Ziegfeld Girls, Interracial Love Stories, Florida Keys: More than 200 Northwestern students receive Undergraduate Research Grant


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Avery Van Etten plans to investigate sea level rise in the Florida Keys using her Undergraduate Research Grant. More than 200 students received the grant this year.

Cadence Quaranta, Reporter

While pursuing undergraduate research may conjure up images of test tubes and lab coats, the 211 students awarded an Undergraduate Research Grant last month will be pursuing a variety of topics this summer, taking them from dusty archives to sunny beaches.

To receive the $3,500 grant, applicants were required to find a faculty advisor for their project, submit a two-page research proposal, and fill out an application form by March 15.

The requirements, however, end there. Students may come from any academic area of study, and pursue any topic of their choosing.

According to the Undergraduate Research Grant website, this year’s awardees have chosen to pursue subjects ranging from “Interracial Love Stories” to “Root-Seeking in China International Adoption” to “Carbonates in Lake Decatur Sediments.”

Avery Van Etten does not plan to follow the traditional research report format — the Medill sophomore will be investigating sea level rise in the Florida Keys through a series of 30-minute podcast episodes.

“I wanted to do something that would allow me to gain experience with what I want to go into, which is radio,” Etten said.

She said she will speak with both experts and people who live in the area, hoping to inquire about their opinions and feelings on the sea-level rise.

Weinberg freshman Natalia Wang, another URG recipient, said she will utilize the grant to simultaneously pursue multiple areas of interest.

“My project is about oil paint degradation,” Wang said. “We are looking at why, in certain cases, oil paint degrades — specifically the mechanism of what goes on on the molecular level.”

Wang said art and chemistry are both topics she appreciates, and she is excited to be able to study their overlap this summer. She will be working in a lab at Northwestern to investigate this subject. Her end goal? To have her studies applied to pieces in the Art Institute.

Medill first-year Maya Mojica will be studying the overlap between objectification theory and the Ziegfeld Girls, a performance group from the 1920s. The grant will take Mojica to the New York Public Library, where she will peruse and analyze their archives, working with descendants of the group themselves.

Mojica said she plans to talk to psychologists about the information she discovers. She hopes they will be able to provide insight as to how the psychological theory of objectification connects to her findings. Unlike other awardees, Mojica said she does not plan to write a normal research report. Instead, she will use her research to write a piece of historical fiction.

“I want to turn this information, which people might not be interested in reading in a regular report, into something that is a bit more exciting to read, something people are going to want to pick up and read,” Mojica said.

She said she decided to pursue this subject because of her familial connection to it — her great-grandmother was a member of the group. Mojica said she gained interest in the Ziegfeld Girls after talking about them with her grandmother last quarter. Upon further research, she further realized the group’s connection with objectification theory.

“I was already interested in the theory because I’ve taken some psych classes at Northwestern, and I’ve heard about it here and there,” Mojica said. “And I was able to make that connection by myself and it was really exciting for me to see two very separate parts of my life come together.”

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