Undergraduate Research

Undergraduate Research is at the heart of the Honors College’s mission. The Honors College curriculum integrates research across the disciplines, tailoring the concepts and contexts of research to students' specific area of study. Afforded experiences that are typically reserved for graduate programs, Miami’s Honors College students complete rigorous, scholarly curricular requirements that culminate in the completion of an Honors thesis. While research is a core component of the Honors College experience, success as an Honors College student begins with an interest in exploring and engaging with ideas and their consequences. Research is not just in scientific labs or archives; it requires students to engage in the application of ideas to real world contexts, be it in the humanities or in the field of business. Read examples of Honors students' work below to understand the research possibilities that await you in the Miami University Honors College. To realize these expectations, students in the Honors College will have access to the following benefits:

  • Honors exclusive research- and writing-intensive courses across the disciplines
  • Direct faculty mentorship of their research, creative, or pre-professional project
  • Financial support for conference presentations, publications, teaching, and/or research related to their project

Applied Project Examples

Creation of the Aapar Foundation

By Esha Chadha, Microbiology major with a Premedical Studies co-major, Class of 2020. When Esha worked with a surgical oncologist in India in 2019, many of the patients Esha saw were from the slums and had extensive disease symptoms. A lot of them could not afford the basic necessities for cancer treatment, such as chemotherapy ports and peripherally inserted central catheter (PICC) lines. These patients often received their chemotherapy through their veins, which can sometimes cause arms and legs to stop functioning due to chemotherapy leakage into tissues surrounding one’s limbs. Esha decided to help find a solution. Esha realized it was possible to send these necessary supplies to a doctor in India in order for those patients to receive the proper treatment. After this idea Esha started the Aapar Foundation to help provide unused and surplus PICC lines and chemotherapy ports to patients in need around the world. Esha told Honors, "I didn't fully realize I wanted to become a surgeon and help cancer patients until I went to India. After that trip I realized that I really love the medical environment and a career that's hands-on and requires quick problem-solving. This experience has helped me in choosing the right career path."

Stop the Bleed University: Providing College Students with Direct Access to Bleeding Control Education

By Grace Chaney, Kinesiology major with a Premedical Studies co-major, Class of 2021. A person with severe injuries can bleed to death in as little as five minutes without intervention. As an ambassador for the national Stop the Bleed campaign, Grace has been working with the national Stop the Bleed campaign leadership team to establish Stop The Bleed University (STBU) chapters across the country. STBU aims to educate and empower civilian bystanders to become immediate responders in the event of an emergency until professional help can arrive. This goal is achieved through bleeding control education classes and massive hemorrhage awareness initiatives both on campus and in the community. Since the establishment of STBU, 253 students have been certified in bleeding techniques. Grace told Honors, "Launching the first STBU chapter provided its own unique challenges, but it pushed me to become a more adaptable and innovative advocate for my peers and community. Reflecting back on the past few years,  I never would have imagined how many opportunities for growth my project would generate, nor how big of a role it would play in my life and future. I have been able to develop a deeper understanding of what it means to be a leader within a community. Furthermore, I have been able to network with representatives at the Ohio Statehouse, healthcare professionals from level one trauma centers, and  various community organizations. These interactions have substantially built my confidence, communication skills, and ability to be a strategic planner. Above all else, the most impactful part of my project was helping establish a massive bleeding survivor network for the state of Ohio. Getting to speak with various survivors about their experiences with mass shootings, car accidents, and on the job injuries elevated my appreciation for first responders and trauma personnel exponentially. It also showed me how resilient patients are! It was extremely fulfilling to be able to work with these individuals, give them support, and help them spread awareness about massive bleeding."

