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Research is a ‘Journey Together’ For Samford Students, Faculty

Posted by Mary Wimberley on 2010-07-22


Samford University student researcher Aaron Carr took delight in describing his participation in the excavation of a large building in the first century CE town of Sepphoris for a group of campus guests Wednesday, July 21.

Sepphoris, a hilly metropolitan spot located not far from where Jesus grew up in Nazareth, “May have been the site Jesus referenced when he said ‘A city set on a hill cannot be hidden,’” said Carr, who recently returned from a five-week trip to Israel with Samford religion professor Dr. James Strange.

“You can see its influence on Jesus Christ,” said Carr, who feels called to the ministry but hopes to one day combine archaeological research with his chosen field.

Carr is one of 21 Samford Undergraduate Research Scholars whose work was highlighted during a luncheon honoring them, their faculty mentors and donors.

Their research topics range from Carr’s archaeological dig to one titled “Machine Consciousness and the Advent of Narcissistic Computers.”

Since its start in 2004 with one student/mentor pairing, the Samford Undergraduate Research Program (SURP) has grown to include support from a variety of businesses, foundations and other funding sources.

The benefits to students, explains Howard College of Arts and Sciences dean Dr. David Chapman, are many.

A research setting differs from the classroom model, where a faculty member knows the answer, but will not tell the student.  In research, faculty may not know all the answers.

“It’s a journey together as students and faculty seek to find the answers,” said Chapman, adding that along the way, there will be pitfalls, frustrations and challenges. 

“And that is where the greatest learning takes place, in learning how to work through the rough spots,” said Chapman.

Besides helping students determine what they want to do, or not do, with their lives, research offers a great boost to graduate school, to which some former Samford undergraduate researchers have received significant grants.

For those who choose to move directly into a career, Chapman said, the skills of being a good researcher become priceless, lifelong skills.

Guests at the luncheon included representatives of some entities, such as Birmingham’s Red Mountain Park, that provide a stipend for students and mentors to pursue a project on their behalf. The oral history of Red Mountain Park will provide valuable documentation of the mines and people that existed on the property in years past.

Chapman and associate Arts and Sciences dean Dr. George Keller, who oversees the research program, would like more such partnerships.

History major Tara White is working with her faculty mentor, historian Dr. Jonathan Bass, to compile the history of Balch & Bingham law firm.

The work, says White, has introduced her to contacts in libraries and the state archives, and to fascinating court cases and pieces of legal history involving one of Alabama’s oldest and largest law firms.

But just as important, says White, is the enthusiasm that such work generates.  “When just studying in the classroom, one can forget the passion that we have for our field,” said White, who relishes her contributions as a student historian helping to preserve stories and knowledge for the future.

To learn more about SURP, watch the video.


 2010 SURP Students and Mentors


Laura Bedsole 

Use of White Rot Fungi to Remove Pharmaceutical Compounds from Waste Water 

Mentors: Dr. Denise Gregory and Dr. Lisa Nagy 


Scott Buess 

Synthetic Studies Toward CNS-Permeable Prodrug Scaffolds 

Mentor: Dr. Andrew Lampkins 


Aaron Carr 

Determining the Date and Extent of Byzantine Glass Industry at Sepphoris 

Mentor: Dr. James Strange 


Scott Cope 

Simulating the Evolution of Neural Architectures  

Mentor: Dr. Steve Donaldson 


Zach Evans 

Synthesis of Iodo-N,O-acetide Aminals 

Mentor: Dr. Andrew Lampkins 


Ryan Fee 

Mapping a Small Caribbean Island from Mountaintop to Coral Reef 

Mentor: Dr. Jennifer Rahn 


Callie Gibson 

The Need for Acceptance and the Cost of Social Rejection 

Mentor: Dr. Stephen Chew 


Jesse Kawell 

Machine Consciousness and the Advent of Narcissistic Computers  

Mentor: Dr. Steve Donaldson 


Cedrick Kousok 

Quantitative Determination of Binary Mixed Alkanesulfonates Having Different Endgroups by Electrospray Ionization Mass Spectrometry 

Mentor: Dr. Brian Gregory 


Larry McCutcheon 

The Languages of Jesus 

Mentor: Dr. Stephen Todd 


Casey Moore 

Does Diversity Matter in Reforestation? 

Mentor: Dr. Malia Fincher 


Josh Moore 

Defining, Mapping and Visualizing the Health of a Community 

Mentor: Dr. Brian Toone 


Tessa Pitts 

Gender, Religion and Public Policy 

Mentor: Dr. Theresa Davidson 


Drew Pomeroy 

Oral History of Red Mountain Park 

Mentor: Dr. Marlene Rikard 


Will Ricks 

Electrospray Ionization Mass Spectrometric Studies of Self-Assembled Monolayers Using a Thin-Layer Flow Cell 

Mentor: Dr. Brian Gregory 


Walter Turner 

Computational Studies of Potential Drugs to Treat Alzheimer’s Disease  

Mentor: Dr. Morgan Ponder 


Jessica Van Ausdall 

An Investigation of Endosymbiotic Bacteria in Local Freshwater Ciliates 

Mentor: Dr. David Johnson 


Richard Wakefield 

Pharmacophore Synthesis of Novel ß-Secretase Inhibitors 

Mentor: Dr. Andrew Lampkins 


Chris Walling 

Machine Consciousness and the Advent of Narcissistic Computers  

Mentor: Dr. Steve Donaldson 


Tara White 

History of Balch & Bingham Law Firm 

Mentor: Dr. Jonathan Bass 


Jon Zeiger 

Simulating the Evolution of Neural Architectures  

Mentor: Dr. Steve Donaldson 


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