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Everyone Gets a Lab Coat

The revolutionary research done in the humanities looks even cooler in a lab coat. Dr. Brian Croxall teaches his students the importance of their research by helping them look and feel the part.

A person studying with books and a laptop on a bed.

What do you think of when you think of research? Dr. Brian Croxall, an assistant research professor of digital humanities, pulled up Google and searched “undergraduate research.” The screen flooded with cheesy pictures of young adults in lab coats and goggles surrounded by pipettes and petri dishes. Then he said, “This is why every student in my class gets a lab coat.”

Dr. Croxall teaches DIGHT 315: Research in the Digital Humanities. His class allows students to research various humanities topics during their undergraduate work. For the last few semesters, classes have been studying the Office of Digital Humanities’ new transcription of the Peanuts comics.

When students come to class, they put on their lab coats and start running tests and analyses on the language of the comics. Currently, the class is encoding the comic strips by adding as much detail as possible about each one into a transcription. Dr. Croxall hopes to do more in-depth character analyses with the data in the future.

Still, wondering about the lab coats? Often, research in the humanities is overlooked because it doesn’t fit the mold of what people typically think “research” should be. Dr. Croxall explained that, in many people’s minds and sometimes in reality, humanities research “looks like individuals sitting in a library working or just thinking. No one takes pictures of it. But maybe if humanities research looked cooler, they would. The students wear coats to show that they are doing real research rather than analyzing and summarizing what others already said,” said Dr. Croxall.

If you are interested in working on humanities research, studying the Peanuts comics, or getting your official lab coat, sign up for DIGHT 315 next semester.