By Margaret Dickinson ’17
Summer research is one of the main reasons I decided to come to Hope way back when I was a senior in high school. The opportunity to work within my field of interest seemed like the perfect way for me to determine if I could see myself doing that work for the rest of my life. So, I came to Hope, declared a physics major the second semester of my freshman year, and proceeded to do two years of summer research within the physics department.
Now, you are probably wondering why I’m writing for the History Department’s blog if I worked in the physics department. Well, through those two summers of work, I discovered that life as a physics researcher became less and less appealing to me. So there I was, a first semester junior studying abroad in London who had no clue what she wanted to do with her life. And that’s when I discovered my love of all things history. Through the courses I took in London, I found that I loved the type of reading and writing that are done in history courses and I wanted to do more of that kind of work when I got back home.
My first day back on campus at Hope last spring, I changed majors, advisors, and my entire class schedule. I went from having classes mostly in physics and other sciences to a schedule composed of only history classes. Throughout the semester, I found myself enjoying the work even more than before, and I began to actively pursue my interest in attending graduate school for history. So, when I was given the opportunity to do summer research within the history department, I was delighted.
This summer I worked with a group on a project for Dr. Janes. She is currently on sabbatical writing a book about the modern history of global food. For our work, we helped her build up a library of sources and began some initial research on specific foods she is planning on highlighting within her book. I got to study the history of curry and its relations to modern imperialism particularly relating to Britain and India (side note: I am interested in studying modern British political history so this was right up my alley). As a group, we also got to spend time working in the culinary archives at the University of Michigan.
This round of summer research was a very positive experience for me. Getting to spend time in the U of M archives really allowed me to better understand how in-depth history research is performed. By this point in time, I’ve realized that the more time I spend reading and writing history, the more I love it.
If anyone reading this is considering doing summer research, I would like to highly recommend that you do it. It’s clearly played a very important role in my story so far, and I have gained a lot of clarity by actually engaging in work within my fields of study. Even if you don’t plan on attending graduate school, the analytical thinking abilities and research skills that you develop through this kind of work are easily marketable in almost any field. Most importantly, the relationships that you build by working closely with faculty members is very rewarding and has certainly impacted my intellectual growth through my time at Hope.