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Summer Research Gatherings and Workshops

If you are staying on campus this summer, Academic Technology, the Library, and the Writing Center provide a number of opportunities to enhance your research skills and meet with other students outside the lab and study carrel. Whether you are a Summer Undergraduate Research Fellow, continuing your research from a spring Mellon Tutorial, getting a head start on your thesis, or working on faculty projects or another local summer job, you’ll find an opportunity of interest below.

Register here

Any questions? Please contact Andy Anderson, Gretchen Gano, Jessica Gorman, Kristen Greenland, or Maureen Manning.

For a calendar grid, click here.

2015 Schedule


Hack for Western Mass

UMass Center at Springfield

Back on campus by the first weekend of June? Interested in solving local challenges with technology? The National Days of Civic Hacking is a community-service hackathon that could use your help! Not just coders, but designers, organizers, communicators, and problem-solvers can contribute. Participants in previous years included more than 100 hactivists from all over Western Mass, including many Five College students. For more information and to register, visit the hackathon website, but please also register here to let us know you’re coming, and if you want to carpool.

  • Saturday and Sunday, June 6 and 7, schedule TBA

Summer Researcher Reception

Merrill Beach & Keefe Science Library

Get together with other students engaged in research on campus, librarians, and technologists, and enjoy some refreshments while we talk informally about your projects and answer your questions about upcoming workshops.

  • Wednesday, June 17, 4:00 PM – 5:00 PM

Summer Research Poster Session

Location to be Announced

Come to a showcase of original student research from this summer — and bring your own poster if you have one! Student researchers will share works in progress, summer research stories, thesis ideas, and experimental results.

View Last Year’s Poster Session Program and “Best of” winners!

  • Friday, September 11, 1:00 PM – 3:00 PM

The Research Process

Documenting Your Research with Zotero

Frost Library, Lane Room

Zotero is a free program that helps you collect, manage, and cite your sources. It's available in all computer labs on campus and you can also install it on your personal computer. Tutorials and documentation are also available.

This workshop is repeated four times:

  • Thursday, June 11, 9 AM – 10 AM or
  • Tuesday, June 16, 12 Noon – 1 PM or
  • Wednesday, July 1, 12 Noon – 1 PM or
  • Tuesday, July 7, 10 AM – 11 AM

Reading for Research Projects and Writing While Researching

Writing Center, Charles Pratt Hall 101A

It can be easy to become overwhelmed by all the material you are gathering for a substantial research project, and it can be difficult to start writing after being immersed in reading sources. This workshop will offer instruction and practice in varying your reading strategies and speed, according to your purpose in reading a particular source. You will also practice reading effectively and efficiently, rather than dutifully. The second half of this workshop will offer strategies for writing as you research, to help you articulate what you have learned, as well as to develop your own ideas along the way. Ultimately, these approaches will not only save you time and effort but, once it comes time to start a draft, you will actually already be revising, rather than facing a blank screen. Taught by Kristen Brookes, senior writing associate.

  • Thursday, June 11, 12 Noon – 1:30 PM

Productive Habits for Long-Term Projects

Merrill 300A [note change of location]

If you are embarking on an honors thesis, special topics course, or any other long-term academic project, you may have good intentions about setting deadlines and staying motivated, but you may also recognize that you've never done this before. Learn practices that will help you complete a long-term project you can be proud of, without losing your mind. This workshop will introduce you to strategies for establishing good habits early, for writing more in less time, for avoiding procrastination and writer’s block, as well as for restoring creativity and finding joy in your work. Participants should bring their calendars. Taught by Jessica Gorman, writing associate.

