Undergraduate Research

Students presenting their research at Central's Undergraduate Research Symposium

At Central College you have the opportunity to engage in collaborative research, scholarship and creative inquiry. This high-impact experience allows you to engage more deeply with your chosen discipline resulting in new creative works, exciting discoveries and the answer to applied problems.

These experiences are available to all students regardless of major. Activities are supported not only during the academic year, but also through our summer undergraduate research program.  From these events, you have the opportunity to present your work locally, regionally and nationally at conferences. For many, this experience helps shape a career path and is instrumental in landing that first job, or being accepted to graduate or professional school.

students present their work each semester
students funded to carry out research in Summer 2016
students present at conferences each year

The Real World

Student Presentations

Dozens of Central professors use research assignments every year to help students prepare for professional and academic careers. Students also present their results during Central’s Undergraduate Research Symposium. Many also present at regional and national conferences related to their disciplines.

“Not a lot of undergraduates are doing research — that is unique to Central,” said Linda Laine, associate professor of communication studies. “It is going to put them way ahead if they go on to graduate school after Central.” And if students want to start careers right after graduation, Laine said the challenges of research prepare them to excel when managing long-term professional projects.

“I loved presenting my results. I felt like a real scientist, not just regurgitating other research into a literature review but actually showing the world new data.”

— Rachel Braak ’15

A Scientist and a Scholar

2021 Goldwater Scholar Cameron Coles ’22 paves a promising future in STEM.

Successful Careers

  • Public Health Administrator, Guthrie, Iowa
  • Assistant Professor of Chemistry, Oklahoma University
  • Senior Minister, Minnetonka, Minn.
  • Mathematics Editor, Pearson Publishing
  • Assistant Professor of Economics, University of St. Thomas
  • Chiropractor, Private Practice, Albuquerque, N.M.
  • Dentist, Private Practice, Pella

Graduate Placement

  • Genetic Counseling, The Ohio State University
  • University of Nebraska, College of Law
  • Forensic Science, Marshall University, W.Vir.
  • College of Medicine, University of Iowa
  • College of Medicine, Duke University
  • University of Wisconsin
  • Public Health, University of Michigan
  • Chemistry, Northwestern University
  • Engineering University of Michigan
  • Biomedical Engineering, University of Cincinnati
  • Aeronautical Engineering, University of Notre Dame
  • Counseling Psychology, Arizona State University
  • University of Oregon


  • Institute for Bionanotechnology in Medicine, Department of Surgery at Northwestern University in Illinois
  • Pfizer, St. Louis
  • British Parliament
  • Cargill, Eddyville, Iowa
  • Physics Summer Research Experience for Undergraduates (NSF), University of Maine
  • Engineering Research Experience for Undergraduates (NSF), Rutgers University
  • Biology Research Experience for Undergraduates (NSF), Baylor University
  • Physics Summer Research Experience for Undergraduates (NSF), Santa Fe Institute
  • Biomedical Summer Research Intern, The Ohio State University Wexner Medical Center

Recent Collaborative Research Opportunities

  • Effects of Smartphone Use on Family Cohesion
  • Conservation Genetics of Native Bees
  • History of Sustainability at Central College
  • Biorenewable Plastics
  • Sustainable Solutions (Theater Lighting, Food Sourcing, Etc.)
  • Invasive Plant Species and Their Effects on Native Ecosystems
  • American Politics and Policy
  • Political Behavior
  • The Psychology of Religion and Morality
  • Neuroscience

Funding Sources

  • Arthur J. Bosch Endowment
  • Margaret A. Cargill Foundation
  • Monticello College Foundation
  • David and Linda Wesselink
  • Franks-Mahmood Fund for Undergraduate Research
  • Moore Family Foundation
  • American Chemical Society – Petroleum Research Fund
  • Iowa Science Foundation
  • Central College Dean’s Office

The Central Difference

Student/Faculty Research

Central provides many opportunities for students to partner with faculty members on student-faculty research projects. Such research projects offer a great opportunity to learn research methods, practice professional interactions with research peers and mentors, and start developing a professional network. All these things can make you a more competitive candidate for graduate programs and job opportunities.


The Franks-Mahmood Fund for Undergraduate Research supports faculty-student research involving domestic or international travel.

  • Frank Moore Chair of Anthropology and Professor of Anthropology Cynthia Mahmood and Emma Simmons ’17 did ethnographic research in Scotland
  • Professor of Religion Terry Kleven worked in France with Mathew Wells ’18 and Hannah Marcum ’18 on classical liberal political philosophy.

Tej Dhawan ’91 and Karen Dhawan ’91 established the endowed fund in April 2019. It is named for Robert Franks, professor of computer science, and Mahmood, two faculty mentors to the Dhawans while they were Central students.

Central College Announces Arthur J. Bosch Undergraduate Summer Student Research Awards

The Arthur J. Bosch Endowment is providing six Central College students the opportunity to undertake summer research projects as Bosch Undergraduate Summer Research Fellows.

Researcher Profiles

Hear what Central students have to say about their student/faculty research experiences:

Summer Research

Central College students leverage Central’s modern facilities to carry out collaborative research projects with students each summer. Projects span the liberal arts including projects in the humanities, arts, natural sciences and social sciences.

In addition to focused research in the summer, students continue to explore research topics during the academic year through independent study, honors enrichment and course-based research.