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Collaborative Research Projects

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The Vovis Center supports students seeking active learning opportunities outside the classroom.

What are Collaborative Research Projects?

Collaborative research projects are multi-week group projects led by a faculty member either in the summer or winter break. These projects are in-person experiences and are held on-campus at Knox. Most projects are suitable for students with no experience with research or exposure to the research topics; others have a few minimal requirements. All selected students receive a grant from Knox to support their participation in these projects. The summer collaborative research program will resume in 2025; the winter break program is set to run in December 2024. See below for more details.

Summer Collaborative Research Projects

During the summer, a small group of students engage in a short-term collaborative research project guided by a faculty mentor and focused on a particular topic. Students generally apply for the summer program by late March. This program will resume in 2025. See below for an overview of the projects that ran in 2023 and check out this story about projects that year for more information.

  • In this project, students applied theoretical approaches to “read” video games through the lenses of myth and ritual to explore the way video games communicate meaning. Students addressed the fundamental question, “is the interactivity between player and narrative in a video game analogous to the interactivity of a religious ritual?” The dynamic tension of the video game, in which the player feels an illusory sense of narrative agency (since the possible outcomes are already scripted), is the space in which students conducted research. Students asked the fundamental question of whether the mechanics of video games function analogously to the mechanics of myth and ritual. Faculty mentor: Scott Harris, Lecturer in Religious Studies.

  • From Galileo’s earliest observations that helped dislodge the notion that Earth was the center of the Universe, to Henrietta Leavitt’s discovery of Cepheid variable stars which helped give us a handle on the size of our galaxy and expanse of the Universe, to Edwin Hubble’s observations that the Universe is ever expanding, it would be hard to argue that any single scientific instrument has transformed the way that humanity views itself in relation to the cosmos more than the telescope. In this project, students learned relevant astronomy and physics to carry out observational astronomy projects utilizing the Knox Observatory. Faculty mentors: Mark Shroyer, Associate Professor of Physics, and Nathalie Haurberg, Associate Professor of Physics.

  • Knox College prides itself on being founded by radical abolitionists. Yet the Founders’ abolitionism sits uncomfortably within their historical and geographical context. The westward expansion of settler colonists like George Washington Gale was motivated by Manifest Destiny, the cultural belief that Europeans were destined to occupy North America, displacing and often eliminating its Indigenous inhabitants. In this project, students used archival materials to examine how the Founders’ abolitionism clashed with their anti-Indigenous and white supremacist beliefs, and created a digital museum to display the results of their research. Faculty mentors: Hilary Lehmann, Associate Professor of Classics, and Deirdre Dougherty, Assistant Professor of Educational Studies.

  • In this collaborative digital ethnography, students developed a social justice-oriented approach to media literacy education. Drawing on decolonial and abolitionist methods, this project sought to uncover the subtle yet powerful political forces that lie beneath such claims of news objectivity. Research was conducted on current approaches to combating mis- and disinformation, both to understand their political assumptions and to develop better alternatives that center decolonial, abolitionist, and social justice methods of news literacy. Faculty mentor: Jonah Rubin, Associate Professor of Anthropology-Sociology.

December Collaborative Research Projects

During winter break, students can apply to participate in a 2-week collaborative research project focused on a specific topic, under the guidance of a Knox faculty mentor. Selected students complete a seminar course in the fall term to prepare them for the project. Students should register for the fall prerequisite course in May and apply here during the summer to participate in December. See below for an overview of the projects that will be running in 2024.

  • Minerals are all around us, but only rarely are they unique or beautiful enough to be put on display. Knox College holds a large collection of rocks and minerals, developed by our geology department prior to the 1980s. While many of the best samples were sold after the department closed, we still have a significant collection. Students will explore our mineral collection and identify samples worthy of display. They will then construct a display space appropriate for these minerals, with the option to demonstrate fluorescence of the samples via the safe use of UV lights. Museum practice will be examined as part of the development of interpretive labels explaining this phenomenon. Faculty mentor: Katie Adelsberger Chair & Professor of Environmental Studies; The Douglas and Maria Bayer Chair in Earth Sciences

  • "Supercomputers" are the large parallel computers designed for large problems; think 10,000 processors in a room connected by a fast network and working on important scientific problems. The network turns out to be very important part of this system, crucial for quickly sending messages between the processors so they can work together efficiently. Creating a network to support this goal while keeping the cost reasonable is a challenging problem as we keep building larger systems. We'll be learning about current designs and searching for something even better. Faculty mentor: David Bunde, William & Marilyn Ingersoll Chair in Computer Science.

  • Sport can be utilized by nations to foster or further a sense of national identity and to advance their national interest. In this project, students will examine several cases in which nations have attempted to shape how they see themselves as well as how others see them in order to advance their national interest. We will examine both the academic literature and a variety of media and government sources to examine two or more cases. Students can expect to be focused on these cases and building portfolios of evidence as a research team, taking each case in turn. Faculty mentor: Andrew Civettini, Chair & Associate Professor of Political Science; Chair of International Relations; Chair of Public Policy.

  • Students will take the content from RELS 231: Hebrew Bible and explore how this ancient text is applied and practiced in the American Midwest. Students will learn ways that the a text that dates back thousands of years is still a living text that is used in contemporary Jewish communities in our local area. We will visit local Jewish centers and synagogues to learn about the study and application of sacred text, and its interpretation, in modern religious life and how American Judaism represents a diverse mix of theological traditions. Faculty mentor: Scott Harris, Lecturer in Religious Studies

Knox College

Printed on Monday, May 20, 2024