The University of Oregon’s Charlotte Rheingold has been invited to present her research paper at the National Conference on Undergraduate Research (NCUR) on April 16-18 on the campus of Eastern Washington University. Sponsored by the Council on Undergraduate Research,
NCUR is dedicated to promoting undergraduate research, scholarship, and creative activity in all fields of study by sponsoring an annual conference for students. Rheingold’s abstract was selected from more than 3,700 submissions.
UROP took a moment to catch up with Charlotte (CR) and her faculty mentor, Dr. Mark Carey (MC), to discuss her research project and NCUR acceptance.
What is your major, expected graduation date, and post-graduation plans?
CR – I am a Comparative Literature major with minors in French and Economics and I am also a student of the Clark Honors College. I will graduate in June 2015, and next year I am planning on teaching English in France through the French government program TAPIF. After, I plan to attend either graduate school in the humanities or law school.
Can you describe your research project:
CR – My research explores the politics of translation that surround climate change research. When researchers engage with indigenous populations to learn about how their culture connects to their climate, the way in which their cultures are translated by the researcher can affect how English-speaking audiences perceive indigenous peoples. Since indigenous groups face some of the most dramatic affects of climate change, they strongly want their voices to be included in discussion for adaptation strategies, but in a way that respects their cultural identity. My research probes the lack of sensitivity to the politics of translation with regard to climate change research and recommends that researchers devote more attention to developing their approaches to translation.
What was the impetus for this project?
CR – This project was completed for a Clark Honors College seminar class, Climate and Culture, which explored interdisciplinary nature of environmental studies through its focus on the relationships between different groups of people to the environment. As a Comparative Literature major, I am interested in processes of translation and the effects that translated writings can have on readers in the target, or receiving language. I noticed during the class that many of the studies we examined relied on translation to communicate with indigenous groups but that they did not discuss their translation techniques. I found this disturbing because translations can be done through a variety of techniques, some more sensitive to the values of the original language and its culture than others. Each approach can render slightly different translations that can impact on how a reader interprets meaning.
Mark, what is your role as Charlotte’s mentor?
MC – Like all the students in the Climate and Culture in the Americas course, Charlotte had to design a research project, prepare it in stages, present the work formally to a public audience of more than 100 people at the Climate Change and Indigenous People’s Conference in the Many Nations Longhouse on the UO campus, and then submit a final paper. I worked with Charlotte and the other students at every stage, from the project proposal, literature review, outline, rough draft, oral presentation, and final paper. I continued to work with Charlotte after she finished the course because she was eager to present the exceptional paper beyond the UO and to pursue publication of the paper. It was exciting to work on such a terrific project and to see Charlotte’s interest in sharing research results with a broad audience, while gaining good experience for herself.
What was the most challenging aspect of conducting research? The most rewarding?
CR – The most challenging aspect of conducting this research was developing a research question that I could adequately answer. The issues we discussed in this class were enormous, and I found identifying a small aspect to focus on difficult. But, the most rewarding part was how quickly my ideas came together once I was able to settle on a research question, and then seeing the whole argument emerge from my compilation of small pieces of analysis made me feel like
What are some of the key characteristics of an effective undergraduate researcher?
MC – The best undergraduate student researchers are those who are curious, creative, earnest, flexible, and open-minded. The ability to work independently, manage time and deadlines, solve problems, and balance a variety of ongoing tasks are also key skills for effective research. More specifically, the best researchers also understand how to use the web and the library for research, to evaluate sources for credibility, to read between the lines and truly analyze sources, to find connections among sources that seem at first glance to be unconnected, and to find impossible-to-find information—and not give up when Google doesn’t produce the results in the first (or seventh) search attempt. It is also critical to know how to interact with the faculty mentor, to listen and respond, to know when to ask for help (or when to figure it out alone), and to not just take orders but to have independent ideas and evaluate and communicate about the input from faculty mentors.
What is the value added to a student’s education by conducting research?
MC – Research is one of the most important aspects of an undergraduate education. It teaches them how to solve puzzles and to frame and sell their intellectual ideas. Conceptualizing, researching, analyzing, organizing, writing, presenting, and completing a research project also teaches terrific time management skills and empowers students to be independent, confident, and productive.
Why did you apply to NCUR? What are the benefits of presenting your research at this conference?
CR – I applied to NCUR because I wanted the opportunity to share my research with a student community comprised of undergraduates from across the nation. The benefits of presenting at NCUR include valuable experience presenting my research to a broad audience and getting a glimpse at the types of professional opportunities available to graduate students and professors. It will also provide a diverse and supportive academic environment through which I hope to make impactful connections.
What benefit do faculty receive from mentoring undergraduate students in research?
MC – Completing undergraduate research projects offers an enormous academic and intellectual benefit, training students to engage with the world, be productive citizens, contribute to broader knowledge, and resolve major societal and environmental issues. For the last eight years I have held a series of National Science Foundation grants, and on every one I include substantial funds to include undergraduates in my own research projects. This has been extremely rewarding for me, not to mention productive. I have taken students to Peru, published with them as co-authors, utilized their research contributions, and directed their undergraduate theses.
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