Posted by Sean Flynt on 2009-04-15

(story by Samford student Melissa Gibson)

The Samford University Fellows Program will award three Alabama Power Foundation Research Fellowships this summer.

The University Fellows Program is a highly selective program offering innovative liberal arts courses, unique international study opportunities and undergraduate research support. The program provides students with the opportunity to explore education at a deeper level by embracing their mind, their Christian values and their world.

In 2007, the Alabama Power Foundation gave $225,000 to the program for undergraduate research. Last year the program sponsored two undergraduate projects and this year they are sponsoring three.

Freshman Aaron Carr will be studying and excavating in Israel with Samford religion professor Dr. James Strange.

Freshman Anna Worth will be doing Alzheimer's drug discovery research this summer with Dr. Andy Lampkins.

Junior Jonathan Coley will be working with Dr. Fred Shepherd on a research project related to genocide.

Strange and Carr are looking forward to their experience in Israel. "A student brings a fresh eye to a project that has been ongoing since 1983," Strange said. "Inquisitive students tend to ask their Area Supervisors and Directors, ´How do you know that?' which compels us to explain things beyond the superficial level and encourages us to hear different interpretations of the same data that we've been looking at for decades."

Strange and Carr are hoping to confirm a hypothesis about a large building of the Roman period. They want to find more evidence of the Hellenistic occupation and better understand the role of Sepphoris in the region of Galilee over the centuries.

"Dr. Strange will teach me the proper method of excavation," Carr explained, "giving me an invaluable skill set for the future."

Lampkins also sees value in involving a student researcher in his summer research on drug discovery. "Students contribute in all areas of this project--design, execution, and data evaluation," Lampkins said. "Their enthusiasm is the engine that drives our work."

"I hope to gain a better understanding for lab work and to learn the process of how to create and test different compounds," Worth said. "Also, I hope to develop proper lab techniques and skills, in order to feel comfortable in the lab environment."

With no cure of Alzheimer's disease, Worth and Lampkins hope to make progress for the medical field this summer. "We hope that our research will result in the discovery of some exciting new lead molecules that will ultimately become viable drug candidates," Lampkins said. "We strive to design, construct, and study molecules that have never previously been made, and evaluate their medicinal properties."

Shepherd values his student researcher as a "colleague of sorts" and looks forward to furthering his research on genocide. Shepherd said, "Jonathan's knowledge of genocide is impressive, and he has a strong commitment to social justice."

Coley hopes that the genocide study will prepare him for graduate school. He said, "This project will ideally make a unique contribution to the field of genocide studies."

Coley and Shepherd hope to better understand the behavior of groups and individuals at their worst moments. They will work from Birmingham and in Washington, D.C. interviewing members of the genocide struggle.

"At most universities, only graduate students have access to this kind of opportunity," said Chris Metress, English professor and Director of the University Fellows Program. "With the help of the Alabama Power Foundation, Anna, Aaron and Jonathan will be working with our very best faculty to explore the latest research questions in their field. Through their discoveries, they have the chance to contribute new knowledge to their disciplines. For undergraduates, that's a unique and exciting experience."

Samford is a leading Christian university offering undergraduate programs grounded in the liberal arts with an array of nationally recognized graduate and professional schools. Founded in 1841, Samford is the 87th-oldest institution of higher learning in the United States. Samford enrolls 5,791 students from 49 states, Puerto Rico and 16 countries in its 10 academic schools: arts, arts and sciences, business, divinity, education, health professions, law, nursing, pharmacy and public health. Samford fields 17 athletic teams that compete in the tradition-rich Southern Conference and ranks 6th nationally for its Graduation Success Rate among all NCAA Division I schools.