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Research

The College of Humanities and Sciences develops and advances nationally recognized student and faculty scholarship, research and creative initiatives committed to addressing challenges in our urban Richmond community and beyond.

We aim to become a leader in integrating meaningful engagement with real-world challenges that support the development of global citizens.

Student research

We have many faculty who are internationally recognized experts in their fields. In the College of Humanities and Sciences, we prioritize student engagement and interaction with faculty. We don't just want you to help with research, we want you to lead.

The diversity of our research means students can obtain hands-on experience in many different areas in order to find their passion. Many CHS faculty conduct community engaged research, which allows students the opportunity to conduct research that has a meaningful, positive impact on VCU and our Richmond community.

3,074 undergraduates engaged in experiential learning and research in 2018-19. This is what makes learning at VCU special and sets us apart.

Student research in the news:

Thea Cheuk at Warner Bros. Studio in Burbank, California
Student’s research leads to DC Comics internship
The research paper Thea Cheuk wrote last spring on the DC Comics character Dick Grayson did more than combine Cheuk’s interests in graphic arts and gender studies, it also led to a coveted internship at one of the comic industry’s largest publishers.
Datum 2019, presented by the Race, Space, and Place Initiative, and the Institute of Contemporary Art. Scholars! Practitioners! Artists! Citizens! What are the root causes of the social problems that animate the way you work, learn, build, and resist in your research and your everyday experiences?
Race, Space and Place unConference comes to VCU November 15-17
The unConference is the inaugural convening of scholars, students, practitioners, artists, curators and community members interested in reimagining scholarship, community and impact in the digital age.
Sarah Izabel
Student’s rise as a researcher takes her from law school in Brazil to an NIH lab
Sarah Izabel discovered Virginia Commonwealth University one frigid day when she just wanted to come in from the cold. Bundled up and shivering, she and a friend were walking near VCU in the winter of 2010 when they stumbled upon the University Student Commons and stepped inside to warm up. Izabel and her friend were both from Brazil, and were in the United States to improve their English and explore opportunities in the country. Unfamiliar with the area, they had never heard of VCU and didn’t understand what it was, but Izabel found herself immediately drawn to it.
glass of liquor next to a book
What predicts college students’ drinking habits? How much they think others are drinking.
A new study by VCU researchers examines students’ genetic risk of alcohol use, roommates’ drinking habits and the perception of peer drinking.
La'Tila Abbott
Class of 2019: Entrepreneur and biology graduate driven by a personal mission
Being diagnosed with alopecia areata at age 16 inspired in La'Tila Abbott a passion for health sciences that eventually led her to VCU. Abbott will graduate in May with a biology degree.
American Civil War Museum
History grad students’ Civil War research will be on display at American Civil War Museum’s grand opening
When the new American Civil War Museum at Historic Tredegar officially opens its doors on Saturday, May 4, visitors will have an opportunity to check out new scholarly research conducted by Virginia Commonwealth University history graduate students about the Civil War and how it is remembered.
Caitlin Cain in a chemistry lab
Chemistry and Forensic Science student receives prestigious NSF graduate fellowship
Caitlin Cain, a senior majoring in chemistry and forensic science, has been awarded a National Science Foundation Graduate Research Fellowship, which recognizes and supports outstanding graduate students in science, technology, engineering and mathematics disciplines who are pursuing research-based master's and doctoral degrees.
student with the heading 'research weeks'
Humanities and Sciences students shine during Research Weeks
As part of Research Weeks (April 5-26), VCU News is highlighting the work of undergraduates whose work was made possible by VCU’s Undergraduate Research Opportunities Program, Department of Biology, Division for Community Engagement and guidance from faculty members.
History graduate student Josh Dow (left) and Eric Johnson, head of innovative media at VCU Libraries, prepare to use a technique called photogrammetry to capture a 3D image of a wooden game at Agecroft Hall & Gardens. (Photo by Brian McNeill, University Public Affairs)
Joshua Dow is creating 3D images to make Agecroft Hall’s collection more accessible
Sitting on a rotating turntable is a small wooden game called Nine Men's Morris, part of the collection of Agecroft Hall & Gardens, a historic house museum within a Tudor manor that was brought to Richmond in the 1920s piece by piece from Manchester, England.

Faculty research

Our faculty conduct research on an extraordinarily diverse set of topics, ranging from the understanding of the histories of Native American people, to addressing inequality and disparities in education, to climate change and the development of alternative and efficient energy sources.

CHS faculty regularly win a variety of prestigious awards, fellowships and scholarships, including Woodrow Wilson fellowships and Fulbright scholarships. They also hold some of the largest grants at VCU, including center grants from the Centers for Disease Control to prevent youth violence and from the Federal Drug Administration and National Institutes of Health to understand the health consequences of e-cigarettes and the impact of policies put in place to regulate them.

Faculty research in the news:

