Undergraduate research thriving at the University of Regina

By Jon Tewksbury Posted: November 19, 2018 4:00 p.m.

The Administration-Humanities Pit was filled with student research projects on Thursday.
The Administration-Humanities Pit was filled with student research projects on Thursday. UR External Relations

Thursday last week, students from English 349: Methods in Literary History filled the Administration-Humanities Pit for the inaugural English Research Fair organized by professor Susan Johnston. The research showcase allowed students to present their independent, original research. 

The event is a new take on an assignment Dr. Johnston has been giving out for more than a decade. This year, instead of her eyes being the only ones to see their hard work, she created an opportunity for her students to go public with their research projects. 

“The class is comprised of second-, third-, and fourth-year students who are contributing to the body of original knowledge,” said Johnston. “This year, I wanted to take their research out of the classroom and into the public sphere where they could present their work and discuss their ideas with others.” 

She says this project helps her undergraduate students develop their ability to place events and works of art in context, while also enhancing their proficiency in research and independent inquiry. And for many students, the research they’re conducting extends far beyond the walls of the University. 

“There are projects from previous classes that now reside in college libraries in the U.S.” said Johnston. “One of our student’s research focused on the original rules of basketball, and now it’s vested at the place where James Naismith worked and developed the game. So these students are doing original work that changes the public record. That’s why it’s important for this Research Fair to be public.” 

Jessica Leeper, a fourth-year English student, presented her research project entitled Isabella and the Pot of Basil, which compared the interpretation of a 14th century novella to subsequent works through different ages and mediums. 

“I traced the history of a painting by William Holman Hunt by examining the original story behind that painting, which was Boccaccio’s, The Decameron, written in the 1300s during the plague in Florence, Italy,” said Leeper. “I looked at the specific meaning and inspiration behind that story, then went to John Keats’ poem Isabella, or the Pot of Basil, the next adaptation of the story. Hunt’s painting was directly inspired by Keats’ poem, and I wanted to find out how the female figure changed throughout the years and how those representations differed from each other.” 

The entire class had their research on display at the fair, and Leeper felt the public exposure was a great experience. 

“Presenting our work is definitely a benefit,” said Leeper. “It gives me experience in showcasing my research to others, and it shows people that there is good work going into the student research that we do at the University of Regina.” 

Leeper, who plans to complete her honours program in her fourth year of the English program, said the research fair will be good preparation for that, and her future. 

“I ultimately plan to attend graduate school, so this research is the foundation that I need for the future.” 

Participating in the fair from outside the Faculty of Arts was Dina Tremblay, a second-year Biology student with an interest in English. Her research centred on Victorian royalty and their historic tour of Canada. 

“I researched a photograph that was part of Queen Mary’s travel album from the Royal Collection Trust online,” said Tremblay. “In 1901, she and her husband, before they became king and queen, travelled across Canada on the CPR railway, which had just been built, and one of their stops was in Banff, Alberta. The photo is a black and white image of the Duchess sitting in a canoe on an unidentified lake. By comparing current photos to the old photo from 1901, I discovered that the image of Princess Mary was taken at Lake Minnewanka, just outside the town of Banff.” 

When asked about the importance of the research fair, Tremblay was enthusiastic. 

“It’s great to share this knowledge. Our research projects are helping others discover things they didn’t know were out there.” 

The Research Fair ties in nicely with the recently announced Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council’s The Storytellers contest, which has just opened to students. The Storytellers challenges postsecondary students to show Canadians how social sciences and humanities research is affecting our lives, our world and our future for the better. For more information on The Storytellers, click here.

11-19.JPG 11-19.JPG 11-19.JPG
Dr. Susan Johnston,
associate professor
Faculty of Arts.
Jessica Leeper and her
presentation Isabella and
the Pot of Basil
.
Dina Tremblay presents her
research on an early 20th
century photograph of Queen
Mary.