April 21-27, 2000
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Graduate Student Research

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Graduate Student Research

They make up almost a quarter of the student body. It may take them five to 10 years to finish their degrees, and taking classes is only part of the requirement. Research and/or teaching make not only their education, but their contributions to the University and to society unique. They are graduate students, numbering about 4,000, not including the 1,600 in law and medicine.

Their work, however, doesn't often get attention, since it may not be ready for prime time or headlines. They put in long hours with relatively low pay, although the amount of support varies widely among disciplines. Still, they are gaining the experience that may lead to tomorrow's breakthroughs.

There are few platforms to show their work-in-progress. The Arts & Sciences Graduate Student Council coordinated the first Graduate Research Exhibition April 10 and 11 to provide a forum for graduate students from all disciplines to present their work. Co-sponsored by the Graduate Enrolled Student and Fellowship Office, the exhibition also awarded the top four with $500 first prizes.

This week and next, Inside UVA highlighted some of their efforts. We present here a sample -- albeit random -- of the range of research and scholarship graduate students are conducting, some ground-breaking, some innovative in idea or approach.

Graduate students awarded for research (published in last weeks' issue of Inside UVA)

Graduate student stories from last week's issue


Beer's research examines impact and style of Tori Amos' music

By Jane Ford

Singer/songwriter Tori Amos' music -- with its confessional lyrics -- has had a profound effect on many young people who have suffer

Samantha Beer
Stephanie Gross
Samantha Beer is looking at how Tori Amos (in poster, right) fans have created a supportive community on the Web.

ed emotional and physical abuse. Her fans say they gain a healing strength from her work, and that it serves as a catalyst for finding their own voices.

Amos followers have taken to creating a phenomenal Web presence devoted to her alternative rock music and her message, said Samantha Beer, a graduate student in U.Va.'s Critical and Comparative Studies in Music program, who has devoted a year's worth of research and thesis time to the subject.

Beer's research is taking her on an exhaustive study of the history of the culture of fandom and diva worship, as well as feminist and voice theory. She believes the work will link the past with the future.

"The cyber community is creating a new definition of a music community. There are more than 148 Web sites devoted entirely to Amos," she said.

In her songs, the pianist's own tragedies resonate with her fans, Beer said. They find it empowering that Amos brings her experiences as a rape survivor into the public realm, she said. On the Web, they analyze her work, quote lines from her songs and begin to tell their own stories. From this they have built a community of support, forming self-help groups that extend beyond their initial identification with the songs.

"Amos is a model and a tool. Her work becomes an entrance into who they feel they are and who they want to be," Beer said. "It's the sense of shared experience that gives her fans strength and hope."

Amos has used her celebrity status to further this position of empowerment of others by creating RAINN (Rape, Abuse and Incest National Network) in 1994. The Washington-based, national hotline is a resource for survivors of sexual abuse to find local shelters, counseling and support.

In addition to the cultural impact of Amos' work, Beer studies how the artist constructs her music -- not only what she says, but how she uses her voice to produce such a strong impression on her fans. She sings in a broken narrative, often with cryptic lyrics, Beer said, and that allows listeners to fill in the spaces and ambiguities with their own stories. In using different sounds and voices, changing pitch, tone and intensity, she goes beyond the bounds of our cultural constructs of gender, Beer has discovered in her research.

Beer's combining of musicology and ethnomusicology to come up with her own way of looking at a topic "is relatively new in the field," said Elizabeth Hudson, Beer's thesis adviser. "We try to encourage the use of a variety of techniques in research," she said. "This method helps to create new subject areas."

Improving on nature

Colella tests how to boost the body's immune response to melanoma

Zehfuss: early 20th-century West-African and French war encounters transformed relations


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