At Eckerd our freshmen do real research.

Eckerd College Research Associateships are awarded to approximately 25 incoming freshmen each year. The winners are selected on the basis of their overall high school record and are given the opportunity to work closely with a member of the faculty on a research project of mutual interest. The associateship includes a one-year stipend of up to $1,000. Freshman Research applications must be addressed to the Office of Admission and postmarked by February 1st.

Select a 2012 Freshman Research Associateship project below to see the full description.

Ecovillages around the World

Field: Environmental Studies
Title: Ecovillages around the World
Supervisors: Dr. Alison Ormsby, Associate Professor of Environmental Studies

About the Project:
This project focuses on researching global ecovillages. Ecovillages are intentional communities that have a low-impact, sustainable living environment. There are numerous ecovillages around the world. The Freshman Research Associate will research and produce a case study analysis of several examples of successful ecovillages to evaluate which elements of sustainability they have successfully developed.

About the Supervisor:
Alison Ormsby teaches courses in Environmental Studies, including Environmental Education, Wildlife Policy, Advanced Policy of Protected Areas, and Advanced Ecotourism Policy/Practice. Her research interests include people-nature interactions, the role of environmental education in biodiversity conservation, and protected areas management. Recently, her research has focused on people-park interactions in Madagascar and Florida as well as sacred forests in Ghana and India.

Download the Freshman Research Application(PDF)

Mapping Tampa Bay's Religious Landscape

Field: Religious Studies
Title: Mapping Tampa Bay's Religious Landscape
Supervisor: Dr. Davina C. Lopez, Religious Studies

About the Project:
What kinds of religious communities are represented in Eckerd College's immediate vicinity? How do these communities interact with one another, participate in civil society, and enrich the cultural diversity of the Tampa Bay metropolitan area? How does a community's religious orientation affect its engagement in public discourse? What are local stereotypes about religions? What are the possibilities for interfaith and interdenominational collaboration and cooperation in Eckerd's neighborhood? Through field and library research as well as experiential learning, this research associate will assist Religious Studies faculty in mapping the religious landscape of St. Petersburg and the Tampa Bay area. Drawing on the guidelines developed by Harvard University's Pluralism Project, the associate will conduct site visits, gather and assemble relevant data in various media, and learn how to conduct interviews with religious leaders and community members. This original research will lay the groundwork for the development of a comprehensive resource for Religious Studies students and faculty at Eckerd; it will also make a significant contribution to ongoing national efforts to document the religious diversity of the United States. Students from any religious background, as well as those interested in interracial relations, anthropology, sociology, political science and international relations, urban studies, and dialogue across differences, are welcome.

About the supervisor:
Professor Davina C. Lopez (primary supervisor) teaches biblical studies at Eckerd College. Her research and pedagogical interests include Pauline studies, visual culture, contemporary uses of the Bible and other scriptures, and dialogue across social and religious differences. The research associate for "Mapping Tampa Bay's Religious Landscape" will also have the opportunity to draw upon the expertise of other professors in Religious Studies, as well as other disciplines in the Letters Collegium, for the duration of his/her work on this project.

Download the Freshman Research Application(PDF)

Dragon Boat Racing: From China to Tampa Bay

Field: East Asian Studies
Title: Dragon Boat Racing: From China to Tampa Bay
Supervisor: Professor Andrew Chittick

About the Project:
Dragon boat racing originated for military training and public spectacle in Chinese communities over 1500 years ago. In recent decades, while remaining a tradition in Chinese society, it has also become an international competitive sport, with Tampa Bay a major center. This project seeks both to learn more about the spread of the races, and to use their popularity as a way to educate people about Chinese history and culture. It has three different aspects in which a student associate might participate, depending on abilities and interest. First, we would work with members of the Asian-American community in Tampa Bay and other US locations to learn more about how they understand their cultural heritage and its expression in dragon boat racing and related Chinese cultural festivals. Second, we would develop an exhibit on the history and contemporary practice of traditional dragon boat racing, and an associated website (, to be used at the annual races held in Tampa, and potentially at other locations as well. Third, we would work to develop a dragon boat racing team at Eckerd College, collaborating with members of ASPEC (the Academy of Senior Professionals at Eckerd College) to build a traditional dragon boat, and recruiting a student team to help build and race it. Students should have good people skills and a strong interest in Chinese history and culture, with a background in, or intention to undertake, Chinese language study. Other helpful background experiences would be web design and paddling or rowing sports.

About the supervisor:
Professor Andrew Chittick runs the East Asian Studies program at Eckerd College. His primary research interests are in the history of southern China and southeast Asia, local history, social and military history, and maritime trade and global studies. He has researched and published on the history of dragon boat racing for several years, and has recently begun a fieldwork project in southern China on traditional dragon boat racing practices and rituals.

Download the Freshman Research Application(PDF)

GPU Computing in the Life Sciences

Field: Computer Science
Title: GPU Computing in the Life Sciences
Supervisor: Dr. Trevor Cickovski, Assistant Professor of Computer Science

About the Project:
Scientific computing involves simulating biological entities and viewing results on the computer. This field holds tremendous power in terms of testing conditions which are not attainable in a laboratory, over time periods which may be unattainable, and on materials which may not be accessible. The biggest limitation is the complexity of life processes. For example, the human genome contains around 3 billion DNA base pairs. The bonds in a protein molecule move once every femtosecond (10^-15 seconds), so to accurately model the motion of the molecule for even one second would require 1 million billion calculations. Since a protein folds on the order of seconds, this must be our goal in order to accurately model a behavior such as protein folding, or potentially the interaction of a protein with a designed drug.

