Sandra Mehl, the new Director of the Center for Research and Advanced Study, has big plans for the center. The center, which opened last year, currently administers Richter grants and funding for college Honors projects. Students can obtain funding for academic projects for credit, as well as less formal experiential learning such as conferences and independent or campus projects.
One of these students, senior Katie Nellett, is studying the effect of anti-depressants on young rats for her Honors project. Nellett has noticed that Knox students do projects that are more independent than those at other schools and said that “the Center makes that possible.”
The center also helped senior Katy Renfro, who is currently studying the effects of hormonal birth control on olfactory perception for her Honors. She started researching the summer after her junior year with a Ford Fellowship grant.
Coming up with your own ideas and studying things you’re passionate about, Renfro said, “is a really important part of education; it gives you a vested interest, and you get to see how your field functions.”
Mehl, who started her job as director of the center in September, said she feels like she “jumped into the deep end” in starting this job. In addition to working with the Richter and Honors program, Mehl said she will be talking to a lot of students and faculty to find out what they want from the center.
Mehl said she is “looking forward to creating a true center,” where students can get information about all of the opportunities for independent research and scholarship at Knox. She hopes to provide information not only about Richter grants and honors projects but also about the various other funds from alumni that are managed by specific departments.
She will also be working to improve the center’s website and host workshops on independent projects. The center’s main responsibility is making sure that “students are aware and take advantage” of opportunities.
One of the unique features of the center is its involvement with both student and faculty research. According to Mehl, putting the two together — unlike schools with separate centers for student and faculty research — reflects Knox’s emphasis on student-faculty collaboration. With the center they will be able to see how “student research affects the direction of faculty research.”
Mehl hopes that the center will be able to showcase Knox students’ projects within the campus as well as the world outside of Knox.
“People will be blown away,” Mehl said. “Knox students accomplish a lot.”
Other students undertaking Honors projects through the Center for Research and Advanced Study:
Senior Alison Spataro is researching “Franglais,” the way English words or expressions are used in the French language.
Senior Jordan Lanfair is studying gifted and talented education by analyzing the effects of a Junior Great Books program in Galesburg schools.
Senior Brittany Amendolia is studying the Weimer Republic’s “New Woman” and comparing that to the drag queens of contemporary Berlin in her German Honors project.