Since 2014, the NEIU Libraries have recognized outstanding student efforts in the area of library-based research through the annual Libraries Award for Excellence in Research. The award is given to students who demonstrate outstanding ability to identify, locate, select, evaluate, and synthesize library resources and to use them in the creation of an original research project. Student award winners receive a cash prize of $300 and recognition for their outstanding efforts. 


We would like to congratulate the winners of the 2024 NEIU Libraries Award for Excellence in Research!


Owen Bitting, Undergraduate Student, Psychology: Mystical Experiences: The Effects of Psilocybin on Spiritual Practices and Beliefs


For his senior capstone project in psychology, Owen is studying psilocybin-induced mystical experiences and their effects on both religious experiences and spiritual practices/beliefs. Owen is undertaking this research with the guidance and collaboration of Masami Takahashi, Professor of Psychology, and hopes to publish his research at the end of the summer semester.


Through an iterative series of drafts, Owen learned to shift the focus of his research from the therapeutic outcomes of psilocybin use to the mystical experiences induced by psilocybin. Owen’s research suggests that these psilocybin-induced mystical experiences are mediating psilocybin’s therapeutic outcomes. Owen identified two research institutions and four scholars at the forefront of psilocybin research and examined these scholars’ citations in order to locate additional relevant sources. Owen’s bibliography spans the fields of psychology, pharmacology, and neuroscience; it includes analyses of major instruments used to measure mysticism alongside works by classical thinkers such as William James and Lau Tzu. 


In his own words: “I utilized the library many times, whether it was the PsycINFO and PsycTESTS databases, InterLibrary Loan, consultations with Psychology librarian Ed Remus, or book checkouts. One of the biggest sources of help was my advisor, Professor Takahashi.”



Claire Lavender, Graduate Student, Linguistics: First Language Acquisition Literature Review 


As a Linguistics graduate student, Claire was assigned a literature review in Linguistics 450: First Language Acquisition taught by Richard Hallett. She chose to research how children acquire lexical tone. Claire’s interest in this topic stems from learning Vietnamese, a tonal language, as an adult. Her first language is a non-tonal language and she has experienced the difficulty in acquiring lexical tone as an adult.


Claire began her project researching sources on tone acquisition in Vietnamese. In order to locate more resources she decided to broaden her search to include other tone languages.  Most of the research she found discussed Mandarin and Cantonese Chinese. Her literature review highlights the gap in research on African tone languages and non-Chinese Asian languages. Claire took advantage of numerous NEIU Library resources and services for her project, including the Library’s Research Guides, our free interlibrary loan service, library databases, and the expertise of Chris Straughn, librarian to linguistics.


In her own words: “Thank you to Lewis Gebhardt for encouraging my research, Rick Hallett for assigning a thought-provoking research assignment, and the library staff that sat with me as I scanned a 500-page document from the microfiche machine.”


Benjamin Ortiz, Graduate Student, History: From Matanza to Magic Valley: The Modernization of the Lower Rio Grande Valley of South Texas


 As as native of south Texas, Benjamin was interested in researching the transformation of the Lower Rio Grande Valley of Texas in the early 20th century from Mexican-dominated ranching to Anglo-dominated agriculture. His project focused on the various factors that contributed to the subjugation of Mexican ranchers in Texas, including the “Matanza,” a period of anti-Mexican violence from 1910-1920, the racializing of so-called “bandit” attacks, the rise of Texas rangers and vigilantes, and the force of the U.S. military. 


Benjamin used a variety of NEIU Library services as part of his research, including NEIU library databases, I-Share, and secondary resources to identify primary resources in English and Spanish. He found it helpful to meet with Ed Remus, NEIU Social Sciences Librarian. Benjamin’s essay noted the need to conduct research in his topic in English and Spanish and the challenge of identifying keyword synonyms in both languages. Benjamin found digital collections from Texas Universities and the Readex Hispanic American Newspapers to be important in his research of Spanish language primary sources from Texas.


In his own words: “Special thanks to Dr. Francesca Morgan, Ed Remus, and Dr. Joshua Salzmann.”


Wesley “Wes” Skym; Graduate Student; Communication, Media, and Theatre: The Virtual Classroom from Origin to Post-Pandemic: An Updated Framework for Updated Needs


This marks the second year Wes has won a NEIU Libraries Research Award. He will graduate next month with his master’s degree in Communication, Media, and Theatre before entering a doctoral program this fall. In his thesis project, Wes examines the potential of the HI-FIVES model for virtual learning assessment.  


Wes’ work spanned the disciplines of technology, communication, and educational theory to produce a comprehensive 19-page bibliography. His research process involved examining seminal works identified during his coursework at NEIU before seeking out secondary and tertiary sources through the NEIU Libraries and online. He availed himself of NEIU Libraries databases, such as JSTOR and PsycINFO to access works from leading academic publishers, including Taylor & Francis, Wiley, and Sage. Wes accessed books from both the NEIU Library collection and our I-Share partners. Wes displayed persistence and ingenuity in seeking out the best and latest research, contacting authors directly through ResearchGate, using the Stanford University’s Virtual Human Interaction Lab database, and visiting publicly held data on governmental websites.


In his own words: “I would like to thank Dr. Shayne Pepper for all of his valuable feedback on this thesis paper, in addition to heading my thesis committee, Dr. Maura Baron for serving on the committee and providing resources important for theory, and Dr. Roy Magnuson for his insight on VR and AI technologies for the paper.”