Category: Research

Student Researcher in the Library: Terese Swords

Whether she’s studying English or biology, we love to see Terese Swords’ smiling face in the Mudd! This Midwestern senior may be winding down her career at Lawrence, but she’s still using the library full force. Read on to learn more about Terese, her research and why she loves the library.

What library materials and resources have been the most useful to you in pursuing your research, Terese?

I frequently use ILL to gain access to both electronic journal articles as well as PDFs of books. The main collection of books within the library, especially regarding 18th century credit economies, has also been extremely useful.

What would you like your fellow students to know about the Mudd Library?

It is a great resource and can allow you to gain a better understanding of questions (in any academic field) that interest you.

Also, having a student office in the library is extremely useful when pursuing large research projects, because it allows for both a quiet study space as well as a secure location to keep an immense amount of research materials.

The Mudd, and its staff, are awesome!

What are you researching?

I am researching many things!

For my honors project in English, I am researching the representation of 18th century economies in two of Daniel Defoe’s works: Robinson Crusoe and Roxana.

For my biology senior capstone, I am writing a review paper analyzing how the parasitic protozoan Toxoplasma gondii is able to manipulate its intermediate rat host and how Toxoplasma, which can infect humans and cause the disease toxoplasmosis, may be manipulating our behavior!

I am planning to use my biology research on Toxoplasma as content for a radio script that I am going to be writing and producing in the spring.

What are you hoping to learn or gain from this research?

For my honors project in English I am hoping to gain a deeper understanding of capitalist economies in the 18th century and how the South Sea Bubble’s burst drastically influenced the social and economic thought of the time. I am also looking to understand where critics stand on the issue of economic representation in Daniel Defoe’s works so I can enter into a conversation with them within my paper.

For my biology capstone, I am hoping to further understand the mechanisms by which Toxoplasma gondii is able to manipulate its hosts as well as the global health implications of the disease toxoplasmosis in humans.

Why do you think this research is important?

I believe that both research topics are important because both projects look to further answer/understand gaps present within the critical literature in each respective field.

How did you become interested in this line of research?

I became interested in researching 18th century credit economies after taking Dr. Barnes class “Gender and the Enlightenment” last winter, where I was first introduced to Daniel Defoe and his work Roxana. Since then, I have not stopped thinking about economic representation within Defoe’s works and other literary/artistic works post South Sea Bubble.

After taking parasitology with Dr. Humphries, I amazed at the idea that Toxoplasma gondii, a parasite that is estimated to be infecting ¼ of the population of the US above the age of 12, could be manipulating mammals’ behavior. Since then, for my capstone, I have been researching how humans, a dead end host for the parasite, may also experience behavioral changes due to infection.

What are your plans after graduation?

I am taking a gap year or two before attending graduate school or law school (I haven’t decided yet). For my gap year, I am applying to boarding school programs where I will have the opportunity to teach high school students while earning a masters degree in education. I am also planning on applying to pharmaceutical companies.

My job search is just about as broad as my academic interests! I am hoping that work experience during my gap will help inform my decision of what higher education to pursue.

All the best to you, Terese! We think you’re awesome, too.

Student Researcher in the Library: Laura Deneckere

The Mudd supports students across all academic disciplines. Laura Deneckere, a biology major from Madison, Wisconsin, was kind enough to chat with us about the extensive biology research she has been conducting in the library.

What would you like your fellow students to know about the Mudd Library?

The library is a great resource, not only for special research projects, but also for routine classwork! The librarians and student workers genuinely want to help, are easy to approach and will go to great lengths to assist you with absolutely anything you need.

What library materials and resources have been the most useful to you in pursuing your research?

I have used many immunology and invertebrate textbooks from the library in order to broaden my overall understanding of molluscan immunity.

One of the most useful tools that I have used is the Interlibrary Loan service (ILL). This tool is extremely easy to use and you generally receive your requested materials very quickly! Through this service I have accessed current journal and book chapters from around the world.

Enough about us. What are you researching, Laura?

I am researching the evolutionarily conserved nuclear factor-kappa B(NF-κB) pathway in the snail, Biomphalaria glabrata. This species of snail serves as the intermediate host for the trematode Schistosoma mansoni, which causes the debilitating tropical disease schistosomiasis in humans. The broader aim of my project is to determine if NF-κB is regulating immune responses in the snail. I am using bioinformatics and electrophoretic mobility shift assays (EMSAs) to address this question, and am very fortunate to be using Dr. Judith Humphries’s research lab. Thank you Dr. Humphries!

