Featured / News / October 23, 2019

McNair scholars present research projects

Judith Espinoza, junior, presenting her research project “An Impossible Freedom: Terrorism and Survival in the Middle East” to faculty members besides her poster at the 2019 McNair Research Presentations on Oct. 17 in the Lincoln Room of Alumni Hall. (Rob Nguyen / TKS)

For junior Bryanna Martinez, finally presenting her McNair research project a whole year after she initially proposed it brought a sense of great satisfaction.

“I feel complete now because that was the end of it. We’re still going over revisions of our paper… but it just felt really good looking at my project and being able to speak with so many people,” Martinez said. “I had a history professor say, ‘I learned so much from your presentation,’ which I thought was a very major moment.”

Martinez was among the 12 McNair scholars who gave research presentations on October 17 in the Lincoln Room of Seymour Union. For the students, who come from a multitude of disciplines, the research presentations were the culmination of work that began with a research proposal at the start of their sophomore year.

“When you spend a year gathering research and putting together something that is important to you and that you really hope is important to someone else É that’s kind of what made me nervous,” said Reese Reed, junior. “If my research didn’t hit a point of interest for my peers who pass by and look at it, then it kind of falls on deaf ears.”

Reed, whose presentation was on the voting behavior of in-state and out-of-state college student, was happy with the amount of interest his research received from fellow students. He said he was especially pleased to be able to directly discuss the research and potential future work with people like Director of Government and Community Relations Karrie Heartlein.

The presentations were done in an open format that allowed substantial interaction with individual students, as attendees could walk around the room and approach each student by a poster presenting their research.

Associate Director of McNair Program Samantha Leinbach explained the format was a change from past presentations. Whereas last year featured oral presentations that went on for three hours, Leinbach was happy to have set it up this year allow every student to present multiple times and answer questions.

While people came in and out of the room over a two hour period, there were generally 10 to 20 people in the room at any given time, aside from presenters.

Leinbach described the goal of the McNair program as being to reach students who are generally underrepresented in higher education, providing assistance on their path to graduate school such as financial support for their research and helping them prepare for Graduate Record Examinations (GRE).

Martinez described having faced a difficult transition to college during her freshman year, and having found a new support system to push her through the McNair staff and other students in the program.

Martinez drew from personal experience for her research presentation about the historical struggles of Mexican-Americans in the United States, which she described as under represented in history textbooks.

“My dad always talked about the troubles of Mexicans living in the United States have gone through. A more personal aspect is that my grandfather was a part of the Bracero program as well as Operation Wetback,” Martinez said. “So I heard from his experiences. I wanted to learn more. I wanted to educate people.”

Kat Hernandez, junior, also drew from personal experience for her research on the impact of environmental justice organizations and community green space in Chicago on easing existing disparities.

“Growing up in Chicago… there was a lot of industrial practices going on in and around [minority] communities and there were also waste sites. So I had always seen all these things going on but I didn’t know there was specific terms like environmental racism,” Hernandez said. “I hadn’t even realized I could do research in this area until I applied to McNair.”

The cross-disciplinary nature of research work present in McNair is exhibited by the project of junior Bill Tate, “Punk Rock with a Side of Physics.” Tate looked into what sound characteristics define the punk genre through measurements like beats per minute and the power spectrum.

Like all the McNair scholars, Tate had a faculty advisor, but his — Associate Professor of Physics Nathalie Haurberg — was especially helpful in with her band performing the instruments that Tate specifically studied.

Reed highlighted the benefits of working with students from other disciplines. The central part of the research was done over a ten week period in the summer, in which students in the program where living together in Galesburg.

“I had people who majored in physics and people who majored in biology helping me — a Poli-Sci major — with the political research and vice versa,” Reed said. “You’re constantly watching their research transform into what it is and they’re watching yours.”


Carlos Flores-Gaytan, Co-Editor-in-Chief

Tags:  McNair McNair Scholars

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