Business Project Examples

Growth Opportunities and Extreme Market Reactions to Mergers and Acquisitions

By Michael Molchan, Business Economics and Finance major, Class of 2021. This project examines the link between a target firm's growth opportunities and the likelihood of extreme stock market reactions to M&A transactions around the announcement date. Using data on mergers and acquisitions from January 1, 2009 to December 31, 2019, Michael found that the growth potential of a target firm has an inconclusive impact on the likelihood that shareholders experience an extreme announcement day market reaction. Michael told Honors, "Writing my Honors thesis enhanced my research skills and gave me a new appreciation for working with real-world data. I have spent my whole life being a consumer of information. Now, I have an insight into what it is like to be a producer of information; and for that, I am grateful."

Creative Arts Project Examples

The Experience of a Young Woman in Hitler’s Europe

By Madeline Mitchell, Theatre and Journalism major, Class of 2019. This project developed, in part, out of Madeline’s study abroad trip to Luxembourg at MUDEC and subsequent research on the Holocaust, including interviews with Holocaust survivors. Madeline then wrote a one-act play that was performed on campus. The play touched on themes of trauma, memory, ritual and the Jewish community as three women's stories of life during the Holocaust. Madeline wrote the play with hopes of sharing the stories of survivors and keeping their memories alive for future generations.

Virtual Reality for Medical Training Simulations

By Brad Schmitz, Computer Science and Interactive Media Studies major, Class of 2021. The goal was this project was to develop a virtual reality (VR) simulation to train nurses and nursing student. This specific program presents a scenario of treating a patient with Parkinson's Disease, and is being used in a research study conducted by Lori Cooke (a nursing faculty member at Methodist University) to determine the effectiveness of VR in training nursing students. Medical training can be expensive and dangerous, so technologies like VR are promising for inexpensive, safe, and immersive training alternatives. Brad told Honors, "For me, the best part of this project was simply getting to learn virtual reality development, with the assistance of my faculty mentor Dr. Eric Hodgson. It was also great to be able to collaborate with other students and faculty to present a finished simulation that will be actually utilized by people!"

Education Project Examples

Education in the United States Compared to The European Schools

By Camila Rodriguez, Integrated Mathematics Education and Mathematics major, Class of 2019. This project was possible due to Camila's unique student teaching experience at The European Schools in Luxembourg. Camila was able to answer the following questions: What will the biggest differences be between my experiences teaching in the states and in Luxembourg? How can I relay this information when I return? How will I use this information to make a difference as an educator? Initially, Camila and her co-creator, Taylor Wood, wanted to explore specifically the differences between mathematics education in the states and in The European Schools. As they continued to acquire information, the project evolved and shifted its focus to also investigate the differences in staff attitudes, student attitudes, special education, technology, etc. through observations, interviews and research. As a result, Camila and Taylor had the opportunity to holistically compare education in the states to the European Schools and they hope this information can be leveraged by future educators to cultivate a global and inclusive classroom. Camila told Honors, "This project has impacted me because, as a future educator in the states, it is important for me to know what teaching mathematics is like in other continents around the world. Additionally, I know that I will have a voice in education in the states, and I plan to use it."

Humanities & Social Sciences Project Examples

The Effect of Language on the Utilization of Health Care Services

By Amelia Pittman, Sociology major, Class of 2019. This research addressed the question of "How do Spanish-speakers interact with the U.S. healthcare system?" Amelia conducted a thorough literature review, analyzed data from a nationally representative health survey with over 50,000 responses, and constructed a paper that explored and tried to answer that question. Amelia told Honors “Through this project, I gained so much experience in data analysis, research writing, and thesis construction. It's definitely been one of the most valuable experiences I've had at Miami.”

