Scores of Hamilton students are already involved in graduate-level research in many fields, each working closely with faculty mentors while pursuing individual projects and goals. Five, however, have taken this intensive study to the next level: As Senior Fellows, they have devoted the entire academic year to independent study projects, often interdisciplinary, that are defined by their academic rigor and potential impact.
Leeann Brigham grew up loving mysteries, and she found a whole new realm of them when she enrolled in Professor of Psychology Emeritus George Gescheider's Brain and Behavior course as a first-year student. Her curiosity led to a concentration in neuroscience and her fellowship project: research into an animal model of schizophrenia that may ultimately shed light on the disease and its treatment in humans. "There is still so much we don't know about the brain, which is what makes neuroscience such an exciting field," she says.
Agriculture, Chris Sullivan observes, "consists of different modes of existence, rather than just a way to produce food." This focus on farming as both "culture" and "cultivation" is at the center of his fellowship project, which builds on his longtime interest in the earth sciences and was influenced by the course Politics and Theory of Place and Space, taught by Assistant Professor of Government Peter Cannavò, who is principal advisor for the project. "I feel really lucky to be able to study what I care about, especially because it's a project not covered in the curriculum," Chris says.
Nicole Dietsche is combining her interests and talents in creative writing, art and mythology to create and market an innovative graphic novel, Midnight Circus, about a supernatural clique "suspended between logic and illogic, free will and predetermined destiny." She has been working with Assistant Professor of English Tina Hall and Professor of Art Bruce Muirhead. "It's definitely a great experience," Nicole says of work on Midnight Circus. "I don't think I would have had the time to do this project at all anywhere else."
Matthew Crowson got "hooked" on medical science early, by listening to stories by family members in the field. An internship at the Ottawa Heart Institute focused that enthusiasm; there Matthew worked on a project aimed at generating cardiac muscle from other muscle tissue. He is continuing his study during his fellowship. Associate Professor of Biology Herm Lehman and Professor of Biology Sue Ann Miller are acting as advisors, along with his supervisor in Ottawa. "Here, we have mentors instead of professors," he says of Hamilton. "It's been great to have the opportunity to pursue something completely specific to my interests."
A video game enthusiast since childhood, Kyla Gorman hopes for an eventual career in the industry. As a Senior Fellow, her aim has been more immediate: to explore the academic potential of video games' interactive narratives. She hopes to publish a book on the still-emerging topic following her project with Stuart Hirshfield, the Stephen Harper Kirner Professor of Computer Science, and Associate Professor of English Doran Larson. At Hamilton, she says, "If you have a goal, there are people who will help you achieve it."
Up to seven juniors are selected by the dean of faculty each year to pursue Senior Fellowships during the following year, based on submitted proposals and the students' previous independent-study work. Senior Fellows are not required to take a normal course load in the standard curriculum; they take courses appropriate to their fellowship projects. Each fellow writes a thesis and offers a public presentation at the end of the school year as the culmination of the Senior Fellowship. Find out more about this year's Senior Fellows and the program at www.hamilton.edu/SeniorFellows.