Undergraduate Researchers Delve into Intriguing Topics with SESP Faculty

Undergraduate Researchers Delve into Intriguing Topics with SESP Faculty

Claudia Haase research

Claudia Haase is one of many SESP professors who give undergraduates the chance to pursue their interests as they work on groundbreaking research. Haase is looking for “passionate and bright” undergraduate students to join her research team exploring emotion, motivation and well-being in adults.

For her newest project, students might pilot test film clips, set up online surveys, recruit participants or prepare study materials and equipment. Students’ interests and skills would determine how they participate, says Haase, an assistant professor in the Human Development and Social Policy program. She and her team will learn about well-being by examining subjective experiences, physiological signs, facial expressions and body language.

One thing Haase guarantees is that “involvement in the research will provide really unique insights into human development.” Students can also gain hands-on training and experience, as well as become acquainted with a range of sophisticated methods to use in the future, she notes. "Haase's research spans multiple disciplines and multiple areas which would allow undergraduates to easily pursue their own specific interests," says Ryan Svoboda, a doctoral student working with Haase.

Undergraduates interested in exploring how to improve well-being may become involved in Haase's research as volunteers, as work-study students, or for course credit. "I would be more than happy to meet up with them and talk more," she says. Students may contact Haase at claudia.haase@northwestern.edu.

Research apprenticeships
In other projects with SESP faculty, undergraduate students are exploring topics such as child development, improving teaching through video, social influences on stress and racial bias. Sometimes undergraduates on such projects do coding, review literature or conduct interviews.

For example, associate professor Jeannette Colyvas has an active research group of undergraduates working on collecting the career histories of scientists for her research into inventing and entrepreneurship. Many undergraduates have also worked in professor Emma Adam’s lab on her research that involves collecting measures of social influences on stress and health for adolescents and young adults.

Independent study
In addition to assisting with a faculty member’s research, another way undergraduates may pursue a specific topic of interest is through independent study with a faculty adviser. For instance, assistant professor Lilah Shapiro is advising senior Lauren Dennis on research into interracial adoption. Dennis, who won a Northwestern University Undergraduate Research Grant in the fall, has been interviewing white parents of African American girls to learn about how they understand ideas about race and culture in their family lives.  

Dennis is gaining credit for her research project — but also much more. “I believe this has been an extremely significant educational experience,” Shapiro says. “She has had the opportunity to learn about all aspects of conducting primary research and to see a project through from beginning to end.” Another benefit of this type of independent study project is a growth in confidence and an independent voice, Shapiro adds.

“She and I worked together design her research strategy, define a population, and construct data collection tools. The skills developed through this process have great value, regardless of the field a student ultimately chooses to pursue,” Shapiro notes. 

Any SESP student who successfully completes a research apprenticeship earns one graded credit of SESP 390. Students who successfully complete independent study earn credit of SESP 399. Independent study students may write a paper discussing their findings, the implications of their research information or relevant recommendations. A student may count up to three research apprenticeships or independent studies toward their major requirements. More information is available at  http://www.sesp.northwestern.edu/ugrad/opportunities/research.html

Photo: Assistant professor Claudia Haase (right) collaborates with researcher Sylvia Villeneuve on a study of Alzheimer's disease.

By Marilyn Sherman
Last Modified: 1/23/14