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The College of Arts and Sciences sponsors a range of research opportunities for undergraduates. Students in all majors are encouraged to participate in collaborative scholarship with faculty mentors.

Smaller universities are often known for placing emphasis on teaching and learning, while larger universities are often distinguished as leaders in research. Drake's commitment to excellence in teaching and first-class research opportunities means you can have the best of both worlds: exciting, interactive classroom experiences and the chance to work closely with professors who excel in their fields of research.

Undergraduate research assistants gain experience developing and implementing research methodology, collecting data in applied settings, analyzing data using a complex computer system, preparing data for professional conferences, and working as part of a research team.

Examples of recent student-faculty research in the college include:.

  • A student-led research group has developed an immersive virtual reality experience for a STEM festival held at Principal Park (Des Moines’ minor league Chicago Cub affiliate) that simulates what it is like to try to hit a 100-mph fastball.
  • A student-led research group is currently working on developing an original “Legend of Drake” video game, based off of the class game Legend of Zelda in which a user navigates Drake’s campus to solve puzzles and complete the quest. The music for the game is being composed by a Drake Computer Science and Music double major.
  • Students worked with Dr. Peter Levi, assistant professor of environmental science, to conduct research with the Raccoon River Watershed Associations and the Polk County Conservation Board.
  • Students worked with Dr. Mark Vitha, professor of chemistry, to conduct research related to using liquid chromatography and UV-visible spectroscopy to identify organic pigments used in paintings.
  •  Dr. Tim Knepper, professor of philosophy, supervised a team of 15 students who engaged in ethnographic and sociological research in 15 different religious communities in the Greater Des Moines area. Each student contributed a 3000-word chapter for a recently published student-written photo-documentary book, A Spectrum of Faith, on the religions of Des Moines.
  • Hayley Petras, junior chemistry major, worked with Colin Cairns on a project funded by the DUSCI. In the eight-week project Hayley synthesized and characterized a few members of a family of novel molecules: 2-(2'-hydroxyphenyl)-1,8-naphthyridines. Having made them Hayley then studied their ability to bind to zinc ions to form coordination compounds. In the course of this work Hayley was able to use instrumental techniques that are not commonly available to undergraduate students.  In particular, she got to use the most powerful molecule identification technique - nuclear magnetic resonance spectroscopy (NMR) - when we visited Grand View University. Drake has recently acquired a 500 MHz NMR system - a powerful research instrument that few of our peer institutions possess - so by the time a new student extends Hayley's work a wide range of new techniques will be available to characterize these and new compounds.
  • Thirteen students drawn from five departments in the A&S as well as the College of Pharmacy and Heath Sciences participated in an eight-week long summer research program. Their final presentations were judged and the top four presenters will have the chance to present their work at the fall DUSCI Colloquium Series. These students had field trips to Kemin Industries and MetroWaste Authority Landfill and several speakers from the university, including Priya Shenoy from the Cowles Library and Chrystal Stanley.
  • Psychology students work with Maria Valdovinos, associate professor of psychology, who secured a $388,000 National Institute of Health (NIH) grant to assess problem behaviors in adults with intellectual disabilities, and what impact changes in psychotropic medications have on the outcomes of these assessments. Dr. Valdovinos also engages students in research opportunities at the Behavior Disorders Clinic she created at Blank Children’s Developmental Center, and in a local public elementary school, providing consultation in a behavior disorders classroom.
  • Drake undergraduates worked with David Senchina, associate professor of biology, to conduct research on whether running and basketball exercises on Nintendo Wii were comparable to the actual physical activities.
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