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Current Research Projects with LBC Faculty

Here at Briggs we value undergraduate research experiences, as we know they set our students up for success as scientists. Each year, many of our faculty have projects for which they need student assistants. Below, find opportunities to work with LBC faculty members on research in Fall 2022 and Spring 2023. Applications are only being accepted for Spring-Only projects at this time.

Spring-Only Projects

 

Fall-Spring Projects

 

Spring 2023-Only Projects

Trans and Nonbinary Student Navigation of Pre/Medical Education 

Faculty Mentor: Dr. Andrea Kelly
Term: Spring 2023
Maximum number of research positions: 2 
Expected hours/week: 10 hours per week; over 10 weeks
Location: Student may work in-person in East Lansing or work remotely
Handshake application

Overview 

Drawing on recent work on status hierarchies in medical education by Dr. Tania Jenkins (2020), the gendered and racialized organization of the healthcare industry by Dr. Adia Wingfield (2019), and uncertainty in trans medical care by Dr. stef shuster (2022), I will explore how the organization of medicine and historical lack of inclusion of trans curricula shape the educational opportunities, mentorship, and career trajectories of trans and nonbinary physicians.  

To account for the class stratification and differences in medical education opportunities noted by Tania Jenkins in Doctor’s Orders: The Making of Status Hierarchies in an Elite Profession (Columbia University Press, 2020), I plan to incorporate perspectives and experiences of pre-medical students from a variety of demographic backgrounds and levels of educational prestige, as well as medical students at American MD programs, international MD programs, and osteopathic medical programs.  

Using an intersectional framework to understand how cisnormativity and racism are co-constructed in medical education, I am particularly interested in how trans and nonbinary medical students of color navigate coursework, mentorship, and clinical experiences, given the history of hostility toward—and lack of mentorship available to—Black, Latine/x, and Indigenous medical students.  

Ultimately, I envision this project as a longitudinal study through which I can interview and observe pre-medical and medical students several times over the course of their education, with the long-term goal of following study participants through residency and into early employment.  

The students participating in this project will be involved in: 

  • Literature Review (Assistance gathering, summarizing, and organizing existing literature) 

  • Grant Proposals (Assistance writing & proof reading) 

Project specific qualifications or preferences: Students must have completed at least one HPS or sociology course prior to start date.

 

Drawing as a Way of Knowing about Science, Society, and Ourselves 

Faculty Mentor(s): Dr. Shahnaz Masani, Dr. Megan Halpern, and Dr. Katie Hinko 
Term: Spring 2023 
Maximum number of research positions: 1 
Expected hours/week: 10 
Location: In-person only (student must be available regularly in East Lansing) 

Handshake application

Overview 

What can drawing do for students in a science class? In an HPS class? Can creative drawing activities be helpful for student engagement and learning about topics in biology, physics, and science in society? This project allows one undergraduate researcher to undertake an interdisciplinary research project to look at how students engage with drawing in three different courses - biology, physics and HPS. The student researcher will work collaboratively with three faculty members, each from one of these disciplines, who have all implemented an arts component of illustration/drawing in their courses during the fall semester. Data collected during the fall will include daily student drawings on topics relevant to their course, audio recordings of class discussion, additional drawings from other course activities (such as whiteboards, projects, and notes), written reflections from students on their experience, and other course documents. The undergraduate researcher will perform qualitative analysis of these data during the Spring 2023 semester. They will learn how to analyze drawings from a visual arts perspective, thinking about line, color, form, shape, size, etc. and how students’ choices about these aspects of their drawings convey meaning and connect to their ideas about science. They will also learn about qualitative coding, and how to identify both themes and unique cases by triangulating between multiple data sources.  The student will determine how to disseminate this work in consultation with faculty - we envision presenting at the LBC Research Symposium as well as at a disciplinary conference, and co-authorship on at least one publication. We also see the potential for creative ways of sharing this research with the college, such as creating unique visual representations, which could be displayed in Holmes (for example, utilizing hallway bulletin boards). 


