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Undergraduate Research

Undergraduate research experience is often cited as the single most important and useful tool in preparing for a career in the sciences, but research experience is actually valuable in any field. By cultivating the love for scholarly inquiry that is an important component of a comprehensive undergraduate liberal arts education, research experiences provide a short-term and low-risk opportunity to explore a chosen field of interest, as well as act as a valuable addition to resumes and graduate or professional school applications.

Through independent study and undergraduate research experiences, students learn to:

  • form a question and research its background
  • develop methodology
  • perform experiments or analyses
  • interpret and communicate results

Research for Academic Credit

There are four methods for receiving academic credit for research or independent projects at Bridgewater (Click on any for the application forms or additional information.):

  1. Internship (480)
  2. Independent Study (490)
  3. Independent Research (491)
  4. Honors Project (500)

Each option has a specific set of deadlines, credit limits and application procedures that go beyond the usual course registration requirements. See the introductory section of Courses of Instruction in the current academic catalog for more details. In general, each of these options requires approval of a research plan prior to the start of the semester, so pre-planning is essential.

In addition, different disciplines have department-specific opportunities for research and presentation often included as capstone learning experiences for upperclassmen (ART 460 and 461, CHEM 461 and 462, COMM 450, etc.). Please see the current academic catalog for more details.

Non-Credit Research Opportunities

Dr. John W. Martin Summer Science Research Institute: up to $5,000 for student-faculty teams is available to fund supervised undergraduate research in the natural sciences during the summer. Proposals will be accepted during the month of March for each year for research conducted during the upcoming summer. See sample application form for additional details.

Past Awardees:

  • 2013: Ashley Hartman (Biology; with Dr. Tracy Deem), The Immune Response to Psoriasis: an Investigation into the Role of Dendritic Cells in Autoimmunity
  • 2013: Christina Teter (Biology; with Dr. Robyn Puffenbarger), DNA Barcoding as a Tool for Identifying the Prey in the Feces of Carolina Chickadees (Poecile carolinensis)
  • 2013: Christian Lynn (Physics; with Dr. Philip Spickler), Developing Analysis Software of O2 Photoacoustic Spectrometry (partial funding)
  • 2012: Andrew Veenis (Biology; with Dr. Stephen Baron), Use of Reporter Plasmids to Study Regulation of the Polyhydroxybutyrate Depolymerase Gene in Streptomyces sp. 5A
  • 2011: Michael Hull (Biology; with Dr. Moshe Khurgell), Uncovering the Secrets of Regeneration Blastemas
  • 2011: Korey Rankin (Physics; with Dr. Philip Spickler), Complete Analysis of Absorption Spectra in the 890 nm Band of Methane
  • 2010: Priscilla Fisher (Environmental Science; with Drs. Gavin Lawson and Tim Kreps), Monitoring Aquatic Communities in Constructed Wildlife Pools
  • 2010: Justin Dolph (Physics; with Dr. Philip Spickler), Determining Spectral Line Parameters in the 890 nm Band of Methane

The Virginia Foundation for Independent Colleges (VFIC) typically provides one annual Undergraduate Science Research Fellowship to Bridgewater: $2,000 for supervised undergraduate summer research in the sciences. Applications are typically due in March and one award is generally granted per institution. Preference varies, but may be given to environmental or forestry-related projects, or to historically underrepresented student populations. Contact an appropriate member of the science faculty for additional information.

Past Awardees:

  • 2013 Christian Lynn (Physics; with Dr. Philip Spickler), Developing Analysis Software for O2 Photoacoustic Spectrometry
  • 2012: Amanda Field (Biology; with Dr. Kimberly Bolyard), The Influence of Riparian Buffers on Fishes in Freshwater Streams Inside and Outside the George Washington National Forest
  • 2012: Vivian Whatley (Biology; with Dr. Tim Kreps), If Only They Would Die: Antibiotic Resistant Escherichia Coli in Shenandoah Watersheds
  • 2011: Rebecca Claytor (Biology; with Dr. Michael Hensley), Ecology of Small Mammals Using Burn Areas
  • 2010: Whitney Showalter (Biology; with Dr. Moshe Khurgel), Cellular Nucleic Acid-binding Protein as a Molecular Correlate of Limb Regeneration in Axolotls
  • 2009: Casey Hartless (Biology; with Dr. Robyn Puffenbarger), The Effect that HIV-TAT, THC, and Cytokines have on Chemokine Expression from Microphages
  • 2009: Michael Hull (Biology; with Dr. Moshe Khurgel), Stimulation of Morphological Changes in Cultured Blastemas
  • 2008: Chris Houck (Physics; with Dr. Phil Spickler), Methane Spectroscopy for Modeling Atmospheres of Outer Planets
  • 2007: James Irungu (Biology; with Dr. Michael Hensley), Biotic Survey of Small Mammals Inhabiting Riparian Borders of North River, Rockingham County, VA
  • 2006: Courtney Bukva (Health and Exercise Science; with Prof. Barbara Long), Patient Positioning Effects and Subcutaneous Thickness on Usefulness of Ice Bag Treatments


Bridgewater College has teamed with James Madison University and Eastern Mennonite University to provide a Research Experience for Undergraduates (REU) program in molecular biology, sponsored by the National Science Foundation. Applications are typically due in February. See www.jmu.edu/biology/reu/reu.shtml for additional information.

Fulbright US Student Program – Contact Dr. Scott Suter for additional information.

The Organizational Science Summer Institute (OSSI) at the University of North Carolina at Charlotte has developed a program to provide support for rising Juniors and Seniors from underrepresented communities who are considering pursuing graduate degrees in Organizational Science-related fields. The program provides free GRE preparation, graduate application assistance, mentoring and a monetary stipend and other financial support to attend OSSI's summer institute, at which students are paired with faculty and graduate student mentors to work on research projects. Additional information can be found at http://ossi.uncc.edu and http://orgscience.uncc.edu. Applications are due by December 10 of each year for the Institute held during the following summer.

Presentation and Publication

Alpha Chi - The Virginia Gamma Chapter of Alpha Chi, a national collegiate honor society, hosts a student presentation opportunity each spring for original research in any academic discipline. Presentations are scheduled during a Convocation program, generally in late April. Students do not need to be members of Alpha Chi to participate, but endorsement from the student's research advisor is required. An application form is due, along with a less than 250 word abstract in mid-April. Contact your research advisor or the Alpha Chi Faculty Advisor for additional information.

Philomathean - Annual academic journal

Philomathes Society - Student speaking opportunity at the annual fall banquet. Contact Dr. Tim Brazill for additional information.

In addition, different disciplines have department-specific opportunities for presentation and publication. Please reference the current academic catalog or department websites for additional information.