Why do you think this research is important?

The snail plays an essential role in the schistosomiasis life cycle, so molecular-based research is important for furthering our knowledge of the snail’s defense strategies and overall immune-related responses. With over 210 million people affected annually, schistosomiasis is the third most devastating disease in the world, following only malaria and intestinal helminthiasis.

How did you become interested in this line of research?

I have been extremely privileged to work alongside Dr. Humphries in her research laboratory. I was initially interested in her work because of my overall passion for tropical medicine and public health.

In fact, Laura’s interest in public health has led to plans to spend a gap year serving the broader community. As for more long-term goals, she plans to obtain a Master of Science degree in Public Health with an emphasis in infectious diseases.

Given Laura’s savvy use of the resources available to her in the library and at Lawrence, we are certain that she will accomplish all of her goals.

Thank you for answering our questions, Laura!

Student Researcher in the Library: Shang Li

We love to learn about what students are up to in the Mudd!

Shang Li is a government and history major hailing all the way from TianJin, China. She plans to attend graduate school after commencement this spring.

Shang kindly agreed to talk to us about what she’s been working on in the library.

Shang, what have you been researching?

The Italian Holocaust through historical film.

What library materials and resources have been the most useful to you in pursuing this research?

The librarians at our reference desk. They are so knowledgeable, kind and patient. I am never scared to ask questions; they always have answers and sometimes, candy and cookies!

What are you hoping to learn or gain from this research?

To think more like a historian. I am gaining skills and abilities to support my passion for history for the rest of my life. Whether or not my future career will be related to history, I hope to become an independent researcher during my free time.

Why do you think this research is important?
There has been much research on the Holocaust, but the Italian Holocaust is indeed a very special case. Exploring the Italian Holocaust through written history, but also through historical films, provides me with a unique perspective on this topic. In addition, this research has allowed me to make connections between written history and historical films, as well as the time periods during which the films were made, and to see how those factors influence the works. This is also fascinating to me.

How did you become interested in this line of research?
I took a course with Professor Paul Cohen called “History as Films, Films as History,” where we discussed historical films. I’m actually using my favorite films for my current project. I did a historiography project with Professor Peter Blitstein on “Hitler’s Foreign Policy and the Origins of the Second World War.” During this project, I developed an academic interest in studying Mussolini’s Fascist Italy. Because of my interests in both historical films and Mussolini, it was only logical for me to pursue a capstone project devoted to connecting both topics.

What would you like your fellow students to know about the Mudd Library?

The Mudd library is very helpful! It is also in a great location- close to the Wellness Center and Andrew Commons.

Student Research in the Library: Alex Damisch

We love to learn more about what our students are up to in the Mudd. Yes, even over summer break we have the pleasure of welcoming and supporting industrious students. Alex Damisch requested one of our student offices over the summer in order to work more efficiently at developing some of her web applications. The mathematics and clarinet performance double-major, who plans to earn her double-degree in just four years, was quite pleased to discover that she could reserve a private, quiet office in the Mudd to use for her research.

Alex, who hails from Northbrook, Illinois, is planning to graduate in 2016, after which she hopes to enter a master’s program to pursue statistics. She graciously agreed to answer some questions about her work in the library.  Enjoy!

Alex, what are you working on in your office?

Under the supervision of Adam Loy in the Mathematics department, I’m helping create several web applications that allow people to get hands-on experience with statistical concepts like bootstrapping, permutation tests, and ANOVA. The apps create graphs and perform different calculations, many of which can be adjusted by the user, so they can see how the result changes.

There are currently three apps on Professor Loy’s website, with about a half-dozen that are in a more preliminary stage of development. Some of the operations that the apps perform “behind the scenes” are a bit complicated, so they require some fine-tuning by Professor Loy to get to a satisfactory speed before they go live.

What are you hoping to learn or gain from this research?

I’ve learned a ton about the coding languages that I’m using, of course–I had some R experience before, but not nearly at the level that I have now. Two months ago I knew almost no Shiny at all. Coding is often frustrating, but having my work out there is really satisfying.

