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Undergraduate research at IFE stands out at national Conference

Academic achievement while studying abroad is no contradiction in terms. To prove the point, the Forum on Education Abroad each year showcases outstanding student work through its Academic Achievement Abroad Award.

At the awards ceremony at Forum’s recent annual conference, students from IFE’s Field Study and Internship programs showed how experiential education teamed with undergraduate research can produce brilliant scholarly results, as they won one of the two principal awards for academic achievement and represented three of the eight runners-up featured in a poster session.

Mya Singleton wins Forum’s 2021 Academic Achievement Abroad Award

Three of eight runners up are IFE students, with research in linguistics, IR and history

Mya Singleton: laureat of the Forum’s 2021 Academic Achievement Abroad Award

As a student at the University of Virginia, Mya enrolled in IFE’s Strasbourg Field Study and Internship Program in the fall of 2019, bringing her background as a biology major and a keen interest and experience in examining concrete questions of bioethics in medical research to her semester abroad. Joining the nationally recognized Health, Science, and Society Institute of the University of Strasbourg (a joint research unit with the Teaching Hospital of Strasbourg), Mya was put to work on the ethical investigation required for a major grant submission for a large-scale study of a huge, unique holding of pathological tissue samples from the 19th and 20th centuries, belonging to the University of Strasbourg.

Her findings, published as " The Absence of Informed Consent in the Retroactive Use of Biological Material in Pathological Research" were praised as exemplary, and were a critical element in the University’s application for EU funding for a research program entitled “ The Neverending Disease Project: The Case of Syphilis from 1859 to the Present”.

Mya explains “ I decided to approach the question of ownership of bodily samples and clinical research from both a legislative and philosophical perspective...[T]hough they are detached from the human body, bodily samples are materials that cannot be owned by anyone other than the patient from whom they were removed, whether for research purposes or otherwise. In the case of samples used post-mortem, the bodily samples should be under the jurisdiction of the governing body preserving the samples... researchers must carry out their research responsibly to avoid exploiting their access to these samples.”

Linking her time abroad to her own trajectory, Mya reports that studying abroad in such a diverse place as Strasbourg "opened my eyes to how ’diversity and social justice’ varies in meaning and implementation from one country to another. This was my first experience outside of the United States, and it honestly reaffirmed my desire to become a medical professional and to develop the field of bioethics within the United States.”

IFE alums won three of eight runner-up awards at Forum Awards Annual Conference

Furthering IFE students’ demonstration of the ways studying abroad can drive scholarly performance, three students were invited to present their work in the fields of linguistics, international relations, and historical research at a red-ribbon poster session .

Molly Pinder, a linguistics and French concentrator at UC Berkeley, enrolled in IFE Strasbourg in spring 2020 and was placed as a research associate with the French Language and Linguistics Research Institute of the University of Strasbourg, where she was put to work annotating audio files of stuttered speech. As a linguist abroad Molly grew interested in theories of second language acquisition, and in looking around that field was drawn to Best’s oft-cited perception model of language acquisition. About this time, Molly’s in-person work was cut short by the need to repatriate in the face of the dangers of Covid-19. She continued her internship and at the same time – cut off from any possibility of field work – came up with a way to use literature review to “test” how well Best’s model would explain foreign language acquisition. Unable to perform experiments, Molly concludes her work with several proposed protocols for testing the value of applying Best’s ideas to improving foreign language acquisition. Her colleagues and evaluators of her work all agree that although forced to work in a uniquely theoretical context, Molly has succeeded in making a genuine contribution to the subject of her research.
Forum-appointed referees were impressed how despite having her sojourn cut short “she was able to pursue an in-depth and promising research project that focuses on L2 perception in novice learners, with a critical analysis of how to extend a prominent model in the literature to later in the second language developmental path.” Both referees were “extremely enthusiastic about the project” which even without (impossible to collect) data was “an extremely admirable performance”.

Abigail Shepard-Moore, an international studies concentrator at The American University, enrolled in IFE’s Paris Field Study and Internship Program in spring 2020 seeking experience in international development issues. Taking up duties as a research assistant at the nationally recognized Center for Research on Environment and Development (CIRED), Abby was asked to examine the recent (2016) Kigali Amendment to the Montreal Protocol, an international treaty to protect the atmosphere from ozone-depleting substances, established in the1980s, and to which the Amendment adds limitations on CO2 as well.
After weeks of preparation and a short stint of internship, Abby found herself heading home as the pandemic forced repatriation of American students. Undaunted, she continued her analysis by delving into existing literature, databases of debate and comment about the Amendment, and IGO, NGO and government documents. The knowledge base she acquired served her well in crucial interviews of key players in the Amendment process (conducted at a distance). Abby wrote up her findings in a 30-page paper produced simultaneously in both French (an IFE requirement) and English (as requested by CIRED in view of publication). Abby’s colleagues at CIRED are very happy with these original and pertinent findings, for publication and as a basis for further investigation.
The Forum’s referees found that Abby’s work “is sophisticated, cosmopolitan and polyglot; it exceeds expectations for undergraduate research. It adroitly weaves in information from interviews (with those influential in negotiating the Kigali Amendment of the Montreal Protocol) and literature review on the process for creating the Montreal Protocol and subsequent amendment. in-depth project during covid-19... in every way: admirable. Kudos.”

Louise Curtis, a history concentrator at UC Berkeley focusing on modern European and intellectual history, enrolled in IFE Strasbourg in the spring of 2020, where she could hone her German language skills also. Eager to get involved in historical research, Louise was placed as an associate researcher at the University of Strasbourg’s Research Center for Arts, Civilization, European History where she was given responsibility to treat a manuscript written at the end of the 18th century by a German soldier, Georg Flohr, who was a member of a mercenary regiment sent by France to take part in the American war of independence. Flohr recorded in detail the expedition, producing an account that was at once a campaign journal and an intended contribution to travel literature, with a scientific bent.
Seeking to avoid repeating research already carried out on this document, she took a new approach, analysing the manuscript from the standpoint of 18th century travel literature, in order to determine whether the Flohr document merits inclusion in this category. Louise introduces her subject in general by linking it to the journey back to the US that she was forced to undertake at short notice due to the pandemic and the period of confinement. By this very original and creative approach, Louise drew on her experience to widen her subject to include the notion of travel itself.
The Forum’s referees found that Louise “completed an impressive research project based on an innovative approach to a text that has already received some degree of attention. She has convincingly placed the text, written by a rank-and-file soldier, into a new genre, "travel writing"— whereas previous scholars have tended to view it only from the perspective of military history. This intervention adds value to the text as a literary document broadening our understanding of which historical figures belong to the Enlightenment tradition. From a purely academic standpoint, the student opens up important debates about defining intellectual and literary history.”

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