First-Year Research Associateships

At Eckerd our first-year students do real research.

Eckerd College Research Associateships are awarded to approximately 25 incoming first-year students 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. First-year research applications must be submitted online by February 1st.

Arts Organizations in St. Petersburg

Field: Sociology
Faculty: Dr. Nicholas Dempsey
Apply Now: Sociology Freshman Research

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.

Dr. Nicholas Dempsey
is Associate Professor and Discipline Coordinator and 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.

Exploring Dog Behavior and Cognition

Field: Psychology
Faculty: Dr. Lauren Highfill
Apply Now: Psychology Freshman 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 an Associate professor  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 Human Memory Processes

Field: Psychology
Faculty: Dr. Chris Rowland
Apply Now: Psychology Freshman Research

About the Project:
Research in cognitive psychology has found that our memories can be altered and modified in a number of ways. In addition, and with particular importance for excelling as a student, it is possible to greatly strengthen our memories through applying certain types of studying and quizzing techniques. In this project, we will be examining some of the specific ways in which memories are altered and strengthened through the use of memory recall exercises. As a Freshman Research Associate, you will be involved in a variety of research activities such as performing background research, designing experimental materials, collecting data, and assessing our results. In the process, we will be both exploring past research on learning and memory that is especially relevant to college students, and also generating new knowledge about how human memory works.

Dr. Christopher Rowland
arrived at Eckerd in 2015, having lived previously (and completed his undergraduate and graduate work) in Colorado. At Eckerd, Chris teaches courses on Human Learning & Cognition; Methods of Research in Psychology; and Philosophical Issues in Psychology. Outside of teaching, Chris conducts research on how people think, learn, and remember, and enjoys talking with his students about all things psychology related. He is also always interested in collaborating with students in the research process, and welcomes those who are interested in the study of cognition to get in touch with him!

Marine Science Freshman Research

Field: Marine Science
Faculty: TBD
Apply Now: Marine Science Freshman 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)

Osprey Nest Monitoring and Conservation

Field: Environmental Studies & Biology
Faculty: Dr. Beth Forys
Apply Now: Environmental Studies & Biology Freshman Research

About the Project:
Ospreys are high adaptable fish-eating birds of prey that nest on Eckerd College’s bay-front campus and the surrounding coastal areas. Join a team of students who are monitoring Ospreys in our area to determine nest choice, timing of nesting, nesting success and potential hazards to Ospreys. Freshman Research Associates will be responsible for the 12 osprey nests on campus and will visit nests weekly to determine the health of our local Osprey population as well as answer additional questions about Osprey behavior and population dynamics.

Dr. Beth Forys
teaches courses in Environmental Studies and Biology, including Environmental Biology, Conservation Biology, Geographic Information Systems (GIS), and Field Ornithology. She received her PhD in Wildlife Conservation & Ecology from the University of Florida and her M.S. and B.A. in Environmental Science from the University of Virginia. She is primarily interested in determining which methods work best for helping endangered species. Much of her current research focuses on monitoring and recovery of coastal bird populations.

Public Understanding of Science and Climate Change

Field: Environmental Studies
Faculty: Dr. Joanna Huxster
Apply Now: Environmental Studies Freshman Research

About the Project:
Public understanding of science, especially in regards to global issues like climate change, is important for public action and social change. In this research project we will be working with interview and survey data from individuals locally and across the country. The aim of this research is to better measure and grasp public understanding of science and climate change, with the intent of eventually crafting more effective communication materials. This project will include assisting the professor with literature investigation, survey and interview design, data collection, and analysis.

Dr. Joanna Huxster
joined the faculty of Eckerd College in 2017. Her research interests include public understanding and communication of environmental issues, climate change, and science. Current projects focus on public understanding of the social structure of science and how that understanding relates to trust in scientific consensus for politically divisive scientific issues like climate change, and effective communication techniques for increasing public understanding of science and inspiring action on environmental issues. The courses she teaches include Introduction to Environmental Studies, Environmental Communication, and Climate Change Communication.

The College Student Experience

Field: Psychology
Faculty: Dr. Miranda Goodman
Apply Now: Psychology Freshman Research

About the Project:
College is a period of significant transition, for both students and their parents. 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.

Freshman 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 parent-child relationship during the first year 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 and evaluating the effectiveness of the mentor-student relationship.

Tluszcz Freshman Research Associateship in History

Field: History
Faculty: TBA
Apply Now: History Freshman Research

About the Project:
The Tluszcz Freshman Research Associateship in History is available due to the generosity of Mark Tluszcz.  He graduated from Eckerd College with a major in history and went on to develop an impressive career as an entrepreneur and investor. He is the co-founder and CEO of Mangrove Capital Partners, and serves as the Chairperson of Wix IPO. His company was an early investor of Skype and other world changing companies. He honors Elie Wiesel with his gift.

Applicants must be planning to major or minor in the field of history. Those chosen for the program will have exciting opportunities to work closely with faculty members on various research projects during their first year at Eckerd. They will be awarded a $1,000 scholarship, and join an outstanding group of history research associates. This fall they will take a designated history course together and conduct a research project, and in the spring they will enroll in a history course of their choice, which also will involve research.