Professor Highlight: Getting Involved in Research at USC

Each year, USC offers undergraduate students the opportunity to participate in faculty-led research projects across various academic departments and research centers on both the University Park and Health Sciences campuses. In addition, USC provides fellowships and funding, campus wide research conferences, programs for underrepresented student researchers (McNair/Gateway Scholars, WiSE, Bridging the Gaps, etc.), and graduation honors to recognize the important advances and discoveries made by students in their field of research. Students can find these research opportunities through their classes, by browsing faculty and research center profiles, or participating in summer research programs, such as Problems Without Passports. Regardless of your academic area of study, students are encouraged to pursue research in any school or field that they are passionate about.

For this week’s blog, we spoke with Professor Lyn Boyd-Judson, Ph.D., of the Dornsife College of Letters, Arts and Sciences, about her area of research, the benefits of participating in this academic pursuit, and how students can get involved in research projects at USC.

Dr. Boyd-Judson is the UNESCO Chair on Global Humanities and Ethics Education, executive director of the USC Levan Institute for Humanities and Ethics, and executive director of the Oxford Consortium for Human Rights. Her teaching experience spans courses at the USC Annenberg School of Journalism, the USC School of International Relations, the USC School of Religion, and the Thematic Option Honors Program. Dr. Boyd-Judson is a University Fellow at the USC Center for Public Diplomacy, faculty advisor for the Shoah Foundation Institute and the USC Journal of Law and Society, and a member of Phi Kappa Phi Honor Society. Her research and teaching focus on diplomacy, ethics, religion and human rights, and international negotiation. Dr. Boyd-Judson’s recent research considers cross-cultural perspectives on the role of the university in global ethics, which was published as a chapter in Global Ethics: Politics, Institutions and Policies in 2017.

What kind of research are you conducting here at the university?

I am currently conducting research in the area of ethics and international humanitarian law, looking specifically at the Genevan Conventions, the definition of ‘humane’ and the ‘forever prisoners’ at Guantanamo Bay.

What kinds of roles are undergraduate students taking on in your lab? What achievements have they been able to make under your supervision?

I work with a dozen undergraduates to compete yearlong research papers published in our USC-UNESCO Journal of Global Humanities, Science, and Ethical Inquiry. I advised the research of Mary Cate Hickman, a student in my Problems without Passports (PWP) research course to Oxford, Belfast, and Cordoba, on the Mosque Cathedral of Cordoba, Spain. Her paper won the humanities award at the year-end USC research award competition. More information on our research collaboration can be found at this link.

What advice do you give to students who are interested in participating in research but do not know where to start?

Problems without Passports (PWP) courses are a great start—students receive hands-on guidance from faculty who are travelling with students 24/7 to help them adapt to research realities on the ground. Students are also encouraged to come on over to the Levan Institute for Humanities and Ethics! We take a dozen undergraduates a year and guide their projects from first idea to publishable paper.

What types of qualities or experience are you looking for in prospective student researchers?

The qualities I am looking for in student researchers are dedication, curiosity, and respect for a working team. Prior research experience is not necessary for getting involved in research at USC.

What do you hope students get out of their research experience?

Confidence and the satisfaction of a published or award-winning paper—meaning the satisfaction of a job well done and pride in their achievement. Research projects require commitment to the work at hand, as well as the process that necessarily follows to polish a piece of work to shine.

We hope this blog helps you to start thinking about the type of research you may want to get involved in at USC. As you begin this journey, do not hesitate to reach out to any professors or research centers on campus to find out about more opportunities across the school.