Dozens of St. Thomas undergraduate students spent their summer months doing hands-on research on an incredibly diverse range of subjects.

St. Thomas’ Undergraduate Research Opportunities Program provides a wide range of grant funding, so students are paid professionals for their work and research. This year, 42 Young Scholars, three community-based researchers and two sustainability scholars from 13 different majors dove deeper into their respective fields.

The Newsroom caught up with four of them to find out more about what they studied and how it’s benefiting their academic careers.

Alyssa Eggersgluss

Title: Expanding the Boundaries of Sound in Music Education

Major: Vocal K-12 Music Education

Mentor: AnnMarie Thomas

Grant: Young Scholars

How would you describe what you’re researching this summer?

This summer, I have been exploring ways to engage with music focusing on touch and sight rather than sound. To do this, I’ve created five workshops that were each conducted twice at the Minnesota Children’s Museum based on the following research question: What effect does physical and visual engagement with music have on motivation to participate in music? My goal is to create usable resources to share with music educators encouraging them to teach music in a variety of ways that are accessible and enjoyable for a diverse group of students.

What is the most interesting thing you’ve found so far in your research?

Because the Minnesota Children’s Museum encourages interactive play for children and their parents, both children and their legal guardians were test subjects in this research. The most interesting and perhaps unexpected outcome of this research thus far has been the survey results from adult participants. There has been an overall increase in motivation to participate in music for all participants, but the results show that guardians were more motivated to participate in music because of these workshops than their children were!

What has been the most valuable part of having funded research be part of your undergraduate experience at St. Thomas?

 This research was inspired by my work with Metro Deaf School and Minnesota State Academy for the Deaf through the University of St. Thomas’ Playful Learning Lab. Before this summer, I was unsure of whether or not I would be able to continue my work in the Deaf community after college. The Young Scholar’s Research grant gave me the financial support to learn more about the Deaf community and ways to stay involved, as well as improve my educational techniques to help me become a more inclusive music teacher. It has given me a platform to explore and develop accessible music practices that will hopefully encourage students who perhaps have felt unwelcome in a traditional music classroom to participate in music!

What have been the biggest benefits of getting to work closely with an academic adviser like you have this summer

Working closely with Dr. AnnMarie Thomas is and has been nothing short of a blessing. Many people are surprised to hear that a music education student is working with a business and engineering professor. However, this relationship directly supports this research projects main goals; inclusivity and accessibility. It has become much clearer through my work with her and the collaborators she’s connected me with that interdisciplinary studies and diverse perspectives are some of the best ways to create welcoming spaces. Having such a brilliant advisor who specializes in fields I’m less familiar with made this project significantly more comprehensive. I’m endlessly grateful for the time and effort she puts into supporting my ambitions.

Megan Lindloff

Title: Does Instagram Mean Instant Anxiety? Social Media, Biased Attention and Body Image

Major: Neuroscience

Faculty Mentors: Gregory Robinson-Riegler, Psychology and Sarah Hankerson, Neuroscience

Grant: Young Scholars

How would you describe what you’re researching this summer?

This summer I have been researching the effects of Instagram on women’s body image and visual attentional bias. I show women one of three Instagram feeds, and have them answer survey questions about body image, self esteem and anxiety. Then they look at some images on a computer screen while their eye movements are tracked.

What is the most interesting thing you’ve found so far in your research?

The most interesting thing that I’ve found so far is that women who looked at the Instagram feed with images of thin women who meet conventional beauty standards had a significant increase in their levels of body image anxiety afterwards. Women who looked at the “body positive” Instagram feed with images of a more diverse group of women of different shapes and sizes actually had a decrease in their levels of body image anxiety.

What has been the most valuable part of having funded research be part of your undergraduate experience at St. Thomas?

This experience has been very valuable because I have been able to design a project on a topic that I am very interested in and passionate about, and further develop my skills as a researcher.

What have been the biggest benefits of getting to work closely with an academic adviser like you have this summer? 

One of the benefits of getting to work closely with an academic adviser is that not only can they guide you on your project, but you can also talk with them and get advice on graduate school, career paths, and just life!

Madeline Peters

Title: 9/11: A Catalyst for Young Adult Dystopian Literature

Major: English

Faculty Mentor: Kanishka Chowdhury, English

Grant: Young Scholars

How would you describe what you’re researching this summer?

