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; a stipend of $800/year is provided as compensation for this work.

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.

We will be hosting a reception in the KC living room on September 14 from 4:30-5:30 p.m. for interested students to meet and talk further with the faculty members. Completed applications are due on Saturday, September 17 by 4 p.m. online. Faculty sponsors will choose their SRP students by September 26.

If you have questions, please contact either Dr. Ian MacInnes () or Starr Weaver () for more information.

Here is the (growing) list of projects available for 2016-2017:


There are projects available in the areas shown below. Clicking on the subject will take you directly to the position description.

Chemistry and Biochemistry
Communication Studies  
Geology - 2 projects
International Studies
Political Science
Relgious Studies




Dawn behavior of male and female House Wrens with Dr. Dale Kennedy and Dr. Doug White 

Project description: Much is known about dawn singing by male birds but little is known about early morning behavior of female birds.  In Summer 2016, we used audio recorders to obtain songs of male House Wrens at their nests during the incubation period (when females are sitting eggs in the nest).  Our automated recorders started one hour before sunrise and continued recording for one-half hour after sunrise.  We used iButtons™ (small, temperature data loggers) in nest cups to determine the incubation activity of females.  We are interested in the relationship between dawn singing by males and earliest time of nest leaving by incubating females.  Do females leave nests in the morning when males begin singing (around civil twilight, about 25 minutes before sunrise) or later (closer to sunrise)?  Do males change location during their early-morning singing and sing closer to the nest to “signal” females when it is light enough for them to leave their nests to forage (around sunrise)?.

SRP responsibilities: Our student research partner(s) would be responsible for working with us on audio files and learning to analyze vocalizations using Avisoft LabSAS, a sound analysis software program that creates a visual representation of vocalizations.  The SRP would also go through iButton™ records for female departure times and ambient temperatures on recording days.  The SRP(s) may be involved in other activities, such as creating and maintaining a spreadsheet of information, transferring some audio clips, and carrying out a literature search on related research projects.  We anticipate that the SRP(s) will present the results of the project at the Biology Research Symposium and perhaps at the Elkin Isaac Student Research Symposium in Spring 2017. 

Student qualifications: The SRP(s) should possess curiosity and interest in animal behavior and biology, be reliable, well-organized, and willing to observe and carefully transcribe many hours of vocalizations.  The SRP(s) should make this project a priority over extra-curricular events that arise in the semester.

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Synthesis and Characterization of Nucleic Acid Aptamers that Recognize Microbial Cell Surface Structures, with Dr. Chris Rohlman (chemistry)

Project description: The goal of my SRP research project is the biochemical synthesis of RNA and DNA based nucleic acid Aptamers.  These are nucleic acid polymers which recognize and bind specific molecular structures.  The target of these Aptamers are molecular structures found on the surface of infectious microbes.  This work will generate highly specific, stabilized nucleic acid molecules called “aptamers” (from the Latin aptus - fit, and Greek meros - part) that bind to the Aspergillus fungus surface to identify the common pathogenic species that effect patients , (A. fumigatus and A. flavus.) In the process it is expected that we will select aptamers that can be used to detect the abundant surface carbohydrate polymers, commonly found on the surface of multiple fungal pathogens, (1,3)- β-D-glucan and galactomannan, but it is also expected that aptamers will be identified that specifically recognize single fungal species through distinctive structural antigens displayed on the surface of the cells.  If successful these Aptamers could have significant utility as clinical diagnostic agents.  My lab carries out this research in collaboration with colleagues at the University of Michigan. Our lab is asking basic questions about nucleic acid structure and dynamics.  We use biological, chemical and biophysical methods to isolate, mark, track and characterize these small biomolecules.  

Responsibilities: The student will be responsible for carrying out chemical and biological experiments, recording data and observations in  laboratory notebook, meeting with the lab to discuss results and conducting searches of the scientific literature.

Qualifications: The student should have and interest in biological and chemical laboratory research and be able to work collaboratively with the faculty member and other lab members.

Designing and chemically synthesizing small molecules to manipulate biological systems with Dr. Craig Streu (biochemistry)
Project description: Work in the Streu group revolves around designing and chemically synthesizing small molecules to manipulate biological systems.  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!


