Eighty-four Occidental students skipped the camping trips and surfing this summer to spend 10 weeks doing research with 54 faculty mentors on campus in disciplines ranging from biology to literature to history.
August 4 saw the culmination of their efforts in a day-long Summer Research Conference, where they presented the fruits of their hard work in the form of 20-minute talks and poster presentations. Occidental trustee Joan Payden, CFA, president and CEO of global investment management firm Payden & Rygel, gave the keynote address.
Research topics included a sociohistorical analysis of the X-Men, engineering a prototype dark matter decoder, a theory of Nietzsche as comedian, and fat intake and deprivation-induced hyperactivity as a measure of stress management in rats.
"It seemed like a good opportunity," said Tiffany Kim '12, who has been studying how different families of vitamin K react in human bodies under the tutelage of chemistry Professor Tetsuo Otsuki since her freshman year. "The concepts that you learn in class really get molded into your head" when you do hands-on research, said Kim, a chemistry major from Cypress who plans to pursue a Ph.D. and a career in pharmacological research.
Alexander Josephs '11, a psychology major from Las Vegas, said he thought the summer research program "would be good practice for graduate school." Working with psychology Professor Jaclyn Rodriguez, Josephs' study, "Stereotype Threat Among Oxy Male Athletes and Non-athletes," analyzed the effects of negative stereotypes on athletes' academic performance. A football player himself, Josephs said, "I've seen it work both ways. Some athletes won't try as hard because they think ‘People will think I'm a dumb jock anyway.' Others view the negative stereotyping as a challenge and work even harder in their classes."
Doing the research "was a nice distraction from reality," he added. "Football practice starts in a week."
Occidental has supported undergraduate research for more than two decades, including all of the disciplines on campus-the arts, humanities, social sciences, and natural and physical sciences. The Summer Research Program has helped place the College at the forefront of national liberal arts colleges. The program is sponsored by the Ford Foundation Research Fellows Program, the Howard Hughes Medical Institute, the National Institutes of Health, and the National Science Foundation, among other foundations and donors.