I’ve recently started working on an app that uses a statistical test that’s new for me, too, so that’s been a challenge. It’s also been useful to revisit concepts that I learned a few years ago, which I really value because I sometimes tutor for statistics classes. Having to write code and use functions that perform certain statistical calculations has really solidified my understanding of how they work.

Why do you think this research is important?

The apps will probably get used in some of the introductory statistics classes this school year, which is great. In mathematics or statistics, as in almost any other field, the best way to learn is by doing–you have to try out problems yourself. If you can upload your own data set and play around with it and see how your histograms and confidence intervals update in real-time, hopefully it facilitates your understanding of the concepts behind them.

How did you become interested in this line of work?

I first got this book of infographics called Visual Miscellaneum for Christmas in 2009, so data visualization has been a longstanding interest of mine. I approached Professor Loy absurdly early in the 2014-2015 school year and said that I wanted to work with him over the summer. I was pretty willing to work on whatever statistics-related project he threw at me, but I’m lucky that this one is particularly interesting to me.

What library materials and resources have been the most useful to you in pursuing this research?

Definitely Mathematical Statistics with Resampling and R. (Only half-joking.) Since I can code almost anywhere, it’s been nice to have my library office as a space to keep a few books and to call my own. Having a quiet, focused space and a standing desk has been really important for me. You can only sit in coffee shops or your bedroom for so long.

I also use the whiteboards almost compulsively. This is business as usual for a math major, but this summer I’ve used them to map out particularly convoluted functions.

What would you like your fellow students to know about the Mudd Library?

Between working for ITS since I was a freshman and studying frequently at the library during the school year, I always like to remind people that the third and fourth floors are the library’s quiet floors.

Also, the library staff is awesome and really helpful–definitely an under-utilized resource among most students.

We think you’re awesome, too, Alex. 🙂


Student Research in the Library: Allison Juda

Do you know that the Seeley G. Mudd library has nine individual study rooms that can be assigned to students on a term-by-term basis? More information about our student offices, as well as the student office request form, can be found here.

Allison Juda applied for a student office at the beginning of Winter Term to facilitate her work on her senior honors project. She is an English major and an anthropology minor from Maple Grove, MN, a Northwest suburb of Minneapolis. Read on to learn more about what Allison is researching in her student office in the Mudd!

Allison, tell us about your research.

I am currently working on a senior honors project about the portrayal of Jane Austen’s heroines and how their individual growth out of a position of liminality is reflected in many ways in societal growth so that by the end of the novels both the heroine and community are corrected and society operates once again with morality and decorum. In doing this I am combining theories of liminality produced by notable anthropologists and historical information about social structures in Austen’s time period, as well as some research on Austen herself.

What are you hoping to learn or gain from this research?

I noticed that all of Austen’s novels seem to follow a similar plot structure, so my main goal was to discover why Austen continued to write about the same worlds and journeys, and how that was reflective of literary, and also Austen’s contemporary, society.

Why do you think this research is important?

There has been a lot of research on Jane Austen, especially since the most recent trend of producing Austen movies (as well as other movies from her time period), but I think that not enough research has focused on the reasons why the heroines must go through their journeys. One of the most important things that I want to draw out in my work is an emphasis on the fact that these heroines are a product of their surroundings and that the growth of the social structure is instrumental in the growth of the liminal heroine. In this way, Austen’s literature is an important product of its era; in examining her literature we can learn more about her time period and social structures in general.

How did you become interested in this line of research?

After reading my first Austen novel, Pride and Prejudice, I was drawn into her literary work. As I entered the rabbit hole I became more fascinated with examining the works from a critical perspective and so I approached my advisor about working on the topic in greater detail.

What library materials and resources have been the most useful to you in pursuing this research?

I think that the physical building itself, with great places to study is a huge asset to anyone doing research, big or small. Having a place to go to know that I am going to do work is very important in helping to keep me focused. I also have taken advantage of the expertise of the reference librarians, who have helped point me in the right direction in my research, and the ILL system to get access to important works that we do not have here in Mudd.

What I am perhaps most thankful for is my library office; I have two large binders with research and various drafts and well over a dozen books with which I have been working on a regular basis. Having a place to keep all of my materials safe has been a savior both on my sanity and my back (I don’t think that my poor backpack could make it without my office either).

What would you like your fellow students to know about the Mudd Library?

