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Butler Summer Institute–Celebrating 25 Years
By Sharon Alseth '91
No classes, no employment, no interruptions—only research. That’s just the way they want it, the 30 students who are chosen to immerse themselves in the Butler Summer Institute (BSI), celebrating its 25th anniversary this year.
These are dedicated, self-directed Butler student researchers with a methodological background and a passion to pursue a significant question, every day for nine weeks. Students who apply need a recommendation from a faculty member, and an explanation of their project. BSI participants each get a $2,500 stipend and live and work on campus. Each student has his or her own faculty mentor and close bonds are formed, with the added support and encouragement of fellow student researchers.
“No topic is off limits,” said Dr. Dacia Charlesworth, Director of Undergraduate Research and Prestigious Scholarships at Butler. “It could be that a student found something interesting in the humanities, and they’re excited to take it to another level. One student analyzed Tweets about the violence in Ferguson, Missouri, and then the Orlando nightclub shootings happened and her project shifted focus. We had a history major who wants to be a dentist, study the effects of mercury tooth fillings. She uncovered an actual melodrama musical of mercury’s side effects.” Said Charlesworth, “These are great students who want to learn, and that makes our job easy.”
The BSI students have to show how they are advancing research in their field, and make a definite contribution to their discipline. There are “research recaps” at the end of each week, aided by presentation training so students can more confidently explain their work in basic terms to their audiences. In the end, students are required to produce work worthy of acceptance in a professional conference or publication, and they present their project at Butler’s Undergraduate Research Conference the following April.