Opportunities for Undergraduates to Pursue Research Projects

Did you know that as an undergraduate sociology major there are many opportunities for you to get paid to do research with faculty and gain valuable experience? It’s true! Check out these opportunities:

This ten-week summer program is a great opportunity for students to work on research projects with faculty in various disciplines. Students get one-on-one mentorship and learn valuable new research skills. RCEU students receive a stipend in the amount of $3,750 for their work on the project. Student applications are accepted in December and January. For more information go here

Now Accepting Applications! Due January 12th, 2024 at 11:59PM.

Check out these opportunities for undergraduate students to get involved in research with sociology faculty members:

Dr. Robert Thomson

Black or Blue (Phase 3): A Study of Religious and Political Sources of Moral Attitudes towards Police and Protest

A number of highly publicized police-minority violence events have recently thrust racial inequalities in policing into the national spotlight, especially the 2020 killings of George Floyd, Breonna Taylor, and Ahmad Arbury. Studies have historically shown that individuals affiliated with traditional religious communities also tend to favor strict punishment, but studies on attitudes about police typically do not include religious controls. The current study seeks to reveal how religious individuals draw from religious and political resources to interpret recent events related to police-minority violence and associated social movements such Black Lives Matter and Blue Lives Matter. As part of the RCEU project, the awardee will conduct a literature review, complete necessary CITI training, recruit subjects, perform interviews, and possibly conduct qualitative analysis (time permitting). We would seek to recruit from both predominantly White and predominantly Black conservative Christian churches in the Huntsville area.
Prerequisites/Requirements: Required: SOC 103, SOC 301; Preferred: SOC 100, SOC 320, SOC 330

Retribution or Reform? A Qualitative Analysis of Racial and Gendered Opinions towards Rehabilitative Justice

This research project will include qualitative analysis of in-person and/or online interviews on the topic of rehabilitative justice, which is defined herein as an approach to criminal justice in which a convicted party receives cognitive and behavioral interventions for the purpose of preventing future recidivism. Specifically, the applicant will assess the degree to which gender (potentially with a focus on non-binary identity) and race pattern attitudes about rehabilitative justice practices as distinct from retributive justice practices, or those involving more punitive sanctions for the purpose of punishment. As part of the RCEU project, the awardee will conduct a literature review, develop a semi-structured questionnaire, complete necessary CITI training, pursue IRB authorization, recruit subjects, and perform interviews. We would seek to recruit from a variety of gender identities (including men, women, and non-binary) and racial identities.
Prerequisites/Requirements: Required Courses: SOC 103, SOC 301; Preferred: SOC 100, SOC 340, SOC 306. Applicants with research familiarity on gender nonbinary experiences also preferred.

Dr. Christina Steidl

Teacher Talk: Analyzing Complexity of Language and Content

An extensive body of research has demonstrated that our language choices impact our ability to communicate effectively. The choices we make can determine whether what we say is understood by those around us, and the choices others make can determine whether we understand them. In this project, we’re looking at the intersection of language and content. Specifically, we are looking at the language that teachers use to explain more or less complex concepts in the classroom.

Basically, we want to understand what happens with language when content complexity varies. For example, does language complexity typically increase as the content of a lesson becomes more complex? Do teachers tend to use expert language when explaining content to students, or do they use more accessible language? And what the heck makes language more or less accessible in the first place?

In this project, you’ll be reviewing recordings of real-world teachers and analyzing the language that they are using in specific content lessons. The lessons will range from 6th - 12th grade material across core content areas (English Language Arts, Math, Science, and Social Studies). You will be trained to analyze the language and content of each lesson and rate them on scales based on commonly used frameworks. You will also get a chance to attend a 3-day training for ~150 content teachers from across the region and be involved in the refinement of a system for coding teacher talk.

Prerequisites/Requirements: You don’t need to be in a specific field to be successful in this project. If you are interested in language, curious about what leads to success or failure in communication, and comfortable with the idea of watching videos and/or listening to audio recordings in order to attend to nuances of talk, you will be well positioned to contribute to the work of the project. Above all, you need to be inquisitive and attentive to the language being used and the ideas being communicated. Finally, because the content we are looking at is from K-12 settings (teacher talk), if you are particularly interested in helping improve pedagogy and design of language in the classroom, or if you have experience and interest in qualitative research methods and coding, those are pluses as well.

