Students collaborate to produce undergraduate research journal

Celebrating Research

by Giulia Heyward ’14

It was the spring semester of 2015 and Neal Lacey, a burgeoning New College fourth-year, received a Stevens’ Summer Research Fellowship to conduct research in Columbia, Missouri, at the prestigious University of Missouri.

He packed his bags and flew to professor Justin Walensky’s chemistry lab at the University of Missouri. It was at Mizzou that Lacey befriended his residential advisor, Anurag Chandram. They talked about everything from chemistry, to their love of constitutional democracy, and formed the beginnings of an idea to create an undergraduate research journal.

“I wondered why New College did not have its own undergraduate journal,” Lacey said. “Especially considering the wealth of students doing research through tutorials, Independent Study Project (ISP) periods, the thesis process and the frequency at which New College students participate in summer research programs.”

After completing his fellowship that summer, Lacey would return to campus to plant the seed of Aeolus — New College’s first interdisciplinary undergraduate research journal. While Lacey graduated in 2015, today, Aeolus exists as a tutorial, sponsored by Natural Sciences Librarian Alyson Gamble and consists of six students who meet twice a week and oversee production.

Aeolus

A week before starting her job at New College, Gamble was approached by Professor Matt Lepinski in the College’s parking lot. He told her about three students who were interested in creating a tutorial centered on producing an undergraduate research journal: Lacey, and fellow students Caitlyn Ralph and Mai Tanaka.

Now more than a year later, both Lacey and Tanaka have graduated and Ralph is studying abroad. But in true New College fashion, that doesn’t mean Aeolus has lost momentum. This year, new students are interested and involved and have hit the ground running.

“When the journal first started, roles were very concretely established and there was a vertical managerial structure, where different branches of the organization reported to different heads of the journal,” Gamble said. “This worked well for the original set-up, but as the journal evolved, the students found that a horizontal approach worked better for managing the journal in a dynamic environment. The students seem to naturally fall into the roles that interest them.”

Students now break off into roles dealing with peer review, formatting a style guideline, social media and layout.

“When we first receive an article, we do a general overview and see if it meets our guidelines,” Aeolus staff member Riley Lewis said. “If we decide that it fits the scope of our journal, then we look through and make minor grammatical corrections to make it fit our style guide. We don’t change the voice or any content of the article. Then we are able to send it off to peer-review and that is when experts in the field are able to review [the article] for content and the data being presented.”

Hope Sparks, another staff member, explains that there is a database of alumni who will be contacted when a submitted article dealing with their specific field is submitted to Aeolus and in need of revision.

“I think it gives students the opportunity to see what it’s like to publish work,” Lewis said. “And just understand and be able to take feedback. It also exposes students to an aspect of academia that they wouldn’t be able to receive in their classes.”

This sentiment is shared by other students at New College, many of whom are interested in working in publishing as a career. Exposure to the publication process helps students understand the complexities of creating a journal.

“I’m very interested in publishing and how publishing works, and grassroots publications,” said staff member Danielle Aca, who works with marketing the publication to the community. “I think it validates [the research] that students do. Research does matter. And I think it motivates students to do more research.

Another student and staff member, Bethany Wilson, was excited to learn more about the tasks associated with creating a journal. “I knew nothing about the review process,” she said. “I also learned how to copy-edit. I learned that you can get a lot done in a small amount of time.”

Looking Ahead

“When we first started out, we really didn’t know how we were going to publish this,” Lewis said. “Were we going to make it in print? Were we going to do it online? Nowadays, journals aren’t really published in paper. Everything is online.”

With the first issue of Aeolus due out in the fall 2017 issue of Nimbus (the New College magazine), staff are accepting submissions until April 3. This issue will consist of a preview of articles, published on the Aeolus website. Plans for a potential full, in-print edition are being discussed.

Back in Missouri, today Lacey dreams of a grand future for Aeolus. He points to both Stanford and Massachusetts Institute of Technology, who publish biannual, student-led and faculty-sponsored interdisciplinary undergraduate research journals.

“Overall, I hope students disseminate valuable information and connect organically with other prospective students, their peers, faculty and alumni,” Lacey said. “I hope students gain team-based project experience and leadership skills.”

Students interested in publishing their research can go to ncfaeolus.wordpress.com. Alumni can get involved and become a content editor or submit undergraduate research at aeolus@gmail.com.

“I’m surprised that [Aeolus] hasn’t already been a thing,” Sparks said. “We have so many exciting research projects and ISPs and research experiences — this is just a place for us to put it all. The students already do the work, we just didn’t have the outlet.”