Research At Oberlin


When most people think of research, they picture scientists in white lab coats watching rats run through mazes. While this type of research is integral to our understanding of the world - and you can find plenty of it here at Oberlin! - research happens across all disciplines and can just as easily involve sitting in a library with a mountain of books or interviewing people a thousand miles away from home.

At Oberlin, students tackle all types of research, and not just as faculty assistants. Students are prepared and encouraged to seek out research opportunities, whether on their own or with a professor. With projects on topics as varied as modern-day uses of the Book of Job, the transmission of the West Nile virus, and the effects of talk shows on political campaigns, you'll find a research opportunity to fit every interest.

Collaboration with faculty members can introduce students to new career paths and provide experiences comparable to those of graduate students. With Oberlin's well-known reputation for producing more eventual PhDs than any other liberal arts college, such research experience pays off later for many alumni. In fact, it is not uncommon for Oberlin students to co-author articles with faculty and be published in scholarly journals. Students often take advantage of the Office of Sponsored Programs, which supports presentations of students' research to the broader academic community.

Oberlin also provides its emerging scholars with the facilities to properly conduct their research. The Oberlin College Science Center offers state-of-the-art laboratories, lecture halls, and classroom spaces, as well as a science library with 67,000 books and journals. It houses the biology, chemistry, and physics departments and the neuroscience program, which encourages collaborative learning among a variety of natural science disciplines.

In addition, the Adam J. Lewis Center for Environmental Studies (AJLC) has received wide acclaim as a model for ecologically sound buildings. This building is an experiment in ecological design for both students and faculty; it produces its own energy through solar panels, purifies and reuses non-potable wastewater on site, and utilizes sustainable materials. With over 150 environmental sensors installed throughout the building and landscape, the AJLC's data monitoring and display system provides a unique opportunity to visualize in real-time the flows of energy and cycling of matter. The AJLC was conceived as a "building that teaches;" that is, a facility in which the lessons embodied in technology and design choices serve to reinforce rather than contradict lessons taught in its classrooms.

The Office of Undergraduate Research (OUR) provides guidance for students conducting faculty-mentored research. The opportunities for research provided by this office also help ensure that Obies who go on to pursue Ph.Ds are diverse in gender, race, and economic background. Research programs such as the Mellon Mays Undergraduate Fellowship Program and Oberlin College Research Fellow focus on eliminating inequalities in higher education by increasing research opportunities for traditionally marginalized students. In addition, OUR sponsors the Oberlin Summer Research Institute, which alongside the Mellon and Research Fellows Programs, helps make research a central part of the Oberlin experience.

Most academic departments offer students the opportunity to craft their own research projects. Through the Honors Program, students of proven ability and independence focus on a particular issue or theme in their senior year, culminating in a final paper, presentation, or performance. While honors projects vary in the type of work done, they are independent projects under the supervision of faculty advisors. And much like graduate level evaluations, every candidate for honors undergoes a special examination by faculty and outside experts to determine whether honors will ultimately be awarded.

Blog Entries Related To This Topic:

Becoming One with My Research Fellowship: A Closer Look

posted by Jules Greene '19 | My research wasn't all movie-watching and scouring old articles from the 70s and the 90s: I made it interactive through re-acquainting myself with the martial arts, specifically kung fu.

Bruce Lee, Keanu Reeves, and Jules Greene: A Research Journey

posted by Jules Greene '19 | I really had no idea that I would amass so much information that I could talk for hours about everything I've learned, but I did! I'm looking forward to coming back to Oberlin next summer to continue doing research.

"What even is research in the humanities?": Researching, Writing, and Sharing my Senior Capstone

posted by Emily Wilkerson '15 | In which I cover how I went about researching, writing, and sharing my capstone.

ExCo Fever

posted by Alexandria Cunningham '16 | What is the most memorable course you took at Oberlin? Why was it so amazing? If you could teach a course, how would you do it?

It's MY honor

posted by Simbarashe Runyowa '15 | As I dig deeper into my honors research, I find myself wanting less to do with evidence and numbers and longing more for storytelling, emotion and authenticity in the way I write about my subject, the country of Rwanda.

My Month in 1857

posted by Grant Goehring '18 | For my first Winter Term I wanted to conduct research in economic history, my primary academic interest.

Back to Basics

posted by Simbarashe Runyowa '15 | Gather around, everyone, it's story time. Uncle Simba has a confession to make.

Present and Represent

posted by Alexandria Cunningham '16 | Tupac once said, "I'm a reflection of the community," and this is how I apply that mentality to my Mellon research.

Confessions of an Undergraduate Researcher

posted by Alexandria Cunningham '16 | So here's a bit about undergraduate research at Oberlin, some personal thoughts and some new directions for my own personal, community-engaged research.

The Mellon Dive: Part II

posted by Alexandria Cunningham '16 | Diving for more Mellons?? Here's more updates on research at Oberlin and all the wonderful ways it can evolve.

The Mellon Dive

posted by Alexandria Cunningham '16 | Research at Oberlin is a truly unique opportunity and starts with our own personal journey. Well, here goes mine. Let's go on a Mellon Dive.

Switchin' It Up and Movin' It Down South

posted by Alexandria Cunningham '16 | Winter Term swept me up in a snowstorm and transported me down South. Now that I am here in New Orleans I have all these cool things to do, like...

