January 11, 2018

Kalorama Fellowship Funds Independent Student Research

Introduced in 2015 as an extension of the Georgetown University Research Opportunities Program (GUROP), the Kalorama Fellowship funds summer undergraduate research pertaining to the humanities, social sciences, and environmental sciences. In particular, the fellowship provides students writing senior theses with the opportunity to begin their independent research early with the support of a faculty mentor.

The 2017 Kalorama Fellows engaged in research projects on subjects ranging from vaccine refusal behavior to goddesses in the Hindu and Greek religions. Fellows’ research often results in publication on online platforms.

A Student-Centric Initiative

Sonia Jacobson, assistant for academic affairs in the Office of the Provost and director of GUROP, emphasized the freedom that the Kalorama Fellowship affords its participants. Unlike other GUROP opportunities, in which students support a faculty member’s research, the Kalorama Fellowship is entirely student-led. 

“Kalorama strikes a happy medium: it's the student's own research question but gets close mentoring by the faculty research mentor,” said Jacobson. “The student still has a lot of freedom to pursue the research as the student thinks best, but also can get good advice from faculty when needed.”

According to Jacobson, the fellowship seeks to equip students with the research skills needed both for their senior theses and for their professional development after college. 

“The Kalorama Fellowship's donor family understands the value of independent research and experiential learning in the development of academic and pre-professional skills. Research is almost inevitably going to be a feature of one's work in both the near future and long-term,” said Jacobson.

She added that the fellowship has expanded considerably since its first year, during which they accepted proposals for three part-time research projects, to now include 10 full-time projects and two part-time projects.

Exploring the "Living Past"

Jordan Cohen (SFS‘18) examined Japan’s postwar collective memory under the mentorship of Government Department Professor Eric A. Langenbacher. Drawing from literature, historical studies, and films, Cohen explored Japan’s difficulties confronting the atrocities of World War II and its impact on the region’s development. He asks the research question: Why has the Japanese reaction to its past differed so much from how other countries have dealt with their wartime atrocities?

Cohen’s interest in collective memory stemmed from a seminar he took with his faculty mentor in his freshman year. He emphasized Langenbacher’s deep understanding of collective memory and its impacts on the consciousness, development, and progress of a country. He describes the unresolved postwar tensions as the “living past.” 

“Langenbacher expressed to us the importance of collective memory and how he has actually seen the profound effects that the ‘living past’ has on how people act and how states conduct international affairs,” said Cohen. ”His passion, patience, friendliness, and expertise in the field made him the best person in the SFS to conduct research with.”

Integrating Western and Ayurvedic Medicine

Eva Rest’s (SFS‘17) Kalorama experience took her to Sri Lanka for the summer, where she researched the country’s integration of Western and Ayurvedic, or herbal, medicine. Anthropology Professor Sylvia Onder guided Rest through her research. 

Rest had the opportunity to shadow both Western and Ayurvedic physicians to observe the intricacies of each medical system. According to Rest, experiencing the differences between Western and Ayurvedic medicine firsthand improved the depth of her research.

“Sri Lanka was certainly a large adjustment in culture and climate from what I was familiar with in the United States, but I loved it,” she said. “I most enjoyed being able to observe firsthand medical treatment in both the Western and Ayurvedic systems in Sri Lanka. They are vastly different experiences, and something that I could never have fully understood from just reading articles in the United States.”

While in Sri Lanka, Rest observed the early stages of Sri Lanka’s worst outbreak of dengue fever in its history, a problem that persists today. Her experience motivated her to continue studying vaccine development and public health in pursuit of an M.D./Ph.D. Rest praised the Kalorama Fellowship for helping her to gain experience in field research.

“Witnessing the outbreak drove my interest in vaccine development and public health, and motivated my studies both senior year and post-graduation. I am hoping to pursue an M.D./Ph.D., so the experience of learning how to do research, especially ‘in the field,’ was invaluable,” said Rest. “The most valuable thing the Kalorama Fellowship gave me was learning how to go with the flow when things don't turn out as expected, and learning how to adapt my research question and methods as new data or opportunities arose.”

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