2023 CSI Project Descriptions

Please carefully review each of the project descriptions below. Following your review, please indicate in your CSI application your two (2) top-choice projects, indicating in your essay how you are prepared to contribute to these projects as an undergraduate researcher and why they are of interest to you academically. If you have a third preference, you may indicate that as well. Note: many of the projects below will benefit from multiple CSI research scholars on each project. Please prioritize projects based on your interests and capacities for success as a CSI undergraduate researcher.

Project #1: "Back to School in Babylonia" [2 research appointments]: “Back to School in Babylonia” is an exhibition opening fall of 2023 at the Oriental Institute [name changes end of February]. For the first time, it showcases archaeological and textual records from an Old Babylonian school (1750 BCE).  The objects allow us to reconstruct the oldest curriculum in the world, learn about the struggles and achievements of Babylonian students and ask related questions about the aims of (ancient) education. The exhibition is curated by Susanne Paulus with a group of (post-)graduates and undergraduates in collaboration with the team of the OI Museum. You will work alongside our current team to research and develop content about ancient Babylonian education, programming, and activities for diverse audiences of the exhibition, including K-12 teachers and educators. In addition, you will be involved in the realization of the exhibition. You will also learn skills related to museum and collection management, including state-of-the-art digitization of artifacts, cataloging, and database and object management.  Research mentor: Professor Susanne Paulus, Associate Professor of Assyriology, Near Eastern Languages and Civilizations and the Oriental Institute. 

Project #2: “But Is It a Book?”: Uncovering Material Meaning in the Taschenbuch Collection  [2 research appointments]: Popular in the late 18th- and 19th-centuries, German Taschenbücher, or “pocket books,” are publications that occupy an intriguing and flexible space in the history of the book. Part almanac, part fashion, music and literary magazine, part portable diary and practical advice guide, these books give surprising insight into the social, economic, and political concerns in Europe during the age of Enlightenment.  You will survey the Library’s collection of nearly 1,700 Taschenbücher, confirming the presence and description of each volume against a printed catalogue compiled in the 1980s, noting details such as provenance, bindings, illustrations (including fashion-plate engravings) and paratextual oddities, such as the presence of hidden pockets, mirrors, pen holders and the like to enhance and make searchable the material aspects of these books that make them unique. You will contribute to the content of a “Collections Page” for the Library website that highlights the Taschenbücher for the research community. German reading knowledge is helpful, but not required for this project. Research mentor: Elizabeth Frengel, Curator of Rare Books, The Hanna Holborn Gray Special Collections Research Center, The University of Chicago Library.

Project #3: "Social Commentary and Propaganda in Communist East German Films" [2 research appointments]: The DEFA Film Library conserves, researches, and distributes the films made within Communist East Germany. Recent releases have included films that were banned or suppressed because they thematized the tension between young people and the GDR's repressive government, which dictated everything from an individual's career possibilities to acceptable choices in romance and music. Bringing these films to the public requires (among other steps) making them broadly accessible by creating English-language subtitles for these German-language films. Over the summer you will first learn the technical skills necessary to create subtitles for feature-length films. We will then work together to create subtitles that translate the German language as well as the East German cultural world for the films' viewers. Research mentor: Professor Nicole G. Burgoyne, Germanic Languages and Literatures. Application note: candidate for this project should briefly describe their German language competencies in their application essay.

Project #4: “Extinction, Endangerment, and Threat: The History of Fungal Knowledge and Conservation” [1 research appointment]: In two archive-based research projects, each of which could support up to two summer researchers, we will explore the historical origins of contemporary knowledge about the threat and threatened status of fungi. In the first project, the CSI researcher will identify and analyze efforts, in the 19th and 20th centuries, to quantify the total number of fungi that exist in the world. How many species are there? Where are they located? These questions were simultaneous important and fiendishly difficult for scientists to answer, in part because not everyone agreed about what a fungus even was. The British mycologist Geoffrey Clough Ainsworth gave a simple answer to the questions, in the 1960s: “Nobody knows.” Summer researchers will look at historical scientific studies from multiple contexts, including Italy, the United Kingdom, and elsewhere, in order to isolate strategies for quantification, methods of extrapolating from preexisting species totals, and more. They will then turn to exploring the history of more contemporary efforts to track extinct, threatened, and endangered species, which systematically underrepresent fungi. The researcher will learn how to conduct archival and online historical research, gain insights into the concepts and methods of the discipline of the history of science, as well as receive guidance and training in historical writing and public presentation. Research mentor: Dr. Brad Bolman, Postdoctoral Research, Institute for the Formation of Knowledge

