Consider these three student researchers: one majoring in English, one majoring in marketing, and one with a double major in behavioral neuroscience and biblical studies. Their stories provide a sample of the wonderfully diverse research accomplished by PBA students. And all three researchers are eager to tell how the experience enriched them personally and professionally.
English major Sarah Selden told her story via Zoom, for she is now teaching English in Spain, having won a coveted Fulbright appointment to that country. She graduated from PBA in 2019, but just two months ago she reaped the latest reward of her university research: Her paper on racial inclusivity in children’s literature has been accepted for publication in the journal Children’s Literature Association Quarterly.
With that research paper Selden earlier had won the Children’s Literature Association’s Carol Gay Award as the top undergraduate scholar in the nation, and she had the “unique, fulfilling experience” of presenting her work at an academic conference. From the many hours she spent in researching, writing and presenting her paper, she now sees great value beyond her growing credibility as a scholar.
“Research really allows you to find your niche passion in your field,” she said. Her passion now has led her to apply to Ph.D. programs, and she would “love to one day teach at an institution like PBA, with the ability to combine your faith with your passion.” Meanwhile, she’s excited that her published paper can amplify the need for children’s literature to be more inclusive – to include, for example, a greater representation of African American authors and characters.
“Seeing yourself represented in books is really good for you as a child,” said Selden. She also believes that white, sheltered, suburban kids (she was one) should be exposed to the stories of other races, “so we can see outside of ourselves and learn compassion and empathy and maybe start to heal some of the divide that we have as a nation.”
In contrast to Sarah Selden, marketing major Michael Scalia never would have imagined himself the author of an academic paper. But that was before his summer research experience. Through the Rinker Center for Experiential Learning he studied in Brazil, where he joined other students of an international business professor.
Among the research topics the group tackled was the “Fourth Industrial Revolution,” the changes predicted with rapidly expanding use of robotics, artificial intelligence, quantum computing and other advances. That phenomenon “goes hand-in-hand with business and the future,” said Scalia, so he jumped at the chance to collaborate on that research.
He already had been intensively studying Portuguese, so he did much translating and editing for the team. The resulting research paper was published in the international, peer-reviewed journal Research in Globalization.
For Scalia, who is set to graduate in December, it was quite an experience to see his name with four others atop that journal article. It even brought him an invitation to speak at a forum in France. “I had to respectfully decline,” he said with a laugh. “I think they thought I was a doctor.”
But beyond the prestige of being published, the experience brought Scalia this priceless personal conclusion: “It proved to me that I could do a lot of things that I never knew I could do, because I really went out of my comfort zone.”
Now Scalia is happy to recommend the research experience to others. “It’s definitely going to broaden your horizons,” he said. “As long as you have a good team and you put your mind to it and work hard, you can do it.”
Krystal White, a senior with a double major in behavioral neuroscience and biblical studies, had two research projects accepted by psychological associations. She has been invited to present a poster at the American Psychological Association (APA) annual conference in August. The subject of that research, with psychology professor Dr. Angie McDonald, is “5HTR2A Polymorphisms 102T/C and -1438A/G and Major Depressive Disorder: A Meta-Analysis.”
The second project, “Spirituality, Depression, and Cognitive and Affective Life Meaning in College Students,” was accepted to the Association for Psychological Science (APS) 2021 Virtual Convention and Poster Showcase. White conducted that research with Dr. David M. Compton, professor of psychology. Both projects will be presented at PBA’s Interdisciplinary Research Conference.
White had come to PBA focused on biblical studies, with the goal of becoming a pastor. “But I’ve always loved science,” she said, and so she added the behavioral neuroscience major. As the two fields merge together for her, she still can envision a career to include preaching and teaching. Among her academic honors is the Zondervan Publishing House Greek Language Award in 2020.
After graduating in May, she hopes to do research at Hebrew University in Jerusalem, aiming for a master of science in genetics. Eventually she’d like to earn a Ph.D., studying evolution and the Genesis account and how the two can be understood together.
Conducting research helps prepare you for graduate school, said White, “and it also teaches you how to think like a scientist.” Learning how to interpret the results of other people’s research is difficult unless you’ve done research yourself, she said.
Statistics and studies can be manipulated to indicate what the researcher wants, White warned. But if you’ve done your own research and you understand the process, “you’re less likely to be duped by faulty research.”