Annual Watson Lecture presents new dreams for professor, school

by Taylor Miller

The 2013 Watson Lecture targeted Simpson College students by highlighting the benefits of undergraduate research.

Debra Czarneski, associate professor of mathematics and director of undergraduate research, said undergraduate programs are a great resource for students to get into.

“Undergraduate research is very different in every discipline,” said Czarneski. “I think if a student is interested in undergraduate research, one great thing to do is talk to someone in their major.”

All students need to do to get started is ask, Czarneski said.

  • “I think the high for me is seeing the students making the connection, and them being exposed to math that’s not typically taught in a calculus book and also getting to get to know the students and being able to spend time with them.” 

While undergraduate research is beneficial, it does pose some obstacles for both the students and the leaders.

“It gets frustrating for the students to solve the questions I ask of them, because I as the leader don’t have the answer,” said Czarneski.

Most times, the frustrations come from how there are multiple answers to the questions Czarneski poses, and multiple strategies to figure out answers to the problems.

Czarneski stated at the Watson lecture that she hope to start a dream of hers, which is a program here at Simpson that will provide students an even better opportunity to do undergraduate research. The goal is to hopefully help students rise above others in their future jobs and studies.

Sophomore Anna Littlejohn hopes to participate in undergraduate research at some point during her time here at Simpson.

“I know it would be during the summer, but with the free housing and stipend the mathematics department is able to give I would be even more convinced to use a summer for something I already love,” said Littlejohn. 

Littlejohn said students interested in research should hardly be intimidated by the idea.

  • “It wouldn’t take much to convince other students to apply to do an undergraduate research project. I believe that with the amount of students with previous experience the department has, all I would have to do is tell them to talk to somebody,” said Littlejohn.
  • “The professors in the math department would also be more than happy to explain what kinds of students have done projects before, and what sort of requirements a student would need to undertake a Summer Research Project.”

Littlejohn was happy to express her thoughts on what she thought on Professor Czarneski’s idea on having this new undergraduate program at Simpson in the near future.

Littlejohn said she’s happy to hear about Czarneski’s ideas for Simpson students to embark on even more undergraduate research opportunities.

“The vision that Debra shared in her speech yesterday is something that is very probable” said Littlejohn. “Not only would more research projects recruit more students and experienced faculty, but it would also provide many incredible skills for the current students that would set them apart in their future field.” 

Littlejohn said with more success, participation and time, Czarneski may see her dream come to fruition.