Research Rookies

Meredith Bergey, PhD, and Hannah Murray
Meredith Bergey, PhD, assistant professor of Sociology and Criminology, left, with Hannah Murray '21 CLAS

Hannah Murray ’21 CLAS may only be in her first year in Villanova University’s College of Liberal Arts and Sciences, but she’s already working with a professor on a study that may advance knowledge of an attention deficit hyperactivity disorder.

Through the Villanova Match Research Program for First-Year Students, Hannah has been matched with Meredith Bergey, PhD, assistant professor, Sociology and Criminology, to study intersectionality across social grouping in relation to ADHD and unmet health care needs. Dr. Bergey hopes that the research findings will advance knowledge about health disparities by considering multiple interconnected social identities.

The program, administered by Villanova’s Office for Undergraduate Research and Fellowships, provides opportunities for motivated first-year students like Hannah to pursue undergraduate research in the spring semester. Applicants do not need substantial experience and serve as research assistants to faculty mentors. Students selected for the program conduct research for 10 hours each week for 10 weeks and receive a $1,000 stipend.

“It’s really exciting to have the opportunity to work on this kind of research in just my second semester at Villanova,” Hannah says.

Hannah is one of 19 students across the arts and sciences participating in the program in spring 2018. Thanks to the support of VURF and the College of Liberal Arts and Sciences’ Dean’s Fund for Strategic Initiatives, Gia Beaton ’21 CLAS, Lucy Mileto ’21 CLAS and Jackie Solomon ’21 CLAS are enjoying their chance to assist Jean Lutes, PhD, associate professor, English, with what literary historians call a “recovery project.”

Dr. Lutes and her students are unearthing information about the life and work of Alice Dunbar-Nelson, an African American journalist, essayist and fiction writer whose work in the late 19th and early 20th century has been unjustly neglected by scholars.

Gia Beaton, Lucy Mileto and Jackie Solomon
From left, Lucy Mileto ’21 CLAS, Jackie Solomon ’21 CLAS and Gia Beaton ’21 CLAS
“I’m introducing Gia, Lucy and Jackie to a fascinating writer whose work has received minimal attention—and as they learn about her, they are helping me introduce her work to others,” Dr. Lutes says. “They’re creating new knowledge along with me because we’re documenting unknown parts of Dunbar-Nelson’s literary career.”

Other student-researchers in the arts are delving into the digital humanities. Adriano Duque, PhD, associate professor, Romance Languages and Literatures, has gathered more than 300 children’s songs from Latinos in the US. Michaela Mazzo ’21 CLAS is helping him organize and expand the material, ultimately creating a digital map of US Latino oral culture.

Michelle Ferrer ’21 CLAS is also learning to make language a visual. She is helping her research mentor, Laura Sandez, PhD, assistant professor, Romance Languages and Literatures, present Latino literature through qualitative and quantitative visuals.

In addition to conducting undergraduate research, students in the match program may participate in professional development seminars or present their research. For example, while Dr. Lutes will present at a conference in April 2018, Gia, Lucy and Jackie will be making a presentation of their own on Alice Dunbar-Nelson at Villanova University’s Undergraduate Research Symposium in September 2018. The first-year match program is a principal example of Villanova’s teacher-scholar model at work. When faculty welcome students as partners in their research, they engage in deep discovery that is truly collaborative.

“Working with first-year students gives me a chance to share my passion for my research as well as some of the of the nitty-gritty parts of the work I do—painstakingly comparing manuscript versions of a text to published versions, building a deep and nuanced understanding of what a literary text means and tracking down biographical details of an author's life to understand more about their vision and artistic choices,” says Dr. Lutes.

For more on the Villanova Match Research Program for First-Year Students, click here.