Hands-on learning with results


The fall semester at Illinois College kicked off last week, with classes starting on Tuesday. For many students returning to the Hilltop, the summer break was an opportunity for deeper studies in their fields.

Over 30 IC students participated in student-faculty research through the College this summer, covering a wide range of subjects from early childhood development to human cranial capacity. Many of these students will share their findings with campus on Monday, September 11, 11:00 a.m. to noon, in the Bruner Concourse. The informal presentations will allow presenting students to interact with guests, answer questions and explain their work. Attending students will learn about different research areas they could pursue in future academic or summer semesters and how they can fund research with on-campus sources. Below is a sampling of student-faculty research that will be presented.  

Luigi Erba ’20 | Translation of Latin Letters by Medical Student Johann Albert Hinrich Reimarus, from the 1750s
Luigi Erba spent his summer in his native country of Italy, but the miles that separated him from Illinois College didn’t stop him from working on research with two IC professors. 

Erba worked with Dr. Almut Spalding, professor of modern languages and director of global programming, and Dr. Paul Spalding, Scarborough Professor of Religion, on part of a broader project studying a family that played a major role in the Enlightenment in Hamburg, Germany.

I plan eventually to study medicine and become a physician. Doing this research will help me develop a more comprehensive view of the history of medicine
Luigi Erba ’20

Erba’s  role in the  multi-disciplinary research was to translate, from Latin and Italian to English, 130 pages of text transcribed from letters written by medical student, Johann Albert Hinrich Reimarus, to his father in the 1750s. The handwritten letters were previously transcribed by Paul and Almut Spalding, working in an archive in Hamburg. Part of Erba’s role was to review his work with the help of a scholar of Latin in Italy. Almut and Paul Spalding collaborated over the summer by creating a database base of people and places found within the text, which was shared with Erba via Google Drive.

Luigi’s goal is to be a medical student, and this project is an Interesting combination of historical information along with the evolution of the medical field he is going into. It creates a real liberal arts background for a physician.
Almut Spalding, Professor of Modern Languages and Director of Global Programming

Naomi Niemann ’19 | The Beecher Collection: Digital Archiving from a Student’s Perspective
“The morning sun was rising above the eastern mountains and casting westward the gigantic Shadows of Rome.” 

From that first line of the previously unpublished manuscript of “Cornelia” by IC’s first President Edward Beecher, Naomi Niemann completed a transcription of over 300 pages of text as part of her student-faculty research this summer. 

This was Niemann’s second summer working on historical student-faculty research with Jenny Barker-Divine, associate professor of history. Over the past two years, through an internship and student-faculty research, Niemann has worked in the Khalaf Al Habtoor Archives with both Barker-Divine and Samantha Sauer, archivist of the Khalaf Al Habtoor Archives, curator of the Paul Findley Congressional Office Museum and assistant professor of history. Niemann has worked on “Cornelia” along with Beecher’s autobiography and a project to scan historical IC yearbooks to make them web accessible. She has also had general practice working in the archives and has become an authority in digitizing and transcribing an unpublished manuscript.

It’s kind of weird being called an expert when you are 20-years-old, but that support from faculty has given me confidence. This work has shaped me and opened doors to do what I want to do. I like coming to work every day.
Naomi Niemann ’19

The completed transcriptions are now available online in the Shared Shelf database, as part of the Beecher Family Collection. In June, Niemann shared her experience during a faculty workshop called Archives à la Carte at the Khalaf Al Habtoor Archives. She continues her work in the archives this semester and hopes to be able to share her knowledge with incoming students passionate about pursuing similar work. 

“That’s a big part of finding meaning in your work: does it have impact? It’s one aspect of this project that I’m in awe of,” said Niemann. “My work is accessible online for anyone to read. Any scholar from across the world that’s wanting to learn more about these topics can use my work.”
To learn more about student-faculty research at Illinois College, visit

About Illinois College

Founded in 1829, Illinois College is a residential liberal arts college fostering academic excellence rooted in opportunities for experiential learning while preparing students for lifelong success. The college is located in Jacksonville, Illinois. With an enrollment of more than 1,000 students, the college offers over 50 undergraduate programs. In 1932, the society of Phi Beta Kappa established a chapter at Illinois College, and it remains one of only 11 in the state.

Illinois College is accredited by the Higher Learning Commission of the North Central Association.

Visit for more information.

Media Contact Information
Emily Titsworth '19, Writer
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