What do physics, sociology, and theatre have in common?
Physics, sociology, and theatre, along with a handful of other diverse majors, were all represented by the 40 undergraduate students selected for the 2016 Student-Faculty Collaborative Research Program (SFCRP) at Rollins. These students were funded to conduct six to eight weeks of intensive research over the summer aiming to create and publish a scholarly article summarizing their findings.
Each student researcher and their faculty member submitted extensive proposals early in the Spring 2016 semester elaborating on what kind of research they hoped to conduct. Projects ranged from theme park attraction design, the study of galaxy formations, to analyzing the impact of liberal arts schools in the broader world.
I was selected with 11 other theatre majors to conduct historical and dramaturgical research with Dr. David Charles on the British aristocracy during World War I. The research coincided with the preparation of the upcoming production of Upton Abbey: An Improvised Comedy of English Manors which will be on the Annie Russell stage Nov. 11-19.
Many of the research projects conducted this summer were related to the natural sciences. Ly Malespina ’18, a physics major, studied with Dr. Christopher Fuse on the formation of lenticular galaxies in different environments. They were attempting to find a difference between the formations of isolated, group, and cluster galaxies. Malespina is presenting her findings at the American Astronomical Society in January and is working towards publication in the American Astrophysical Journal.
Other research projects were more liberal arts focused. Shelly Kurland ’18, a sociology and philosophy major on the pre-law track, researched with Dr. Ryan Musgrave on the impact of liberal arts education in the 21st century. Over the summer, she presented her research at the Summer Institute in American Philosophy in Oregon, and has since been developing an article for publication in a philosophy journal.
When asked about her experience, Kurland noted that, “the summer research program is extremely beneficial to both the student and the professor and is an exceptional opportunity that a student may not otherwise have.”
As a theatre major, I agree completely—the ability to conduct graduate-level research in a liberal arts field is an extraordinarily unique opportunity.
Malespina added that the SFCRP is unique because “it’s easier to make bigger, bolder mistakes that will turn into learning experiences, simply because you’re already comfortable with your lab and professor.”
For students interested in conducting research next summer, the best piece of advice is to talk to your professors. I was lucky that my professor approached the theatre department with his proposal, but many SFCRP projects are inspired by student interest. Rollins has dozens of fantastic resources, and the diversity in scholarship represented in this year’s SFCRP is evidence towards the incredible advantages that a liberal arts education has to offer.