Academic year collaborative research

It’s time to develop professional skills, stretch yourself intellectually, and gain real world knowledge of your chosen field. Through academic year collaborative research you will work closely with a professor, becoming their junior colleague and growing your hands-on experience and resume. 

(And securing a great recommendation letter for when you next need one.)

Minda Dettman ’18 preparing shreds of indigenous pottery for XRD analysis. XRD normally requires grinding of pottery—a technique not available for museum quality specimens. Minda worked with Ann-Eliza Lewis, Joseph Moore Museum collections manager, to develop a non destructive method that would allow this type of analysis in a museum setting. 

How is this different than normal coursework?

Your research will count as a class (and credit hours), but will be a fun and exciting change to your normal class schedule, as you experience unique and life changing field and classwork from a real expert  (your professor). You will learn side-by-side with your professors as you research a topic—even presenting that topic at conferences and the Epic Expo.

You can research anything. Some professors read together in a developing field, some create together, while others conduct experiments. Your research depends your professor’s interest and base of knowledge. 

And the best part? Your professor is learning alongside you. This is a topic they are researching as well. While they have a great base of knowledge that will help inform this project, they will also be learning and experiencing new things. 

You’re truly in this together.

What sets academic year collaborative research apart?

The other forms of collaborative research at Earlham are held between academic semesters. These opportunities are more intensive, but typically over a shorter period of time. In the academic year term, students and faculty can learn and grow with each other over 15 weeks, really diving into their topic and leaving no rock unturned (sometimes literally). 

Morgan Bailey ’20 making ant food as part of an international collaboration studying colony growth, under the supervision of Chris Smith, associate professor of biology. Members of the team wrote a publication on the experiment.

Our faculty

Nate Eastman

Professor of English

Nate has led collaborative research at Earlham College for 15 years. In his current role, he helps students build projects that are led by other faculty. He believes conducting research during the academic year better prepares students for the real-world time management problems they are going to face throughout their careers.

“This research is really a mentorship experience, and generally involves something that looks more like a real-world process of balancing competing priorities. It advocates really well for students who want to demonstrate that they can complete a project during life as it is actually lived, rather than in a sort of artificially-isolated environment.”

Rachael Reavis

Associate professor of psychology

Rachael has led academic year collaborative research many times over the 13 years she’s taught at Earlham College. She has worked with students to collect data, write reports, and even develop experiments and studies. Most importantly, she has seen students build confidence and skills through their collaborative research.

“Through this program, students build critical professional and intellectual skills. Getting the opportunity to build high level critical thinking, research, and professional skills puts them a step ahead in careers and in grad school. These opportunities are rare for most college students.”

Past (and current) projects

Academic year collaborative research projects cover a wide array of subjects, topics and fields. From research projects in the humanities to hands-on research in the sciences, there is room for all students in academic year collaborative research. Find a topic you’re passionate about and a professor who shares that interest and you can start making groundbreaking discoveries in your future field.

Redlining in Long Island

Field hockey star Rorey Murphy ’25 is a history major at Earlham College who is pursuing collaborative research through the honors program with Visiting Assistant Professor Viet Trinh. 

Together they are researching redlining on Long Island. The idea came after a discussion comparing Rorey’s interests with Viet’s expertise. Rorey grew up in Long Island and was familiar with the issue, which gave her local knowledge to add to her academic research. 

“I’m looking at how redlining and the formation of school districts has led to de facto segregation or potentially how transportation—the Long Island Expressway or the Long Island Railroad—has continued segregation in neighborhoods.” 

Nesting Behaviors of Grassland Birds

Sylvan Gilkey ‘25 is a fiber arts and environmental sustainability major at Earlham College who is pursuing collaborative research through both Summer Collaborative Research and Academic Term Collaborative Research with Assistant Professor Jaime Coon. 

Sylvan travelled to Iowa over the summer to collect data on the nesting behaviors of grassland birds. They then worked with Jaime during the school year to enter all the data into an existing spreadsheet and write a paper summarizing their research over the summer. 

“We are looking at the impact of regenerative grazing practices on the native nesting birds in Iowa. That means seeing how different amounts of cattle put on plots of grasslands affect the habits of the nesting birds, but also the composition of the grass and the environment.” 

We continue to monitor the effects of an industrial fire 1.1 miles from campus.
We continue to monitor the effects of an industrial fire 1.1 miles from campus.