  • Thursday, June 18, 2 PM – 3:15 PM

Ethics Luncheon Discussion

Lewis-Sebring Commons

Many student researchers are required to take ethics training, formally known as Responsible Conduct of Research (RCR). At Amherst College this requirement is fulfilled through online training and through faculty-student discussions. This open discussion will be led by several faculty members who will share their own insights into ethical dilemmas they have encountered, and describe scenarios that student researchers might face. Students will be encouraged to explore ethical questions related to their own research process and consider what to do when presented with an ethical dilemma. This workshop is mandatory for SURF students and strongly encouraged for SRP students. Other summer research students are also encouraged to attend, as well as take the online training.

  • Friday, June 19, 12 Noon – 1:30 PM

Get the Picture: Finding and Using Images

Frost Library, Barker Room

Found the perfect image online, but the quality is too poor to use in your paper or presentation? Are images at the heart of your research? This workshop will focus on finding, evaluating, and using high-quality images in a variety of subject areas, including art, historical photography, and popular media. We'll look at Amherst College Digital Collections (ACDC), ARTstor, museum collections, and more obscure media resources, and learn the secrets to better Google Image searching. We'll also discuss how to properly credit images in your papers, presentations, and creative projects.

  • Wednesday, June 24, 2 PM – 3:30 PM


Exploring Data with Excel

Webster 102

Excel is an essential tool for organizing and exploring data from all fields of research. Its flexible tabular format provides a convenient display of data, and it provides many functions for basic statistics, selection, summary, and plotting. In addition, if you understand Excel, you will also be familiar with Google Docs online spreadsheets. If you’ve been a casual user of Excel, there are many capabilities and tricks that you may not be aware of. Come and find out what you’ve been missing. Excel is part of Microsoft Office, which students, faculty, and staff can download for free.

  • Tuesday, June 9, 6 PM – 8 PM; light dinner provided at 5:30 PM

Analyzing Data with Mathematica

Webster 102

Mathematica is a multifacted tool for doing mathematics on computer, from algebra and trigonometry through calculus and beyond. It can perform both symbolic and numeric calculations, and it provides numerous mathematical and statistical functions, letting you work with many different data formats, solve equations, and fit data to arbitrary functions. It can also graphically display functions and numerical data in two and three dimensions, allowing visualizations that you can easily manipulate. It is used by mathematicians and statisticians, scientists, engineers, economists, and even game developers. Mathematica can be installed on student-owned computers from the software drive; faculty- and staff-owned computers must obtain a home-use license.

This workshop is in two parts:

  • Wednesday and Thursday June 10 – 11, 6 PM – 9 PM; light dinner provided at 5:30 PM

Scientific Programming with Python

Webster 102

Python is a freely distributable high-level programming language that has become very popular for everything from scripting applications and web-page generation to solving scientific problems. It shares many basic characteristics with languages like Mathematica, Matlab, and Labview, and has an extensive set of numerical and scientific modules. In this class we will use Python to build instructions describing a scientific problem, and solve it using the college computing cluster.

This workshop is in four parts:

  • Monday through Thursday, June 15 – 18, 6 PM – 9 PM; light dinner provided at 5:30 PM

Mapping Geographic Data with ArcGIS

Webster 102

Geographic Information Systems (GIS) are a powerful tool to discover spatial relationships and illuminate your research with intuitive maps:

  • Illustrate historic sites and extract features from old maps
  • Spatially correlate census, economic, and other data
  • Display geologic formations and delineate watersheds
  • Track human, animal, and plant populations
  • Map locations from a GPS receiver

You will learn about:

  • Constructing and Sharing Maps (including with Google Earth)
  • Mapping Named Data (including census data and street addresses)
  • Mapping Coordinate Data (including using a GPS receiver)
  • Mapping Image Data (including scanned maps and satellite data)
  • Extracting Map Features

This workshop is in four parts:

  • Monday through Thursday, June 22 – 25, 6 PM – 9 PM; light dinner provided at 5:30 PM

Investigating Networks with Gephi

Webster 102

Gephi is a freely distributable tool for exploring and analyzing networks, with or without a geographic component. Related items can be associated with each other with different colors based on their properties, and clusters of connections and other patterns can be easily visualized as you rotate and arrange the network. Terrific for social network analysis, e.g. who’s writing to who, as well as economic analysis, e.g. what one country is selling to others, and even for studying biological networks!

