Emory Report
July 23, 2007
Volume 59, Number 35

Emory Report homepage  

July 23, 2007
SIRE students learn art of research and teamwork in summer program

by Amber Jackson

Participants of Scholarly Inquiry and Research at Emory stand in the kitchen of their summer housing trying to figure out the best way to cook spaghetti sauce. Bella Desai, a junior, suggests that they heat all the ingredients of the sauce in the microwave. This suggestion causes a roar of laughter from everyone in the kitchen. From melted plastic in the oven to burnt bread, the SIRE scholars have had their share of mishaps in the kitchen, but the lab is where they cook up their best work.

The SIRE Summer Research Partner Program and Emory’s Transforming Community Project selected eight undergraduates to research with faculty members on projects involving the humanities and social sciences. SIRE scholars can also choose to work on their own independent project or take summer school classes in conjunction with their faculty member’s research.

The program aims to create community and a support system for students while they are researching. The undergraduates live together in on-campus housing and have lunch and dinner together once a week. The program also includes a variety of speakers and field trips that takes the students behind the scenes of scholarly research.

According to Joanne Brzinski, SIRE director and associate dean for undergraduate education, the purpose of the program is to give students in the social sciences and humanities an opportunity to work closely with a faculty members as a full-time researcher and to develop research skills. SIRE offers undergraduates an opportunity to participate more fully in meaningful research early on in their academic career and learn firsthand what research is like in their field of study. Rising seniors can incorporate their research into their honors thesis and get a head start in the summer. SIRE programs also continue throughout the year and can expand to research abroad.

The focus of current scholars’ projects range from the trans-Atlantic slave trade to the political philosopher Edmund Burke. Courtney Mauge, a rising junior in Emory College, is researching the correlation between prenatal stress and later aggression in children with Associate Professor of Psychology Patricia Brennan. Mauge is taking summer classes also, so she does not have much down time this summer. Yet Mauge said she is grateful for SIRE and all the opportunities it has brought forth to her. “The SIRE program has become a gateway to meet many important people in Emory that I would not have been able to meet before. Now I feel like I have been handed many tools to not only make my research better, but my career at Emory as well,” she said.

The Transforming Community Project, led by Director Jody Usher and Associate Professor of History Leslie Harris, is sponsoring two scholars this summer that are independently working on projects that are geared toward the goal of promoting community in a diverse setting.

Meg McDermott, a rising senior, is researching Latinos at Emory and the history of Latino recruitment on campus. “It’s an issue that is timely and rests comfortably with the agenda of TCP since they want to talk about all races at Emory,” said McDermott, who worked with Usher to develop this research topic. Latinos make up about 4 percent of the population at Emory, and research pertaining to them is limited. McDermott and the TCP hope to change that. “It’s not an issue that the University is currently addressing to the extent that some people would like to see it addressed,” said McDermott.

Despite the intricate research that the scholars are involved in this summer, many of them cite cooking the weekly group dinners as one of their biggest challenges.

The purpose of these dinners is to promote teamwork and the scholars have the right idea: When ask who melted the plastic in the oven, Mauge replied, “It was a joint effort. We all pitched in and did it together.”