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CUSE establishes journal clubs

Grace McCormack | Monday, March 25, 2013

Students interested in biology, humanities or the social sciences now have the chance to discuss their interests and prepare for graduate school opportunities with three journal clubs started this semester at the Center for Undergraduate Scholarly Engagement (CUSE).

Club founders Dawn Hopkins and Caroline Wilky, both graduate fellows at CUSE, said these journal clubs provide a chance for undergraduates to engage in more recent and challenging literature than they might get in a classroom.

“[For] students who know they’re interested in the humanities but haven’t really decided which specific major they want to be or whether they’re interested in history or philosophy, this is a good place to discern those interests,” Wilky said.

Following the traditional journal club format, members have a week to read an article pertaining to their club’s subject before meeting to discuss the content, Hopkins said. The three clubs each have a different subject to explore throughout the semester and are titled “Biology,” “Biology, Politics, and Religion” and “Environment and Emotion.”

Hopkins said the clubs’ interactive formats get students to think on a higher level about their chosen discipline.

“You can read the literature as it comes out, not stuff that was published five years ago,” Hopkins said.

Students interested in science or medical school can particularly benefit from journal clubs, Hopkins said. She said the ability to analyze and evaluate primary literature is invaluable to any student, especially one seeking graduate or medical school.

“Science is moving quicker than a textbook,” Hopkins said. “We discuss and we ask questions about the things we may not have understood, about the literature or the methods used … and learn more from reading primary literature, which is different than reading a textbook … You have to read on a higher level.”

The humanities and social science clubs are also beneficial to students of all disciplines by allowing them to engage in the scholarly process, Wilky said. Through thoughtful reading and discussion, students learn to become “contributors to knowledge, not just consumers,” she said.

“This [journal club] is a great place for students to practice those skills that you need to be a successful graduate student or to produce, as an undergraduate, a research project,” Wilky said.

Commonly employed in scientific graduate studies, journal clubs not only teach students important lessons in research evaluation and analysis, but also articulate ideas and intellectually discuss, Wilky said.

Students are encouraged to join any of the three journal clubs, which meet twice a month. To join, contact urnd@nd.edu or visit the CUSE website at cuse.nd.edu