when we do it again!” said Mays.
To enter, students had to submit a copy of their project along with a research statement of no more than 600 words describing their research process. Research papers, artistic projects, or even videos were eligible for submission. The only qualification was that a project had to involve library research and had to have been completed in the last year.