Project #5: “Will the Next Pandemic Be Fungal: Historicizing Fungi and Pathogens” [1 research appointment]: In this project, the summer researcher(s) will explore the history of the long-marginalized field of “medical mycology.” In October 2022, the World Health Organization released a list of priority research fungal pathogens, each of which could represent fundamental threats to human health in the coming decades. The report represents a dramatic transformation in attention to fungi as threats to human health, a challenge that appears exacerbated by climate change and the widespread use of immunosuppressant drugs. By analyzing early studies in medical mycology, tracing the history of medical mycology departments, and exploring the intersections of medical mycology and colonialism, summer researchers will develop a historical account of medical mycology and attempt to explain the recent turn to fungi as a key threat to human health. The researcher will learn how to conduct archival and online historical research, gain insights into the concepts and methods of the discipline of the history of science, as well as receive guidance and training in historical writing and public presentation. Research mentor: Dr. Brad Bolman, Postdoctoral Researcher, Institute for the Formation of Knowledge.

Project #6: "Capturing the Stars: The Untold History of Women at Yerkes Observatory" [2 research appointments]: This fall, an exhibit at Regenstein Library will illuminate the history of women at Yerkes Observatory by demonstrating how their labor contributed to the advancement of astronomy and astrophysics. Visitors will learn how and why women came to Yerkes, about their scientific work, and about their lives after Yerkes. They will also learn about the history of astronomy and astrophysics, about women’s history in early twentieth century America, and about the history of women in science. This exhibit tells the stories of these women and their work in two major ways. On one hand, by focusing on the lived experiences of individuals, this exhibit will enable visitors to understand what it was like to be a woman working in astronomy during the early 20th century. On the other hand, by homing in on the roles of women in the scientific practices of the Observatory it shifts the narrative beyond the work of female calculators to embrace the full range of women’s labor – including observing, photographing, calculating, measuring, analyzing, and publishing. As part of the Capturing the Stars research group, two students will conduct independent research for a digital exhibit, which will live in perpetuity after the physical exhibit has ended. As such, students will have the opportunity to conduct independent archival research, to develop new competencies in the digital humanities, and to produce content for the digital exhibit itself. Research mentor: Dr. Kristine Palmieri, Postdoctoral Researcher, Institute for the Formation of Knowledge. 

Project #7: "Early Collections Research at the Smart Museum" [4 research appointments]: As the Smart Museum of Art approaches its 50th anniversary in 2024, the institution is keen to reflect critically upon its history, looking back to the early collections that form its bedrock. To that end, we will be hiring four CSI research scholars to conduct an in-depth exploration of pivotal historical collections over the past five decades. These will include, but are not limited to, the Max Epstein Archive, the F.B. Tarbell Collection, the Edward A. and Inge Maser Collection, and Joel Starrels, Jr. Memorial Collection. The Scholars' roles will be two-fold; to chart the trajectory of these important acquisitions, and to generate critical, object-centered scholarship on select understudied artworks within these clusters. The project aims to bolster the Museum's archives by deepening our understanding of individual objects as well as the broader contexts under which they were acquired.

Gaining in-depth experience while studying original works of art, the Scholars’ daily duties will include reviewing and analyzing digital and physical museum archives onsite and in Special Collections, conducting object-centered research, and building out informational dossiers. In light of the upcoming anniversary, a priority will be to organize and record these narratives while exploring creative ways to make them publicly accessible. Researchers will also learn best practices around archival data management, be mentored in safely handling art, and be trained to use the museum's collections database. We seek undergraduates interested in archives, history, and institutional retellings of museums and their communities. These positions will provide the opportunity for students to contribute to collections and object-centered research at a self-reflective moment in the Smart’s history while learning how the institution operates on a day-to-day basis. We hope that the cohort will not only gain valuable analytical and communication skills and learn about working in a museum environment but also that we can support them as they develop further insight into their academic and professional interests. Research Mentor: Tara Kuruvilla, Collections Research Preceptor, Feitler Center for Academic Inquiry, Smart Museum

