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Research LENS

Christopher Newport University’s Quality Enhancement Plan aims to improve students’ basic literacy skills and translate these into research literacy skills. Our guiding goal is to enhance basic research literacy to help students translate literacy skills into discipline-specific research. We define Undergraduate Research Literacy as “a skill-set that emerges as students learn to recognize, locate, evaluate, and synthesize information necessary to conduct a discipline-specific academic inquiry and produce work notable for its originality, rigor, and creativity.”

Christopher Newport University is excited to announce our new Research LENS initiative to enhance undergraduate research literacy. The development of Research LENS involved a campuswide effort over the course of three years, examining internal assessment data and gathering input from students, faculty, and staff. Grounded in best practices for both information literacy and undergraduate research, our Research LENS program was crafted to build on CNU’s unique strengths in liberal arts undergraduate education. Research LENS identifies four key areas critical to the development of research literacy:

  • Learn: During the “Learn” phase of our program, students obtain a basic mastery of information literacy that will serve as a foundation for their discipline specific endeavors.
  • Explore: During the “Explore” phase, students will transition into beginning stages of research literacy by forming strong connections with faculty.
  • Navigate: During the “Navigate” phase, students will embark on discipline specific undergraduate research projects.
  • Share: During the “Share” phase, students will disseminate the findings of their individual projects to broader university, discipline-specific and public audiences.

The possibilities are endless. Bring us your new idea.

Oliver Thomas '15

Oliver Thomas

History and American studies double major
2015-16 Fulbright Scholar

Oliver presented his research on diplomatic history, security and philosophy at Paideia, and was a winner of the Cupola Award. He published two journal articles and co-wrote a book chapter as a result of his undergraduate research at Christopher Newport.

"The undergraduate research experience at Christopher Newport is special because it’s an ongoing exchange of ideas between students and faculty to shed light on the relevant issues of our time. The serious faculty mentorship I experienced resulted in the publication of my work and funding for a research trip to the National Archives and the Library of Congress. These opportunities gave me the tools I needed to craft sound material and meet other professionals and scholars.

My outlook on life evolved through my research, and I was able to set tangible goals out of the experience and refine my professional trajectory.”

Dr. Brash working with students

Dr. Edward Brash

professor of physics

We involve undergraduates in our research in ways usually reserved for graduate students at other institutions.

Here, students can define and refine their academic and professional goals and interests. They benefit from the mentorship we provide, and go on to mentor other students along the way.

The students who work with the nuclear physics group at Thomas Jefferson National Accelerator Facility work sideby- side with preeminent scientists and engineers from all over the world, and more importantly, they contribute in a crucial way to the work being done there.

The research we do is fascinating and compelling. Educating students about the beauty of physics, the role science plays in our world and the importance of using robust scientific techniques in learning about our world has real value. Working with undergraduates in our research program at Jefferson Lab is the most important work I have ever done.

Dr. Edward Brash leads a team of faculty and student researchers in studying the structure of protons. The group uses nearby Jefferson Lab’s powerful accelerators to measure the properties of the proton — part of a global effort to reveal the structures of the fundamental particles of the universe.

Christi Harris with student

Christi Harris

associate professor of art chair, department of fine art and art history

We take a lot of pride in developing professional relationships with our students. I’ve never seen a more committed faculty, and we remain a resource.

The roots of undergraduate research begin here and continue to grow after graduation. Developing a sculpture or painting and then exhibiting it gives students an insight into the process of the artist and the practical aspects of how to work professionally.

Personally, it invigorates me when students show a genuine interest in their field. It’s mutually beneficial, and helps me to continue learning as well.

Kevin Purdy '16

Kevin Purdy

marketing and spanish double major, leadership studies and international culture and business double minor

Kevin traveled to El Paso, Texas, and Juárez, Mexico, with Dr. Tina Kempin Reuter, Associate Professor of Government, to analyze and compare the social, legal and political implications physical borders have on conflicts and relationships between nations. They are pictured with Juárez city official Jorge Mario Quintana Silveyra.

