Student Presenting Research at the Rall Symposium for Undergraduate Research
Visitors to North Central’s Rall Symposium for Undergraduate Research saw student research that took hours and hours of inquiry.

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Undergraduate research readies students for the real world


Laura Pohl

Mar 31, 2020

Rall Symposium for Undergraduate Research brings student research projects to the forefront

Visitors to North Central College’s Rall Symposium for Undergraduate Research only saw the final product of student research, and not the hours and hours of work and creative activity that students put into their projects.

Students know the time and effort is worth it, because these aren’t just research topics for college students. For them, these are the high points of their undergraduate education.

“Research has aided me in making that ‘next jump’ outside of the classroom,” said Audel Ochoa ’20, a finance and economics major. “I’ve learned how to convey complicated findings in a way that is digestible—an experience that you just can’t find in a classroom environment.”

Ochoa is one of 141 students who presented their work on a wide range of topics for research papers. Those topics included immigration, tourism in Greece, wastewater treatment, Japanese New Year’s celebrations, and how consumers behaved during the 2016 presidential campaign. His project was on the controversial topic of cryptocurrency prices.

Ochoa did his research with help from Assistant Professor of Business and Entrepreneurship Chetan Chawla. Chawla is one of 58 faculty mentors working with these students. “I think that research really allows students to apply what they are learning and forces us out of our comfort zone—that’s a valuable experience that I can carry into the workforce,” said Ochoa.

Kennedy Taylor ’19 was a College Scholars Honors student who graduated with a degree in secondary education and English studies. She wrote her thesis about cultural diversity in high school English texts. For her this was way more than just simply writing a research paper or working on an undergraduate research project.

“There is such a sense of accomplishment to know that you may now be considered an expert in the field you're passionate about,” Taylor said. “Overall I’ve gained a more nuanced understanding of peer-reviewed research and what goes into it behind the scenes, as well as what I can do to help change the education system for the better.”

Undergraduate research provider Kennedy Taylor.

Kennedy Taylor

Undergraduate research inspires REU, Goldwater honor and graduate school

Brandi Pessman ’19 got her degree in biology and entered a Ph.D. program in animal behavior at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln. This was a goal that came from her research with Chandreyee Mitra, her advisor. Mitra is an assistant professor of biology and one of the North Central faculty members with the most interest in research. At the symposium, Pessman gave a presentation on a research question about electrocommunication signals in Black Ghost Knifefish. Her project came started with a Research Experience for Undergraduates (REU) at Indiana University.

“The thirst for knowledge and curiosity for the unknown has fueled much of my research career, and it will continue to do so,” said Pessman, who earned a Goldwater Scholarship Honorable Mention in 2018. “Doing research at North Central, and presenting at the Rall symposium … demonstrated that I have the power to find answers to questions and solutions to problems.”

College Scholar Luke Musgrave ’19 explored a subject way outside his actuarial science major. He embraced his musical talents and decided to contrast traditional protestant hymns with contemporary praise and worship songs.

I wondered if the lyrical content was significantly different between the two styles of worship. Since I couldn't find any specific studies on this subject, I decided to write my thesis on that topic,” said Musgrave, who began a career in actuarial science at Allstate in September 2019.

Students present undergraduate research at the Rall Symposium.

Student research taking center stage at the Rall Symposium.