Brooke Newman alongside the book cover for
Newman's book announced as finalist for the 2019 Frederick Douglass Book Prize
This coveted annual prize recognizes the best book on slavery, resistance and/or abolition published in the preceding year.
Datum 2019, presented by the Race, Space, and Place Initiative, and the Institute of Contemporary Art. Scholars! Practitioners! Artists! Citizens! What are the root causes of the social problems that animate the way you work, learn, build, and resist in your research and your everyday experiences?
Race, Space and Place unConference comes to VCU November 15-17
The unConference is the inaugural convening of scholars, students, practitioners, artists, curators and community members interested in reimagining scholarship, community and impact in the digital age.
Jeff W. Atkins, Ph.D., a post-doctoral researcher in VCU's Department of Biology, uses a lidar system to collect data in a forest at VCU's Rice Rivers Center in 2016
Structurally complex forests better at carbon sequestration
A new study led by VCU researchers may have implications for mitigation of climate change.
Jeanine Guidry and Nicole O'Donnell
Media+Health Lab wins presidential research grant
The $49,689 award has been given for the research project "#Doesanybodycare: Encourage suicide-related bystander behavior on Instagram."
a shelf full of liquor bottles at a bar
Genetically at-risk youth can lower risk of alcohol problems by taking part in prevention program
A VCU-led study has found that participating in a family based prevention program during adolescence reduces the likelihood that people with a genetic predisposition to alcohol problems develop those problems as an adult.
Peter Barr
Romantic partnerships mitigate influence of genetic predisposition to alcohol consumption
Yet relationships’ “protective effect” against high-risk drinking is limited to men, according to a new study in Addiction led by a postdoctoral researcher in the Department of Psychology.
Katharine Moore Tibbetts, Ph.D., an assistant professor in the Department of Chemistry, operates laser beams in her lab that serve as a “camera” that captures the motions of individual energetic molecules on the femtosecond timescale.
Professor receives U.S. government’s highest honor bestowed to early career scientists and engineers
A chemistry professor is a recipient of the Presidential Early Career Award for Scientists and Engineers, the highest honor bestowed by the U.S. government to outstanding scientists and engineers who are beginning their independent research careers and who show exceptional promise for leadership in science and technology.
glass of vodka with a heart motif applique
Love and alcohol: Romantic relationships can influence genetic predispositions for alcohol problems
How do the people we love shape our drinking? Researchers know that genetic and environmental factors influence alcohol outcomes such as abuse or dependence. However, romantic relationships can alter the impact of those genetic influences.
Albert Ksinan
Study finds ‘robust evidence’ of persistent racial and ethnic disparities in discipline in secondary schools across the United States
Albert Ksinan found that African American students and students self-identifying as two or more races were at greater risk for discipline actions across all disciplinary measures in both middle and high schools.
U.S. Supreme Court
Supreme Court’s redistricting decision may be ‘most important development in Virginia politics in a generation’
VCU Professor Alex Keena, Ph.D., said the Supreme Court’s decision in Virginia House of Delegates v. Bethune-Hill delivers a major structural advantage to Democrats in the General Assembly elections.
Amy Rector, Ph.D., and Omar Abdullah show off hominin teeth fossils that they found in the Afar region of Ethiopia.
Anthropology professor receives NSF grant to study humans’ early ancestors
Amy Rector, Ph.D., is part of a team conducting research in Ethiopia where the oldest Homo fossil and earliest stone tools have been found.
Jason Reed
A simple, fast and less-costly approach to diagnosing blood cancers?
Physics Professor Jason Reed and Massey Cancer Center researchers are studying the viability of ‘DNA barcoding’ under a grant from the Commonwealth Health Research Board.
sheet music
Who was Mr. Baptiste? A VCU professor’s investigation may have just proven the identity of the world’s first black published composer.
The author of this sheet music in “A Voyage to the Islands Madera, Barbados, Nieves, S. Christophers and Jamaica” is known only as "Mr. Baptiste." VCU professor Mary Caton Lingold, Ph.D., has uncovered documents that suggest Baptiste was a black musician and composer.
book cover: A little child shall lead them (three students looking at a sign in front of a school that says,
‘A Little Child Shall Lead Them’: Inside Prince Edward County’s battle for school desegregation
A new book co-edited by a Virginia Commonwealth University history professor offers a different perspective on the battle for — and against — educational opportunity in Prince Edward County, Virginia.
A teenager with an anxious look on her face in the dark
Facing fears: How exposure therapy can help children with anxiety
Michael A. Southam-Gerow, chair of VCU’s Department of Psychology, discusses his new book, “Exposure Therapy with Children and Adolescents.”
VCU alumna Ashley McCuistion pilots a drone to take photographs of the Robert E. Lee monument that will be used to create a 3D model. (Photo by Brian McNeill, University Public Affairs)
A VCU lab and Virginia nonprofit are using drones to create 3D models of Monument Avenue’s monuments
A drone piloted by Ashley McCuistion is circling the Robert E. Lee monument on Richmond’s Monument Avenue, taking detailed photographs that will allow her to create a 3D digital model of the controversial monument.
books on library shelves
Eminent Scholars announced for 2019-20
The College of Humanities and Sciences Eminent Scholars program serves to recognize mid-career faculty scholars and reward them for their scholarly contributions to their discipline, the College and the university.
Tressie Cottom
Cottom to receive prestigious early career award from American Sociological Association
Tressie McMillan Cottom, Ph.D., an assistant professor in the Department of Sociology in the College of Humanities and Sciences, has been named the recipient of the Doris Entwisle Early Career Award of the American Sociological Association section on Sociology of Education.
Paul Perrin
Psychology professor edits special journal issue on disability and social justice in rehabilitation research
A special issue of the journal Rehabilitation Psychology edited by a Virginia Commonwealth University psychology professor explores disability and social justice in rehabilitation research.
Brooke Newman
Newman’s book wins gold medal 2019 Independent Publisher Book Award
“A Dark Inheritance: Blood, Race, and Sex in Colonial Jamaica,” (Yale University Press) by Brooke N. Newman, Ph.D., an associate professor in the Department of History in the College of Humanities and Sciences, has won a 2019 Independent Publisher Book Award.
Cristina Stanciu
English professor receives Fulbright award to teach, conduct research in Romania
Cristina Stanciu, Ph.D., an English professor at Virginia Commonwealth University, has received a prestigious Fulbright U.S. Scholar award to teach in Romania for one year and to conduct research for a new book manuscript, “Archives of Memory and Survival: Indigenous Representation in Residential School Literature and Film.”