First Place: Chelsea Gulinson, Embryonic Stem Cell Tourism
Second Place: Jameson Rammell, Polarizing Procedures: Transsexual Inmates, Sex Reassignment Surgery, and the Eighth Amendment
The Ross-Blakley Law Library at the Sandra Day O’Connor College of Law is pleased to announce the 2017 recipients of the Ross-Blakley Law Library Award for Exemplary Student Research. Chelsea Gulinson is the first place award recipient for her paper Embryonic Stem Cell Tourism. Jameson Rammell takes second-place honors for his paper Polarizing Procedures: Transsexual Inmates, Sex Reassignment Surgery, and the Eighth Amendment. Their papers demonstrate sophistication and originality in the use of research materials, exceptional innovation in research strategy, and skillful synthesis of research results into a comprehensive scholarly analysis. A review panel comprised of librarians Victoria Trotta and Beth DiFelice and Clinical Professor Kimberly Holst selected the winners from a number of very competitive entries.
Gulinson wrote her paper for Jurimetrics: The Journal of Law, Science, and Technology. Her desire to learn more about stem cells facilitated her selection of a paper topic: embryonic stem cell research and medical tourism. Professor Diane Bowman, her faculty advisor, helped her narrow down the specific research topic, and assisted her immensely throughout the entire writing process. Gulinson said the depth of research she conducted for this paper was unlike any research she had ever done.
She began with some Westlaw searches in order to find other journals with similar topics. Then she looked at the sources other journal papers used in order to help expand her research, a very wise strategy. Gulinson made good use of ASU Libraries online catalog and research databases to do her research. She primarily used published journal articles. However, the articles were often science-related or located in scientific journals rather than law journals. To interpret the scientific language, Gulinson extended her research to find definitions, descriptions, and illustrations of biological terms and functions. This was an exciting and new process for her, since she had not taken a science class in six years! In addition, she used legal journals, books, newspaper articles, and a variety of web pages as sources for her paper. The books included descriptive books about the stem cell process, as well as biological textbooks. The web pages varied from government pages, to regulatory agency pages, to pages about stem cells specifically. She also had to research state statutes, executive orders, and bills that had yet to be passed in Congress.
Overall, Gulinson’s engagement in the research process really taught her that a great deal of thorough and wide-ranging exploration into resources is necessary to produce a substantial and intelligent piece of writing. ” I learned just how much detail needs to go into a well-written journal article, not only to educate myself on the topic, but also to provide enough information to the reader.” Gulinson said, noting that the process was long, “I began researching and writing back in October—but well worth it. I am more confident in my research abilities, and know that I can research an unfamiliar topic, pull a variety of sources, and put together a cohesive, informative piece of writing.”
Last summer, our second place winner Jameson Rammell, toured a federal prison facility. As the tour came to a close, the guide mentioned that some prison facilities were struggling with whether transsexual inmates were legally entitled to sex reassignment surgery [SRS]. Rammell had never considered that question, and had no idea what the correct legal answer could be. Since he had to write a comment for the Arizona State Law Journal, Rammell thought it was the perfect opportunity to find out for himself.
Rammell began his research by seeking out cases dealing with the issue of his paper. He also sought legal articles written about the topic. Rammell found that the law articles typically did not contain in-depth medical research but in his opinion the question would likely turn on the medical necessity of SRS. This drove his research into personally uncharted territory. Rammell knew very little about medical journals, transsexualism, SRS, or prison security. He reached out to a University of Arizona professor who is an expert on issues of gender and human sexuality. The professor did not respond to his messages. Rammell was undeterred; he consulted the one book he remembered from his undergraduate abnormal psychology class, The Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders. He then turned his focus to the personal experiences and opinions of transsexual individuals. Google searches led him to personal accounts of individuals. Rammell felt it was best to at least seek to understand the issue from the point of view of those most affected by the outcome.
He then shifted into medical research mode. This was well beyond his area of expertise, but he found that online databases, such as PubMed, have a never-ending supply of excellent scholarly work, including research regarding SRS and transsexualism. Rammell spent a considerable amount of time reading through studies and surveys, with his focus eventually turning to treatment recommendations and alternatives to SRS. Rammell says, “Ultimately, my research was far-reaching and took me to corners of the Internet I did not know existed. I read European medical journals; articles quoting prison officials from the 1980’s; government regulations for transgender inmates, SRS price estimates, more cases and law review articles than ever planned on reading in my entire life, and a host of other materials.” He goes on to say, “I learned much more than I ever expected, including the value of being affiliated with a university like ASU that pays for such expansive access to various databases. I also learned to track my research, and keep URL’s for useful items.” Most importantly, Rammell recognizes the value of being thorough and objective. “With so much material available in the world, it would not be hard to find and present only the information needed to support a preconceived narrative. However, when dealing with difficult and complex topics, the value of objective, thorough research cannot be overstated.”