Student Research: Highlights from a FURSCA Summer

This summer, 40 Albion College students from multiple academic disciplines developed an independent research project, and presented their findings, through grants received from The Foundation for Undergraduate Research, Scholarship, and Creative Activity (FURSCA).

"For many students, FURSCA research will lead to national presentations and publications," Ian MacInnes, English professor and FURSCA director, says. "These can help them enroll in graduate programs and succeed in their fields."

MacInnes says FURSCA helps students plan and study independently, and to problem solve over the course of their summer research. That independent project management experience is a hallmark of the liberal arts, he says.

"I was impressed with this group of students," he says. "The quality of their work, and particularly their presentations, was very high."

Here are six projects from this summer's FURSCA session.

Soe Yu Nwe, '13: Sculpture

Soe Yu Nwe, '13, studied sculpture and culture during her FURSCA research, an ongoing, two-year project.

"All of the work I am doing during FURSCA will make up the portfolio I need in applying for graduate schools," Nwe says.

Nwe recently won the Michigan Ceramic Art Association's 2012 Scholarship Award. See more of Nwe's work at the FURSCA blog.


Aaron Hiday, '13: River Ecology

Aaron Hiday, '13, has studied turbidity in Rice Creek for the past two years with professor of geology Thom Wilch.

"FURSCA has given me the opportunity to get two summers of field experience," Hiday says. "In the geology world, that's big."

Hiday was honored for his research by winning the Best Student Poster Award at the 2011 Geological Society of America Annual Meeting. He hopes to write a departmental thesis on his research this year.

"All of this will hopefully add up to put me in a good position to get a good job after I graduate," Hiday says.


Bian Wang, '13: Nature Documentary

Bian Wang, '13, developed a documentary of flora and fauna at the Whitehouse Nature Center -- a blend of the arts and sciences.

"I have always been a big fan of nature and wildlife documentaries," Wang says. "This project will give me a precious first-hand experience in the field and editing video, and it's also beneficial to the college."

Wang's finished documentary will run an hour in length. She hopes it will promote the nature center to potential visitors.


Anna Miller, '14: Botany

Anna Miller, '14, collected and cataloged vascular plants at the Ott Biological Preserve with the help of biology professor Dan Skean.

The Ott Biological Preserve was Albion College's former nature center. Dr. William Gilbert conducted a survey of the vascular plants at the preserve from 1949-1956. Miller's project updates Gilbert's inventory. She collected plant species that were not documented by Gilbert, as well. Those plants will become new specimens in the Albion College herbarium.

"I will hopefully be going to graduate school to study botany in a year," Miller says, "and getting the basics on field botany, systematics, and identification is very important to understand when going in this field."

Miller was one of two Albion students to be honored by the Undergraduate Student Awards in Environmental Chemistry from the Division of Environmental Chemistry of the American Chemical Society (ACS)


Matt Gallick, '13, and Chad Bousley, '14: Music Composition

Matt Gallick, '13, and Chad Bousley, '14, studied musical composition with music professor James Ball. Bousley's project involved composing three original jazz tunes, each in a different genre.

"My music theory knowledge has really improved over this summer," Bousley says. "And it has been so much fun learning about the different styles of jazz and tinkering with my own etude ideas."

Bousley and Gallick also performed with Dr. Ball and several other students in a weekly jazz jam session.

"Playing music with other musicians is such a great way to learn and grow as a musician," Bousley says. "You develop skills that you can't learn by practicing the instrument by yourself."


Andrew Franklin, '12, Haley Plasman, '13, and Anna Ward, '14: Invertebrates and Pollution

Anna Ward, '14, worked with Andrew Franklin, '12, and Haley Plasman, '13, studying the effects of pollution on macroinvertebrates in Rice Creek. For her portion of the project, Ward learned what it meant to be field biologist.

The teamwork aspect of their project made collecting samples and analyzing the data easier, Ward says.

"We each had our own aspect of the project, and we helped each other too," says Ward. "It was much easier to sample from the creek with the team, and there was always someone to help."