First-Year student research associateships

Jump-start your first year with real research

Every year, we invite 20–25 bright new students to work side by side with our professors on their research. At any given time, we may have active projects in psychology, communication, ancient studies, literature, religious studies, management, theatre, international business, biology and marine science. It’s a great way to get some research experience and see if what you think you’re interested in is really the major for you.

Students receive a one-year stipend of up to $1,000. Applications must be postmarked by February 1.

Associateships for the 2020-21 academic year

Animal Behavior Research Assistant

Field: Animal Studies
Faculty: Dr. Erin Frick

Apply Now: Animal Studies First-Year Research

About the Project

The study of animal behavior has gained a great deal of attention in recent years, with the goal to better understand both how and why animals behave the way they do. Knowledge of an animal’s behavioral repertoire is critical to our ability to monitor populations in the wild, and provide care through rescue and rehabilitation and in zoological institutions. Research assistants will work in the Frick Animal Behavior Laboratory on active research projects that focus on animal behavior/communication, social learning, and animal welfare.

Dr. Erin Frick is an Assistant Professor of Animal Studies at Eckerd College. She is co-director of the Animal Studies Research Collaborative and leads the Frick Animal Behavior Laboratory. She has worked with a variety of species including bottlenose dolphins, sea otters, Asian small-clawed otters, loggerhead sea turtles, and zebrafish.

College Student Mental Health and Well-Being

Field: Psychology
Faculty: Dr. Miranda Goodman-Wilson

Apply Now: Psychology First-Year Research

About the Project

College is a period of significant transition, for both students and their parents. College is also a period of particular vulnerability for the experience of psychological disorders and other psychological stressors. Eckerd provides many resources to support students in these transitions, including the unique opportunity to live in their dorm room with a family pet, and a strong emphasis on faculty mentorship.

First-Year Research Associates will have the opportunity to assist the professor with one of several projects related to the college student experience. Possibilities include a study of the role which emotional support animals play during academically stressful situations; of the parent-child relationship across the four years of college; and an examination of what predicts a good match between faculty mentor and student. The student would participate in a variety of study-related tasks including literature reviews and planning, participant recruitment, data collection and analysis and write-ups.

Dr. Miranda Goodman is an Assistant Professor of Psychology with interests in the parent-child relationship from infancy all the way through college and the impact of mental health issues on these relationships. She is also interested in conducting research to evaluate how colleges and universities can most effectively support their students. She received her undergraduate degree from the University of California-Los Angeles and her Ph.D. from the University of California-Davis. Her previous research has explored social referencing in infancy, the development of prosocial behavior in toddlers, and preschool-aged children’s memories for traumatic events. Since arriving at Eckerd, she has completed studies looking at the impact of living with a pet on a college student stress, the role of emotional support animals on college campuses, the parent-child relationship at the transition to college, and what predicts the quality of a mentor-student relationship.

Decreasing Injuries to Brown Pelicans at Fishing Piers

Field: Environmental Studies
Faculty: Dr. Beth Forys

Apply Now: Envrionmental Studies First-Year Research

About the Project

Brown Pelicans are amazing at catching fish, but they will also eat discards from people fishing at piers. Each time a pelican visits a fishing pier it risks being entangled in fishing line. Join a research team that is trying to better understand what attracts pelicans and other wading birds to fishing piers and how to decrease their chance of being injured. Students will conduct surveys for pelicans and other wading birds on campus and will also record the behavior of people fishing.

Exploring Animal Perceptions of Art and Entertainment

Field: Theatre
Faculty: Dr. Antonia Krueger

Apply Now: Theatre First-Year Research

About the Project

As Animal Studies has developed as a field, the impacts of performing arts and visual arts on animal subjects has become an area of interest for many performing and visual artists, as well as others invested in fostering well-being for non-human animals who live in close proximity to humans. Video games, television, and music for pets, and dance and music for dairy cows, chickens, horses, and goats, are among areas where this is a growing field of investigation. The purpose of this project is to explore various aspects of animal responses to the arts. What is aesthetically appealing for members of nonhuman animal species? The first-year student associate will assist with exploratory research examining animal responses to artistic stimuli. Primary responsibilities would include exploring and analyzing literature in the field, recruiting pet participants, running non-invasive experiments, collating and analyzing data, and writing up findings.

Exploring Dog Behavior & Cognition

Field: Animal Studies
Faculty: Dr. Lauren Highfill

Apply Now: Animal Studies First-Year Research

About the Project

Throughout the history of psychology, the behavior of animals has been studied in an effort to better understand human behavior. However, over the past few decades, comparative psychologists have begun to test principles of human behavior and cognition on other species. Comparative psychologists now study a wide range of subjects such as personality, concept-formation, and problem-solving with many different species.   The purpose of this project is to explore various aspects of animal behavior and cognition with dogs. The student associate would assist the professor with on-going and new research projects. Primary responsibilities would include investigating literature, conducting non-invasive, behavioral experiments, analyzing data, and writing up results.

