Sara Bombaci wields binoculars to assist her careful investigation of bird communities.
Undergraduate research at Fort Lewis College is earning students valuable recognition and big boosts for their resumes thanks to a research journal focusing on student research at liberal arts colleges.
The Spring 2011 edition of Metamorphosis features papers based on research by two Fort Lewis students. Sara Bombaci, who graduated in April 2010 with a Bachelor of Science degree in Biology, published her research on the effects of Sudden Aspen Decline Syndrome on bird communities. The college's research on this climate-change issue has received national attention, including stories in The New York Times, U.S. News & World Report, and Science News. Tamara Calnan's research explored how people's fear of death affects their stances on U.S. immigration policy. Calnan earned her Bachelor's in Psychology in December 2010.
"One of the greatest things I gained from this was the ability to cultivate a project and see it through," Bombaci says. "There were the side benefits, too. I got great research experience, I got a great resume for grad school, and I’ve had a lot of opportunities to work with faculty." This summer, Bombaci is working as a teaching assistant for a field ecology course at FLC, while working with a local forestry consulting firm. She is also assisting with a study on the effects of gas well-pad noise pollution on birds.
Calnan agrees with the value of going through the process of preparing her work for a research journal. "Getting published gave me a flavor for what it might be like to do this for a living -- researching and publishing," says Calnan, who is planning to travel and teach abroad before applying for graduate programs. "It definitely makes me want to do it even more than I did before."
Metamorphosis is a national web-based journal for undergraduate research published by the Council of Public Liberal Arts Colleges. In the liberal arts tradition, content is interdisciplinary, stressing critical thinking and examining issues from a variety of angles. The journal focuses exclusively on undergraduate research, offering the credibility usually reserved for only post-graduate students and faculty.
The two-year-old journal posts new issues each Fall and Spring and is open to projects ranging from English composition to laboratory research to video work. Published items are archived and searchable for later reference.
"It's invaluable experience," says Associate Professor of Psychology Brian Burke. "Through Metamorphosis, undergraduate students get to see how the publishing process works. They submit a proposal, we make suggestions for changes, then they work with their faculty to edit it and return it to us."
Burke is chair of the Fort Lewis selection committee for the journal. The committee gathers submissions from Fort Lewis students, selects two each term, then submits them for publication. Burke says he looks for papers that are useful, have some sort of impact, and are well researched and written.
"A lot of students don't understand that creative thinking and writing is a multi-step process," says Burke, who mentored Calnan on her published paper. "Through this, they get to participate in this process. Plus, it's a great vita-builder."
Learn more about Metamorphosis here:
Sara P. Bombaci with Faculty Mentor Julie E. Korb, "Differences in avian community structure and biodiversity following a Sudden Aspen Decline Event in Southwest Colorado."
Tamara L. Calnan with Faculty Mentor Brian L. Burke, "Alien Perspectives on Terror Management Theory: How mortality salience affects U.S. immigration policy."
Matthew R. Aronoff and Neil A. Bourjaily with Faculty Mentor Kenneth A. Miller, "Short Total Syntheses of the Antiviral Natural Products (+)-Sattabacin and (+)-4-Hydroxysattabacin."
Kelly M. Nie with Faculty Mentors Brian L. Burke & Sue Kraus, "Death and Consumerism: Desire for Social vs. Long-Term Status Items."
Rebecca Levy with Faculty Mentor Michael Fry, "Troubled Waters: The Confluence of Local, State and Federal Environmental Policy at the Headwaters of the Dolores River, from the Height of the Cold War to 2004."
Jacob R. Spangler with Faculty Mentor Brian L. Burke: "Terror management in the courtroom: Capital crimes, death accessibility, & interrogation camera angle may alter conviction rates."