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Students perform "Women of Consequence," which tells the stories of the lives and contributions of several African American women of the 1800s--the subjects of the students' summer research projects.
If safety goggles
and lab coats are all that pop into your mind when you hear the word
"research," you really need to get to the University of Delaware's next
Undergraduate Research and Service Scholars Celebratory Symposium.
The eighth annual event on Aug. 10 had record numbers of
undergrads mixing it up on all four floors of the Patrick Harker
Interdisciplinary Science and Engineering (ISE) Lab, talking about their
projects -- everything from algae blooms to the Zika virus, from the
solar wind to the surface of the Delaware Memorial Bridge, from the
beliefs of a young man on Wilmington's West Side to molecular
interactions related to Alzheimer's disease.
The work of almost 500 students from more than two dozen universities
was represented in posters, oral presentations, displays, even in the
dance of "Women of Consequence."
Getting into research and service as an undergraduate opens doors some students say they never considered before.
"I didn't know I was interested in urban bikeshare projects until I
worked on this," said Olivia Rogal, a public policy major, during her
oral presentation. "Now it's something I'm passionate about."
The growth of the program makes good sense to its primary convener,
Iain Crawford, faculty director of the Office of Undergraduate Research
and Experiential Learning and now president-elect of the Council on Undergraduate Research, a national organization with members representing more than 900 colleges and universities.
"UD was an early adopter of undergraduate research in the 1980s, and
it has a long history and profound faculty culture of encouraging
undergraduates in research," said Crawford. "And that continues to gain
nationally and internationally as one of the leading best practices in
Through the lens of arts-based research, a group of UD students explored the lives of African American women from the 1800s, women who contributed to the political landscape of America and found ways to have their voices heard even as they faced barriers to serving as political leaders and advocates.
Student scholar/artists in the "Women of Consequence: Ambitious, Ancillary, Anonymous" project spent the summer conducting research on some of these women, who included writers, teachers, activists and poets. The students, working with Lynnette Overby, professor of theatre and deputy director of UD's Community Engagement Initiative, and Gabrielle Foreman, Ned Allen Professor of English and professor of history and of Africana studies, presented the results of their research at the symposium.
They also performed a dance that included original choreography, music, poetry and visual images to illuminate the stories of the women whose lives they studied.
Overby described "Women of Consequence" as a work in progress that will continue to be developed and performed in coming months.
Move this whole section up, swapping places with the section above it.
Tedone (left), book and library conservator at Winterthur Museum, talks
with Claire Martin, an art conservation and art history major, about
materials from Carton Moore Parks book An Alphabet of Animals.
Claire Martin, a rising UD senior from Buffalo, New York, said she
was a bit nervous when she started work on irreplaceable materials at
Winterthur Museum, such as the dust jacket from Carton Moore Park's An Alphabet of Animals.
The book and related drawings are part of a collection recently donated
to the University of Delaware Library by Victorian literature expert
and UD Senior Research Fellow Mark Samuels Lasner.
"It's not often that undergrads have a chance like this," Martin said, "and I am thankful to Mark for that opportunity."
Martin, who has a double major in art conservation and art history,
worked with her adviser Vicki Cassman, associate professor of art
conservation, and was supervised by Melissa Tedone, book and library
conservator at Winterthur Museum.
Such materials are not placed in anyone's hands recklessly, of
course, but Tedone had met Martin during a book conservation course she
taught at UD.
"I was very impressed by the students," she said. "They were
energetic, engaged and their work ethic was amazing. I was so impressed
with what they accomplished and that is where I met Claire. When I was
asked if I would supervise her, I said, 'Of course.'"
In addition to stabilizing the dust jacket, which was deteriorating,
Martin's project -- her senior thesis -- includes research into Moore
Park's life and work.
"Claire Martin gave a wonderful presentation on her work, which is
both a research project on a largely unknown (and somewhat mysterious)
artist as well as a practicum in conservation work, Samuels Lasner
said. "Making the collection available to students is a major reason why
its here at UD."
The daylong symposium drew students from more than 24 institutions
and support from 20 community partners, including nonprofit
organizations, music schools, four Delaware municipalities -- Laurel,
Leipsic, Seaford and Wilmington -- and three major regional medical
facilities, Christiana Health Care, Fox Chase Cancer Center and Nemours
That was impressive to Hal White, professor emeritus of chemistry and
biochemistry, who was on hand to see what students were up to.
"Involvement with so many institutions -- it's really important," he said. "They're finding ways to expand opportunities."
Scores of faculty mentors and graduate students also support this
effort, helping students grasp the rigors, protocols and potential of
original research. Some shepherd multiple students and in that category,
Mark Mirotznik, professor of electrical and computer engineering, led
the pack with 12.
"I really enjoy working with these incredibly bright students,"
Mirotznik said, "and they did some very cool stuff in a short time."
Article by Beth Miller and Ann Manser; photos by Evan Krape, Kathy F. Atkinson and Doug Baker