“This project gave me the opportunity to use the language skills I learned as a Spanish major and a chance to really experience undergraduate research closely with a faculty member. Researching alongside similarly driven individuals from all over the University was an excellent way to further my academic experience.”

Julie Slater '18

Julie Slater

environmental biology major

Julie studies tree cores to learn their ages and the effects of climate on their growth. She hopes her work will contribute to the restoration of the southern Appalachian fens, mountain wetlands home to many rare plant and animal species.

“Undergraduate research has given me a much deeper understanding of ecology than I could ever gain from a class. I’m learning to ask good questions about the processes within the landscape, and to think about ways to answer them.”

Dr. Christopher Meighan with students

Dr. Christopher Meighan

assistant professor of biology

Undergraduate research transforms a university from a series of buildings and classrooms into a true intellectual environment where discoveries are made, not just discussed. By involving undergraduates in research we introduce them to the problems faced by our society and arm them with the means to find solutions.

Many schools have outstanding research programs, but the undergraduates at those institutions tend to be trained by post-doctoral staff or graduate students.

Working directly with a professor is the best way to gain the expertise needed to succeed at a job or in graduate school.

Here at Christopher Newport, undergraduates have a special opportunity to do cutting-edge research with professors who are experts in their field.

Callie Boone '16

Callie Boone

vocal performance and choral music education double major, leadership studies minor

Callie traveled to England to research the relationships between the music and text of Benjamin Britten’s Canticle II: “Abraham and Isaac” at the Britten-Pears Foundation Library and Archive. Working with Music Professor Dr. Danielle Ward-Griffin (seated at piano), Callie examined how Britten dramatized the story of Abraham and Isaac through music and how it transfers to the stage, ultimately concluding her project in a performance of Canticle II.

“My undergraduate research helped me improve my time-management skills, made me a better writer and a more intentional musician. Research also gives students the opportunity to explore areas they’ve never experienced before, which may end up leading them to future projects, graduate school or even a lifetime career.”

Dr. John Finn with students

Dr. John Finn

assistant professor of geography

Research is important because it challenges students in ways that they don’t experience in the classroom.

I’ve supervised students who have cowritten academic papers with me that were accepted for publication in peerreviewed journals.

Together we’ve conducted grant-funded field research, and given professional presentations at local, regional and national conferences.

The benefits of undergraduate research are many, both on campus and beyond. Students gain valuable field expertise, develop their writing and presentation talents, and gain an in-depth and hands-on understanding of the research process. These skills can be applied in any endeavor where critical-thinking and creativity are necessary to solve problems.

Dr. Alice Veksler with students

Dr. Alice Veksler

assistant professor of communication

Undergraduate research at Christopher Newport gives students the opportunity to illustrate what they have learned above and beyond what shows up on a transcript.

We offer students so many ways to work directly with faculty on a wide array of projects. The work students undertake in my lab would be assigned to advanced PhD students at other schools. Our students leave here with invaluable experience.

Students who practice undergraduate research in college learn to tell the difference between good and bad science. This allows them to make better-informed decisions and become more engaged citizens of the world.
William Morgan Palmer '16

William Morgan Palmer

political science and american studies double major, philosophy of law and national security studies double minor

William spent his time as a summer scholar researching and transcribing letters written to Abraham Lincoln during the Civil War, and studying the history of treason in America between the time of European settlement and the Civil War.

“My project has opened my eyes to how many people from the past are forgotten. But through research, we can unbury their stories — and bring them back to life — in order to learn more about them and the times in which they lived.”

Annie Cecil '16

Annie Cecil

business administration major, civic engagement and social entrepreneurship double minor

Annie created a case study of STIHL, an outdoor power equipment company, for future students taking courses in the Luter School of Business. Through her in-depth study of STIHL manufacturing plants in Virginia Beach and Germany, Annie helped develop lesson plans and class materials, and co-wrote an academic journal article.

“I knew participating in undergraduate research would be an excellent opportunity to try something new and expand my knowledge of sustainability practices. With my research, I wanted to give students the opportunity to learn more about sustainability and how it pertains to businesses, and then be able to apply it in a real-world context.”

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