Finding Answers

SPU Undergraduates Engage in Real Research — Not the Sissy Stuff

By Allie Fraley | Illustration By Brad YEo

At Seattle Pacific University, you don't have to be a post-grad to get your hands on good research opportunities. While not all academic majors include research requirements, professors will unanimously tell you that such experience is invaluable for your education and career. Whether you're interested in sea animals, mysterious historical events, or the behavior of babies, there's something cool to delve into and discover more about.

In SPU's state-of-the-art Science Building, you'll find biology and chemistry majors elbow-deep in research. You'll even find said students far away on Blakely Island, SPU's research facility in the San Juan Islands, tracking deer and studying the stars.

"It's intensive, but we all work together," says Derek Wood, associate professor of biology. He runs the Summer Research Institute at SPU, where about 20 students work closely with seven to nine science faculty members. Examples of research projects include the neurophysiology of mice, the chemistry of algae, and the biomechanics of pregnancy.

"It's been cool to have the wisdom of our professors who have done a lot of research themselves," says Olivia Lenz '11, who talked about some of the research she's done with NASA on CNN last spring.

Professor of Psychology Kathy Lustyk sees research as an opportunity for the student to shine. "As faculty, we often share authorship with deserving students when research gets presented and published," she says. Lustyk runs the Women's Health Lab on campus, where she and select students research numerous issues impacting the lives of women, including stress, mindfulness, substance use, and quality of life.

One hears a lot about the scientific and psychological side of research, but SPU's Humanities Division is just as notable. At the International Medieval Congress in Kalamazoo, Michigan, history major Brent Miles'11 presented his research on the Albigensian crusade (a crusade from the early 1200s that took place in southern France and targeted Christian heretics and their supporters). The conference included about 3,000 scholars, but Brent was one of only eight undergraduate students to present their findings. He hopes to return as a graduate student. "Being there confirmed that this is what I want to do," he says.

So expect that Brent and other SPUers will continue to uncover mysteries for ages to come.

Want more stories about Big Ideas at SPU? Look in our archives.