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Summer Getaways: UROP Style

By Bushra Makiya
STAFF REPORTER

Forget Physics, Chemistry and Biology: grants such as the $6,000 Eloranta Summer Undergraduate Research Fellowship let students create art dedicated to black inventors, travel to Texas to interview factory workers, or attempt to understand the anthropology of eating disorders in Arizona.

Edwin H. Land, the founder of the Polaroid Corporation and inventor of instant photography, created the Eloranta Fellowships and awarded the first fellowship in the summer of 1969. The fellowship programs is named in honor of Peter J. Eloranta ’68 whose father was an employee of the Polaroid corporation under Land. The purpose of the fellowship program is to encourage undergraduate creativity and involvement in a wide range of topics that cannot be covered during the term. The Undergraduate Research Opportunities Program was also inspired by Land.

The purpose of the fellowship program is “to enable people to do things they have always wanted to do,” said Alan Lazarus, acting chair of the fellowship committee. There is a lot of variety in the research topics and it truly allows students to do anything they want to do, said Lazarus. Although the research is not supervised, participants are required to present their projects during a dinner at the end of the summer.

The projects may be in any field of research, but it must be student directed. The project cannot be a continuation of a UROP or other faculty based research, unless it is going in a new direction. Student motivation and project feasibility within the time constant are important elements that the committee looks for in proposals, said Lazarus. Also, the fellowship committee tends to receive very few engineering proposals, perhaps due to other opportunities available in engineering departments. Projects are expected to be complete, or mostly complete, by the end of the summer and students must devote their full time to the project.

Eto Otitigbe ’99 was one of last year’s winners. He participated in an apprenticeship with artist and printmaker Valerie Maynard. The project culminated in the production of an installation focused on the works of African-American inventors, in particular, Frederick Morgan.

Another 1999 winner was Anna Dirks ’99 who visited bilingual churches in Texas and New Mexico and conducted interviews with macquiladora workers. These workers are underpaid factory workers near the US Mexico border. Her goal was to create a quilt representing their hopes and dreams, which are rarely recognized by those who use their manufactured products.

The third 1999 winner was Paul M. Crowley ’00 who travelled to Arizona to interview therapists, doctors, nutritionists and psychologists at an eating disorder clinic. He examined the secular and spiritual treatments of anorexia and the methods that different clinicians use to integrate Christian spirituality into treatment programs. He also examined the clinician’s own experiences that led them to the clinic and influenced their work. Crowley wanted to learn about the “thread of spirituality throughout [the clinicians’] lives that led them to the clinic” and how this led them to incorporate spirituality into cognitive therapy, said Crowley. Crowley, a course 7 and 21A senior this year, is using his research for his senior thesis in anthropology. The fellowship was a liberating experience for Crowley, and the independent nature and amount of freedom he had were incredible, he said.

Interested students must submit a five to ten page proposal to the UROP office (7-103) by March 31, 2000. Proposals should address the goals and expectations of the project as well as evidence, such as a timetable and a budget, that the project is feasible. At least one letter or recommendation is required and students are welcome to submit any supplementary materials to better support the project. The fellowships are very competitive -- out of approximately thirty submissions, three to six proposals are awarded each summer. For more information, please visit <http://web.mit.edu/urop/eloranta.html.>