Hands On

As Dartmouth students write theses and conduct independent research on a range of topics, they not only have the opportunity to work one-on-one with world-class faculty advisors, they also have access to professional-level research tools and unique primary sources that facilitate the creation of new knowledge. Each year, students enroll in approximately 1,000 independent studies. Additionally, hundreds of undergraduates participate in research and work with faculty as Presidential Scholars or research assistants. Meet some of the many students who take a hands-on approach to their educations.

What’s on Your Mind?

Todd Heatherton and students

From left, Professor Todd Heatherton, graduate student Katie Powers, and Sophie Palitz ’13. (photo by Joseph Mehling ’69)

Brain image on MRI machine

An image of the human brain created using Dartmouth’s MRI machine. (photo courtesy of Todd Heatherton)

For the study “Neural Responses to Anticipated Social Isolation,” Sophie Palitz ’13 and graduate student Katie Powers used the College’s 3.0 T Philips MRI machine to document 40 individuals’ responses to negative social information. Todd Heatherton, the Lincoln Filene Professor in Human Relations, who co-authored the study with Professor Catherine Norris, says, “It’s very rare for students—especially undergraduates—to have such unfettered access to an MRI machine.” Every year about 15 students use the MRI machine in the laboratory course “Principles of Human Brain Mapping with fMRI,” and more than 40 undergraduate and graduate students consistently use the machine for independent research.


Erin Dauson ’11 visited Kitt Peak Observatory in Arizona for five nights this fall as part of her independent study in astronomy. Dauson, an engineering and mathematics double major and an astronomy minor, was joined by John Thorstensen, professor of physics and astronomy. The two observed a binary star system named “PM-03338+3320.” They are trying to determine its characteristics and how often the two stars orbit each other. The observatory is overseen by a consortium of five institutions, including Dartmouth. Between two and five undergraduates and about five graduate students visit Kitt Peak Observatory annually.

Erin Dauson ’11

Erin Dauson ’11 (photo by Joseph Mehling ’69)

aerial view of Kitt Peak Observatory

Kitt Peak Observatory (photo courtesy of the Observatory)

Dauson’s travel is supported by funds for astronomy research provided by Jay Weed ’80, Tuck ’82, and Claudia Sweeney Weed ’81, Tuck ’82. “Thanks to the generosity of an alumnus, I was able to travel to Kitt Peak when I was an undergraduate,” says Jay Weed. “It’s rewarding to provide the same opportunity to current students.”

All Access

Thisbe Gensler ’10

Thisbe Gensler ’10 (photo by Joseph Mehling ’69)

As an intern for the Hood Museum of Art, Thisbe Gensler ’10 participated in the Hood’s Space for Dialogue program, which gives students the opportunity to curate an exhibition drawn from the museum’s 60,000-object collection. Gensler says that at first she was attracted to the big names, such as Rembrandt, but she decided on art that included Susan Hauptman’s Self-Portrait (at left) and prints by Max Klinger after seeing the pieces in person. “It was an amazing privilege,” says Gensler, who was one of eight students to curate an exhibition at the Hood last year. “Handling Klinger’s portfolio of prints settled the glove theme for me—it was so incredible to look up close at his etchings.” Total student visits to the Hood are about 6,700 annually.

Rare Books

Emily Ulrich ’11

Emily Ulrich ’11 (photo by Joseph Mehling ’69)


Dartmouth's circa 1425 Brut Chronicle. (photo by Joseph Mehling ’69)

For her senior honors thesis, Emily Ulrich ’11 will be the first person to systematically document the annotations in a rare 1425 copy of the Brut Chronicle, a genealogy of kings that Dartmouth acquired in 2006. There are only 181 other known Chronicles in existence. “I studied other copies at the British Museum—and to come back and have one here at my fingertips is amazing,” says Ulrich, a history and linguistics double major and third-generation Dartmouth student. Ulrich’s use of the Chronicles is one of the 1,908 requests students made for materials from Rauner Special Collections Library in 2009–10. Any student can access items from the collections at any time.

Dartmouth Now