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Skidmore College

Back in the lab, forest and field: Collaborative research returns to campus

June 29, 2021
by Peter MacDonald and James Helicke

This summer, Kaylee Jellum '22 and Riley Mallory '22 are using metal detection and ground-penetrating radar to peer back into an 18th-century farmstead buried in Skidmore's North Woods. 

Their collaborative research project with Associate Professor of Anthropology Siobhan Hart is helping to document past land use and provide information that can support efforts to preserve cultural and historical resources in the area. 

The project is one of dozens — across disciplines ranging from anthropology and computer science to neuroscience and social work — that are taking place in person and on Skidmore's campus this summer after going online during the pandemic.  

Abby Schlinger '22 in a lab

Abby Schlinger '22 pours liquid nitrogen as part of a research project with Associate Professor of Chemistry Juan Navea.

In all, 87 students are participating — 39 are funded directly by the  Summer Faculty Student Research Program, and 48 are funded primarily through external grants ranging from the National Science Foundation to Kendall Jackson Wines.

Thirty-four professors from 14 different disciplines are working with the students. Most projects are 10 weeks in duration, with a handful just five weeks long.  

Abena Gyampo '23

Abena Gyampo '23 participates in a gathering with dozens of other students in Skidmore's summer collaborative research program.

Associate Professor of Political Science Bob Turner, who directs the program, noted the rich interdisciplinary quality of Skidmore’s summer research projects and the opportunity to work closely with faculty mentors.  

"Skidmore and Saratoga Springs in the summer are awesome — conduct research with professors and peers, make new friends, go on super fun hikes and swims. You can't beat it," Turner said. 

Some examples of Skidmore’s 2021 summer collaborative research include: 

Chemistry: Development of Low-Cost Method for Analyzing Iodide in Hydrofracking Flowback Water

Computer Science: Secure Sharing of COVID-19 Health Data

Health and Human Physiological Sciences: Potential Racial Differences in Sitting-Induced Vascular Dysfunction: Is Intermittent Passive Leg Movement an Effective Countermeasure? 

Classics: Carmen at Error: Role-Playing in the Latin Classroom

Social Work: Ecomapping as a Practice Framework for Working with LGBTQ Youth

Environmental Studies and Sciences: Sustainable Halal: Food Choices of Muslim Women in the Capital District Region

 

Jellum and Mallory are conducting archeological fieldwork at the Denton homesite, an 18th-century farmstead within the College's 165-acre North Woods. 

"We have been finding some really interesting artifacts at deeper levels than we had imagined. Since there has been no previous excavation at the site, we had little idea what we would find, so it has been one surprise after another so far — stained-blue window glass, a metal tray, bone and more!" Jellum said.

"I can't wait to see where we go next and where future Skidmore archeology students take the Denton homesite."  

Associate Professor of Anthropology Siobhan Hart works with Kaylee Jellum ’22 in Skidmore's North Woods.

Associate Professor of Anthropology Siobhan Hart works with Kaylee Jellum ’22 in Skidmore's North Woods.

In addition to uncovering information about the area’s history, both seniors are developing skills to advance their careers.

"This research will begin a multi-year investigation by Skidmore students and faculty into the experiences of these people with whom we share a home place across time," said Associate Professor Hart, who is leading the archeology project.

"This research collaboration will give Kaylee and Riley hands-on experience with data collection, processing and analysis — skills that are broadly applicable" to their career goals after college.

Haru Kato '24

Haru Kato '24 speaks during a summer collaborative research program meeting in June.

Emme Tissue ’23 and Siddharth Nizamuddin ’21 traveled to Tennessee for their summer projects. They are working at Caney Fork Farms, the family farm of former Vice President Al Gore. They are also working under the direction of Shay Kolodney ’21, who just began a career there as a research coordinator after being one of the first college students to ever conduct carbon-related soil research on the farm.  

Visiting Assistant Professor of Environmental Studies and Sciences Kris Covey, who is supervising Tissure and Nizamuddin's research, emphasized Skidmore students' impressive contributions to timely research topics.

“Partners love working with our students, and not just because they’re nice young people, but because they’re talented, energetic and possess a set of skills the world needs to address pressing challenges,” Covey said. 

Christina Lindstrom '23 takes photos of the canopy in North Woods as part of a project with Charlie Bettigole, director of the GIS Center for Interdisciplinary Research at Skidmore.

Christina Lindstrom '23 takes photos of the canopy in North Woods as part of a project with Charlie Bettigole, director of the GIS Center for Interdisciplinary Research at Skidmore.

Turner is equally impressed by students' achievements, but he is also focused on giving researchers the opportunity to unwind and connect with the community after the pandemic-related challenges of the past year. The program also includes recreational opportunities, such as a bowling event with faculty and students. 

“I love the energy here. It’s so much better to do this in person!” Turner said at the program’s introductory meeting. “So, you’ve all made some new friends, right? You can go to the dining hall and say, ‘Hey, how’s it going with that research project on halal food, sleep regulation, 3D mapping or whatever it is?’”  

Since 1989, the collaborative research program has given more than 1,000 students the opportunity to work one-on-one with a faculty member, allowing them to become part of the research enterprise in a way that complements and informs their class work. The research can form the basis for a senior’s honors thesis or even lead to published articles in a peer-reviewed academic journal. Skidmore alumni who have continued their education in graduate school have reported that experience as researchers has given them distinct advantages as scholars. 

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