New OQ: Undergraduate Research in the Sciences and Humanities

Oregon Quarterly Autumn 2020

In this and every autumn issue of Oregon Quarterly, we celebrate the tremendous research done by our undergraduates. If exceptional classroom instruction is the root of an education at the UO, then thought-provoking research projects are the branches—the opportunities for students to take what they’ve learned and extend themselves in any direction they choose, exhaustively exploring whatever question motivates them, working independently or with a faculty member.

Odalis Aguilar-Aguilar, for example, examined the 1940s-era Bracero guest worker program and its impact on the Mexican families whose fathers and sons went north for seasonal work and promises of a better life that too often went unfulfilled.

Shane Cooney, a 2020 philosophy graduate, during his senior year studied writings on the meaning of life by philosophers Albert Camus and Immanuel Kant—and emerged with a novel-but-inspiring approach for overcoming drug addiction that may one day be distributed widely.

Donna Hooshmand, meanwhile, balanced a demanding academic project in computer science with the personal challenge of attending school 7,000 miles from her homeland Iran. Her story captures all that is so formative about undergraduate research projects—perseverance, coping with adversity, learning from failure, and building patiently toward success.

Other students pursued topics as diverse as the reds, yellows, and oranges of the falling leaves. Among them: the history of Black student protest at the university, an area where we’ve made progress recently but still have much work to do; surface conditions of organic molecules, which contributes to knowledge in the electronics industry; and use of Twitter to explore the response to the coronavirus pandemic by officials in populous Los Angeles County.