Faculty Research Frenzy offers opportunities for learning and working across disciplines
By Gabriel Gesing
Once a year, The Ohio State University at Mansfield hosts a meeting of the minds for its faculty and the campus community. The Faculty Research Frenzy is when professors gather to share their research. Time limitations mean that only a small number of researchers can participate. They take turns presenting their research but only have 5 minutes each and then quickly pivot into the next presenter, hence the name “frenzy.”
For the presenters, this is an opportunity to share their findings with colleagues. Gabe Karns, clinical assistant professor of environment and natural resources and EcoLab program coordinator, describes sharing research as a break from the day to day. Professor of psychology, Delwin Lindsey talks about how the frenzy presents the tenets of the university.
“These frenzies also model values that we all hope will enhance the educational experiences of all our students, regardless of their interests in undergraduate research,” Lindsey explains.
Jeff Sprang, senior lecturer of photography, comments on the value of sharing research.
“I believe strongly how important it is to share and communicate all the different research that’s happening on our campus — often behind the scenes. It can be inspirational and motivational,” says Sprang.
The meetings are open to faculty, staff and students alike and lasts about an hour. This last meeting took place over Zoom, with more than 50 attendees. It was organized by Yongmin Sun, professor of sociology, and Elizabeth Kolkovich, associate professor of English. Kolkovich served as the event’s host.
“Creating knowledge is an important part of the university's mission, and this event celebrates and shares the work being done on our campus,” says Kolkovich.
Faculty showed an interest in supporting their fellow researchers, and this event has given them an opportunity to do so. Lindsey talks about how it creates opportunities for students by introducing students interested in undergraduate research to faculty with similar interests. This is much like how Gary Kennedy, emeritus professor of mathematics, describes starting mathematics research projects. He has worked with multiple PhD students during his career.
“Thus, research projects in math, in my experience, turn out to be serendipitous: You've found just the right student and the right topic,” Kennedy reflects.
Multiple professors presented data that was collected with the help of student researchers. Karns explains the importance of offering students first-hand experience with the scientific method.
“Doing so under an advisor allows the support structure to be in place so that students can be creative, realize it is okay to make mistakes and push their curiosity to the limits,” says Karns.
Perhaps the most interesting aspect of the event was seeing the interaction across different departments. Jeff Sprang, who is a photographer, and Gary Kennedy, who is a mathematician, both presented the same project. Their research focused on the 2-slit camera, a form of camera obscura that creates unique distortions in the final image. This project serves as an example of the possibilities of the interaction between disciplines.
This cooperation across disciplines was also shown during a brief Q and A that closed the meeting. There was a back and forth between professors of history, literature and psychology. Lindsey says that this kind of interaction is something that could only happen at regional campuses, where the departments interact closely. Sprang concurs and says that the campus allows for unique research opportunities. Kolkovich says that hearing from other disciplines makes her a better researcher, and Karns describes it as “the essence of academia.”