Project #8: "Entanglements of Endometriosis" [2 research appointments]: Entanglements of Endometriosis offers an ontological analysis of a disease, asking two key questions: 1) How do people living with endometriosis navigate living with this condition? 2) How do biomedical researchers create knowledge about endometriosis? Endometriosis is a disease of the female reproductive system in which endometrial tissue grows outside the uterus on fallopian tubes, ovaries, and other local regions, leading to immense pain, cysts, and potentially infertility. The National Institutes of Health estimates that one in ten females has endometriosis, and that 30-50% of people with endometriosis are infertile. Diagnosis of this condition typically takes years; many learn of this diagnosis while trying to achieve pregnancy or upon a ruptured cyst. In the US, endometriosis diagnoses in Black and Latinx populations is even longer delayed, reflective of longstanding health inequities and racism in medicine particularly around reproductive health. Despite an increase in awareness about endometriosis over the past decade, little is known about its causes or effective ways to diagnose and treat it. This project weaves together an analysis of the production of biomedical knowledge ("expert knowledge") about endometriosis alongside the experiences of people living with this illness ("lay knowledge"), interrogating how each of these realms shapes, and is shaped by, how endometriosis is portrayed in society. The CSI research scholars will be involved in two parts of the project: (1) interview collection and analysis and (2) document analysis. The student will receive training in in-depth, semi structured interviewing and content analysis, and will be involved in participant recruitment, the conduct and analysis of interviews, and broader data analysis efforts. Undergraduate research scholars must have demonstrated interest in health and society and qualitative research methods; strong communication and writing skills; and at least some introductory experience with social science research methods. Research Mentor: Dr. Melanie Jeske, Postdoctoral Researcher and Instructor, Institute for the Formation of Knowledge

Project #9: "Organs on Chips: Biomedical Models and the Political Economy of Innovation" [2 research appointments]: Novel biomedical technologies have transformed how we understand the human condition, health, and disease. In the decades since the invention of recombinant DNA technology in the mid 1970s, the early development of tissue engineering in the 1980s, and the mapping of the human genome in the 1990s—just to name a few—investment in biotechnology and biocapital has boomed, and these advancements have profoundly shaped what we imagine biomedicine can and should achieve. This project examines a set of novel technologies called organ chips, and sociopolitical contexts that shape their emergence. Drawing on interviews with organ chip researchers and funders, ethnographic observations of laboratories, scientific conferences, and educational settings, and document analysis of scientific publications and policy and regulatory documents, this project documents how organ chips, as technological artifacts, emerge as productive and valuable tools, and trace how they are imagined and brought into fruition by a diverse set of actors across government, industry, and academic sectors. CSI research scholars will first learn about qualitative content analysis, and then be responsible for curation of data and the content analysis of scientific publications and presentations. Student researchers will contribute to two components of the analysis. One student will focus on an analysis of the ways in which dimensions of human difference (e.g., race, sex, age, comorbidity) are modeled on organ chips. Another student will focus on how particular conditions, such as addiction and anxiety are modeled using chip technologies. Research Mentor: Dr. Melanie Jeske, Postdoctoral Researcher and Instructor, Institute for the Formation of Knowledge

Project #10: "Aesthetics of Artificial Intelligence" [up to 2 research appointments]: With the emergence of generative artificial intelligence (AI) tools such as ChatGPT and DALL-E, the production of computer-generated content has been made accessible to a wide range of users and use cases. Academic institutions are especially challenged to find adequate responses to changing notions of originality and plagiarism, as the mainstreaming of ‘artificial' texts, audio-visual artifacts, and code is transforming our paradigms of learning, knowing, and teaching in real-time. This summer research project employs an in-depth study of generative AI as a pedagogical tool with the aim to develop a protocol for responsible human/AI co-creation in the classroom. It is part of a multi-year research project by IFK postdoctoral scholar Andre Uhl that investigates epistemic boundaries in the aesthetics and governance of AI: drawing on kinaesthetic pedagogies that sought to reconcile the relationship between artistic and techno-scientific disciplines at institutions of higher learning in the early twentieth century (especially the German Bauhaus and its continued legacy at the New Bauhaus in Chicago, now the IIT Institute of Design), the project explores new discursive practices that rethink and redraw the relationship between affect, ethics, and justice in the algorithmic age. During the College Summer Institute 2023, research scholars will assist Dr. Uhl in conducting (1) an in-depth survey of emerging algorithmic co-creation practices across artistic and scientific research, (2) a discourse analysis of AI ethics principles and related concepts such as responsible innovation, value-sensitive design, and algorithmic justice, and (3) applied research-creation experiments with generative AI tools aimed at documenting and evaluating new methods and models of content creation across text, image, sound, and code. The outputs of these three research activities will inform the development of a protocol for responsible human/AI co-creation in the classroom that will be implemented in a new course on the Aesthetics of AI offered in the academic year 2023/24. Applicants should demonstrate a substantial interest in media arts and design and its connections to critical theory, pedagogy, and science communication. Experience with artistic and/or engineering practice is a plus. Research Mentor: Dr. Andre Uhl, Postdoctoral Researcher and Instructor, Institute for the Formation of Knowledge

