April 23, 2012 — The University of Virginia has awarded eight "Double-'Hoo" research awards, which fund pairings of undergraduate and graduate students who collaborate on research projects.
Each project is awarded up to $5,000 toward research expenses, plus $500 for a faculty mentor. This year's winners were selected from a pool of 49 applicants.
"This award provides a great opportunity for undergraduate-graduate student pairs to propose and carry out significant research projects," said Lucy Russell, director of U.Va.'s Center for Undergraduate Excellence. "We're looking for solid research proposals in which the undergraduate and graduate researchers are both active members of the team, and the graduate student is prepared to take on an important mentoring role. Although this year's selected projects are concentrated in engineering and the sciences, we welcome proposals from all fields, including pairs of students from different disciplines."
This year's awards are funded by the Jefferson Trust, the College and Graduate School of Arts & Sciences, the Associate Vice President for Graduate Studies, the School of Engineering and Applied Science and a private donor.
"Through this experience, the undergraduate student has the opportunity to learn and employ cutting-edge research techniques and tools from a more experienced student," said Shayn Peirce-Cottler, associate professor in the Department of Biomedical Engineering. "In turn, the graduate student learns how to teach these techniques, which has the beneficial consequence of increasing his or her own proficiency and acumen in the lab or in the field.
"We frequently find that these synergistic partnerships create new dialogues that expand the relevance and impact of the work as a whole; the net gain is always bigger than the sum of the parts."
This year's awardees include pairs researching climate change, developing antibiotics for combating infectious diseases, studying cancer and working to battle obesity.
This year's winners are:
• Stewart Moxley Walker, 20, of Richmond, a third-year double major in civil and environmental engineering in the School of Engineering and Applied Science and psychology in the College of Arts & Sciences; and Bo Liang, 22, of Heze, China, a first-year graduate student in environmental engineering. They are researching carbon dioxide capture and sequestration, a promising technology to mitigate climate change.
• Jennifer Tomlinson, 22, of Gainesville, Fla., a third-year chemistry major specializing in biochemistry in the College and Alexandra Marshall, 23, of Batavia, N.Y., a first-year chemistry graduate student. They are researching medicinal chemistry to developing antibiotics for combating infectious diseases.
• Colette Gnade, 21, of Waukee, Iowa, a third-year chemistry major specializing in biochemistry in the College and Aravinda Kuntimaddi, 28, of Sterling, a Ph.D. candidate in biophysics. They are researching the structural and functional properties of proteins driving the dysregulating of cells that lead to cancer, specifically leukemogenesis.
• Alexandra Fletcher-Jones, 20, of Lexington, Mass., a third-year neuroscience major in the College, and Christine van Hover, 25, of Annapolis, Md., a second-year neuroscience graduate student. They are researching the effect of exercise on the hypothalamus, the central regulator of energy balance in the brain, specifically with respect to Urocortin 3, a peptide found in the hypothalamus.
• Bailey Risteen, 19, of Glastonbury, Conn., a second-year chemical engineering major in the Engineering School, and Eric Schindelholz, 32, of St. Francis, Minn., a third-year graduate student in materials science and engineering. They are researching the role atmospheric contaminants play in the corrosion and the durability of structural metals.
• Cheng-Yu Shih, 21, of Taipei, Taiwan, a second-year engineering and physics major, and Chengping Wu, 26, of Anqing, Anhui, China, a fifth-year physics graduate student. They are focusing on the atomic-level simulation of short-pulse, laser-metal interaction.
• Natalie Powers, 20, of Chesapeake, a second-year biomedical engineering major, and Geoffrey Handsfield, 26, of Morehead City, N.C., a third-year biomedical engineering Ph.D. student. They are researching biomechanics focusing on the biomechanical adaptations that occur during the long-term transition to barefoot running.
• Sarah Hansen, 19, of Pittsford, N.Y., a first-year student applying to be a biomedical engineering majo in the Engineering School, and Bryan Piras, 29, of Charlottesville, a biomedical engineering graduate student, are researching cardiac gene therapy in a mouse model of left ventricular remodeling.
— By Matt Kelly