Below are recent Summer Undergraduate Research Program (SURP) projects completed by students studying Interdisciplinary Studies at Pomona College.


Environmental Protection in a Weak State: The case of a Congolese NGO

Manya Janowitz (2015); Mentor(s): Pierre Englebert

Abstract: In Katanga province, Democratic Republic of the Congo, pollution by mining companies and deforestation by both mining operations and local populations constitute the largest threats to the environment. As the Congolese government has little capacity for effective environmental protection, 19 local NGOs have stepped up to confront these issues. This project examines the role of Katangese NGOs in the environmental and mining sectors through the lens of the strongest and most reputable environmental NGO in the province, Premi-Congo. Research was conducted through a two-month immersion in the organization, including meetings with partners and informal interviews. Premi-Congo works on reforestation, environmental education, and publishes reports on mining companies’ environmental conduct. This work is crucial for the province, and its effectiveness comes from the NGO's support of local communities, objectivity and political independence, and international partners who give clout and spread awareness. Yet among obstacles of personal threats and limited government support, the NGO primarily suffers from a lack of means. Funds from international donors only support specific projects and are scrupulously monitored. There is no money to cover operating costs (salaries, an office, electricity, Internet, a website), which hinders professionalism and degrades quality of work, threatening the sustainability of environmental NGOs in Katanga.
Funding Provided by: Schulz Fund for Environmental Studies; Pomona College Department of International Relations

Science and Storytelling: An Examination of the Trade of Science Journalism

Maya Booth (2014); Mentor(s): Laura Perini

Abstract: The need for more purposeful and coherent guidelines in the profession of science journalism becomes more apparent as science and technology convey ever higher stakes when it comes to the lives of the non-expert public. Meanwhile, the Internet has multiplied the venues for scientific writing intended for a popular audience from the traditional media of books and print newspapers to a vast array of science and technology-oriented online magazines, blogs, and other outlets. This has intensified an already existing truth in the field of science journalism: a shared set of principles for science writing is lacking, given information that was collected through interviews with science journalists ranging from the New York Times to obscure publications. Science writers utilize customized approaches to avoiding science writing’s most commonly criticized pitfalls, such as the idea that such articles fail to probe their subject matter past its ‘info¬tainment’ value, or the concern that writers too often act as cheerleaders rather than measured analysts of advances in science. This double-edged truth becomes more evident in light of the fact that the Internet has allowed so many more freelance, hobbyist, and hopeful science writers to find readership. It brings both a heightened degree of nuance and specialization for the field, and a sense of disorientation as traditional newspapers slash their science sections and renowned science writers discourage younger generations from the profession.
Funding Provided by: Faucett Catalyst Fund Department/Program: Linguistics and Cognitive Science