  • Monday, June 29, 6 PM – 8 PM; light dinner provided at 5:30 PM


Writing and Revising a Thesis with Scrivener

Merrill 300B (Keefe Science Library Classroom)

Scrivener is writing software that facilitates writing in small pieces, rearranging blocks of text, and integrating the research and writing processes. This workshop will introduce writers to the software's relevant features and how they might help you write more often, revise and re-organize more easily, and manage your project with more agility and efficiency. Recommended especially for thesis writers, but open to all students. Students with no experience with Scrivener are welcome; those who are familiar with it are especially encouraged to attend and contribute to the discussion. Taught by Jessica Gorman, writing associate.

  • Thursday, June 25, 2:00 – 3:15 PM

Manipulating Images with Adobe Photoshop

Webster 102

Adobe Photoshop is the industry standard for photo adjustment and image creation, for inclusion in other documents such as Word, InDesign, PowerPoint, and Web pages. Using Photoshop you can easily crop and merge photographs (e.g., “Photoshop me in!”) and retouch them to create sharper, more vibrant, and blemish-free photos. Students can use Photoshop on their own computers with an Adobe Creative Cloud license.

  • Tuesday, June 30, 6 PM – 8 PM; light dinner provided at 5:30 PM

Creating Drawings with Adobe Illustrator

Webster 102

Adobe Illustrator is a superior tool to create diagrams, trace images, and transform the graphical output of other programs such as Excel. Its illustrations can be included in other documents such as Word, InDesign, and PowerPoint. Students can use Illustrator on their own computers with an Adobe Creative Cloud license.

  • Wednesday, July 1, 6 PM – 8 PM; light dinner provided at 5:30 PM

Interactive Data Visualization on the Web

Webster 102

The World-Wide Web is a set of computer technologies that publish and display information over the Internet in a highly interactive manner. Snazzy, interactive visualizations of information produced by science or the digital humanities are all over the Web and easier to create than ever before. In this example-based course you’ll learn about:

  • One of the new cloud-based solutions for displaying your data,;
  • Enough Web plumbing (HTML, CSS, SVG) to write your own web pages;
  • A programming language to manipulate your web pages (JavaScript);
  • A visualization library (D3) that will make your data sparkle.

This is a four-part workshop:

  • Monday through Thursday, July 6 – 9, 6 PM – 8 PM; light dinner provided at 5:30 PM

Designing Posters For High-Impact Communication

Webster 102

All summer research students are invited to describe their efforts and results at the annual Summer Research Poster Presentation on September 11. This class will help you design and produce a large-format poster that will get your message across here and at many other conferences.

Through examples, analysis, and discussion, we will determine what makes a research poster successful. We will discuss visual design and rhetoric, effective use of graphics, and how to engage your audience.

We will also show you how to lay out your poster, including adding text, photos, illustrations, and graphics, and applying special effects. You have two options:

  • Microsoft PowerPoint is a popular program to build computer presentations, and it can also be used to lay out print posters. It is not the best tool for the job but it is more readily available and perhaps more familiar to you. PowerPoint is part of Microsoft Office, which students, faculty, and staff can download for free.
  • Adobe InDesign is the industry standard tool for creating posters as well as newsletters, brochures, and other print media. It is very similar to Photoshop and Illustrator but has other features that make it the best tool for combining text and graphics. Students can use InDesign on their own computers with an Adobe Creative Cloud license.

This workshop is repeated three times with different tools:

  • PowerPoint: Monday, July 13, 6 PM - 8 PM or
  • InDesign: Tuesday, July 21, 6 PM - 8 PM or
  • PowerPoint: Wednesday, July 29, 6 PM - 8 PM

Light dinner provided at 5:30 PM in each meeting.