Featured Researcher: Juliana Smith '23

About the Student Researcher

Headshot of Juliana Smith.

Major(s) and minor(s)

Majoring in environmental studies and film and media studies
Minor in Environmental Humanities

What's your research story?

My Grandma and her family immigrated to the U.S. in the 50s, and I've always been curious about their stories and the difference between southern rural Italy and the mid-century urban landscape they found themselves in. I didn't know this was something that I could do actual academic research on, then last year, I created a documentary about my family's lives during an independent study. I didn't get to capture the full scope of their story, and so decided to turn it into a full-blown research project through the Meliora Scholars program, which I've been a part of since sophomore year. I started research this past summer, mainly reading books and first-hand accounts of post-WWII Italian emigration. This spring, I plan to pair this research with ideas, quotes, and memories from my family's experience together on an interactive website.

How did you initially secure your research position?

I spoke to my Meliora Scholars advisors to get ideas and narrow in on a topic. Then I started emailing professors whose expertise aligned with what I wanted to know. They gave me plenty of advice and resources to work with, and the project has largely been independent from there! I'm lucky that I already had funding set up through the Meliora Scholars program, so I know that I have some funds to work with.

Departments/programs of research

Department of History, River Campus Libraries

Type of research

Humanities and/or archival research

Any research presentations, awards, or publications?

I'm planning on submitting my research to the UR undergrad research exposition this spring. I received the Meliora Scholarship for humanities research.

Can you share some "lessons learned" as a result of your undergraduate research experience?

Don't be afraid to go after what really interests you, not just something that will look good on resume! Also professors are usually more than happy to help and at least give you some ideas or resources. A quick email or meeting can affect your direction in a huge way so don't be afraid to ask.

What advice can you share with new undergraduate researchers?

Take some time choosing your subject and whittling it down--I always tend to choose topics that are too broad, but there is more to learn in the details. Talking to someone who is familiar with research is a great starting point, whether its a professor in your department, the Office of Undergraduate Research, or someone who is used to advising research projects. They will help you get an idea of what is possible and how to go about starting up.