Sixty-four students showed off their work at the Nott Memorial Tuesday, the culmination of their Sophomore Research Seminars.
“I was at first apprehensive about taking part in a large research project,” said Keven Donohue ’13, who is interested in pursuing an interdepartmental major in math and economics. “But the research process was broken down into several steps that allowed me to gather information and organize it in a logical manner.”
Donohue studied “Drugs and Cultures” with professor Joyce Madancy this term. His project addressed how certain wars, particularly the Civil War and Vietnam War, altered the nature of opiate use and perceptions of opiate use in the United States.
Union’s Sophomore Research Seminars, small, content-rich classes, are designed by instructors from throughout the College to help students learn research and writing skills. The SRS is a key required component of Union’s General Education.
In addition to Madancy’s course on “Drugs and Cultures,” Tuesday’s poster session featured students from “The Automobile in American Culture,” with Brad Lewis; “Cuba and the Cuban Revolution,” with Teresa Meade; and “Race, Gender and Class in the American Civil War Era,” with Andrea Foroughi.
“The SRS allows students to dive into a research project and learn about the construction of an argument, the critical analysis of sources and the compilation of valid evidence,” Madancy said.
The poster session, she noted, comes between the rough draft of the research paper and the final version. “It allows students to present their work verbally and to think of visual means of organizing their evidence. They can also see what other students are working on.”
Christine Wong ’13, a pre-med physics major in Madancy’s course, researched the legalization of caffeine and the illegal status of amphetamines.
“I wanted to know if caffeine and amphetamines were similar when it came to how they affected the body and why one was legal and the other was not. I found they were very similar in their effect on the brain. I concluded that caffeine was legal due to social and economic issues, not merely because it was safer to use.
“Doing the work was difficult at times, but it was completely worth it,” Wong said. “I got to research what I was interested in, which made it enjoyable.”
For Melanny Dominguez ’13, who is leaning toward a major in political science and a minor in Spanish, the research seminar opened a window on a new world, that of racism in post-revolutonary Cuba.
“It all started with a book assignment,” said Dominguez, citing “Reyita: The Life of a Black Cuban Woman in the Twentieth Century,” a biography of Maria de los Reyes Castillo Bueno by her daughter, Daisy Rubiera Castillo. “This book was amazing. It talks about the struggles Reyita faced because of her Afro-Cuban descent.”
Dominguez also was taken with a second book, “Pichon: Race and Revolution in Castro’s Cuba,” a 2008 memoir by Carlos Moore.
“Everything about Cuba was new to me,” she said. “I really enjoyed reading these primary sources. Their stories were intriguing and powerful.”
To see video highlights of some of the Sophomore Research Seminar presentations, click here.