At The University of Alabama, the name Randall is one that is synonymous with success and legacy. Renamed for Dr. Cathy Randall in 2017, the Catherine J. Randall Research Scholars Program(RRSP)—formerly the Computer-Based Honors Program —seeks to equip its students with the skills necessary to forge the next generation of leaders.
Housed in the Honors College, the RRSP is a nationally recognized interdisciplinary, undergraduate research program that pairs exceptional, highly motivated students directly with leading research professors and cutting-edge information management technology to complete scholarly research projects in diverse fields of study.
Two of those students are Marie Neubrander, a senior math and computer sciences major from Baton Rouge, Louisiana, and Rowan Batts, a junior marine sciences, biology and physics major from Kingsport, Tennessee.“
“One of the biggest things I’m appreciative for with Randall Research Scholars is the network of people I’ve met and how it’s provided me with interdisciplinary research opportunities.”
– Marie Neubrander
Through RRSP, Marie’s first major project was a partnership with the College of Communication & Information Sciences. She worked alongside advertising professors and the Public Opinion Lab to pull tweets and analyze brand information.
Marie also collaborated with Dr. Roger Sidje in the math department to analyze biochemical reactions systems and ways of computing those efficiently for large, vast quantities of data. She is currently the president of UA’s Generation Action student organization and is working on a project with Drs. Nickolas Freeman, Burcu Keskin and Gregory Bott in The Culverhouse College of Business to analyze online trends of sex trafficking activity.
During their freshman year in the Program, students take courses in technology fundamentals, problem solving, project management and research fundamentals that will prepare them to launch their research projects the following year.
In addition to the network of professors and fellow student researchers, Rowan said a major component of the RRSP is the ability for its students to be able to communicate their interests effectively.
“Communication is really important because if you’re going to be doing research, you can’t just quietly sit and not tell anyone about it,” they said. “You have to be able to communicate why it’s important so you can get funding and make other people see what you’re doing so you can collaborate.”
Rowan, who is also a Hollings Scholar and a National Merit Scholar, works with Dr. Kevin Kocot in the biological sciences department looking at DNA barcoding DNA to identify marine specimens down to a species level. Their work resulted in the identification of several new species of marine worms in Iceland and has since evolved into their current work, which is of annotating mitochondrial genomes.
More than research opportunities, RRSP offers students a solid foundation as they embark on their college experiences.
“It was so nice that when I came to campus, I felt like I had people that I already knew,” Rowan said. “The first day on campus, a bunch of us met up and had a movie night. That was really important since UA is such a huge school.”
There is no doubt the Randall Research Scholars Program has had a lasting impact on its students.
“My closest friends have come from Randall Research Scholars,” Marie said. “There’s a lab we all get to work in together and just getting to be there and meet with people has formed this amazing network I couldn’t have asked for from anywhere else.”
Following their anticipated graduations in May 2022, Marie and Rowan both have lofty aspirations fit for a RRSP alum.
“I am super excited about continuing to pursue a data science route. I think I want to get a PhD, probably in statistics,” Marie said. “I hope to use that in a non-profit or social good environment.”
Rowan is looking forward to continuing her studies in biological oceanography, eventually going to attending graduate school and working at research labs.
Gifts and continued support, like those from the Randall family to the Honors College, impact and enrich our students’ experiential learning on campus and pave the way for their future successes in all fields.