For Professor Allison Perlman, working with undergraduate researchers gives her the opportunity to learn from the students she mentors. She greatly appreciates her students’ passion and curiosity, and is frequently exposed to areas of research she had not considered previously. Professor Perlman recommends that students pursue a research project, both as a way to explore in depth a topic about which they are curious, and to discover whether a career in research is one they might want to consider. Professor Perlman received the 2017 Chancellor’s Award for Excellence in Undergraduate Research from the School of Humanities in recognition of her dedication to promoting a spirit of academic inquiry among her students.

1. How did you develop an interest in mentoring undergraduate research or creative projects, and what type of projects have you directed?

Since my first year at UCI, I have been involved in mentoring undergraduates in many capacities: as thesis advisor, UTeach mentor, and internship advisor. I consistently have been so impressed with the enthusiasm, intellectual curiosity, dedication, and academic rigor of our students. I have learned a lot from the projects that I have supervised.

I have advised thesis projects for students in the departments of history and film and media studies. One project, for example, analyzed post-World War II radio dramas and argued that they were important sites where Americans navigated the return to peacetime conditions and the meanings of the social transformations that had taken place during the war for post-war life. Another interrogated how discourses of masculinity, civilization, and American exceptionalism circulate in American narratives about discovery, from the memoir of actual archaeologist Hiram Bingham to fictional archaeology Indiana Jones. A thesis from 2014, which won the Undergraduate Honors Program Thesis Prize, explored how YouTube is transforming extant assumptions about how media operate, from the distinctions between “amateur” and “professional” and “producer” and “consumer” to the mode of production that structures the creation of media texts. I am currently working with a student who has traced the evolution of depictions of violence on U.S. television, a study attentive both to the display of violence and its narrative function.

2. What do you look for and what are your expectations of undergraduates you select to conduct research under your guidance?

I typically want to work with students who have clear research questions and who have mapped a doable and appropriate plan to conduct research that would capably answer those questions. I expect that my advisees will be receptive to constructive criticism, will consult with me about the directions of their research, and will be ethical and responsible in their use of sources.

3. Describe your level of engagement and style in mentoring undergraduates.

I try to tailor my mentoring style to fit the student with whom I am working. Some of my students have wanted constant feedback and consultation on their work; others have been happy to check in every month or so to update me on the progress of their research. However, I consistently insist on reading thesis drafts as they progress and on pushing my students to see the revision process as critical to the writing process itself.

4. In your experience, how have your students improved or benefited as a result of their undergraduate research experience?

From my experience, students in the humanities who write a senior thesis benefit tremendously from the experience. It provides them an opportunity to delve far more deeply into a topic than is typically possible in a single course. It sharpens their critical thinking and writing skills. The experience also can help students determine if they would like to pursue graduate work in the humanities: some students fall in love with doing this sort of research, while others feel gratified for the opportunity, but learn that they do not wish to replicate the experience.

5. What have you learned or benefited from guiding undergraduate research or creative projects?

I always have learned a great deal from advising undergraduate research theses. Through working with students, I have been exposed to lines of historical research that I have not pursued myself and have been asked to look at contemporary media culture—such as quality TV shows or YouTube videos—through new and exciting frameworks.

I also often teach large lecture courses—upwards of 200 students—in which I get to know a few of my students, and to recognize most of their faces, but do not interact with them one-on-one consistently or deeply. Supervising undergraduate researchers has given me an invaluable opportunity to get to know our students and to better understand their questions, concerns, and premises.

6. What recommendations and advice would you give students embarking on undergraduate research or creative projects?

I would urge them to choose a topic that can sustain their interest, develop a doable research plan, and make sure they have access to the materials they need to answer their research question. I also would encourage them to talk to folks—faculty, fellow students, family members—about their research. Sometimes, our best ideas come from these kinds of conversations.

Research Interests: History of Broadcasting, Public Media, Media Policy and Activism, Media and Popular Memory

Faculty Profile:


Past Faculty Mentors of the Month

Dec. '16 Miryha Gould Runnerstrom
Nov. '16 Allison Perlman
Oct. '16 John Billimek
Sep. '16 Wayne B. Hayes
Aug. '16 Aimee Lara Edinger
Jul. '16 Katherine Mackey
Jun. '16 Daniel Whiteson
May. '16 Wirachin Hoonpongsimanont
Apr. '16 Michael T. Goodrich
Mar. '16 Lonnie R. Alcaraz
Feb. '16 Kimberley D. Lakes
Jan. '16 Rocío Rosales