A Look Into Summer Research at Oxy
Blogger: Kathleen McKenzie
Hello! I am researching the ethics of the use of prescription stimulants by healthy college students for cognitive enhancement with the guidance of my two mentors, Professor Clair Morrissey of the Philosophy Department and Professor Diana Linden of the Cognitive Science Department. Students interested in conducting research over the summer at Oxy submit a research proposal (often written with the help of their faculty mentors) in the spring semester. After submitting my proposal this past spring semester, I was one of the lucky students whose project was chosen for this summer.
My topic is full of ear-catching, buzz words, and it evokes the best expressions and reactions from people during casual conversations whenever I explain what I am doing this summer; I have surely heard more than an earful of personal opinions on this topic. Although a relatively salient topic in the United States today, there is not much clarity about what is to be done in the future about the culture of misuse of prescription stimulants like Ritalin and Adderall (usually only prescribed to persons with ADHD) on college campuses. It seems that students increasingly misuse prescription stimulants in an attempt to enhance their academic performance. This raises numerous ethical questions such as: should healthy college students be able to use prescription stimulants to enhance their cognition (e.g. memory, attention, etc.) so that they can perform better in academics?
I am spending my summer addressing this question, among many others, in my research. Each day, I have been reading and taking notes on many different academic articles to construct my own paper, which is to have its own thesis. I usually go to the Academic Commons early in the morning to meet up with my informal research cohort, comprised of wonderful persons who are conducting independent research this summer through the URC as well. Two of these wonderful persons are Leah Nomkin, a rising English senior who is researching contemporary Native American literature, and Tom Mirovski, a rising Biochemistry senior who is researching the creation of a multi-species authored text. I find it encouraging to research in the friendly company of colleagues like Leah and Tom, as we all work diligently towards our independent goals; I also appreciate the occasional shared joke break which lightens up the work load a bit.
After lunch, I take the afternoon as an opportunity to explore new spaces (the Dumke Commons, a Berkus Hall study room, etc.) to further develop my research in. When the work day is over, I usually read a good book, or watch The Amazing Race on Amazon Prime before I finally go to bed, so that I can wake up the next day and do it all over again. By the end of the summer, I will have written and prepared a paper and a presentation that I have steadfastly worked on for ten weeks. Until then, though, I am just enjoying the ride!
Kathleen McKenzie is a rising senior at Oxy and is double majoring in Philosophy and Cognitive Science. This summer she is on campus conducting her own independent research project through the Undergraduate Research Center’s Summer Research Program.