The department has many research opportunities for students. Below are current student research projects.
For the past two summers I have been conducting undergraduate research in conjunction with UNC Project-Malawi. My research adds a geographical component to a malaria vaccine trial under the direction of Dr. Michael Emch, a geography professor at UNC. The goal of my research is to use geographic methods to better understand the transmission of P.falciparum malaria in different ecological settings. I have assisted in creating a geographic database for Lilongwe, Malawi and teaching community health workers to use GPS units. I am currently working on my senior honors thesis which adds a spatial component to injury data in Malawi. Funding was provided by the Summer Undergraduate Research Fellowship (SURF).
You can read about my experiences in Malawi in Passport Magazine.
Learn more about my project: Summer Undergraduate Research Fellowship (SURF)
During the summer of 2009, I was hired an as undergraduate research assistant by the department of geography to help conduct fieldwork in the Galapagos archipelago for 60 days. Working under Dr. Steve Walsh and graduate students from different disciplines within the geography department, I was to work primarily on three separate projects: water and health in the town of Puerto Villamil, the spread of invasive species (primarily guava) in the Isabela highlands, and mapping mangrove forest structure along the Isabela coastline.
Working in the Galapagos archipelago was an extremely fulfilling learning experience, especially considering that I was able to work on three separate and significantly different projects, all of which brought their own unique challenges but unique rewards as well. Mapping mangrove forest structures meant that I was able to swim with sea lions on a daily basis, while working in the highlands allowed me to interact with farmers that haven’t been exposed to the outside world.
I spent the majority of my time working on the water and health project in the town of Puerto Villamil on Isla Isabela. As part of a research team, we utilized Global Positioning System technology to develop a spatial database by locating the geographic position of household-level water and sanitation systems. This included mapping dwelling units and visible latrines, septic tanks, and water storage containers. I have included an image of the comprehensive map that we created during the summer, as well as multiple photographs from my experience on Isla Isabela. I would highly recommend students within the geography department or from various other disciplines to search for similar research positions- I’m sure it will be a life-changing experience!
Kate spent time working with the Katosi Women’s Development Trust. The trust is a grassroots organization working to improve the sanitation and general living standards of its community, the small fishing village of Katosi, on the shores of Lake Victoria. KWDT has already donated and constructed rain collection tanks in 4 local schools, and her research during the summer of 2009 was to assess and expand the functioning of their sanitation and hygiene programs in these 4 schools. Her goals included: Monitoring and assessing the existing school health programs, summarizing and presenting her findings to the organization as constructive feedback, expanding and improving the program in the initial 4 schools and eventually spread to other schools, and, finally, EXPERIENCING UGANDA! Beyond academic accomplishments, Kate said that she immersed herself in Ugandan culture and daily life, realized a love for teaching, learned a lot about herself and the world in general and had a truly incredible experience. She was funded through a Taylor Fellowship at UNC with Dr. Michael Emch as an advisor of the project.