Freshman Research Associateships

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 submitted online by February 1st.

Ancient Studies

Field: Ancient Studies
Faculty: Dr. Heather Vincent
Apply Now: Ancient Studies Freshman Research

About the Project:
Students enrolled in this program will assist professors in compiling an interactive guide to ancient and classically-inspired works of art and architecture on display in the local Tampa Bay area. The digital database resulting from this project will include both original antiquities and works of art inspired by the Greco-Roman classical tradition. In this first year of the project, we will focus primarily on ceramics from the Tampa Museum of Art, the Ringling Museum, and/or selected private collections. Student researchers in this program will engage in the following kinds of activities: interviewing the local curators or owners, researching works of special interest, compiling and linking catalog entries, photographing artifacts, and publishing an internally accessible webpage or set of linked documents.

Dr. Heather Vincent
is Associate Professor of Classics and has served on the Classics and Ancient Studies faculty since her arrival in 2006. Prior to her arrival at Eckerd, she held the position of Assistant Professor of Classics at Southern Illinois University in Carbondale, IL. Dr. Vincent’s research focuses on Roman satire and ancient and modern humor theory. She is particularly interested in obscene and scatological tropes employed in ancient comedic literatures, or, in other words, all matters bawdy, boorish, and base. Course offerings are sure to please!

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.

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.

Pathways to Protein Synthesis

Field: Biochemistry
Faculty: Dr. Crystal Young-Erdos
Apply Now: Biochemistry Freshman Research

About the Project:
One way to control cancer cell growth is to inhibit its production of proteins. To this effect, understanding how ribosomes, the cellular machinery responsible for protein synthesis in all cells, are properly assembled is a current research interest. Freshman Research Associates will work directly with Dr. Young-Erdos and her team of students to use biochemistry and molecular biology approaches to better understand an essential part of the ribosome assembly pathway. In addition to helping with experimental design, collection of results and data analysis, students will also gain experience with Baker’s yeast, the organism used for baking bread and brewing beer that is regularly used as a model system.

Dr. Crystal Young-Erdos
is an Assistant Professor of Chemistry and teaches the biochemistry curriculum here at Eckerd College. She received her B.A. in Chemistry from Washington & Jefferson College and her PhD in Chemistry (focus on Chemical Biology) from the University of Michigan. Dr. Young-Erdos’ primary research interests include elucidating the molecular roles of key players in the ribosome assembly pathway.

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.