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Charles Center Faculty-Mentored Research Incubator


In 2022, the Charles Center launched an incubator program to support new models of faculty-mentored student research. Recipients of inaugural incubator awards are collaboratively advancing research that is aligned with faculty interests, has the potential to be self-sustaining in the future, and is consistent with Vision 2026 goals for W&M.

We have traditionally supported undergraduate research via a student-centered process in which proposals for summer funding are submitted to the Charles Center by individual students working with a single mentor. While continuing this popular program, we seek to develop new models of student research that may not be well-suited to the traditional process.

Aligned with Vision 2026 goals, the incubator encourages innovative faculty-mentored research with undergraduates that:
Expand W&M's reach by: 
  • producing consequential results with community or global impacts
  • expanding the base of our research ecosystem through novel approaches to mentoring, especially by engaging new external partners such as alumni or industry experts
Educate for Impact through:
  • blending classroom and hands-on research activities in new ways
  • easing access to opportunities so that every student has a chance to participate
Evolve to Excel in:
  • sub-disciplines not currently providing many undergraduate research opportunities
  • areas that enhance environmental sustainability of the campus and financial sustainability for our research programs

The next Incubator Project application cycle will open in Fall 2024.  In the meantime, please contact for more information about this program.

Incubator Projects
Walking Tour of W&M Campus Through the Lens of African American Experiences

Jody Lynn Allen, Robert Francis Engs Director of the Lemon Project
An interdisciplinary research lab comprising faculty from both the Lemon Project and the National Institute of American History and Democracy (NIAHD) will mentor students in the creation of a website that will commemorate “the lives, labor and triumphs of African Americans at the university,” the proposal notes. The students, who will include participants in NIAHD’s Pre-College Program as well as W&M undergrads, will translate various primary source materials into a walking tour that illustrates African American experiences and contributions to William & Mary.

Making Movies on Location: connecting geology, hazards and history in Virginia’s Blue Ridge Mountains

Chuck Bailey, Professor of Geology
The William & Mary Structural Geology & Tectonic research group will return to central Virginia where the group has conducted fieldwork in past summers — but this year things will be a little different. The group will center their research on the area around William & Mary’s Highland, the home of fifth U.S. President (and William & Mary alumnus) James Monroe. Partnering with W&M’s Highland, the Rockfish Valley Foundation and the Nelson County Historical Society, the group will organize their findings into audience-friendly videos and apps.

Read more about Prof. Bailey's project here.

