Undergraduate Research

New Opportunities for Engaged Learning
Undergraduate Research

One of the hallmarks of education at Providence College is engaged learning—hands-on experiences that bring students beyond the traditional classroom setting to explore learning through collaborative research with faculty members, internship opportunities, study abroad, and unique laboratory assignments.

Thanks to the generosity of Dr. Herbert Brennan ’89SCE and Roderick H. ’80 and Lisa M. Lichtenfels, newly-minted PC graduate Allison M. White ’11 and several classmates enjoyed a hands-on opportunity most biology undergraduate majors can only dream about—exploring human anatomy by dissecting a cadaver.

“I never thought I’d be able to have this type of experience in undergraduate school,” remarks White, who was a student laboratory assistant to Dr. David B. Baier, assistant professor of biology and instructor of the human anatomy course.

“When you are able to see everything firsthand, you really understand how intricate and complex the human body is,” she says. “I’m able to see everything that I’ve only previously learned about in textbooks. Every time I work on a dissection, I see something new and exciting.”

“In the textbook,” Baier explains, “everything is two dimensional.”

Throughout the semester, Baier impressed upon students that respect for the human cadaver was paramount. As they carefully dissected tissue and other parts of the body, he urged them to be mindful that “the individual remains an individual as much as possible.”
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Brennan, a strong believer in developing health profession-related initiatives at PC, contributed to the cost of the renovations necessary to store the cadaver and facilitate dissection. His gift was matched by the Lichtenfels, who have two sons at PC, Benjamin P. ’13 and Carl J. ’12.

With their support, Baier obtained a female human cadaver, a dissection table, and appropriate surgical lighting from the Anatomical Gift Program at Brown University, where he earned his doctoral degree. He hopes to permanently obtain a second table and autopsy tools that had to be borrowed for this inaugural class.

The new laboratory opportunities in anatomy, as well as in stem cell research, point not only to the strength of the biology program at PC, but also to a College-wide commitment to increased student research and engagement, says Dr. Sheila Adamus Liotta, dean of the School of Arts & Sciences and an associate professor of chemistry.

Liotta also notes that in 2008, PC joined the Council on Undergraduate Research (CUR), which supports and promotes high-quality, undergraduate student-faculty collaborative research and scholarship.

“Students coming to Providence College for the liberal arts do not have to choose between attending a smaller, mission-driven, supportive institution and having first-rate, hands-on experiences,” she points out. “They can do both right here at PC.”
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