Temple Times Online Edition
    SEPTEMBER 9, 2004
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Program gives undergrads chance to shine

Diamond Scholars program pushes Honors students into libraries, labs

Victoria Palermo (left) is researching the JC Virus at the Center for Neurovirology and Cancer Biology under the direction of Shohreh Amini (right) and Mahmut Safak as part of the Diamond Scholars program. The program connects undergraduates with top researchers in their fields.

His name is Steven Horowitz, and he's a former Napster user.

Step one on the path to recovery is, of course, confession.

"I probably had about 400 files or so on my computer," he said. "I wasn't an everyday user; for me it was more of a convenient service than anything. I was able to get songs you couldn't get anywhere else. I didn't think much at that time on the moral implications, more just the copyright argument, such as whether I had rights to music that can't be purchased elsewhere."

Further along in his self-imposed Napster purge, Horowitz, nudged along by the Recording Industry Association of America's decision to begin prosecuting file sharers, began to take a moral inventory of his peer-to-peer sharing past.

"Everyone I've met in college has shared files on the Internet in one form or another," said Horowitz, a junior philosophy major with a minor in music. "But the RIAA started to crack down on file sharers, and that made me wonder: Is file-sharing wrong? I did not have an answer."

Horowitz will try to arrive at an answer as one of a dozen Temple Honors students participating in the pilot Diamond Scholars program, an undergraduate research initiative backed by the Provost's Office. Launched this summer, the program matches promising sophomores and juniors with faculty mentors in hopes of exposing them to the culture of research.

Though Temple's schools and colleges provide sundry opportunities for undergraduate research, the Diamond Scholars program is intended to assemble students early in their academic careers and thrust them into the labs and libraries.

"Rather than waiting for them to come by and tell us they're interested in research, we're now seeking out these top students from the start," said Honors co-director Raymond Coughlin.

Reformed Napster user Steven Horowitz is researching the ethics of online file sharing as part of the Diamond Scholars program.

Program designers intentionally left the research opportunities broad to attract a diverse pool of applicants. It worked: More than 40 students applied for the program's 12 slots. (Offering a stipend to offset the cost of lost summer wages boosted student recruitment too.) Unlike other universities whose research initiatives are rooted in the hard sciences, however, the program also attracted students from the social sciences and humanities. One student is studying poet Mina Loy and another is charting the effect of music on the Mexican political system.

"This program brings a whole different face to Temple by showing that you don't have to be a chemistry or biology major to do research," said Courtney Ignarri, a junior psychology major using implicit and explicit measures to examine racist attitudes. "It gives us something to aspire to, seeing this range of professors so passionate about their research."

Another draw to the Diamond Scholars is the chance to apprentice under some of the country's leading researchers. Horowitz is extrapolating philosopher John Locke's ruminations on property rights onto intellectual property and the Internet under the tutelage of law professor David Post, an internationally known cyberlaw expert.

"Professor Post is brilliant and a superb mentor," Horowitz said. "He has pushed me without too strongly forcing me in a certain direction."

As a precursor to the student research, Coughlin and several of the faculty mentors introduced the Diamond Scholars to all angles of the research process. For a week in late May, the group met with Temple's leading researchers and discussed what defines good research, how to persevere when results aren't apparent and even how to translate their findings into a cogent paper. Coughlin also engineered the session to join the dozen students and their mentors in a close-knit support system.

"The summer session really brought us together -- it's like an immediate friendship with 11 others," Ignarri said. "We're all rooting for each other to succeed."

Students were given the remainder of the summer and the upcoming academic year to conduct their research. For Horowitz, that's meant close to 30 hours a week in the library -- and some days even Starbucks -- reading and rereading Locke and his contemporaries.

Coughlin hopes to collate the fruits of the students' labors into a Journal of Undergraduate Research, "a concrete artifact of what we accomplish in this program."

"It is rare that undergraduates have an opportunity to publish like this, so it will be a fantastic learning experience," Coughlin said.

Coughlin also foresees the journal as yet another means of attracting elite high-schoolers to Temple.

"It will dovetail nicely with our efforts to bring top students here," he said. "I know the promise of this program and the undergraduate journal have already informally helped sway two outstanding high school students to choose Temple."

Being published as an undergraduate is also a tremendous boost on a student resume. Coughlin hopes students will use the opportunity to round out their portfolios as they look toward top graduate schools and scholarships.

For Horowitz, with a 3.98 GPA and three years as a tutor for the Princeton Review, writing a paper on Locke and intellectual property will strengthen his application to law school.

Finally, program supervisors hope the Diamond Scholars expands in coming years to include more students and, Coughlin said, "a catalog of researchers at Temple." He stressed that the program is not meant to be for a cordoned-off slice of Honors students, but should attract undergraduates from across the University.

"I'm betting this program will make a big difference in these students' careers," Coughlin said. "We're hoping it grows into something that all Temple students will want to be a part of and something that will make people want to come here."

That meshes nicely with Horowitz's final step in becoming Napster-free: carrying the message -- in this case one of scholarship -- forth.

-By Ted Boscia

Diamond Scholars participants

This year 12 Honors students are participating in the pilot Diamond Scholars program, which matches promising sophomores and juniors with faculty mentors to expose the students to academic research in a range of disciplines.

Pasma Apehaya: Working with Brian Butz in electrical engineering on information systems. Apehaya will also conduct research through the School of Podiatric Medicine on foot disabilities.

Nicole Clyne: A Wachman Scholarship recipient, Clyne is working with Robert Stanley in chemistry to study DNA.

Crystal Dick: Working with David Farber in history to study the decline of civil rights awareness.

Liam Goodrick: Working with Robin Moore in music history to study Mexican music and its impact on society, especially its political effect. Goodrick traveled to the southwest United States this summer to conduct field research.

Steven Horowitz: Working with David Post in the Law School to study intellectual property law.

Courtney Ignarri: Working with Andrew Karpinsky in psychology to study racist and gender-biased attitudes using implicit and explicit measures.

Daniel Lanigan: A St. Andrews Scholarship winner, Lanigan will study in Scotland this year. He is working with John Raines in religion to compare Scotland's history of strife with terror in Ireland.

Robert Lannon: Working with psychology professor Kathy Hirsh-Pasek, a linguistics expert, to study the relationship between dialect perception and stereotyping.

Josh Meyer: A Udall Award winner, Meyer will work with Robert Levis in chemistry to study the ozone layer and also ways in which lasers can help the environment. Meyer traveled to Utah on the Udall Award and also spent time in Brazil this summer working on water purification and rooftop gardens.

Victoria Palermo: Conducting research on the JC Virus at the Center for Neurovirology and Cancer Biology under Shohreh Amini and Mahmut Safak. She is looking at pathogen-host relations.

Autumn Raniere: Will continue working with Paul Swann in film and media arts, whose research she's assisted for two years.

Emily Zubernis: Working with Jenna Osman in English to research poet Mina Loy.