Honors Independent Research Study

Students presenting research at private school in Memphis

Explore your passion

Honors Independent Research Study (HIRS) is a unique opportunity for rising seniors to conduct an original, engaging research project of their choosing. As a HIRS student, you will begin your research project at the end of the spring term working with Dr. Anna Bess Sorin (HIRS Director) to identify an expert in their field with whom you will engage in hands-on work over the summer. During the fall semester at St. Mary's, you'll work with Dr. Sorin to prepare a research paper and oral presentation. This experience allows students to complete college-level research over six months while making meaningful connections within a field that interests them.

The best part of HIRS is that you get to tackle the questions that interest you. Past participants have looked at a variety of topics including:

  • Inequities in the juvenile justice system
  • Insurance as a health disparity in diabetes
  • Analysis of calcium oxalate rock coatings and their origin
  • Role of public art as a response to health crises
Students presenting research

Amelia Dowling ’22 (center) conducted interdisciplinary research on the origins of the calcium oxalate coating found on rock and rock art with a professor and students at Rhodes College. “Our samples were from the Lower Pecos Canyonlands in Texas, but the coating is found all over the world,” Amelia said. “We worked with the hypothesis that the coatings were formed through atmospheric aerosols that react with the calcium in the limestone substrate. What we found, is that their origin is probably a mix of aerosols and biogenic activity from lichens on the rock’s surface, which has been the predominant theory. It was an amazing experience and I’m even going to be a co-author on the paper when it gets published this summer.” Amelia presented the research at the regional American Chemical Society conference and the National Society of American Archaeologists conference.



HIRS helped me develop better communication skills, allowed me to interact with individuals working in the field I am interested in, exposed me to the process of conducting a research project, and taught me how to write a full scientific research paper and give a professional final presentation. HIRS gives students the opportunity to go into a ‘real-world’ setting. It is a unique experience for a 17-year-old.Carrington Davis ’22
researched health literacy and patient outcomes at Campbell Clinic

Watch the 2022 HIRS Symposium