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LMU Research Award Winner Used Experience as Her Starting Point

The learning process begins when curiosity leads to study and research. Andrea Ryken ’08, history and English double major, combined her passion for history with her curiosity about polio to write a paper that received top honors as Loyola Marymount University’s Von der Ahe Library 2008 Undergraduate Research Award winner.


After taking a history course on the transformative idea of childhood over the years in America, Ryken was moved to write her paper on polio based on a personal experience and how polio has become culturally associated as a child’s disease even though adults can be affected as well.


“My grandmother had polio, and I had heard stories from my mother about how people looked at her funny and made assumptions,” Ryken said. “I was curious to see how the idea of polio had been sculpted by people, the government, and society itself.”


Ryken worked closely with an adviser, Carla Bittel, assistant professor of history, who Ryken felt was a great source of inspiration and who provided constructive criticism to guide her research.


“Independent research is extremely important. I think it’s where a student really finds him or herself as an academic. Research is a vehicle to find what you love, it gives you a paradigm about how to jump into life,” Ryken said.


Working on the paper led Ryken to consider continuing her new-found love of research. She is a prospective graduate student at the University of Auckland, New Zealand, and wants to pursue a master’s degree in international relations with a human rights emphasis.


“My ultimate goal is to attend law school and help fight human rights injustices. The paper has made me also consider reaching a Ph.D. in history,” Ryken said.


To be considered for the award, students had to submit a research project or paper, an essay explaining the student’s research process, a bibliography, and a letter of nomination from a faculty member.


“LMU was really instrumental in my research. I knew about special collections and the archaeology lab, but it wasn’t until my senior year that I explored the library. I urge all undergraduates to venture into the library early on,” Ryken said.


The purpose of the award is to recognize LMU undergraduate students whose research encompasses making the best use of resources and services of the Von der Ahe Library. The winner of the 2009 Undergraduate Research award will be announced Friday, March 27, 2009.