The Dark Side of Personal Relationships with Dr. Bethany Mutter

Project Description:  This study is examining how people cope with difficult experiences in their lives. By assisting with this project, student(s) will gain experience recruiting participants for research, creating a large-scale survey using on line software, conducting research for a literature review, and basic data analysis experience with SPSS statistical software.

Responsibilities: Student(s) will be responsible for helping me with recruitment efforts for the project, creating a large-scale survey using on line software (the survey is already made, this will simply involve coping the survey from a word document into the survey software), conducting research for a literature review that will be used for writing manuscripts and presenting at conferences, and assistance with basic data analysis using SPSS statistical software (this is optional, only if student(s) is interested in learning about SPSS and how to analyze quantitative data using SPSS).

Qualifications: Student(s) must be motivated, reliable, and enthusiastic about learning. Must be able to work independently. No experience with research or SPSS is required.

Media Artifacts Research with Dr. Andy Boyan

Project Description: This project involves researching and cataloguing obsolete media artifacts such as records, film, video game consoles, video games, telegraphs, typewriters, and other obscure, and not-so-obscure media from the past. There will be handling of antique items, organizing, internet research, and typing.

Responsibilities: The student will confer with me on a set of media artifacts to research in a given week. The student will investigate each object for defects or damage, see how they work, and research their purpose and history online. The student will then write short summaries of each object (3-4 sentences each) as if it were for display in a museum. Occasionally this research may include items that have not yet been purchased. In this case the student will assist in the logistics of purchasing, shipping, and storing the artifacts.

Qualifications:  A passionate interest in music, film, and other media. The ability to write clear, concise text without grammatical errors. The ability to work on a variety of tasks and track progress across multiple sub-projects. Be an interesting person. Be willing to listen to the occasional tangent. Have an open mind to all genres of music, even if you prefer some over others.

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Bedrock Geology of the Black Hills with Dr. Beth Lincoln and Dr. Tim Lincoln

Description:  We are involved in a collaborative project to map the bedrock geology of a portion of the Black Hills of South Dakota.  As part of this project, during the academic year we study the samples collected in previous summers by analyzing their bulk chemistry using an x-ray fluorescence spectrometer and describing their textures and mineral assemblages using a petrographic microscope and we edit our map using geographic information software.  Assisting with this project will give the student researcher the opportunity to develop skills useful in geology and chemistry.

Responsibilities:  The student researcher will help with sample preparation for chemical and petrographic analysis.  This will include learning to slab, grind and fuse samples of rocks in preparation for x-ray fluorescence analysis, and working with the results of the analysis using spreadsheets and standard geologic software.  In addition, the student researcher may help prepare thin sections of rocks for microscopic examination and work with faculty on the preparation of a geologic map, using ESRI’s Arcmap software.

Qualifications:  No knowledge of specific software or lab techniques is required, but the student should be comfortable with computers, willing to learn to use a variety of pieces of equipment and careful with note-taking. Attention to detail and being handy are key to this work.

Paleontology Research and Collections Curation with Dr. William S. Bartels, Geological Sciences

Description:  The research partner will work in Dr. Bartels’ laboratory.  Research will be conducted on a variety of plant, invertebrate and vertebrate fossils from various locations and ages of North America.  

Responsibilities:  The research partner will learn and perform basic paleontological laboratory methods such as fossil preparation, conservation, identification, and cataloguing.  The student will also learn various scientific investigative procedures such as morphological character analysis, morphometrics (size and shape analysis), and systematic zoology.
Fossil collections to be worked on include: a vast collection of Devonian brachiopods with epibiont animals (corals, bryozoans, etc.) preserved on them; a very large collection of Pennsylvanian vascular plants (and other fossils) from the famous Mazon Creek locality in Illinois; and a variety of Eocene of turtles, lizards, snakes, and crocodylians from Wyoming.  

Qualifications:  The student should have an academic/career interest in paleontology.  The partner should be well-organized, dependable, be able to follow directions, and be able to work independently.  Great familiarity and experience with Excel is required as is neat handwriting.  Previous hands-on experience with fossils and museum procedures is highly desirable.