Dr. Dan Morrison

The Christian University and the Legacy of Segregation: The Case of Abilene Christian University

Part of a larger project documenting the historical and contemporary practices of racism and exclusion within Abilene Christian University, this project focuses on key moments in the university's efforts to acknowledge, reckon with, and repair relationships between the university and African Americans, including Black alumni, current students, as well as Black faculty and staff. Our work seeks to answer these questions:

1) How have university presidents, boards of trustees, and other leaders attempted to make amends for decades of anti-Black racism, discrimination, and harm? 2) What progress, if any, has been made as a response to these efforts?

Motivated by the recent turn towards examining the relationship between universities and enslavement, our research team (faculty, graduate student, and staff) aim to document the history of racism and exclusion of Black students at an explicitly Christian institution of higher education. We work with existing social science theory to help explain events and institutional changes, such as public apologies and scholarship programs. We draw on a variety of archival materials from print sources such as student newspapers and yearbooks, as well as community media from the early 1900s to 2022.

The goal of this RCEU is to produce a well written, complete, sophisticated, and accessible chapter that makes a significant contribution to the larger co-authored book.
Prerequisites/Requirements: Any academic rank from freshman to senior. Sociology, History, Psychology, Political Science, and English majors are preferred, especially those with minors in justice and equity studies, and those with experience in archival research and nonfiction writing. Related disciplines will be considered based on the skills and qualifications of the student candidate.

This program is a great opportunity for students to work on research projects with faculty in various disciplines over the summer. Students get one-on-one mentorship and learn valuable new research skills. There are two levels of participation by students, one with a stipend award and one without a stipend but with other benefits and the chance for a monetary prize. These projects may be carried out remotely. For more information: uah.edu/rceu

This national program offers students free travel, room and board, and a generous stipend for spending a summer on a research project with faculty at a university with an REU Site. Opportunities differ each year, but previous examples include an REU program at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln involving applying social network analysis to racial health disparities and one at Texas A&M University involving research on residential segregation and disparities in criminal justice outcomes. Deadlines are specific to each university’s program and are typically around in January or February. Search for REU site opportunities here.

This program gives students and recent graduates in all disciplines who are interested in environmental issues an opportunity to conduct research as part of an interdisciplinary team and develop technical and communication skills. DEVELOP participants receive hourly pay for their work. Applications for this summer program are typically accepted in January and February each year. For more information go here.

Opportunities for Undergraduates to Present Research at Conferences

Presenting at academic conferences is not just for your professors! If you’ve completed a research project, or even just written a research paper for a class, you too can travel to a conference and present your work. The College of Arts, Humanities, and Social Sciences will even help pay for it; the Dean’s Office provides up to $330 per year to undergraduates to attend and present research at conferences. The following conferences are welcoming places for students to get some experience presenting their work as a talk or as a poster. Many also offer specific programs for undergraduates, travel grants, and student paper competitions with monetary prizes. So, talk with your professors about it and consider participating in one of the conferences listed below:

This small, student-friendly conference is typically held in late February each year at a university in Alabama or Mississippi. The deadline for submissions is typically in late November each year. For more info, go here.

This undergraduate conference is held annually and alternates between Emory University and Morehouse College, both in Atlanta, Georgia. See their website for updates on the next conference, which is to be announced. For more info, go here.

This larger regional conference is typically held in a southern city in late March or early April each year. The deadline for submissions is typically in late October or early November. UAH Sociology is a Departmental Member of SSS, so you will not have to pay annual dues in order to present at this conference. For more info, go here.

This conference is typically held in a city like Birmingham, Chattanooga, or Jackson, MS, in October of each year and submissions are usually due in July. Check out their website for information and details on next year’s meeting. For more info, go here.

The annual meeting of the ASA is typically held in a major city like NYC and San Francisco in early August each year. This conference offers numerous programs and opportunities for undergraduates. The deadline to submit is typically in January. For more info, go here.

Student Research Spotlight

Alex Haynes, RCEU Award

This summer Alex Haynes received a grant from the UAH Research Creative Experience for Undergraduates (RCEU) Program to work on the project, “How We See Race: Using Eye Tracking Technology to Explore Racial Perception,” with Dr. Jennifer Sims, Assistant Professor of Sociology. Their research uses eye-tracking to record which parts of a person’s face participants looked at when determining race.