‘Reel Life Research Rams’ highlights the importance of student researchers

Editor’s note: The author, Rachel Bull, is a journalism and media communication major who is graduating this week. She served as a student communication specialist in the Office of the Vice President for Research and led the “Reel Life Research Rams” project, earning the Excellence in Journalism and Media Communication Award from her department upon graduation.

Colorado State University is home to some of the nation’s top researchers, and an entirely new generation follows in their footsteps. 

One of the students is Lars Mitchel, an athlete and Energy Institute researcher creating more efficient power generation systems. Olivia Birg studies romantic conflict at the College of Liberal Arts. Doctoral student Mohammad Teymouri, with the Walter Scott, Jr. College of Engineering, studies concrete in the College of Health and Human Sciences.  

What do they have in common? They are subjects of “Reel Life Research Rams,” a video series that looks at a day-in-the-life of six student researchers.  

Students play an active role in research, which is one of the appeals of coming to CSU. 

“Student researchers are extremely important contributors to CSU’s research enterprise,” said Colleen Webb, CSU vice provost for graduate affairs and dean of the Graduate School. “Faculty and staff have many other responsibilities and hence contribute to research in very important, yet different, ways, but students are largely the doers that move scientific discovery and creative artistry forward on our campus.” 

The Reel Life Research Rams are: 

  • Lars Mitchel, Walter Scott, Jr. College of Engineering  
  • Olivia Birg, College of Liberal Arts  
  • Kadin Samlaska, College of Natural Sciences  
  • Lauren Hennessey, College of Liberal Arts 
  • Mohammad Teymouri, College of Health and Human Sciences and Walter Scott, Jr. College of Engineering  
  • Madi de Vries, College of Natural Sciences

Watch their two-minute stories here. 

Creating Reel Life Research Rams 

We developed the Reel Life Research Rams project in the Office of the Vice President for Research as a six-part series that was prepared by students, about students, and for students. It was broadcast across CSU social media channels this spring semester, featuring student researchers in various disciplines. 

We began the project by asking college communications directors for suggestions. Then, we tracked these students down and selected six subjects from various colleges and departments. We filmed at their homes, with their friends, in the classroom and in labs. Videos were produced and edited with an emphasis on short-form storytelling for Instagram stories. So far, the stories have garnered more than 35,051 views on social media platforms.  

Highlighting student researchers 

The goal of the Reel Life Research Rams project was to showcase some of CSU’s brightest student researchers while exhibiting the wide scope of opportunities for students to translate what they learn in class to real-world research applications. These opportunities spark students’ curiosity and interest in their individual career paths. 

Kadin Samlaska studies biology in the College of Natural Sciences. Samlaska volunteers with the CSU biology teaching collection, supporting university research by preserving a baseline of historical biodiversity.  

“I came to CSU for undergraduate research opportunities, as there is a larger focus on undergrad research here than in a lot of other universities,” Samlaska said. “Getting to do research in your undergrad, I think, is vital to finding what you want to pursue for a larger career.”

Lauren Hennessey collects oral histories from CSU students who lived through the COVID-19 pandemic for future historians. 

“I enjoyed being featured in the Reel Life Research Rams series because I had the chance to show off research that I’m really proud of,” Hennessey said. 

The Reel Life Research Rams series highlighted these students’ contributions to the research enterprise and revealed what it means to be a student researcher at CSU. They were proud to share their work with a large audience, and we were thrilled to help them do it.