Discourse Analysis on Disability
Leslie Cochrane, Senior Lecturer of English Linguistics
The faculty-student collaboration known as Discourse Analysis at William & Mary (DA@W&M) will ramp up its conversational discourse study. Discourse analysis is an area of sociolinguistics concerned with the relationship of spoken/written language to a broader social context. DA@W&M will conduct Zoom interviews with a set of participants, some of whom may be disabled individuals. The recorded interviews will be transcribed and entered into the DA@W&M database for analysis.
Community-Based Research to Advance Justice in Virginia’s Eviction Courts
Caroline Hanley, Associate Professor, Department of Sociology
The project will examine the role of court proceedings in the eviction crisis that unfolded in the wake of the COVID-19 crisis despite measures restricting evictions. Trained student researchers will observe court proceedings and follow and document eviction cases in Alexandria, Newport News and Richmond. They will analyze the data gleaned from their observations, building a database to document variation in courtroom procedure and case outcome.
Public Opinion & Polling (POP) Lab
Mackenzie Israel-Trummel, Assistant Professor, Department of  Government
The POP Lab will begin with a summer focus on research design. Student researchers will develop a research question, delve into the relevant literature and formulate a testable hypothesis. The students will take their surveys into the field during the fall semester and conduct exit polls on Election Day. The second summer will be devoted to analyzing the data the students have gathered and writing an original research paper. The experience will be capped with a research conference.
NukeLab Emerging Technology Fellows Program
Jeff Kaplow, Assistant Professor, Department of Government; Ryan Musto, Director of Forums and Research Initiatives, Global Research Institute
NukeLab, an undergraduate research initiative within William & Mary’s Global Research Institute, fosters research that examines the challenges that new technologies continue to pose for questions and issues of national and international security. The incubator project would assemble student researchers from the sciences, social sciences and humanities to address the impact of burgeoning technologies that range from cyber espionage to cybersecurity and from artificial intelligence to blockchain assaults and autonomous weapons systems.
Promoting Resilience in Families of Young Children Experiencing Poverty-Related Stress
Madelyn H. Labella, Assistant Professor, Department of Psychological Sciences
Student researchers will work with the Williamsburg Early Head Start program to establish a community-engaged translational work program. Participants will conduct studies among families with young children that qualify for EHS services to assess stress experienced by both parents and children. The project will include data collection on stress and self-regulation among both children and parents and identify opportunities for intervention.
IDEA Hub Research-Based Collaboration
Eleanor T. Loiacono, Associate Professor of Business Analytics
An initiative building on a new William & Mary collaboration with the United Nations High Commission on Refugees (UNHCR) , the IDEA Hub will engage student researchers in various issues surrounding employees with disabilities. One research project will study various assistive technologies used in UNHCR workplaces. A second will employ design thinking to bring new approaches to address and overcome the challenges faced by UNHCR employees with disabilities.
Republic of Georgia Veterans Project
Dan Maliniak, Associate Professor, Department of Government
Like Ukraine, the Republic of Georgia is a neighbor of Russia and was an entity of the Soviet Union. Georgia had its own war with Russia in 2008, and many Georgian soldiers fought alongside U.S. troops in Afghanistan and Iraq. The project will examine and the attitudes and experiences of Georgian veterans of the combat in Afghanistan and Iraq. William & Mary student-veterans will be especially encouraged to participate in literature reviews and interviews of veterans, some of which may be conducted on location in the Republic of Georgia.
Undergraduate Research for Fusion Reactor Designs & Operation
Saskia Mordijck, Assistant Professor of Physics
Commonwealth Fusion Systems (CFS) is a Massachusetts start-up that focuses on bringing fusion energy to reality. This incubator project will introduce W&M undergraduates to scientific research opportunities outside of academia. The students will work with CFS scientists to develop models of plasma interaction inside a tokamak, a device that uses magnetic fields to contain plasma produced by fusion reactions. CFS is building SPARC, a new-generation tokamak that could demonstrate the viability of an energy-producing fusion reactor.
K-12 Asian American Studies Education Initiative
Deenesh Sohoni, Professor of Sociology /Director, Asian Pacific Islander Program & Esther Kim, Assistant Professor, School of Education
The K-12 Asian American Student Education (KAASE) is an ongoing collaboration collecting and collating the history of Asian Americans at William & Mary and across the commonwealth and nation. The incubator project has three goals: to train undergrad researchers in primary research methodologies to document the Asian American experience at W&M and throughout Virginia; to develop relevant course material for use by K-12 educators; and to obtain funding to train K-12 educators on the use of the materials.

Projects are selected from faculty proposals that include research with, ideally, three or more undergraduates, who do not need to be named in the proposal. Funding is $10,000 annually for two years in the form of $3,000 stipends for each of the three undergraduates (or a pro-rated amount for teams of different sizes). Students work full time for 7 or more weeks in each of the two summers with a faculty member on one project or a set of related questions. Stipends can be awarded to the same or different students each summer. Funding also includes $1,000 annually for supplies, travel, etc. (not summer salary) for the project, to be spent by the faculty mentor in conjunction with the Charles Center. These funds will be available on July 1 and must be expended by the following May 1.

The first round of funding supports research conducted in summers 2022 and 2023. Funding for 2023 is contingent upon fulfillment of recruitment, mentoring, and reporting goals. The faculty mentor is expected to seek extramural funding or to work with their students on standard internal research-funding applications after the two-year funding period. 

Funding Criteria 
All applications are evaluated on the following criteria:
  • clear, compelling research proposal
  • strong faculty research track record, as evidenced by the CV
  • well-defined plans for student recruitment and student research mentoring
  • novel and innovative research model for the faculty mentor's sub-discipline
Applications are given more favorable consideration if they include some of the following attributes:
  • high number of student research opportunities both during and beyond the two-year funding period
  • clear path to sustainable funding
  • inclusion of external partners who may provide expertise or additional funding
  • collateral benefits for classroom teaching
  • benefits for campus inclusion and sustainability efforts
  • likelihood of high-impact findings, particularly those with public impact
  • expansion of currently available research opportunities on campus to new disciplines or groups of student
  • interdisciplinarity or multidisciplinarity
Looking forward

The Charles Center is planning to thoroughly evaluate its inaugural incubator award process before making a decision about the future of the program.