Dr. Lauren Highfill is Professor of Psychology and Animal Studies and a comparative psychologist with interests in animal personality and animal cognition. Through her research, she has studied a number of species including dolphins, elephants, lemurs, and dogs.

Exploring Local Religious Diversity & Pluralism

Field: Religious Studies
Faculty: Dr. Davina Lopez

Apply Now: Religious Studies First-Year Research

About the Project

What kinds of religious communities are represented at Eckerd College and in St. Petersburg? How do these individuals and communities interact with one another, participate in civil society, and enrich the cultural diversity of the College and the Tampa Bay area? What are local stereotypes about religions? What are the possibilities for cooperation at Eckerd and in our neighborhood? How might students foster meaningful dialogues across differences?

This research associate will work with Professor Davina Lopez (Religious Studies) and Chaplain Doug McMahon (Center for Spiritual Life) to understand the religious landscape at Eckerd College and in St. Petersburg. Drawing on guidelines developed by the Interfaith Youth Core and Harvard University’s Pluralism Project, the associate will learn how to plan and conduct programs on religious diversity and pluralism for the Eckerd College student body and learn how to converse with religious leaders and community members from a variety of backgrounds.

This research associate will make a significant contribution to ongoing national efforts to document the religious diversity of the United States and to nurture strategies for negotiating differences. Students from any or no religious background or affiliation will be welcome. What we seek is an open-minded associate who is ready to learn about different people and different worldviews from multiple perspectives. This project will enhance the learning of those interested in peace and justice issues, interracial relations, politics and international relations, urban studies, identity and cultural diversity, and education.

Marine Science First-Year Research

Field: Marine Science
Faculty: TBD

Apply Now: Marine Science First-Year Research

About the Project

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)
  • Trace metal concentrations in Gulf of Mexico sediments following the Deep Water Horizon Oil Spill
  • Microplastics in Tampa Bay: spatial and temporal variability (field collecting and lab work)

Mind, Body, and Spirit: Exploring Eckerd’s Architecture

Field: Humanities
Faculty: Dr. Amanda Hagood

Apply Now: First-Year Research

About the Project

In this project, student researchers will explore the rich connections between Eckerd College’s unique architecture and grounds and the educational ideals upon which the College was founded by creating a digital exhibit featuring materials from the College archives. Students will learn about a variety of digital tools—including those used for video, photo, and audio editing, visualizing data, and hosting content—and their uses in humanities research, presentation, and community engagement. They will review a variety of background readings about the history of the College, interview subject experts, and conduct archival research in the College archives. They will apply their learning to develop a digital exhibit of archival materials on the history of Eckerd College, ultimately “telling the story” of Eckerd’s unique campus architecture and sense of place.

Neighborhood Change in Saint Petersburg

Field: Sociology
Faculty: Dr. Nick Dempsey

Apply Now: Sociology First-Year Research

About the Project

We will be researching how neighborhoods change in St. Petersburg. In particular, we are looking at how many people move out of neighborhoods in a given year, why they move, and where they end up going.

Dr. Nicholas Dempsey is Associate Professor and Discipline Coordinator of Sociology. He earned his Ph.D. at the University of Chicago. His teaching and research interests include sociological theory, culture and the arts, urban sociology, and social stratification.

Predicting Disease Dynamics Using Mathematical Modeling

Field: Mathematics
Faculty: Dr. Lindsey Fox

Apply Now: Mathematics First-Year Research

About the Project

How do infectious diseases spread from person to person and what can scientists do to minimize it? Despite the advanced state of modern medicine, outbreaks of new infectious diseases (such as the lung disease associated with e-cigarettes) and resurgence of declining diseases (such as measles) occur and must be investigated. Mathematical modeling is a useful tool for studying outbreaks of diseases and has played a role in reducing the impact of Ebola, HIV, HPV, influenza, and many more diseases. It allows us to address questions and test hypotheses that may be unfeasible or unethical to study in reality.

Student researchers will work with Dr. Lindsey Fox to understand the natural history of the lung disease associated with e-cigarettes, the current outbreak of measles associated with a decline in vaccination rates, or another disease of students’ interest. They will then construct and simulate a model that describes the dynamics of the disease, compare their model output to data, and use their model to investigate the impact of various control measures on an outbreak. Students will learn to use the computing software R to simulate their model.

Students receive a one-year stipend of up to $1,000.
Applications must be postmarked by February 1.

Meet a first-year research associate

First-year students on a boat, handling a ray

Studying marine life in Boca Ciega Bay

Marine science students studying core samples

Studying sediment layers extracted from the Gulf of Mexico

Male student in tie-dye shirt looking through binoculars