Make It or Break It Week: The Mellon Chronicles

posted by Alexandria Cunningham '16 | It's make it or break it week with the impending announcement of the new Mellon Mays Undergraduate Fellowship Cohort and well... you'll just have to read on.

Learning and Labor: The Oberlin Factory

posted by Prof. Sebastiaan Faber | At Oberlin we make stuff, things that last. This place is a factory of ideas, knowledge, art, and music. As it turns out, our annual output is actually quite impressive--and we are committed to sharing it freely with the world.

ResearchStuck: The Oberlin Summer Adventure Game

posted by Tess Yanisch '13 | Your name is TESS. You are a SUMMER RESEARCH ASSISTANT at OBERLIN COLLEGE. You are also a LIFEGUARD and a BLOGGER. Currently you are contemplating writing your next blog in the style of a TEXT-BASED GAME.

Honors: The View from the Far Side

posted by Eli Goldberg '12 | There are a lot of stories that I could tell about the process of writing my thesis, but I'll just share one piece of advice: if you doze off during a late night in the library, when the building closes you will get locked in.

Ah, you'd like two tickets to the laser show?

posted by Sophia Chen '12 | The gun show is sold out for now. While you wait for the next time we tour, please enjoy a description of my Winter Term/honors project. Since you're so accommodating, let me also offer you two tickets to the potassium show.

My last first semester

posted by Sophia Chen '12 | Why do I feel like a crazy person? I am a senior now. Oberlin, even with the all-nighters, the snowy Aprils, the death icicles looming on my roof, mouthfuls of saltless co-op lentils, has been nurturing me this whole time with arms wide open. Oberlin and I have been spooning for three and a half years, and I'm about to be kicked out of bed into a pair of knobbly hobbit-shoes.

Postcards from Italy

posted by Eli Goldberg '12 | or, What I Did Over My Summer Vacation: archaeological fieldwork and an experiment in transatlantic blogging!

Summer Rap-up

posted by Joe Dawson '12 | Entry may or may not include a sick freestyle!

Hawaiian lasers smell like pineapple

posted by Sophia Chen '12 | I'm currently getting paid to spend my summer doing atmospheric physics research in Hawaii. That's right, I'm living life through pineapple-scented nose-filters. They're better than rose-colored glasses.

Oberlin Summer Research Institute

posted by Christine Chang '13 | Why am I back in Oberlin? Because it's fun to feed leftover tater tots to the albino squirrels.

It is an honor!

posted by Patrick Doherty '11 | "This thesis...will explore debates concerning modernity [in the fin de siècle] through the reactions of the British and the French press to the 1900 Exposition Universelle."

Learning with a Purpose

posted by Marsha Lynn Bragg | Of course there is plenty of learning with a purpose happening at Oberlin and the recent Senior Symposium serves as testament.

Undergraduate Research in Science

posted by Sophia Chen '12 | Here's my attempt at making an FAQ about undergraduate research. Doing research as an undergraduate has been a big part of my education at Oberlin. I've never been completely sure if I want to pursue science as a career, so doing research has made the idea of a "career in science" less of an abstraction, and I know more about what I like and don't like about the scientific process.

Snow, Prop 8, and Chemistry

posted by Zoë McLaughlin '11 | It's a little-reported fact, but organic chemistry in general is actually composed mainly of working up your product. Doing the actual reactions takes very little time. It's all in the purification.

Welcome to my laboratory

posted by Zoë McLaughlin '11 | This is where I sit and frantically work on thermo while I'm waiting for my reaction to proceed on its own.

Show and Tell

posted by Marsha Lynn Bragg | Doing something for the first time always has its risks.

Something about the chem/biochem department

posted by Zoë McLaughlin '11 | Now, I even dream about research. And I mean that quite literally.


posted by Zoë McLaughlin '11 | To do this, I siphon off a few milimoles of the mixture, using a lot of liquid nitrogen and a pretty intimidating vacuum system, bring it over to the GC, and shoot it through. Basically.

Re: Newt Trim

posted by Joe Dawson '12 | Interest piqued? The title is an anagram for something pretty awesome at Oberlin.

Open Access!

posted by Prof. Sebastiaan Faber | Much of the cutting-edge knowledge about the world is out of reach for most of the people who inhabit that world. But access to knowledge is a good in and of itself.

Research rocks.

posted by Alicia Smith '10 | The life of a scholar is truly fulfilling, both in the mind and the belly.

Latin America - Day 2, with a nod to our chemistry faculty

posted by Charles Grim, Admissions | If you are interested enough to know how clouds form, then you might also be interested to know about one of the really cool pieces of equipment that we have in Oberlin's chemistry department - a custom-built turbulent flow chemical ionization mass spectrometer.

After a VERY Long Hiatus...

posted by Amber Walker '11 | I am SOOOOOO sorry that I have not blogged since the ice age. Oberlin can get a bit hectic sometimes and this has been my busiest semester yet.


posted by Will Mason '10 | Thoughts on finals, US Senate campaigns, and intersections therein.

Tom Allen for US Senate in 2008

posted by Will Mason '10 | Or: The Life and Times of an Elite, High-Powered, Unpaid Lowly Intern

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