Research Project on Greek Lawmakers
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Brendan Bernicker

Major: Political Science and Philosophy of Justice, Law, and Values
Minor: Music Technology
Hometown: Villanova, PA
Paterno Fellow 

How did you learn about this opportunity?

One of my professors approached me and asked if I would be interested in working with him on a research project. I had developed a good relationship with him while doing an honors option in his class, so I accepted.

Tell us a little bit about your experience.

Over the course of the semester, I worked on two primary projects. The first project was helping Dr. Moore with some research into the legitimacy of myths surrounding the earliest Greek lawmakers and understanding how these myths fit with larger movements in Greek historiography at the time. This project culminated in a research paper that I wrote to help him develop a section in his book dealing with this subject. My research involved finding books, journal articles, and lecture transcripts on the subject and using them to craft a coherent argument about the way these myths formed and their purpose in promoting legal legitimacy. The second project was focused on understanding aspects of Classical Athenian culture that could improve American society today. I used a very similar method for researching this project, and it culminated in a presentation at the Undergraduate Research Exhibition.

How did this experience impact you academically?

This experience helped me to gain a better sense of what academic research is like, which will be invaluable as I begin researching for my thesis and deciding what kind of career I may be interested in. This project also helped me to become better acquainted with the methods of humanities research and to gain some experience with presenting research. While I had done various kinds of research projects in the past, this was by far the most comprehensive and the most similar to the kind of research I would do as an academic or graduate student. I anticipate that the skills I developed this semester will continue to be useful throughout my time at Penn State and beyond, particularly if I decide to attend graduate school.

I anticipate that the skills I developed this semester will continue to be useful throughout my time at Penn State and beyond...

What are your career goals and plans?  How did this experience impact them?

I am not yet sure what my career plans are, but based on my interests I think I would like to pursue either public policy focused academia (as a professor or at a think-tank) or the law. If I decide to take the academic path, I would do a lot of projects very similar to the one I did this semester, so I was very curious to see whether I enjoyed this kind of work and whether I was capable of doing it at a high level. Now that I am nearing the end of my experience, I have decided that I do enjoy this work and I believe that, with a few more years of study, I could do it well. I am not yet positive that I prefer academia to law, but I at least now have a better sense of what it is like.

Would you recommend this experience to other Liberal Arts students?

I would highly recommend that all liberal arts students do a research project at some point because it offers an opportunity to delve deeper into a specific field of interest, teaches students the professional norms and standards of their discipline, and allows them to engage more meaningfully with other people’s research in the future.

How has the Paterno Fellows Program had an impact on this experience?

The Paterno Fellows Program had an impact on this experience in two ways. First, the entire project grew out of an honors option with one of my professors, which I never would have done had it not been for Paterno Fellows’ encouragement. Second, it was through Paterno Fellows that I learned about Liberal Arts Enrichment Funds, which was an important factor in allowing me to pursue my interest and participate in this project. This project will also impact my Paterno Fellows experience, since the skills I have developed will help me when I begin working on my Paterno Fellows thesis.

For more information on research opportunities for Liberal Arts students, visit our website.
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