Collaborative Summer Research during a Pandemic
September 22, 2020
- Southwestern University
During a typical summer, Southwestern’s Summer Collaborative Opportunities and Experiences (SCOPE) program funds teams of faculty and student researchers who engage in on-campus projects ranging from physics and biology to psychology and political science. However, this year, as with everything else, the COVID-19 pandemic forced SCOPE to transition away from its in-person cohort model, which emphasizes not only the interactions between students and faculty within individual research teams but also meaningful interactions between different research teams as well.
Although SCOPE 2020 transitioned to a remote format and faculty mentors found new ways to collaborate with their student researchers, the mission of SCOPE remained the same: to foster a culture of research at Southwestern, made possible by student–faculty collaboration; to promote student investigative learning, persistence, self-efficacy, and success; and to create an inclusive and diverse research community.
SCOPE in a normal summer revolves around student researchers meeting with their faculty mentors multiple times a week, so the new virtual arrangement meant that most research groups video-chatted multiple times a week and kept in regular contact through Slack, GroupMe, or other messaging platforms. In addition, SCOPE typically includes a meeting of the whole cohort of student researchers once a week to allow for community building and professional development. While the normal professional-development workshops were replaced largely with a list of articles, podcasts, and videos related to undergraduate research, there was also a virtual panel discussion that included six SCOPE faculty members who answered questions about graduate school, finding purpose in work, and how they’ve overcome discrimination during their time working in academia.
Undoubtedly the best example of community building during the summer was the three virtual trivia nights hosted by Assistant Professor of Psychology Carin Perilloux, which were well attended by SCOPE students and faculty alike. These trivia nights gave the student researchers a chance to interact with students and faculty from other research groups in a less structured, more informal way. These types of interactions, which tend to happen organically when SCOPE is an on-campus experience, were only possible with intentionality during SCOPE 2020.
The flexibility and creativity of SCOPE faculty and students took a very out-of-the-ordinary summer and produced riveting projects.
The flexibility and creativity of SCOPE faculty and students took a very out-of-the-ordinary summer and produced riveting projects, from autonomous sensory meridian response (ASMR) triggers (i.e., sensory experiences that cause someone to have a tingling and sometimes positive feeling) to an investigation into Southwestern’s historical relationship with slavery. All of the projects from SCOPE 2020, including those mentioned above, will be highlighted during the virtual SCOPE Open House during the week of September 28, 2020–October 2, 2020.