A Summer Undergraduate Research Fellowship (SURF) was fundamental to the researching and writing of my senior thesis: “Threading a Needle Through the Notch: An Environmental History of Construction of Interstate 93 in Franconia Notch, New Hampshire.”
My hypothesis. The long battle over the construction of Interstate 93 in this region was emblematic of many resource conflicts that faced post-World War II America. Furthermore, the ideas and actions of those involved in the fight illustrated how nature can be constructed politically, economically, and symbolically in the past and in the present. Such a hypothesis can be easier to create than to prove, and my summer research focused on finding and collecting the materials that would verify it.
My approach was primarily “archival” driven. I spent the majority of my summer going through correspondence, meeting minutes, articles, highway design plans, and similar materials to reconstruct a series of events that took place over 30 years. I also gathered secondary works to explore the historical context that surrounded the subject of my research. To frame the larger argument of my piece, I read pieces on environmental policy, highway design, the history of the Interstate system, the natural and cultural history of the Franconia region, as well as theoretical works on history and environment. My faculty adviser, Professor Kurk Dorsey, helped me to refine my research methods and provided helpful criticism throughout the project.
I would have endeavored to complete this project even without funding from SURF. I can say with confidence, however, that without the fellowship, the depth and complexity of my work would have been significantly compromised. As an undergraduate, I have never been without a job. Last summer, for the first time, my full-time job was being a student researcher and I immensely enjoyed the freedom and the challenges presented by that opportunity. Receiving a UROP fellowship and writing my thesis have been the most demanding and rewarding experiences of my undergraduate career.
I wholeheartedly recommend pursuing UROP to any undergraduates interested in going beyond the traditional framework of their education. For students of history or any other liberal arts discipline, I can think of few better ways to distinguish themselves and to explore their interests in greater depth. Research in the liberal arts differs greatly from the hard sciences, but that does not make it any less challenging or less significant in my estimation. Funding in the liberal arts is perennially scarce, which makes it that much more important for liberal arts students to capitalize on this opportunity. Furthermore, UROP is a great way for an undergraduate to develop the research skills and experience sought by many graduate programs.
--Andrew Case ‘01