To achieve a biologically relevant time period for these types of simulations and have it finish in our lifetime, we must take advantage of every opportunity to speed up numerical processing. Graphical Processing Units (GPUs) on your graphics card offer an alternative to the conventional task of running on CPUs (what we normally use to run programs), because their central purpose is to process large amounts of numbers (RGB data). With the help of GPUs, there has already been evidence of simulation speedups ranging from 60- to 120-fold for large molecules. This project will involve programming portions of simulations (those that involve heavy processing) to work with GPUs, running the simulations on GPUs, and measuring speedups.

About the Supervisor:
Dr. Trevor Cickovski teaches courses in Computer Science, including Java programming, Programming Languages/Compilers, Operating Systems, and Computer Architecture. His research interests lie in the field of applied computing, including the development of mathematical equations to represent natural processes and efficiently implementing them into biological software. He also is fascinated by machine-human interaction and has designed domain-specific languages which have helped biologists and chemists to program their systems using syntax which is catered to their domain. Research conducted with the FRA will build upon existing software for molecular modeling and DNA primer design, and will be part of a collaboration with external universities.

Download the Freshman Research Application(PDF)

Arts Organizations in St. Petersburg, FL

Field: Sociology
Title: Arts Organizations in St. Petersburg, FL
Supervisor: Dr. Nicholas Dempsey

About the Project:
Saint Petersburg has, in recent years, positioned itself as one of the nation's leading arts cities. The city hosts several art museums and numerous smaller galleries, as well as a number of performing arts organizations and arts educations groups. The purpose of this study is to learn how arts organizations work with other urban institutions such as schools, businesses, and government. We will be exploring why some organizations have enjoyed great success, while others do not survive more than a couple of years. The student will be responsible for tasks such as collecting and summarizing information about arts organizations and attending city government meetings about the arts.

About the supervisor:
Nicholas Dempsey is an assistant professor of Sociology at Eckerd College. He holds undergraduate and graduate degrees from the University of Chicago and teaches courses in the Sociology of Culture, Urban Sociology, Social Theory, and Social Stratification. His past research has explored how jazz musicians interact to craft successfully improvised performances.

Download the Freshman Research Application(PDF)

Sun, sea, surgery… Medical Travel & Online Advertising

Field: Medical Anthropology
Title: Sun, sea, surgery… Medical Travel & Online Advertising
Supervisor: Dr. Amy Speier

About the Project:
Now, as we enter the 21st century, there are new forms of medical tourism developing all over the globe. People are traveling to India for knee surgery or hip replacement, to Thailand for heart surgery, to Costa Rica for plastic surgery, and to the Czech Republic for reproductive care. The reasons that people travel for health care are either because of high costs of treatment, unavailability of treatment at home, or regulatory limitations of accessing treatment at home.

North Americans, when traveling abroad for reproductive treatment, tend to travel because of the high cost of health care in the United States. Patients, unable to pay high prices at home, begin to take matters into their own hands. In doing so, they turn to the internet, where they conduct Google searches, join support groups, and read online blogs and boards. It is usually on the internet where patients discover the option to travel abroad for various kinds of treatment.

The freshman assistant will work on an ethnographic project in order to understand North American patient behavior online. Increasingly, people are acting as consumers with respect to their health care and they are searching for treatment options abroad. The student and I will conduct a critical analysis of medical travel websites geared toward North Americans. In addition, we will choose one particular type of illness or issue on which to focus. We will assess the online nature of support groups that have been created for people suffering from, for example, cancer or infertility. We will analyze the nature of these "communities" and conduct a virtual ethnography.

About the supervisor:
Assistant Professor Amy Speier is a medical anthropologist who has been working in the Czech Republic for over a decade, in various realms of medical tourism. She is currently conducting an ethnographic study of North Americans traveling to the Czech Republic for reproductive care. Her research is interested in new forms of patient behavior, the virtual communities that have been created by patients acting as consumers, and the transnational nature of these migratory patient pathways.

Download the Freshman Research Application(PDF)

Marine Science

Field: Marine Science
Title: TBA
Supervisor: TBA

Download Marine Science Freshman Research Application (PDF)

The entire course will be an active learning opportunity where students will be working closely with a faculty member on research projects. Students will be engaged in research throughout the course of their freshman year collecting data, analyzing and interpreting their results and eventually presenting their findings. Thus, this course will focus primarily on students doing science compared to more traditional courses that teach about science. Once a week all students in program will meet as a group with the faculty for discussions and updates on research projects. These meetings will give the entire research group a chance to exchange and develop ideas.

Previous Marine Science projects have included:

Application of laboratory culturing techniques to study the microbial ecology of ooids and microbial mats (field collecting and lab work)

Barb regeneration following predatory attack in the Atlantic stingray Dasyatis sabina (field collecting and a laboratory experiment)

Behavioral ecology of a sex-role reversed species: brood size variation in the Gulf pipefish Syngnathus scovelli (project involved field collecting and laboratory work)

Field studies and use of a catalog of dorsal fin markings to investigate social patterns in the bottlenose dolphin (field surveys and lab work with dolphin fin catalog)

Genetic markers for studies of family relationships among wild marine mammals (work in genetics lab)

Hermit crab shell selection behavior: do crabs prefer shells that have been thickened by snails exposed to predators? (field surveys and laboratory experiments)

Lactate excretion in marine crustaceans during activity and exposure to low environmental oxygen (work in physiology lab)

Mitochondrial DNA study of population structure in Gulf and Atlantic populations of the Gulf pipefish, Syngnathus scovelli (field collecting and work in genetics lab)

Physiological consequence of malaria infection in the brown anole Anolis sagrei (field collecting and work in physiology lab)

Check out previous Freshman Research Associateships

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