Finding Myself in Research

Monday, October 12, 2020


Grace Morelli, '21

Grace Morelli UNH research experience

When I was in high school and learned about undergraduate research at college info sessions, I never thought that I would see myself conducting research. Especially being a mathematics education major, I was not interested in researching mathematical theories. However, I never thought about doing research on the education aspect. That is what I soon pursued at UNH.

It all started with my first-ever education course, Exploring Teaching. We had a seminar class once a week and participated in fieldwork throughout the semester. We chose cooperating teachers to help and observe in their classrooms. Then, during the seminar portion, we reflected on our time in the classroom. I enjoyed the course so much that, at the end of the semester, I asked my professor, Dr. Elyse Hambacher, if there was a teaching assistant position for the next semester. She said there was unfortunately no position, but that she loved my enthusiasm for the course. This led her to ask me if I wanted to hop on board with her research. Like I said previously, I thought I wasn’t interested in participating in research, but in that moment, I thought about how it was a once in a life time opportunity for me. So, I agreed!

My research professor and her colleague, Dr. Bethany Silva, were conducting research on teaching pre-service teachers about teaching for social justice. In Exploring Teaching, my fellow classmates and I did a project called Book to Art, where we read a children’s literature book and planned a fun art and craft activity related to it. We learned how to create and revise lesson plans and practiced our lessons in front of our education peers.

During my sophomore year, I found out through the Hamel Center for Undergraduate Research that I could receive credit for participating in research. I ended up receiving two credits for partnering with Dr. Hambacher and Dr. Silva. During that time, I reflected on my Book to Art lesson, read different social justice education articles to help frame our paper and drafted the paper with them. This was an amazing opportunity that I got as an undergrad at UNH – and I am so grateful.

As part of this research, I got to travel to Tucson, Arizona to present at the National Association of Multicultural Education conference. This was my first time speaking at a conference. I also had the opportunity to sit in on other people’s presentations, where I learned about topics that had never before even crossed my mind. My trip to Arizona was fully-funded from different departments at UNH. In addition to presenting at conferences, my team and I just found out that our paper has been accepted to be published in the next issue of Multicultural Perspectives.

Never in a million years would I have thought that I would conduct research, present research, and finally be published. This has taught me many things. The first is that UNH has multiple ways for undergraduates to participate in research. The second is that you have to take initiative to explore these different opportunities. What I always like to say to prospective and admitted students is to step out of your comfort zone and explore what is offered around you.

Learn more about Research at UNH