SURE scholars present summer research
Students participating in the Summer Undergraduate Research Experiences program spent eight weeks on campus collaborating with faculty on a variety of projects.
A total of 47 undergraduate students presented research Friday morning in McKinnon Hall as part of SURE day, setting a new record for the program.
SURE, which stands for Summer Undergraduate Research Experiences, highlights undergraduate research and gives students a chance to collaborate with faculty members.
“All the students here have participated in an eight-week long summer intensive research program one-on-one with a faculty member,” said Paul Miller, professor of exercise science and director of Undergraduate Research and Intellectual Climate Initiatives. “Today is the culminating day where they get to share the fruits of their labor with the campus community.”
The research varied between students. Some chose a more traditional route in terms of gathering the information and in how they plan to pursue presenting it, including in academic journals. Others chose a more creative route, including Hanna Elmgren ’16. Combining her love of creative writing with her Women’s Studies minor, Elmgren’s work focuses on issues of gender and sexuality, culminating in an original fiction piece that will be about 50-pages long.
“I’m not coming into it as theorist, which is what a lot of people are doing here. For me, it’s more about ‘how do these issues affect the characters,’” she said, although she had an outline of the project on a poster board in McKinnon Hall. Her faculty mentor, Tita Ramirez, associate professor of English, has served as a support system, helping Elmgren brainstorm and set deadlines.
For Miles Williams ’15, a Human Services major, the inspiration for research came from a senior seminar class. While discussing different forms of therapy in class, Williams jokingly asked Judy Esposito, associate professor of human service studies, if hip-hop music had ever been used as therapy. Esposito became Williams’ faculty mentor. She challenged him to do some research on the topic and apply for SURE. When he did and discovered that the practice was quickly gaining traction, he decided to get more serious about the topic.
Williams’ project, which focuses on the influence of hip-hop on African-American males, was designed as a six-week study using elements of hip-hop culture, including dance, art and music. The study examines whether the elements would affect the cultural identity of the youth taking part. Although the study is currently in week four of six, Williams is hopeful about his results.
“I think that it’s going to be really interesting to see what we find,” he said. “At the end of the day, I think I’ll definitely be excited with the results.”
Founded in 1997, the SURE program pays top Elon undergraduate researchers a stipend of at least $3,000 to spend eight weeks on campus each summer collaborating with a faculty mentor on emerging research questions. Projects supported by this program exhibit the potential for scholarly publication or presentation.
The summer schedule provides a concentrated time to focus on a project, which enables more undergraduate students to be exposed to research.
“We have a heightened level of intellectual engagement on campus,” Miller said. “Every year, I think that we have more people, the quality of the product gets better every year. We’re already leaders across the academy in this pursuit. I just expect us to be on this upward trajectory for a long time.”