For many undergraduate students, the only time research is necessary comes during the middle of the semester for an assigned project or paper. But, for students at SUNY Potsdam, one research course is attracting students across many fields with the opportunity to go beyond traditional course material.
The Kilmer Undergraduate Research Apprenticeships at SUNY Potsdam give undergraduate students an outlet to perform independent research alongside faculty members. They are given an award to help fund their research and are expected to present their findings at a forum, conference, or through an academic journal.
“The Kilmer Award specifically supports undergraduate students and their faculty mentors on independent research projects, as well as to encourage undergraduate research among all academic disciplines on the SUNY Potsdam campus,” said Carleen Graham, Director of the Center for Undergraduate Research at SUNY Potsdam. “Independent research at the undergraduate level is known to increase student overall academic confidence, retention, and encourages students to further their education beyond the undergraduate degree. “
At SUNY Day, I met Carlie Miller, a senior at SUNY Potsdam in the Studio Art program. Her summer 2011 apprenticeship had her studying sculptural masks molded with various materials. She had already been working with her professor, Amy Swartele, on new ideas to create lifelike surrealist forms and was trying to find new ways to paint subjects not typically found in nature. The program gave her the opportunity to investigate and fund her research.
“Being a two dimensional artist, I need references to make a successful piece of art. For example, a still life … or a photograph are all valuable references. My project research[es] how to build my own references from scratch,” Miller said. “My professor and I wanted to create a surrealist yet also somewhat realistic sculptural form that we can not only use as references, but can also stand alone as its own sculptural form.”
As for the reactions to her work, Miller said she has had mixed reviews. “My friends and classmates that are in the art department often times react interested and think that they are neat. Other friends and classmates often times respond shocked and are a little disturbed.”
Since completing this aspect of her research, Miller has presented her work at SUNY Day and the SUNY showcase in Plattsburgh. However she is not done. She is now studying how movement plays into different forms via the use of robotics.
Miller’s project represents just one of the many disciplines that have been explored through this program. Recent projects have included research on leadership skills learned through online video games, the production of biodiesel from ethanol, and the future of the Adirondack State Park.
Of the diversity of students in the program, Graham said, “We are pleased that the Kilmer Undergraduate Research Apprenticeships have supported nearly 100 student/faculty research projects since its inception in January of 2009. Awards in Chemistry, Art, Biology, Theatre, Geology, Music, History, Politics, Math, Philosophy, Computer Science, Anthropology, Community Health and Environmental Studies have been funded.”
Applications for the next round of Kilmer Research awardees are being accepted until Monday, April 23, 2012.