By Jaclyn Lipp
While many people were enjoying this summer's blockbuster hit "The Dark Knight," Justin Lucas was taking a more academic look at the flick.
Lucas, a senior media arts and studies major in the Honors Tutorial College, is doing his undergraduate thesis on comic book movies, examining the similarities and differences between the Batman films and their relationship to the original comics. He received a $300 grant for his project, "Beneath the Cape and Cowl: Why Superheroes are Stealing the Show in Hollywood," through the Ohio University Provost's Undergraduate Research Fund (PURF) to buy source material for the study.
His research has led him to some conclusions about the future of comic book movies, starting with the latest such film, "The Watchmen."
"'The Watchmen' takes all the superhero stereotypes to the next level, and I predict the downfall of these movies. I don't think people will connect as well," Lucus said. "The movies are either going to get overly dark or go back in the direction of being too frilly."
Undergraduate students on the Athens campus can receive $100 to $1,500 from PURF for original research, scholarship and creative projects. Each fall, a committee of faculty representatives from each college chooses how to distribute the $50,000 in funding.
This year, the committee awarded funding to 55 of the program's 143 applicants. Click here to view a full list of funded projects.
The main purpose of the PURF program is for students to learn what it takes to complete a grant application and work on research, Jan Hodson, said assistant dean of the Honors Tutorial College. Each student must work with a faculty adviser who oversees the research process.
"I think that a lot of students come into college not thinking about research or where that might play a part in their education," she said. "By taking advantage of this grant and being able to work with a faculty member, research becomes a reality for them. They see that it's possible for them to do their own original research as an undergraduate, not just in graduate school."
The projects receiving PURF grants represent the diverse areas of undergraduate research under way at the university, from biomedical sciences and engineering to art and philosophy.
Lindsay Calvert, a senior dance student in the Honors Tutorial College, examined how dance relates to the performance place in her project, "The Ecology of Technology: An Interdisciplinary Dance Project." She's creating a dance to be performed near Strouds Run State Park in a location surrounded by huge boulders. She plans to tape the performance to analyze how technology contributes to the viewing of dance.
By virtue of the projects funded, the PURF program helps emphasize that "research is something that is done in all disciplines, not just science," Hodson said.
"I think you come out of high school thinking of research as being science-oriented, and it's not. People in dance and theater are doing research, and while their projects may have a creative angle to them, ultimately it's about learning more about the discipline."
Drew Myers, a senior dietetics major, also received a grant through PURF. His project involved putting chicken patties in different egg white solutions before covering them in batter to determine if there's a difference in how much fat is absorbed. He's been consulting with Robert Brannon, assistant professor of human and consumer sciences.
"I want to go into food science and food chemistry," Myers said. "I would still have the opportunity to do this at other schools, but not to the extent that I'm currently doing it here."
All students who receive grants through PURF are required to present their research at the Ohio University Student Research and Creative Activity Expo, set this year for May 14 in the Convocation Center. Some students go on to reach a wider audience by presenting their work at other events and professional meetings. Myers, for example, hopes to present his findings at the Institute of Food Technologists' Annual Meeting and Food Expo in Anaheim, Calif.