Dufka Blog: Mary Gates Research Scholarship
June 25, 2012
SEATTLE - Senior Faustine Dufka of the UW women's soccer team was one of a few select student-athletes to earn the Mary Gates Research Scholarship. She recently presented her project and wrote the blog below.
All students in the University of Washington Honors Program are required to write a thesis during their senior year on a subject related to their major. In most cases, this thesis involves creating and conducting an independent research project. In order to complete my Departmental Honors requirements in Anthropology, I have been working on a research project of my own, entitled "The memory you are left with." Photography's role in the process of mourning neonatal, perinatal, and infant death. I spent spring quarter of last year writing the proposal, and have been working on my project continuously since then. Each quarter I take 4-5 credits of independent study in Anthropology, which I spend researching and working on this thesis.
Last fall, I was awarded a Mary Gates Research Scholarship. The Mary Gates Endowment was established by Bill and Melinda Gates in 1995 and is one of the largest endowments at the UW. Each year, the Endowment supports approximately two hundred undergraduate students involved in research projects in various disciplines. As part of my application, I wrote a short personal statement and obtained a letter of recommendation from my faculty advisor and mentor Daniel Hoffman, a professor in the Department of Anthropology. The review process is a long one because hundreds of students apply for this very generous scholarship. During this interval, I was also waiting for approval from the UW Human Subjects Division to start the interviews for my project.
During winter quarter I did not do much research due to a heavy course load and a bit of poor planning: I took biochemistry and two honors classes, leaving me little time to work on my project! For this reason, I scheduled a lighter course load during spring quarter to really focus on the research. This past quarter, I have been conducting interviews with healthcare professionals and photographers, asking them about their work and their perspectives on the practice of bereavement photography.
In May, I was able to present my research on several occasions, including the Annual UW Undergraduate Research Symposium. I chose to participate in the poster session (as opposed to a more formal PowerPoint presentation) because I wanted the opportunity to interact with people and answer their questions. This experience was valuable because I learned how to describe my project and explain its theoretical frameworks to people who had never heard of this topic before. This was very important to me, because one of the goals of my research is to raise awareness about the practice of bereavement photography in a culture that keeps the subject of pediatric death taboo. A week after the Symposium, I also presented my work to the cohort of juniors and seniors in the Anthropology Honors Program, and it was very well received.
As I will not be graduating until December of 2012, I have a little bit more time to complete my thesis. I am thankful for this fact, because this extra time is much needed! I plan to finish interviews by the end of June and begin writing this summer. My goal is to have written a rough draft by the time fall quarter starts, so I can focus on making my last season with the Dawgs a great one!