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History of the Mexican Midwest with Dr. Deborah Kanter

Project Description: I am completing a book entitled Chicago Católico: Making Parishes Mexican, 1920-80. Several mini-projects remain to be done. For example, work with household census data from 1930 & 1940, searching digital archive of Chicago newspapers, and checking bibliographic entries.
I am also starting a new research project about braceros (Mexican temporary workers) in Michigan and Ohio and Catholic outreach to them in c.1950-64. I have gathered 100+ letters from that time period. Cataloguing these documents will be a crucial first step as I move ahead with the project.

Responsibilities: The student research partner will read some background material to gain familiarity with my projects. Most of the work will be done on-line and the student will keep on-going records in Word and/or Excel. Research with the bracero-related documents will involve reading print-outs of hand-written letters, mostly in Spanish. The student researcher will keep an eye out for distinctive documents. Depending upon the student’s language skills, I may encourage the translation of a few letters into English.

Student Qualifications: Ability to read Spanish is required. Curiosity about the history of Chicago and the Midwest desired. A willingness to take direction and work independently. Attention to detail is crucial.

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Bibliographic Research in U.S.-East Asian Relations with Dr. Midori Yoshii

Project DescriptionOne student is asked to collaborate in bibliographical research of recent scholarship in the field of U.S. relations with East Asia and the Pacific. We will explore academic publication such as books, journal articles, book chapters, collections of documents and websites to create a database. 

Qualifications: The work requires diligence, ability to work independently, and basic computer skills. Someone who can pay attention to details would be ideal. No prior knowledge of the Asia-Pacific region is required for this work.

Responsibilities: Student’s main responsibility is collecting bibliographical information online and organizing it in a specific format.

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Michigan Human Trafficking Task Force Blog with Dr. Carrie Walling

Project Description and Responsibilities: The student will assist me with editing responsibilities for a blog I manage for the Michigan Human Trafficking Taskforce called Voices for Change (see ).  The student will have an opportunity to help develop content for blogs, to edit blogs submitted by members of the task force, monitor news and legislation about human trafficking in Michigan and to identify online resources useful for anti-trafficking activists. This student will also help to develop communication materials and develop web content for the political science department webpage.

Qualifications: I am looking for a student research partner who is interested in learning more about human rights and anti-trafficking efforts in the state of Michigan.  The student should be comfortable working with blogspot or have other experience working with websites or electronic media.  Previous experience in blogging is a benefit but not necessarily required.  The student should be organized and self-motivated and able to work well independently but still have room in their schedule to meet with me on a regular basis.  The student should have good written and oral communication skills and be willing to learn new things.  The student should be reliable and have good interpersonal skills.  Attention to detail and thoroughness when completing tasks is especially desired.  The student must maintain professional integrity and be willing to learn how the protect the rights of trafficking survivors and be able to be responsible with personal information.  Students who are interested in communications, social media, sociology, political science or careers servicing the health and welfare of vulnerable populations are especially encouraged to apply.  A short writing sample and reference will be required as part of the interview process.

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The Psychology of C.A.R.E with Dr. Andrea Francis & Dr. Mareike Wieth

Description:The Creativity, Cognition, and Education Research Laboratory at Albion College, supervised by Drs. Andrea Francis and Mareike Wieth, has been investigating the relationship between cognitive processes, Creativity, Attributional styles, Resilience, and Empathy. Current projects include an investigation of children’s attributional styles, different cognitive approaches to increasing empathy in college students, the relationship between memory and resilience, and creativity development.

Responsibilities:Responsibilities will involve assisting us in collecting, entering, 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. 

Qualifications: It would be best if the student had an interest in one or more of the following academic areas: psychology, education, English and/ or neuroscience. 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 of these analytical disciplines.

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Religious Studies Podcast with Dr. Ronney Mourad

Project Description:  Over the course of the fall 2016 semester (while I’m on sabbatical), I will research, record, edit, and publish a religious studies podcast episode every two weeks. The format will include my own reflections on contemporary issues in religion of widespread interest combined with interviews of scholars whose work relates to the topics of the episodes. If things go well in the fall, I hope to continue the podcast in spring 2017, at a pace of one episode per month.

Responsibilities:  The student research partner may be asked to help with the following tasks:

  • editing audio files using Audacity software
  • transcribing audio interviews
  • reading and commenting on episode scripts
  • managing website content


  • interest in religious topics
  • interest in podcasting
  • knowledge of how to edit audio files or willingness to learn
  • knowledge of how to manage website content or willingness to learn

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