The Hands of Time: The Temporality of the Doomsday Clock and a Discussion of Time

By Emily Brady, Mathematics & Statistics major, Class of 2020. When Emily visited the Chicago Museum of Science and Industry a few years ago, Emily was fascinated by an exhibit about the Doomsday Clock. After learning Emily the theme "Time and Temporality" for the Humanity Center's Geoffrion Undergraduate Fellows Symposium, Emily decided to further explore the Doomsday Clock. Through this project, Emily aimed to share the historical significance and cultural ramifications of the Clock with a new generation while also broaching the wider topic of time in art. Emily told Honors, "Prior to this project, I did not often have the opportunity to truly utilize and hone these skills. This has helped me to become more confident in researching and writing. Additionally, the opportunity to work closely with [my faculty mentor] Dr. Hodges was truly amazing, and I am forever grateful for her guidance and support on this adventure." 

The Impact of Jewish and Christian Interactions in Luxembourg: Conducting and Collecting Oral Histories

By Sarah Kingsbury, Speech Pathology & Audiology and Comparative Religion major, Class of 2019.  While studying abroad in Luxembourg at MUDEC, Sarah interviewed ten people to understand the experiences of Jewish citizens in a mostly Catholic country, and how their lives had been affected by interfaith experiences. Sarah believes that "any person interested in the impact of the Holocaust on a microcosm in Europe would be able to read and understand my work, and I do not think that the importance of remembering the Holocaust can be overstated".

The Prosecution of "Others": Presidential Rhetoric and the Interrelation of Framing, Legal Prosecutions, and the Global War on Terror

Co-authored by and Athena Chapekis (Sociology major, Class of 2019) and Sarah Moore (Psychology and Sociology major, Class of 2020). Sarah and Athena created a database called "The Prosecution Project" that maps over 2,000 cases of terrorism-related prosecutions on 40+ variables, including ideology, sentence length, and race/ethnicity. Using this database, they wrote an article that examined the relationship between presidential rhetoric and the prosecution of "othered" versus "non-othered" individuals, with "othered" status based on Said's theory of othering. Athena and Sarah established that the frequency of "othered" prosecutions correlated with changes in presidential rhetoric. Their article was published in the 2019 edition of the "Critical Studies on Terrorism" journal. 

Words that Dance: 19th Century Dancing in the Transition from Page to Screen

By Anna Jankovsky, English Literature major, Class of 2019. When motion moves from the page to the screen, why are the characters always dancing? Anna was interested in the 19th century novel Lady of the Camillias (Dumas fils) and two films that adapt this novel: Kukor’s Camille (1930) and Luhrmann’s Moulin Rouge! (2001). By analyzing the dance scenes in these works, Anna sought to draw conclusions about the role of the dancing female body in 19th century literature, through the classical age of Hollywood, and into the modern film industry. Does the dance trope represent a continued idealization of Victorian chivalry in modern culture? Or does dance adapt, in itself, to become its own unique visual symbol in modern adaptations?

Interdisciplinary Project Examples

Nepal: Life at Altitude

By Tag Lohman, Marketing and Interactive Media Studies major, Class of 2019. Tag published a photographic book to promote awareness of the impact of “ecotourism” on Nepal’s natural beauty by studying the dichotomy between economic prosperity and the preservation of the Himalayan Mountains.

Promote the General Welfare: A Political History and Economic Analysis of Medicare and Medicaid

By Sara Rosomoff, Political Science major and Economics Combined BA/MA program, Class of 2019. Throughout U.S. history, national health insurance has been a topic of great controversy. Three times during the 20th century legislation to enact such insurance was defeated. However, in 1965, the Medicare/Medicaid legislation was successfully passed in Congress, establishing a compulsory health insurance program for the elderly in the United States. The obvious questions, and the center of research, is what made this attempt different? What factors led to its successful passage? And lastly, what factors led to states choosing to participate in Medicaid and offer a certain level of generosity? To answer these questions, Sara examined the history of health insurance in the U.S. qualitatively and through various statistical models, to analyze the results empirically.