 

Understanding the Quality of Chemistry Educational Videos on YouTube 

Faculty Mentor: Dr. Ryan Sweeder  
Term: Spring 2023 
Maximum number of research positions: 1 
Expected hours/week: 10 
Location: Either remote or in person is acceptable 

Handshake application

Overview 

The advent of websites like YouTube has provided a way for learners to get additional just-in-time instructional help outside of the classroom. This is good as it has the potential to help meet the unique and diverse needs of students. However, the instructional quality of chemistry videos available on sites like YouTube varies greatly. Thus, learners or instructors looking for quality videos frequently need to spend considerable time to find what they seek. This project will evaluate the instructional quality of frequently watched chemistry videos using a set of measures that have been shown to positively affect learning, and then use these data to create a curated database of videos for several core chemistry concepts. To support conceptual chemistry learning, instructional videos should include a focus on things such as connecting the various levels of chemistry instruction (macroscopic, particulate, and symbolic), three-dimensional learning, causal mechanistic reasoning, and active engagement of students in the learning process, all characteristics which research has shown to support deep conceptual learning of core chemistry concepts. The students who participate in this project will gain familiarity with the expected criteria for quality chemistry educational videos and then work to catalog frequently viewed or the top results for relevant general chemistry topics. Through this process, students will help to identify appropriate videos for analysis and contribute to building the curated database of videos that will then be disseminated broadly to support both students and instructors of general chemistry. 

Project specific qualifications or preferences: Students must be enrolled in or having taken general chemistry or an equivalent course. 

 

Title: Understanding relationships of diet niche partitioning between syntopic species 

Faculty Mentor: Dr. JP Lawrence 
Term: Spring 2023 
Maximum number of research positions: 2 
Expected hours/week: 5 
Location: In person

Handshake application

Overview 

Why do we see such diversity of species in tropical areas? Species coexistence increases likelihood of conflict among species, and if species use shared resources, this inevitably will lead to competition and the superior competitor dominating the ecosystem. One way that species can avoid this, which will allow for species coexistence, is niche partitioning, where individuals will subdivide a resource and minimize overall competition. In Bocas del Toro, Panama, several species of poison frogs (Dendrobatidae) coexist despite depending on the same dietary resources (ants, mites, millipedes, etc.) that provide them with their defensive toxins. Because these toxins are integral to individual’s survival, competition for this shared resource is likely high. This project will examine previously collected stomachs to determine what syntopic (individuals found living next to each other) species are eating and whether these species are subdividing resources so that they can peacefully coexist. Students who participate in this project will test some fundamental hypotheses for explaining biodiversity in the tropics. They will gain experience with dissection of tissues, morphological identification of invertebrates, and use of analytical software such as ImageJ and R to analyze the results. Students completing this research will analyze the results to be presented at research symposia (either at LBC, MSU, or professional organizations) as well as lead the writing of manuscripts for dissemination to a broad audience of evolutionary biologists. 

Project specific qualifications or preferences: Students must have taken LB144 and LB145, or equivalent, prior to participating in this research 

 

Title: Engaging first-year students in mathematical disciplinary practices 

Faculty Mentor: Dr. Kristen Vroom  
Term: Spring 2023  
Maximum number of research positions: 1  
Expected hours/week: 6 
Location: In person only  
Handshake application

Overview

here has been increased emphasis to incorporate mathematical disciplinary practices – such as defining and conjecturing - into undergraduate mathematics classrooms. These classrooms aim to position the students as creators of the mathematics that they develop, creating active classrooms that shift the mathematical authority from the teacher and textbook to the students themselves. This project is currently designing and implementing curriculum materials that support students to do just that. The student researcher will work collaboratively with Dr. Kristen Vroom (faculty mentor) and Jose Saul Barbosa (PRIME graduate research assistant) to design and implement tasks that support first-year STEM students’ engagement in disciplinary practices (and specifically defining and conjecturing). This work will include data collection as the team implements the tasks in a laboratory setting with the two students. In particular, the student researcher will record the teaching sessions, upload and organize data, and debrief and plan with the team between each session.  

Project specific qualifications or preferences: Students must be enrolled in or have taken Calculus 1 (LB 118 or equivalent). 

 

Title: Critical Making in the Classroom 

Faculty Mentor: Dr. Isaac Record 
Term: Spring 2023 
Maximum number of research positions: 1 
Expected hours/week:10 
Location: In person (must be available regularly in East Lansing area)
Handshake Application

 

Overview

Critical Making combines traditional humanities and social science “critical thinking” research techniques with creative and constructive “making” (Ratto 2011). I have been developing teaching tools and practice to use Critical Making in the classroom, and this project aims to study the effectiveness of these teaching innovations. In Spring 2023, I am teaching two sections of LB 322A with a Critical Making curriculum. The student researcher will work collaboratively with the Faculty Mentor to study the classes, research relevant literature, and develop a research question focused on the effectiveness of the curriculum.The Critical Making curriculum involves three overlapping modes of work: the review of relevant literature, concepts, and theories; the construction of material prototypes; and an iterative process of discussion and reflection about the changing relationships and meanings formed between these three modes. All of these activities are collaborative, and throughout the course students are encouraged to identify problems and topics relevant to their own lives or interests. I am especially interested in whether students learn effective collaboration techniques, transfer skills and knowledge from one project to another, and whether they view all three modes of work as valuable. 

