Senior research is the capstone experience for all science-related majors at McPherson College. Students typically begin the planning stages of a project during their junior year, capitalizing on classroom and textbook knowledge. As projects progress, students discover the challenges in conducting experiments, analyzing data, and presenting their findings.
The student research program was originally funded in 1981 with a grant from the National Science Foundation and continues to be supported primarily by alumni donations. One hundred percent of all science majors have completed a senior research project since 1983, distinguishing McPherson College’s program as one of the few and longest-running undergraduate research requirements in the country.
In 1993, student research papers began being compiled annually in an in-house scientific journal entitled “Cantaurus” (a fictitious name derived from the Latin words “bull” and “dog”). As part of the curriculum, Cantaurus gives science majors the experience of writing for a scientific publication. Since its inception, more than 200 students have contributed to the journal.
Two types of awards are bestowed on McPherson College students who demonstrate excellence in senior research. The highest honor, the Burkholder Research Award, honors outstanding achievement. The Merit Research Award distinguishes significant achievement. Both awards are sponsored by the Natural Sciences of McPherson college and Midwest Oilseeds of Adel, Iowa.
For each award, the faculty of the Natural Sciences selects one or more candidates based on three criteria:
- selection and design of a senior research project;
- quality of the research, including technique, observations, and data analysis; and
- presentation of the research, comprising the preparation of a scientific research paper and an oral presentation to students and faculty.
A certificate of Award is granted to each winner. Persons qualifying for the Burkholder Research Award have their name inscribed in a plaque and receive a year membership to the American Association for the Advancement of Science and a subscription to “Science.”