Summer Research Program

Each year, the Honors Program awards fellowships to a select group of Sweet Briar students to support them in conducting independent research projects under the supervision of a faculty member. The Honors Summer Research Program is an eight-week, on-campus program that brings together students and faculty from all disciplines. The program creates a unique academic experience for the participants by providing the opportunity for intensely focused research, a one-on-one working relationship with a faculty mentor, or mentors, and weekly meetings and presentations by both faculty and students highlighting their ongoing research as well as research methodologies across the academic disciplines. Students interested in applying to the program should have a 3.0 cumulative GPA and should have completed at least one 200-level course relevant to the project; however, all interested students are encouraged to submit proposals. Students are paid for the fellowship and faculty sponsors receive a stipend.

To see a listing of projects from previous years go to the previous research projects page.

The 2016 Honors Summer Research Program begins on May 23rd, and will run through July 15, 2016. Eight students and nine faculty sponsors will particpate in the program:

Kimberly Colbert, Class of 2017
Faculty sponsor: Kimberly Morse-Jones (art history)
For my project, I will be doing research concerning the visual representations of women and women of color in comics. Using the comic book character Wonder Woman as my guide I will study her and other key female characters associated with her, starting from her earliest rendering to depictions of the character in our current times. I believe that this research is important given the recent acceptance of comics in popular culture and growing interest in both high art and literary domains. I hope to use my findings as part of my Senior Honors Thesis project.

Katherine Ferguson, Class of 2017
Faculty sponsor: Linda Fink (biology)
I will be researching the effect of the invasive water thyme, hydrilla, in Sweet Briar's lower lake ecosystem. The hydrilla is abundant in lower lake, but it is not present in upper lake, which will serve as an excellent comparison. I will be comparing aspects like the oxygen content, water pH, phytoplankton abundance, fish larvae numbers, and surrounding wildlife (waterfowl, insects, rodents, mammals,etc.) between both lakes to gauge the overall effect of the invasive hydrilla. The college is also considering adding triploid grass carp to the lake this spring in order to control the hydrilla. If this occurs, it will only benefit my project, as I will also be able to monitor any fluctuations in the hydrilla density along with the corresponding changes in the lake’s ecosystem.

Vanessa Finnegan, Class of 2017
Faculty sponsors: Tony Lilly (English); Mark Magruder (dance) 
I will study the ways in which philosophical ideals can be expressed and realized through movement, with a focus on the relationship between idealistic writers and dancers. I will study Frederick Nietzsche's influence on Isadora Duncan and the influence that the Ancient Greek philosophers had on Erick Hawkins, along with other dancer-writer relationships and their individual ideals. I will use my research to inform my own choreography of a dance based off of my own ideals, which will use writing as a source of inspiration. This dance will be accompanied by a piece of my own writing which will attempt to convey the same ideals through words. The two will be put together as a video project that I will use in my BFA concert next semester.

Kiley Jolicoeur, Class of 2017
Faculty sponsor: Heidi Samuelson (philosophy) 
I intend to continue the research I began in my 2014-15 Pannell Project, An Exploration of Borgesian Time. Due to the time constraints inherent in the Pannell Project, I restricted my investigation to Borges' work alone, with minimal time spent on his numerous and detailed references. My plan is to move beyond the largely in-text research I conducted that year and to work on creating an understanding of Borges' creative philosophy in the context of his contemporaries and his self-admitted inspirations. As my work in the Honors Summer Research Program last summer is preparing me to embark on my Classics senior thesis, this research endeavor will in turn prepare me for my Senior Honors Thesis in Philosophy, in which I will be examining Borges' work as literary philosophy, culminating in a discussion of how Borges presents the apparent contradictions of time as an overarching and self-reconciling truth.

Daniela Ramirez, Class of 2018
Faculty sponsor: Lynn Laufenberg (history)
My HSRP proposal challenges the widespread assumption that women are often associated with either passivity or peace movements during war time, across time periods and geographical regions. My project seeks to demonstrate that during extreme crises, women become more active militarily. I propose a comparative analysis of women’s military roles in medieval/early modern Japan and Italy.  I am particularly interested in their direct involvement in combat and comparing their roles with those of their male counterparts during those same periods. In particular, I will investigate the records concerning Shogun and anti-Shogunate female miliary leaders in 12-16th century Japan (from Gozen, Minamoto, and Jo clans) and those concerning female condottiere in early Renaissance Italy (for example, Caterina Sforza, Isabella d'Este). These women assumed key leadership roles in significant military conflicts that threatened the political independence of their city-states or dynastic lineages. Research will draw on letters, chronicles, and political documents.

Holly Rueger, Class of 2017
Faculty sponsors: Alessandra Chiriboga (modern languages and literatures); Tim Loboschefski (psychology)
This interdisciplinary project aims to investigate the specific psychological challenges facing women fleeing from organized violence in the “Northern Triangle” of Central America-Guatemala, Honduras, and El Salvador. My research will focus on the trauma that these women, often mothers, face during each part of their journey- from violence at home through resettlement or deportation once in the United States. I am also interested in how existing services and policies affect refugees as well as studying historical and cultural antecedents in order to generate a more wholesome understanding of the crisis at hand.

Jessie Schuster, Class of 2017
Faculty sponsor: Lynn Laufenberg (history)     
I am proposing to investigate the role of female combatants in the Russian military during WWI.  This contributes to my honors thesis on “The History of Women in Combat in the West.” I am currently pursuing an Independent Study with Professor Laufenberg on women warriors in Classical Greece, Britton, and in the Crusades. My summer project will draw on Gender Studies, History, and Political Science. In 1917, the Russian Government enlisted women to improve soldiers’ morale, however, many of the women ended up fighting on the front lines.  I will investigate personal memoirs (ex. Yashka,  My Life as Peasant, Officer and Exile) and political documents that reveal Russian women’s roles within WWI.  Through this study I hope to document the extent of the presence of women combatants and the impact of their contributions to the Russian military efforts. My resulting paper will constitute a chapter of my senior Honors thesis.

Alicia Wooten, Class of 2017
Faculty sponsor: Scott Hyman (engineering and physics)
Radio astronomers study celestial objects by detecting naturally emitting radio waves from space.  Radio waves have a longer wavelength than visible light, so studying them allows astronomers to observe phenomena that may not be seen in other portions of the electromagnetic spectrum.  We are interested in transient sources, which are objects that vary on minute to month timescales, such as flare stars and supernovae.  During the summer, we will observe in the direction of the Galactic center since it has a high stellar density and some interesting transients that don’t fit the typical profile of higher energy transients have already been found there.  We will obtain weekly observations from The Very Large Array radio telescope, and I will search through each observation for transients, measure the faint steady population of sources, and make preliminary identifications of them.

Watch for email announcements with additional program information.


Questions about the program may be directed to:
Professor Tony Lilly, [email protected]
Julie Hemstreet, [email protected]