As temperatures drop and leaves fall to the ground, many students prepare for midterm exams in their classrooms. While older students are not exempt from this, they have other tasks on their minds. The senior comprehension project is a requirement for graduation from Allegheny and although most students will present their research at the end of the academic year, some have already started to chomp.
For some students, this research began years ago.
“I did an independent study my sophomore year, so it’s been a bit long in coming,” said biology major Jen Baum, 22. “I had no idea at the time that this would be my senior student, however.”
Students must choose a composition subject that matches their major, which means projects can be very different from department to department. While some students do hands-on research, others collect secondary research from online academic journals, tables, and graphs.
“My composition will be done in the lab and will be very practical,” Baum said. “I’m going to look at the genes under a microscope and dissect the fruit flies. I’m going to flip them over so their organs are on the outside and put a green fluorescent protein in them to make them glow and this staining will show the difference between the species and how they compare to each other.
While some students compare flies, others compare athletes.
“I’m going to compare football players and the prices they were bought for in the transfer market and see which stats most determine their price,” said economics major Alex Riel, 22. “I’m going to score goals, assists, goals per game and all that, but I’ll also be comparing ethnicity, race, where they’re from and their age.”
While the research aspect of projects can be tedious, finding a topic that fits a student’s interests can make the process much more enjoyable.
“I’ll probably be in front of a computer a lot because I’m going to have to run regressions and collect data, but it could be worse,” Riel said. “I can’t wait to do something that I love. Usually when people do something they love they do a good job and I love football and have played it all my life and I am.
There are still other types of projects that students can do that don’t involve sports or bugs.
“For my senior mockup, I’m doing an analysis of the reception of the film ‘The Social Dilemma’,” said communications major Alex Klare, ’22. “It’s a documentary that came out during the pandemic and it was basically a talk about big tech companies like Google, Facebook, and other companies in Silicon Valley. These are former employees who have testified about how companies exploit users and the owners of these companies do not even let their children use these apps because of how they exploit privacy. So I’m doing a reception analysis on why the documentary was so well received and received good reviews, but didn’t alarm the company that this is a real issue.
With such variety in senior projects, it’s no wonder that not all students follow the same schedule.
“The communications department made a formal proposal, so we had to present it to a panel of professors and we had our readers, but we don’t really start until the second semester,” Klare said. “I just contacted my advisor and found some resources and tips right now. “
For those who are not so far along in the compilation process, there are still some preliminary questions that need to be answered.
“I’m interested to see where this research takes me because I’m not sure what approach I’m going to take yet,” Klare said. “I could take the path of psychology and why humans are wired not to be alarmed by this or I could take a different path and focus more on privacy.”
Even for those who are more advanced in their project, it can still be difficult to move forward.
“I feel comfortable where I am,” Baum said. “I wouldn’t say I’m ahead because we haven’t made the best start with the research companies. We order a lot of things that are being shipped from everywhere and with the slow shipments caused by COVID right now, we haven’t been able to do a lot of real research yet. “
No matter where the students are currently attending, all will be required to present their research at the end of the spring semester, as the senior competition project continues to be a staple of Allegheny College education.