|1. What is your specific area of
research (include the name of your faculty and/or laboratory)?
As a history major, my specific area of research
is colonial America. In particular, I enjoy research that explores
topics having to do with gender, colonialism and borderlands regions.
For my senior writing project, I worked under the oversight of Dr.
Laura Mitchell. I was introduced to Dr. Mitchell, who specializes
in southern colonial African history, when I took a history colloquium,
titled "Gender and Colonialism," that she taught last
year. Although the class focused on colonial Africa, we were encouraged
to do our own research on a topic of interest to us, as long as
a major focus was gender and colonialism.. The major part of our
grade for the class was for writing a proposal for our senior paper
(history majors are required to write a research paper to fulfill
their upper division writing requirement). I submitted a proposal
that incorporated the three elements of my focus: gender, colonialism
and borderlands. My research goal was to compare the level of power
women possessed in colonial New France (now Quebec) with women of
New England, and to write about my findings. Dr. Mitchell approved
my topic and I spent the next quarter researching and writing the
paper. At the end of the quarter, I had completed a 35-page research
paper and compiled a database concerning 70 women who were born
in New England but chose to live in New France (they were originally
taken there as prisoners of war but had refused to return to their
homes after the war's conclusion). After the paper was complete,
Dr. Mitchell and I discussed revising it to meet the specifications
of the UCI Undergraduate Research Journal. This involved cutting
about a third of the text and changing from CMS (Chicago Manual
of Style) to MLA style. Having to shorten the paper was difficult
for me but in the long run made it much stronger.
|2. When and how did you first get
involved in research?
I have been doing historical research for a number
of years. My interest in this area started when I was a child and
asked my parents about our ancestors. Like many people, their knowledge
of their family tree only went back about three generations. I wanted
to know more, so I started going to the National Archives in Laguna
Niguel and looking at census records, ship passenger lists, and
military pension documents. I was amazed to learn that our country
has conducted a census of its residents every ten years since 1790!
Later I began using my vacations for research and traveled to places
where my ancestors lived to access local libraries and archives.
Eventually, I was able to trace back over ten generations of my
family tree. However, I wanted to know more than just names and
dates. What were the significant historical events that influenced
my ancestors' lives? Why did they come to America? What challenges
did they face when they arrived here? I decided to go back to school
and learn about history, writing and research from professional
historians. Fortunately, I already lived in Irvine and didn't have
to look far, because UCI is one of the top humanities research schools
in the country. The decision turned out to be good one for me. Although
I now do research with broader academic relevance, I still enjoy
doing my own private research into my own family's history. Also,
the more I learn about history, the more appreciation I have for
the tenacity of the people that came before me.
|3. How has research enhanced your
Under my faculty mentor's supervision, I have improved
my writing abilities considerably. For me, working one on one with
a scholar like Dr. Mitchell was paramount in my development as a
historical researcher and writer. Furthermore, I have become better
at developing good research topics and finding original sources.
One of the most important aspects of completing a major historical
research paper is finding primary sources-documents like the census
records, and passenger lists I found at the National Archives. They
can also be court records, letters, diaries, newspaper accounts
and documents that were kept to record events. It can sometimes
be a challenge to locate detailed primary records pertaining to
a particular historical problem. For example, in the Colonial era,
education was accessible primarily to men and, because of this,
there are fewer documents left by women. The records that do exist
may be located in a variety of places, including university special
collections, archives, historical and antiquarian societies, or
even private collections. In addition to primary sources, historians
work with secondary sources. Most of the written materials we are
accustomed to seeing in libraries are considered secondary sources.
They are interpretational in nature and are usually written about
an event or phenomenon at a later date using primary and other secondary
|4. What has been your favorite
experience with research (include any interesting stories or specific events)?
My favorite experiences with research have happened
when I have had the opportunity to work with historical documents
that people have not looked at for generations. Two years ago, I
went to the New York State Archives to review some old court records
I thought might be helpful for a topic I was researching. When the
archivist brought out the box of documents I ordered, I removed
the cover to find stacks of papers covered with dust and wrapped
in antique twine. The dates on slips of paper on each bundle indicated
that they hadn't been unwrapped and looked at for over 200 years!
At that moment I felt extremely privileged at being entrusted with
the documents, if only for a few hours. After spending the day immersed
in reading, it felt strange to leave the building and walk out into
the bustling street with buses and cars whirring by me. It was almost
like reentering the year 2003 from the early 19th century!
|5. What are your future plans and how
has being involved in research helped to prepare you to meet your goals?
My future plans include pursuing a doctorate degree
in history. I am going to take a year off after graduating from
UCI this spring with a B.A. degree in History and a minor in Anthropology.
In the fall I will apply to graduate schools, including Stanford,
UCLA, Yale and the Universities of Connecticut and Colorado. Also,
I plan to take a number of trips during the coming year. In addition
to traveling to the east coast and Colorado, I will be spending
two weeks in South America this summer, including a trip to Machu
Picchu, Iguazu Falls and the Amazon. In December, I am going to
Africa, where my activities will include a photo safari through
Kruger National Park. I also will get a chance to see spectacular
Victoria Falls. I'll end my vacation in Africa with a week in Cape
Town. I am thankful for the instruction I have received from Dr.
Mitchell on the history of South Africa, as it will surely make
my trip more rewarding.
|6. What advice would you give to a
student interested in pursuing a faculty-mentored undergraduate research project or
I encourage my fellow students to embark on a
faculty-mentored research project. In addition to the having the chance
of getting their work published, the experience is satisfying and
enriching. I have another bit of advice for anyone contemplating a
research project-choose a topic that you feel passionate about. In
addition for increasing your motivation, the sense of reward you will
feel upon completion is greater if it is something that you hold dear.
|Past Researchers of the Month