Gators chomping at the bit to work on senior projects


As temperatures drop and the leaves fall to the ground many students are preparing for mid-term exams in their classes. While senior students are not exempt from this, there are other assignments on their mind. The senior comprehension project is a requirement for graduation from Allegheny and although most students will present their research at the end of the academic year, some have already started chomping at the bit.

For some students, this research started years ago.

“I did an independent study my sophomore year, so it’s kind of been a long time coming,” biology major Jen Baum, ’22, said. “I didn’t know at the time that it would be my senior comp, though.”

Students must choose a comp topic that corresponds with their major which means projects can look vastly different from one department to another. While some students are doing hands-on research, others collect secondary research from online academic journals, charts and graphs.

“My comp will be done in the lab and will be very hands-on,” Baum said. “I’ll be looking at the genes under a microscope and dissecting the fruit flies. I’ll be flipping them so that their organs are on the outside and putting a green fluorescent protein in them so that they glow and that coloration will show the difference between species and how they compare to each other.”

While some students are comparing flies, others are comparing athletes.

“I’m going to be comparing soccer players and the prices they were bought for on the transfer market and see which statistics determine their price the most,” economics major Alex Riel, ’22, said. “I’m going to be doing goals, assists, goals per game and that stuff but I’ll also compare ethnicity, race, where they’re from and age, too.”

Though the research aspect of the projects can be tedious, finding a topic that connects with a students’ interests can make the process much more enjoyable.

“I’ll probably be in front of a computer a lot because I’m going to have to run regressions and collect data, but it could be worse,” Riel said. “I’m looking forward to doing something that I enjoy. Usually when people do something they enjoy they do a good job on it and I love soccer and have played it my whole life and follow it.”

There are still other types of projects that students can do that do not involve sports or insects.

“For my senior comp I’m doing a reception analysis of the film, ‘The Social Dilemma,’” communications major Alex Klare, ’22, said. “It’s a documentary that came out during the pandemic and it was basically an expose on the big tech companies like Google, Facebook and other Silicon Valley companies. It was ex-employees giving testimonies about how the companies exploit users and the people who own these companies won’t even let their kids on these apps because of how they exploit privacy. So I’m doing a reception analysis on why the documentary was received so well and got good reviews but didn’t cause alarm in society that this is a real problem.”

With such variety in senior projects, it is no wonder that not all students are on the same timeline.

“The communications department does a formal proposal so we had to present to a faculty panel and we got our readers but we don’t really start until the second semester,” Klare said. “I’ve just been contacting my advisor and finding resources and stuff for now.”

For those who are not as far into the comping process there are still preliminary questions to be answered.

“I’m interested to see where this research takes me because I’m not sure what approach I will take yet,” Klare said. “I could go the psychology route and why humans are wired to not be alarmed by this or I could go a different route and focus more on privacy.”

Even for those who are further into their project, it can still be hard to get ahead.

“I feel comfortable where I’m at,” Baum said. “I wouldn’t say I’m ahead though because we didn’t get off to the best start with research companies. We’re ordering a lot of stuff that’s being shipped from all over the place and with the slow shipping caused by COVID right now, we haven’t been able to do much real research yet.”

No matter where students are in the process right now, all will be expected to present their research late in the spring semester as the senior comp project continues to be a staple of an Allegheny College education.