Seven SESP Students Win Summer Research Grants

Seven SESP Students Win Summer Research Grants

Seven School of Education and Social Policy undergraduates received Summer Undergraduate Research Grants from the Office of the Provost. Michal Boyars, Gillian Feldmeth, Alexa Herzog, Alyssa Lloyd, Heather Ma, Joshua Parish and Adriana Stanovici will pursue independent research projects this summer in the United States and abroad.

Michal Boyars

Michal Boyars, a human development and psychological services major, is researching “How Do Infants Begin to Tease Apart Nouns from Verbs? Distinguishing ‘I Want to Fly’ from ‘I Want the Fly.’” Boyars’s work with Sandra Waxman at the Project on Child Development will attempt to discover how infants learn less tangible words such as verbs and what types of cues infants need.

“In learning more about language acquisition, I hope to understand how educators can improve programming for young children,” says Boyars. “This goal, and my own research, is impacted by my time in SESP in three ways. First, SESP conveys the importance of interdisciplinary approaches to research, which has proven essential to understanding the trends we see in infant learning. Second, my practicum experience emphasized the importance of gathering qualitative data alongside quantitative data, and helped me practice good habits in acquiring both types of data. Third, the close relationships students can build with SESP professors has helped me become comfortable discussing research with an expert.” 

Gillian Feldmeth

Gillian Feldmeth, a junior in social policy, is pursuing a project called “The Disconnect between Policy and the Public Addressing Poor Reproductive Health: An Exploration of Post-Abortive Medical Care for Women in Buenos Aires.”

“As the title suggests, abortion is a serious issue in Argentina, in that there is a lack of policy initiatives to address a very serious public health need. Though abortion is illegal, hospitals see an unprecedented number of women seeking post-abortive care from either clandestine or self-induced abortion,” says Feldmuth. Her study will examine post-abortive care options, the ways women learn of services and the social barriers to medical treatment. Her faculty adviser is Sarah Rodriguez of Medical Humanities and Bioethics.

“The research directly relates to what I have learned in SESP by delving into the discrepancies that often exist between societal needs and governmental responses and working towards understanding possible causes and solutions to this disconnect,” Feldmuth explains.

Alexa Herzog

Alexa Herzog, a social policy major, will research “Prison Mental Health Programs: A Policy Investigation.” Her research will examine the policy histories of cost-effective, successful mental health programs for inmates in an effort to inform Cook County policy makers of program strategies that may be applied at Cook County Jail.

“This is extremely important because more Americans with mental health issues receive treatment in prisons and jails than in treatment centers or hospitals. Chicago is one of the most striking examples of the issue: Cook County Jail (CCJ) is one of the three largest inpatient psychiatric facilities in the country. The jail is overcrowded, and available mental health facilities have been deemed inadequate. Further, Chicago has plans to close six of its 12 mental health centers in May, which is expected to lead to an influx of mentally ill people to CCJ,” says Herzog. “My SESP coursework has been hugely influential in the development of my project. Her faculty adviser is Paul Arntson in Communication Studies.

Alyssa Lloyd

Alyssa Lloyd will examine the political and economic effects of the new carbon tax in Australia on small business owners. “Climate change is one of the most important issues the world is facing today, so learning how a measure to combat it such as a carbon tax will affect a country such as Australia will provide valuable insight for other nations considering how best to deal with climate change,” says Lloyd.

“My majors are social policy and international studies, so this research project will combine my interests in both these areas of study. I plan to use this experience to prepare me for a career working for an international nonprofit one day,” she adds. Her faculty adviser is Lynne Kiesling of the Economics Department.

Heather Ma

Heather Ma will research the role of a specific gene, CNTNAP2, in neuronal expression. “This gene has been implicated in neurological disorders such as Alzheimer's and schizophrenia, and analysis of the impact of this gene could be important in understanding how these diseases work,” says Ma.

“It may seem odd at first glance for a social policy major to be conducting biology research. However, I am also following the premed track (my concentration within social policy is actually health policy) and eventually hope to become a physician. As such, I hope my summer research will provide me with a challenging opportunity to think about science and help to contribute, if even in a small way, to the critical research being conducted on neurological disorders,” she says. Her faculty adviser is Peter Penzes of the Physiology Department.

Joshua Parish

Joshua Parish, a social policy major, will pursue an archival research project entitled “Wigmore's Research on Japanese Legal Documents: A Catalyst for Comparative Law.” John Wigmore, a former dean of the Northwestern law school in the early 20th century and one of the country's most influential legal scholars, is primarily recognized for his contributions to the Laws of Evidence. “However, Wigmore was lesser known for his work as a pioneer in America on the importance of comparative law — the comparative study of legal systems across countries and cultures,” says Parish. After graduating from Harvard Law School, Wigmore was a visiting professor at Keio University in Tokyo, where he translated ancient Japanese legal documents into English. “My research will consist of analyzing these documents in order to assess Wigmore's influence not only as a catalyst for his personal investment in comparative law, but also as a source of the origin of comparative law in the American educational realm,” says Parish.

“I entered SESP as a social policy major, knowing that I've always had an interest in law in the future. I am also a Chinese minor, and will be studying abroad in Shanghai next fall, so my interests in East Asia are grounded as well. As someone who would potentially like to practice law in an international context, this research is right up my alley. The SESP social policy advisers have been so great to work with — knowing my interests, they have allowed me to craft my major with these interests in mind. I am curious to see how this project may overlap with some of the ideas we have discussed in some of the social policy classes discussing the intersection of law and policy,” says Parish, whose faculty adviser is Ken Alder of the History Department.

Adriana Stanovici

Adriana Stanovici, a learning and organizational change major, will embark on a study called “Determining the Effectiveness of the Art-Based Approach in Addressing At-Risk Youth in Bolivia.” She will work on a case study of a nonprofit that works to better the lives of Bolivian street youth through the arts (dance, performing skills, etc.) to determine whether the organization is meeting its goals.

“There's been a lot of research on whether the arts-based approach works in the United States, but very little research has been done outside of the American context. I think it's important to understand how utilizing this approach affects the street youth it is working with. Normally, the arts are the first things that get cut when funding falls short. Better understanding the impact this approach has on a population that really needs help has greater implications for the arts,” says Stanovici.

Stanovici’s goal is to enter nonprofit management or international development in the future. “Being able to really understand the effectiveness of the arts-based approach through conducting a case study of an American nonprofit in an international context will definitely help me apply the theoretical evaluation and metrics knowledge I've learned in the classroom to a real-world project,” she explains. Her faculty adviser is Melissa Davis of the Business Institutions Program.

View the complete list of 2012 summer grant winners. The Undergraduate Research Grants program offers academic year grants of up to $1,000 and summer grants of $3,000 in support of independent undergraduate projects. 

By Marilyn Sherman
Last Modified: 5/7/12