Reinventing Agriculture: Addressing Urban Growth and Food Production through Vertical Farming

By Nicole Rusk, Architecture and Sustainability major, Class of 2019. Vertical farming, the practice of raising produce without soil in a controlled indoor environment, pushes agricultural boundaries by providing innovative and productive means for growing food within a city. This project allowed Nicole to combine knowledge of architecture, sustainability, and agriculture into the application of urban food issues. After traveling to several vertical farms in the U.S. and Germany, Nicole built a small indoor hydroponic farm, proposed schematic architectural plans for a downtown Toledo vertical farm design, and wrote a comprehensive research paper about this innovative revolution in conserving water and growing food.

You Get What You Pay For: Combating Hezbollah Terrorist Financing in the Tri-Border Area of South America

By Annika Fowler, Finance and Political Science major, Class of 2020. Since the late 1970s, the Tri-Border Area (TBA) of South America has served as a money laundering haven for criminal operations, and Hezbollah has successfully leveraged this paradise to finance and plan its global terrorist operations. Annika argued that to effectively combat Hezbollah terrorist financing in the Tri-Border Area, criminal investigations must be cooperatively aligned transnationally with terrorism investigations. The 25th anniversary of the 1994 AMIA bombing in Buenos Aires sparked Argentine action on Hezbollah and presents an opportunity for improved collective international law enforcement action that acknowledges the interconnectedness of global terrorism and drug trafficking while appropriately reconciling broader political objectives at home and abroad. Annika told Honors, "This project allowed me to combine all of my majors and minors (finance, political science, Spanish, and Latin American Studies) in an interdisciplinary way, preparing me for graduate school and a career in public service."

Science & Mathematics Project Examples

Gut Organoids: Current Landscape and Future Directions for Modeling Diabetes

By Valerie Thompson, Microbiology major with a Premedical Studies co-major, Class of 2021. This project was an exploration-based research project in which Valerie provided insights into the intestinal organoid model and projections of its applications to the study of metabolic disorders such as diabetes. Detailing its origins in basic science and describing its current position in translational research, this project culminated as a comprehensive synthesis of these research areas, translating the potential of this technology into the public health, precision medicine, and preventative medicine domains. Valerie told Honors, "As an aspiring physician-investigator, it was important for me to utilize my time in the Honors Program to invest in the research I have become so passionate about; pursing this Honors project was an excellent way to engage in undergraduate research with more independence, stretching my capacity as a student while also learning to think and write as a scientist. This was an enjoyable opportunity for me to combine my in-classroom learning experiences in Microbiology and Public Health to a project with real-world applications. Now reflecting on my experience at Miami and with the Honors Program, I am grateful that I was able to take on such a significant undertaking with this Honors project." 

Investigating the Role of Ephrin/EPH Signaling in Newt Lens Regeneration

By Alyssa Miller, Biology major with a Premedical Studies co-major, Class of 2020. Aylssa worked on a research team that identified specific protein signaling pathways that are essential downstream targets in the mechanism of Ephrin-mediated regeneration. These results will be extremely beneficial to the field as characterizing a map of the downstream targets of Ephrins will be pivotal in understanding regeneration. As a result of this work, there are now the necessary tools in order to gain a mechanistically insights into the function and regulation of Eph/ephrin signaling during lens regeneration. Alyssa plans to go to Medical school and also research the mechanisms of cancer formation and molecular and cellular biology associated with cancer. Alyssa told Honors, "In my opinion, the best physicians are those who have both great passion for patient well-being as well as a deep understanding of the molecular events that lead to an illness. As a future physician scientist, I want to be at the forefront of both translational medicine and the application of medical research to improve patient outcomes. While my coursework has allowed for the academic backbone in my understanding of cell and molecular processes and general physiology, my work in this laboratory and on this project has given me the experiential learning to narrow down my specific career interests outside of the typical classroom environment." Alyssa presented this research on-campus at the Miami University Undergraduate Research Forum, in addition to off-campus presentations at the Society for the Advancement of Chicanos/Native Americans in Science Annual Convention and the Society of Developmental Biology Regional Conference.