The Eagle Scholars Program for Undergraduate Research (Eagle SPUR), established in fall 2013, is a competitive research experience opportunity, in which students conduct independent research under the supervision of a faculty mentor.
The $1,000 grant allows each student to creatively research a desired topic with the use of supplies, equipment and other needs such as traveling. The funds can also be used as a stipend for the student.
All full-time students in good standing may apply to the program by sending in a proposal describing their project, how they became interested in the topic and how they expect to carry out the work. Students must also have their mentor complete a form acknowledging their support.
Each semester around half of the applications are funded. Applicants are determined as winners for the grant depending on rankings by three faculty members reviewing proposals.
The selected Eagle Scholars must complete their projects the following semester, then fulfill the requirement of submitting a two-page report describing the work at the end of the semester.
Upon completion, Eagle Scholars are also expected to showcase their findings at a conference or convention within the next year.
Eagle Scholars are required to enroll in and attend UNV 392, a one-hour course that provides workshops to enhance professional skills, such as research methods, conference presentations and ethics.
The program typically runs for one semester, depending on whether students request extensions.
“We highly encourage them to participate in the Undergraduate Symposium for Research and Creative Activity in April, but they are also able to give a paper at another conference in their discipline or even publish it in a journal,” USM professor of anthropology Marie Elaine Danforth said.
Benefits of the independent research program include students being able to refine their technical and analytical skills, gaining professional experience and connections, attaining self-confidence and learning how to work in a collaborative setting, skills preparing them for graduate school and beyond.
The program provides students with an opportunity to undertake their major of choice as a possible career.
“We are very proud of Eagle SPUR in that it is the only program of its kind in the state,” Danforth said. “It represents a rare opportunity for students, and many who have participated have gone on to great success.”
In early February 2014, Eagle Scholar Anthony Abshire gave an oral presentation based on his research at the 47th Annual Southeastern Undergraduate Research Conference at the University of Alabama in Tuscaloosa and was awarded first place in the Biochemistry/Organic division.
Junior dance performance and choreography major and fall 2014 Eagle Scholar Samantha Russell researched the movement of visual artists such as sculptors and painters, and translated that movement onto the body of a dancer, creating a dance for film.
Her project, with the guidance of mentor Elizabeth Lentz-Hill, assistant professor in the Department of Dance, worked to prove that the process of creating art is artistically complex itself. The dance for film will be presented on Saturday, March 28th at 2:30 p.m. and 7 p.m. in the Theatre and Dance Building.
Russell will also present at the Undergraduate Research Symposium in April. She has conducted her project since the beginning of the fall 2014 semester and will present her findings at the end of March.
“All of my research has taken place on USM campus,” Russell said. “It shows that you don’t have to wait until you graduate and leave USM to start doing what you’re really passionate about.”
In 2014, Morgan Teel used her Eagle SPUR funding to choreograph and film a dance production called Epicenter. Epicenter has been performed in New York, Texas and other places across the country and has been featured in the on-line magazine, Videofocus.
Other projects have looked at proteins associated with Alzheimer’s disease, counted tree-rings to date the oldest standing structure in Jones County, investigated the effects of nanoparticulates from commercial products on fish and looked at the connection between Roman death rituals and Christian martyrs.
“Both the breadth and the quality of the topics of the projects is incredibly impressive, and speaks so well about the work being done by undergraduates at Southern Miss,” Danforth said.
The SPUR program allowed her to get hands-on experience and connect with other people in various fields while being funded for it.
The deadline for the competition is March 18. For more information visit www.usm.edu/research/cur.