Tuesday, May 15, 2012

Students begin Summer Research projects

Two dozen Randolph College students are going to spend this summer investigating such puzzles as how to make better puppets for the show Avenue Q, how to map all the motions of a roller coaster, and how to better measure the amount of oxygen in water.

The 2012 Summer Research Program kicked off Monday with a luncheon where students and faculty members introduced their projects. Peter Sheldon, a physics professor and director of the new Center for Student Research, said this is the program’s largest year, with 24 student researchers, 14 faculty members, and one high school student who will attend Randolph this fall.

Although students will spend most of the next eight weeks working closely with faculty members, there will be numerous meetings like Monday’s opener where they can meet together to learn about the progress of their research or to hear from speakers who will teach about the research process.

“The Summer Research Program is not just about your projects,” Sheldon said. “It’s about a community of scholars coming together regularly.”

Here is a list of the projects students and faculty members are undertaking this summer:


  • Ashley Peisher ’15, Emily Sirney ’14, and Sonja Cirilo ’15 will work with theatre professor Mace Archer to produce Tracy Lett’s Bug in a motel room (the play’s setting) or a similar space. “We are going to see if the audience needs aesthetic distance to enjoy a show, or if you can be right up there in the action,” said Sirney.
  • Bill Bare, a chemistry professor, and Mimansha Joshi ’14 will research ways to use luminescent substances to measure oxygen levels in water with greater reliability.
  • Tatiana Gilstrap, a physics and environmental science professor and an earthquake expert, will study the the aftershocks of the earthquake that struck Virginia in August 2011. Chiamaka Asinugo ’14 and Nam Hoang ’15 will work with her to map the aftershocks using available seismic data.
  • Education professors Peggy Schimmoeller and Robbi Parker will work with Dominique Rose ’14 on a project that aims to measure the effectiveness of the College’s teacher education programs.
  • Bunny Goodjohn, an English professor, and Lauren Dowdle ’13 will attempt to make better tests for English skills assessments.
  • Brooke McKelvey '14 and Babatunde Ajao '15 are working with Ken Parks, a theatre professor, will build puppets for the College's production of Avenue Q, which will take the stage in February 2013. They will experiment with ways to make puppets more intuitive for actors to use on stage.
  • Biology professor Adam Houlihan, Laura Word ’13, and Michael Taylor ’13 will focus their research on chickens in the Randolph College Organic Garden. They will attempt to determine whether ground vegetation influences a chicken’s health and egg quality.
  • Marc Ordower, a mathematics professor, and Zhe Zhang ’15 will explore the solutions to several complicated mathematical questions.
  • Five students will work with Katrin Schenk, a physics professor, on two different projects. Zahra Adahman ’14, Chris Hollingsworth ’15, and Alex Kwakye ’15 will run experiments with Schenk to learn about the ultrasonic calls that mouse pups make to their mothers. Jim Kwon ’14 and Thawda Aung ’13 will continue developing ways to use cell phones to monitor Alzheimer’s patients.
  • Beth Schwartz, a psychology professor, and Megan Hageman ’13 will continue the Summer Research project they began last year, investigating academic integrity and also developing a proposal for a book about student success in college.
  • Tim Slesinger ’14 will help with Sheldon’s ongoing research regarding the physics of roller coasters.
  • Laura-Gray Street, an English professor, plans to complete a novel with the assistance of Marisa Mendez ’13. They will study the collaborative writing and editing process as well as compile information on the process of getting published to create a guide for future Randolph students.
  • What prompts people to buy unhealthy food? Psychology professor Holly Tatum and Zara Sibtain ’13 will study the factors that influence food purchase choices in a Lynchburg food desert.
  • Schimmoeller, Sheldon, and Gilstrap will also add to their ongoing research about how science education is affected by the use of hands-on lessons. They will hold a program to teach educators about hands-on teaching methods and continue a week-long summer science camp for local children.
Watch the Randolph College blog for updates on these projects later this summer.