I think that something I didn’t realize my freshman year at Lawrence is that returning to the same place to study (and only study) on a daily basis really helps me get into the mindset and stay focused while I am doing my work. Studying in the library provides you with all the resources you need in the same place, from the librarians to help you if you get stumped, the scanners, printers, hole punches, staplers, and even the occasional piece of candy.

Summer Student Research in the Library: William Gislason

A great deal of interesting student research happens in the Mudd Library over the school year as well as the summer. William Gislason was kind enough to share a bit about the innovative project he has been working on in the library this summer. We were happy to help him out by providing a student office, research materials, and use of one of the library’s iPads. 

Will Gislason

My summer project – William Gislason

When I entered Lawrence, I had no idea what major I would choose much less what career options I was interested in. While in St. Paul, Minnesota, I held a series of odd-jobs during which I worked at a hardware store, a Christmas tree lot, a garden center, as well as a coffee shop. At Lawrence, I even assisted an Ecology professor with her research. I finally focused enough to choose Biology and Environmental Studies for my double major and I knew I would need a summer job related somehow to this field. As I reflect about my time at Lawrence before starting my senior year, it’s clear I’ve learned a lot from each position but I’ve realized that I’ve learned more in this past summer than ever I thought possible.

Over the past three months, I’ve had the delight of making my first iPad app. Under the direction of the Biology department’s Bart De Stasio and Alyssa Hakes and the Director of Björklunden, Mark Breseman, along with the assistance of Celeste Silling, I’m attempting to provide the visitors of Björklunden with much of the information about the area’s ecology one would learn in a guided nature tour. To accomplish this, I’m building an app that displays the visitor’s location upon a trail map along with the location of interesting ecological features. Pictures and information on these features can be accessed by simply tapping the feature on the map. I’ve been so fortunate to not only have an office in the library to use as a base of operations for the project but to have the literary resources of the library to learn about the geography, ecology, and natural history of Door County and Wisconsin.

Though this project involves long hours of coding I have learned a ton about photography, writing, design, and planning a user experience. I consider myself so lucky to have been given this opportunity by Lawrence University and I hope the app will be a simple, educational, and delightful addition to the many services for the guests of Björklunden. Starting this fall, we’ll have 3 iPads for visitors to rent from Björklunden to experience their own person tour of Björklunden. Be sure to check it out!

Senior Experience Addresses Wisconsin Mine

For her senior experience project, geology major Steph Courtney ’14 decided to approach an issue that hits close to home.  In a series of four posters and tangible display accessories, Courtney explores the geology and hazards associated with GTac’s planned taconite mine near Mellen, Wisconsin.  The goal of the posters is to provide an information source about these topics because it is fairly difficult to find accessible scientific information from scientists in today’s political climate.DSC022381

In her project’s mission, Courtney states, “In my time at Lawrence, I’ve discovered that I have a passion for science public outreach, education, and communication.  Coupled with my interests in conveying information visually, I’ve found that one of the ways I most enjoy working on this passion is through museum-type displays, such as this one.  I’ve found a number of ways to exercise and refine that passion through LU-garnered opportunities, but feel that…public engagement and feedback is always helpful.”DSC022401

Courtney isn’t the sole part of the geology department who is addressing this topic, professors Andrew Knudsen and Marcia Bjornerud have been working on this issue as well, and collaborated with another geology student to write a paper about it.  In addition, Bjornerud has been working with the Bad River tribe and has testified to the state legislature about the planned mine.

Steph Courtney’s display can be viewed on the second floor of the Mudd Library through May 9th, 2014.  There will be a public reception (with snacks!) on May 4th from 3-5pm.

What’s So Great About the Con’s New Steinway Piano?

Photo courtesy of Liz Boutelle

A generous and unexpected gift of 1958 Lawrence graduate, Kim Hiett Jordan, allowed the Lawrence Conservatory’s keyboard department to purchase a new Steinway D Concert Grand Piano. You may have read about it on the Lawrence blog.

The piano, which has been placed in the Lawrence Memorial Chapel, is one of the most popular models of Steinway concert pianos. It was carefully chosen by three of the Con’s keyboard department’s members- Catherine Kautsky, Anthony Padilla, and Michael Mizrahi (pictured)- who traveled to New York City to hand-pick precisely the right instrument.