I am researching the connection between young adult (YA) dystopian novels and our post-9/11 society. The novels I’m discussing include The Hunger Games series by Suzanne Collins, Divergent series by Veronica Roth, and The Testing series by Joelle Charbonneau. The United States greatly changed after 9/11, both practically (airport security, construction codes, etc.) and ideologically (nationalism, international relations, etc.). Young adult dystopian novels tackle post-9/11 topics in a way that readers can see their own society reflected within it, without being a perfect mirror of the world they live in. Since 9/11, America has felt uneasy, whether that is due to international threats or internal issues, and these books provide an outlet to work through those anxieties.

I have focused on three main topics: security and surveillance; censorship and propaganda; and authoritarian rule. To do this, I find instances within the novels that relate to these topics (anywhere from a conversation to a scene or an entire plot point), and from there, it is explaining the importance of these instances and connecting them back to post-9/11 society. English research is different from scientific research in that there are no experiments to run or data points to collect. It is based in textual evidence and making connections between the text and a given topic, so my research has been centered in reading the novels, researching, and writing an essay that compiles the research with the ideas I have formulated along the way.

What is the most interesting thing you’ve found so far in your research?

The idea for this project has been floating around my head since my sophomore year in high school. I always knew the YA dystopian novels formed some critique of our world, but I never had the opportunity to investigate it. Through researching this summer, I have found that there are connections between these books and society. I was able to research 9/11 more thoroughly, which allowed the themes within these books to be seen more clearly. So, the most interesting thing has been researching, collecting the evidence and seeing how it all fits together. Piecing everything together has been the most rewarding, since it shows there is value to this type of analysis.

What has been the most valuable part of having funded research be part of your undergraduate experience at St. Thomas?

Being able to work on a research project at St. Thomas has been enlightening. I was able to strengthen my writing by working on an essay that was longer than any I had been assigned before. On top of improving my academic abilities, I was able to work on a project that I am passionate about. Most importantly, though, conducting research has shown me that my major of choice is worthwhile and that there are options for the future. Research opens the door for graduate school and different careers , and it’s important to recognize where I can go in the future.

What have been the biggest benefits of getting to work closely with an academic adviser like you have this summer? 

I have loved having a mentor throughout the research process. Dr. Kanishka Chowdhury has helped me since the start – even when the project was just a small idea. He led me through the proposal process and has offered incredible insight during the research and writing process. I think it is beneficial for undergrad students, especially first-time researchers, to have an adviser to guide them. Research can be daunting, so having an experienced mentor on your side eases the anxiety of starting this type of project.

Markku Makinen

Title: Dakota Land Before the University of St. Thomas

Major: History

Faculty Mentor: Michael Klein, Justice and Peace Studies

Grant: Community-Based Research

How would you describe what you’re researching this summer? I spent this summer trying to understand the Dakota history of the land St. Thomas is on. The Dakota people are the original inhabitants of much of Minnesota and St. Thomas is close to the very center of their world. I wanted to know more about what life was like here and what the land looked like before it was developed as we see it today. The intention of this project was to make more people here aware of the land they live on and to practice truth telling to allow for us as a university to better understand our role in it all.

What is the most interesting thing you’ve found so far in your research?
The most interesting thing I’ve found this summer is a map from the early 1800s that clearly shows the stream that once ran through our campus, something I haven’t been able to find anywhere else.

What has been the most valuable part of having funded research be part of your undergraduate experience at St. Thomas?
Having the opportunity to do funded research through the university has allowed me to focus on a topic without any distractions and to have the freedom to explore it in my own way. Classes are great because they give you skills, but with research I’ve been able to go at my own pace and practice learning in a way that is both stimulating and comfortable.

What have been the biggest benefits of getting to work closely with an academic adviser like you have this summer?
I’ve never worked on a research project before, so having a professor who has done it many times before has been great. He’s given me a lot of guidance through the process while also allowing me to go about it in the way that I feel is best. It has been an amazing experience because I’ve taken his classes a couple times so I felt very comfortable working with him over the summer and it made it really easy to work together through this process. He has also provided me with a lot of resources and directions to explore, that I would’ve otherwise been completely oblivious to. Having a faculty adviser is invaluable to doing research while still an undergraduate student.

Print Friendly, PDF & Email

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.