Paper No. 10
Presentation Time: 8:00 AM-12:00 PM
STARTING ON EQUAL FOOTING: ENTERING INTO A NEW RESEARCH AREA WITHIN AN UNDERGRADUATE RESEARCH PROGRAM
In many undergraduate research programs the faculty mentor starts as the expert and the student as the apprentice. In contrast to this are situations in which the research area is new to both students and professor. In this case they begin on a more equal footing exploring unfamiliar territory together. For students this can increase their interest, encourage initiative and foster a sense of ownership of the work. For the professor this can ease the transition into a new field. These advantages are illustrated with an example from the Hope College undergraduate research program. In 1999, after working on research problems in metamorphic geology for 20 years, Ed Hansen began work on the geomorphic history of Lake Michigan sand dunes with Martin Van Oort, an undergraduate geology major. They initially concentrated on mapping paleosols in the dunes and obtaining radiocarbon dates from plant material from these soils In 2001, Ed Hansen and Brian Yurk, a geology-mathematics double major, began studying contemporary processes in the dunes. This work concentrated on the measurement of sand transportation and deposition with sand traps and deposition pins and the measurement of wind flow patterns with arrays of anemometers and wind vanes. Both Martin and Brian were actively involved in the project for 2 academic years and 2 summers. Both students took unusually large amounts of initiative in planning the projects, searching and reading background literature, developing techniques and interpreting results. They also were unusually active in the presentation of the results. Martin made 5 and Brian 4 presentations at national or regional meetings. Martin is first author on one published paper while Brian is first author on a manuscript in preparation. Both students wrote successful research proposals which funded one summer of research. Both students acted as mentors to other students who became involved in the research later. The active involvement of the two students allowed Ed Hansen to make the transition into a new research field much more rapidly than he could have done otherwise. Two experienced eolian geomorphologists, Dr. Alan Arbogast at Michigan State University and Dr. Deanna vanDijk at Calvin College, acted as collaborators and consultants for portions of this project and their roles as advisors was invaluable.