Project #11: "Doing dialect, doing identity" [1 research appointment]: This summer, the Dialect Development project supported by the Neubauer Collegium is trying to understand how Black families in Chicago think about their children's ways of talking, including how patterns in their children's talk align with concepts of identity, place, and generation. We are looking for a student to join our research team to help us recruiting participants, transcribe interview data, and prepare the data for analysis. This high-quality research experience includes  language transcription and annotation skill development, an inside look at how language research is conducted, close day-to-day mentorship in a lively lab atmosphere, and the opportunity to learn about current sociolinguistic theory. We seek an outgoing, socially sensitive, listener who is interested in chatting with strangers and good at thinking on their feet. Some training in linguistics, experience with recording technologies, and an interest in issues of language, race, and identity is ideal. Research Mentor: Professor Marisa Casillas, Assistant Professor, Comparative Human Development

Project #12: "Jewish Periodicals in the Mid-Twentieth Century" [up to 2 research appointments]: Periodical Studies is an academic field that considers literary journals, newspapers, and other serial publications through multiple disciplinary perspectives: as literary texts, visual artefacts, media objects, and social networks. Using the lens of periodical studies, this project focuses on the multilingual print landscape of American Jewish culture in the mid-twentieth century. Student researchers will choose a journal or newspaper which was published in the US between the 1930s and the 1960s in English, Yiddish, or German, and create its “profile”: who was publishing in it? How were current events covered?  What kinds of literary and cultural materials appear in it? What questions did the op-eds address? What kind of advertisements appeared in its pages, and what do they tell us about the intended readership? Possible case studies include: The Chicago Jewish Forum, Jewish Currents, Yiddish language newspapers like Eynikeyt or Der Tog, or the German language Aufbau. We will look for examples of authors who published across the different languages (for example, what the examples above all have in common is that Hannah Arendt wrote for them all) and try to understand whether their readership overlapped. More broadly, we will ask how this multilingual print landscape illuminates American Jewish history, and the account of Jewish immigration from Europe during he twentieth century. Application note: While knowledge of German and Yiddish is not a pre-requisite for application, students who do have background in either of these languages should include a note about it in their application essay. Research Mentor: Professor Na'ama Rokem, Associate Professor of Modern Hebrew Literature and Comparative Literature, Center for Jewish Studies, NELC, and Comparative Literature

Project #13: “Anticolonial Thought: An Anthology of Manifestos and Other Primary Documents" [up to 4 research appointments]: Anticolonial Thought: An Anthology of Manifestos and Other Primary Documents," is an anthology of primary texts, focused on manifestoes, essays and other short original documents, which for the first time will collect an understudied tradition of anticolonial thought and writing as it developed across the world from the late-nineteenth century to the present moment. Students will work with colleagues at Northwestern on research and editing for this volume including: document collection, preparation (including transcription and in some cases translation, editing), and general research for the anthology’s headnotes. Students will have the opportunity to work collaboratively on the anthology with a cohort of undergraduate researchers at Northwestern University. In addition to learning about anticolonial thought, students will gain general research skills and a solid foundation for editorial work in the academic humanities. The work may result in an opportunity for a named contribution in the volume. Undergraduate research scholars must have demonstrated interest in the topic and research skills; strong communication and writing skills; and a preference will be given to students with knowledge of another language in addition to English including French, Spanish, Russian, Turkish, Persian, or Arabic. Research Mentor: Professor Leah Feldman, Associate Professor of Comparative Literature