Skip to main content

A&S Students Among 7 UK Libraries Learning Lab Interns Bound for Global Undergrad Research Conference

By Whitney Hale, Ellie Wnek and Hannah Edelen

Senior Dealla Samadi discovered a missing piece of the book "La Reine Albemarle," which was published posthumously without the segment. Her discovery has led to an article published in a French philosophy journal.

Seven interns in the University of Kentucky Libraries' Special Collections Research Center (SCRC) Learning Lab will represent UK at the second World Conference of Undergraduate Research (World CUR).

These students will travel to Oldenburg, Germany, May 23-25, to present their research, discuss global issues and create an international research partnership. Funding for their travel is provided through the Chellgren Center for Undergraduate ExcellenceUK LibrariesOffice of Undergraduate ResearchCollege of Arts and Sciences, and the College of Fine Arts.

World CUR has a highly competitive application process and accepted a total of 270 abstracts from around the world. Additionally, only 106 abstracts from North America were accepted. Abstracts by UK Libraries' interns represent 2 percent of international abstracts and 6 percent of North American abstracts.

The UK students will present their research from their work in the Learning Lab, which is a unique inquiry-based learning environment where students learn about archives, archival theories and conduct independent research based on an archival collection of their choice with the help of their mentor.

“Undergrads rarely have this level of supported access to primary sources, however the work they produce is quite extraordinary,” said Carol Street, the undergraduate research archivist who mentors the students.

“The Congress accepts no more than 400 papers from students at universities across the globe.” said Jeanmarie Rouhier-Willoughby, chair and professor in the Department of Modern and Classical Languages, Literatures and Cultures. “That seven UK students were chosen to present is a clear indication of the quality of the humanities research in the College of Arts & Sciences.” 

The following UK students will present at World CUR: ​Katerina Banks, Shelby Clark, Ashleigh Cofer, Jillian Garcia, Elizaveta Khenner, Aaron Reynolds and Dealla Samadi.

Dealla Samadi, a senior honors student from Lexington majoring in neurosciencebiology and French/modern and classical languages, literatures and cultures, examined SCRC's Jean-Paul Sartre manuscript and discovered it was a missing piece of his book "La Reine Albemarle," which was published posthumously without the segment at UK. She published an article about her discovery in the October 2018 issue of the French philosophy journal, Les Temps Modernes. Last summer, she traveled to Rome and Paris to further her research into the manuscript and has created a digital humanities project, which she will present at World CUR. Samadi is planning to attend the College of Medicine at UK in the fall. “My work with MCLLC has been a wonderful overlap with my biology and neuroscience majors,” Samadi said. “I have found it to provide me with a great balance, and skills I know that I will carry with me into my medical career, most notably empathy.”

Katerina Banks, a junior honors student from Great Falls, Virginia, majoring in music, with concentration in violin, and classics/modern and classical languages, literatures and cultures, analyzed depictions of rural Kentucky within the writings of Kentucky author James Hines, whose collection is found in the James Hines Papers. 

Shelby Clark, a junior honors student from Benton, Kentucky, majoring in history and writing, rhetoric and digital studies, has investigated early Kentucky court records to learn more about property, ownership and legal institutions dating to the beginning of the Commonwealth. Clark plans to pursue a law degree after graduation.

Ashleigh Cofer, a senior from Columbus, Georgia, majoring in history with a minor in French/modern and classical languages, literatures and cultures, examined the William H. Qualls Planning Papers to learn more about the successes and failures of urban planning, particularly low-income housing, in Lexington. “History can’t survive without the influence of language, and language has always been heavily influenced by history,” Cofer said. “Studying language helps to enrich the other aspects of my studies.” 

Jillian Garcia, a junior honors student from Humble, Texas, majoring in mathematical sciences with minors in computer science and Jewish studies, researched the SCRC's extensive collection of Lexington Herald-Leader photographs and other newspaper archives to examine bias in reporting significant events during the civil rights movement. She intends to write a computer program to analyze the material.

Elizaveta Khenner, a senior honors student from Bowling Green, Kentucky, majoring in biology and German/modern and classical languages, literatures and culture, used the Joseph P. D'Andrea Papers to study the treatment of refugee children after World War II and compared it to today's treatment in the worst refugee crisis since WWII. Khenner is planning to attend medical school in the fall.

Aaron Reynolds, a senior from Lexington majoring in art history and visual studies with a minor in German/modern and classical languages, literatures and culture, explored Eastern philosophy within the work of the Lexington Camera Club, an influential group of mid-20th century photographers. Reynolds is planning to attend graduate school in curatorial studies at UK in the fall.

The students attending the conference credit some of their success to the community that exists in the Learning Lab. Reynolds describes the process of preparing for the conference as: “A lot of reading! But also a lot of writing and a lot of discussion. I've also talked to a lot of people, and the feedback that I've received from my professors and my friends at the Special Collections Research Center has been invaluable.”

Keener added to the feeling of community which exists at the Learning Lab.

“I also have to thank so many people for their help along the way: my fellow Learning Lab interns and the librarians who have helped me find materials for my research have been very instrumental,” Keener said. “I especially need to thank Carol Street, the head of the Learning Lab and my research mentor, because none of this would have been possible without her.”

Additionally, nine UK Libraries Learning Lab interns recently presented their research at the annual National Conferences on Undergraduate Research (NCUR) held recently at Kennesaw State University. Those students selected to present research at NCUR were: Katerina Banks, Shelby Clark, Ashleigh Cofer, Jillian Garcia, Elizaveta Khenner, Brenna Kirkpatrick, Aaron Reynolds, Zachary Shelton and Shelby Simpkins.

The Special Collections Research Center (SCRC) at UK Libraries sustains the Commonwealth’s memory and serves as the essential bridge between past, present and future. By preserving materials documenting the social, cultural, economic and political history of Kentucky, the SCRC provides rich opportunities for students to expand their worldview and enhance their critical thinking skills. SCRC materials are used by scholars worldwide to advance original research and pioneer creative approaches to scholarship. UK Libraries SCRC is the Archives, the Louie B. Nunn Center for Oral History, the King Library Press, the Wendell H. Ford Public Policy Research Center, the Bert T. Combs Appalachian Collection, the John G. Heyburn Initiative and ExploreUK.

The University of Kentucky is increasingly the first choice for students, faculty and staff to pursue their passions and their professional goals. In the last two years, Forbes has named UK among the best employers for diversity and INSIGHT into Diversity recognized us as a Diversity Champion two years running. UK is ranked among the top 30 campuses in the nation for LGBTQ* inclusion and safety and the Chronicle of Higher Education judged us a “Great College to Work for.” We are ranked among the top 10 percent of public institutions for research expenditures — a tangible symbol of our breadth and depth as a university focused on discovery that changes lives and communities. And our patients know and appreciate the fact that UK HealthCare has been named the state’s top hospital for three straight years. Accolades and honors are great. But they are more important for what they represent: the idea that creating a community of belonging and commitment to excellence is how we honor our mission to be not simply the University of Kentucky, but the University for Kentucky.