Being one of the most popular piano manufacturers with a reputation for high-quality instruments, Steinway & Sons is not an unfamiliar name.  However, for someone who lacks more specific knowledge regarding musical instruments, the importance of this newly-acquired instrument may not be entirely evident. Luckily, the Mudd has plenty of resources for those wishing to brush up on their Steinway knowledge.  We’ve compiled a few sources to look into and in addition, a brief summary of what makes a Steinway great:

In 1836, Heinrich Engelhard Steinweg assembled his first piano in his home in Seesen, Germany, thus beginning the prosperous piano company we know today as Steinway & Sons.  In 1850, he made a bold decision to sell the company and move to America with his family due to the economic recession in Germany; America offered free-enterprise and new and different manufacturing techniques.  The Steinwegs worked for a variety of American piano manufacturers before coming back together in 1853, Americanizing their name, and officially establishing the Steinway & Sons company.

There was a strong emphasis on advertising and marketing for the company, and the construction of Steinway Hall New York City’s Union Square in 1864 allowed for concerts of world-renowned pianists performing on Steinway pianos.  “The Instrument of the Immortals” became the company’s slogan for nearly a century after a young copywriter discovered that Steinways had been used by nearly every great pianist and most of the great composers since Wagner.  However, many consider the pianos manufactured between the two World Wars to be the prime models for the company, and thus, the 1920s and 30s were dubbed Steinway’s “Golden Age.”

As for the Steinway Model D, the piano was originally designed in 1883.  And amazingly, never had a formal blueprint- the specifications for the twelve thousand part piano were handed down from each generation of foremen to the next.  Construction of Steinway Concert Grands takes nearly a year to complete, even today.  But this meticulous craftsmanship has given it a reputation that it certainly lives up to.  Steinway pianos have become famous for their ability to project more sound and project it farther- the “Steinway sound” encapsulates a full, dramatic, powerful bass all the way to a clear, singing treble, making the Model D a prime example of an exquisitely crafted instrument.

 .          .          .          .           .

Sources from the Mudd Library:

Dolge, Alfred. Pianos and Their Makers: A Comprehensive History of the Development of the Piano from the Monochord to the Concert Grand Player Piano. New York: Dover Publications, 1972. Print.  (Call No.: ML652 .D6 1972)

Hafner, Katie. A Romance on Three Legs: Glenn Gould’s Obsessive Quest for the Perfect Piano. New York: Bloomsburg, 2008. Print.  (Call No.: ML417 .G68 H28 2008)

Lenehan, Michael. “The Quality of the Instrument.” The Atlantic Aug. 1982: 32-58. Print.

Keep Up with the Latest Research with Search Alerts

Many of the Mudd Library’s databases include a feature called search alerts.  This feature allows a user to be notified when new records matching a specific search are added to the database.  With search alerts, you can choose to be notified through a RSS reader such as Google Reader, or via email.

Still not really sure what a search alert is?  Say you are searching in Academic Search Elite for interested film reviews for the movie The Battle of Algiers.   After you have submitted your search, select search history, then click on the orange RSS button.  A window will then pop up with a RSS link, as well as the option to have the notifications sent via email.

EBSCO's search alert setup

Our reference librarians are happy to answer your questions about search alerts, RSS feeds, or anything else.  Check out our Ask a Librarian page for a variety of ways to get in touch, or just visit the reference desk.  For more information about the EBSCO database search alerts, take a look at their, Using One-Step RSS Alerts page.  For Gale database search alert support, see their Search Alerts and RSS Feeds page.

The Scholarly World of Harry Potter

Now that the last Harry Potter movie is in theaters, are you looking for something to fill that Harry Potter-sized void?  Here at the Mudd Library, we have shelves of books dedicated to a wide variety of research relating to the Harry Potter books, characters, and world.

Here is a  small sampling of our collection:

Harry, a History by Melissa Anelli:   Written by the webmistress of the popular fansite, The Leaky Cauldron, this book explores the Harry Potter fan culture.

The Wisdom of Harry Potter by Edmund M. Kern: An exploration of the morality in the Harry Potter book series.  This book’s author is Associate Professor of History here at Lawrence University.

The Magical Worlds of Harry Potter by David Colbert: A collection myths and legends behind many of the names, stories, and magical beings used in the Harry Potter book series.

Harry Potter: The Story of a Global Business Phenomenon by Susan Gunelius: A look at the successful strategy behind the marketing of Harry Potter.