Project specific qualifications or preferences: No requirements. Experience with project management or literature review an asset. 

 

Fall 2022–Spring 2023 Projects

November 2022 note: we are not seeking applications for these projects at this time.

 

Lyman and Katherine Briggs–their lives and their work

Faculty Mentors: Dr. Melissa Charenko and Dr. Katie Hinko
Term: Fall 2022 – Spring 2023
Maximum number of research positions: 2 
Expected hours/week: 5 hours per week
Location: Student must work in-person in East Lansing

Overview 

Who was Lyman Briggs? Who was Katherine Cook Briggs? What does examining the work of these two people – one a physicist who headed the Bureau of Standards and the Uranium Committee and the other a teacher and children’s educator who developed the Myers-Briggs Type Indicator – tell us about science in the twentieth century? This project allows two students to undertake an interdisciplinary research project on married partners, Lyman and Katherine Cook Briggs. Students will work collaboratively with a faculty member from the history of science and one from physics to examine Lyman Briggs’ and Katherine Cook Briggs’ archives. Together they will examine documents created by the Briggs’ to formulate a research question. The collection contains material about the role of women in science, the visual representation of physics concepts, the role of the scientific bureaucracy in national events, and more, so students will be able to choose questions of interest to them. Additionally, students may delve into scientific topics that were of interest to the Briggs’, including soil science, nuclear physics, medical physics, psychology, and education. Students will then carry out a research project and work with faculty to determine the best way to disseminate findings. This is your chance to be part of a research project from start to finish, and to learn more about the college’s namesake. 

 

Supporting students' principle-based reasoning

Faculty Mentor: Dr. Jennifer Doherty
Term:Fall 2022 – Spring 2023
Maximum number of research positions: 1
Expected hours/week: 6 hours per week
Location: Student may work in-person in East Lansing or remotely

Overview 

Many undergraduates, including those from minoritized populations, leave science because they feel there is too heavy an emphasis on memorization or insufficient guidance on complex topics (Seymour and Hewitt, 1997). My research program focuses on how students develop principle-based reasoning in biology. By focusing instruction on principle-based reasoning, I propose students will rely less on memorization and use underlying principle to simplify complex problems, helping more students succeed in their course work. Currently, research in my group focuses on investigating how students reason through complex problems and how we can design instruction to better support students' use of principles. In this specific project, I am proposing to record volunteer students' in-class conversations to investigate how students work together and use their prior knowledge and scientific principles to make sense of complex biological problems. Using a case study approach, we will characterize how different student groups reason and what type of instruction (e.g., instructor moves, specific types of problems) and student actions (e.g., brainstorming, listing prior knowledge) lead to more productive student reasoning. This work will involve reading the literature to find out what other education researchers already know about this topic, collecting and analyzing in class recordings and presenting our findings to the broader research community. 

 

Finding your True North: Developing skills for career exploration, self-discovery, and parallel planning in an introductory biology course

Mentor(s): Shahnaz Masani & Krysta ColemanTerm: Fall 2022 & Spring 2023Maximum number of research positions: 2Expected hours/week: 5Location: In Person

Overview

For students in the sciences, there often seems to be only one pathway that combines their love of science and passion for helping people: medicine. In an effort to prepare students for multiple careers under the STEM umbrella, our team will be working to incorporate career education into a core curriculum course here in the college: LB 144. As a course already designed to be an active learning space, this collaboration presents an opportunity for students to learn more about themselves through deeper exploration of the course material. While there are many career exploration courses across higher education, and certainly across MSU’s campus, few, if any, are fully enmeshed within the core curriculum of a student’s undergraduate experience. By infusing career exploration activities into the college’s introductory biology class, we offer a more equitable opportunity for access to career education, allowing students to simultaneously grow professionally, personally, and academically. Undergraduate student researchers will participate in data collection & analysis, building their study design and qualitative analysis skills.