March 14, 2012 — Forty-six University of Virginia undergraduates have received funding to support their independent research this summer, including 44 who received 38 Harrison Undergraduate Research Awards and two more students who had their research underwritten by the Stull family of Dallas and the Finger family of Houston.
The awards support students who present detailed plans for research projects that have been endorsed by a faculty mentor. A Faculty Senate committee selected the winners, who receive up to $3,000. Faculty mentors who oversee the projects receive $1,000.
"There was a great deal of student interest in the Harrison Awards this year, and we received many interesting and strong proposals in a wide range of fields," said Lucy Russell, director of U.Va.'s Center for Undergraduate Excellence. "This is a testament to the important role of undergraduate research at U.Va. Students are excited about learning about the world through asking questions and making discoveries."
The projects span the humanities and social sciences, as well as the sciences and engineering. The topics include analyzing the effects of the French ban on the Islamic headscarf; examining the right of self-defense in U.S. legal history; understanding Makushi mathematical logic; studying the effects of cultural tourism in Peru; and cooking as a activity for adolescent empowerment.
"The Harrison Undergraduate Research Awards are one of the premier mechanisms for students at U.Va. to propose and engage in authentic and meaningful research experiences across a range of different academic disciplines – from history to biology to sociology to mechanical engineering and more," said Shayn Peirce-Cottler, an associate professor in the Department of Biomedical Engineering who chairs the Faculty Senate's Teaching, Research and Scholarship Committee. "Funded applicants will work individually or in teams and in collaboration with faculty mentors to pursue self-guided research projects that tackle some of the most innovative and provoking research questions coming out of our institution."
Research is a major part of learning, Russell said. "The Harrison Research Awards encourage undergraduates to think of research as an important component of their education. They allow students to engage in significant scholarly work with the guidance of a faculty adviser.
"I'm grateful to Harrison family for supporting this wonderful program, and to the many faculty members who help make it possible, whether by reviewing proposals or advising students," Russell said. "The Stull and Finger families are also important supporters of making research an important part of undergraduate education."
J. Milton Adams, vice provost for academic programs said research is a vital part of students' preparation for life beyond Grounds.
"They will now have an opportunity to create knowledge, to ask a question for which they may care deeply, and to do the sometimes difficult work to begin to answer that question," he said. "They will learn how we 'know' something, the limits of that knowledge and the excitement of each step toward an answer. Research, with its false starts and its successes, prepares these scholars for the next step in their life, no matter where that step may take them."
A majority of U.Va.'s undergraduates are engaged in some form of research, including classroom and independent work. Students who conduct research make better candidates for fellowships, graduate and professional school admissions, and career placement, Russell said.
Peirce-Cottler added, "As much as they create invaluable opportunities for students to learn and hone research skills, Harrison Awards facilitate high-quality research products, including peer-reviewed publications, presentations at national and international meetings, patents, and ultimately new knowledge, understanding and design solutions for the field and for our society at large."
This year's Harrison winners and their research topics:
• Jack Allan, 21, of Richmond, a third-year biology major in the College of Arts & Sciences, is seeking to further characterize the daily, cyclical activity of USP-22, a crucial protein relevant to the control of human gene expression.
• José Edwin Argueta Funes, 20, of San Salvador, El Salvador, a third-year history distinguished major and philosophy major in the College, is researching the Hawaii Land Reform Act of 1967.
• Katie Athaide, 20, of Atlanta, a third-year commerce major in the McIntire School of Commerce, is researching finance and entrepreneurship through cooking. She is conducting her research with fellow students Brooke Schuler and Wilson Hammett.
• Caleigh Azumaya, 20, of Chadds Ford, Pa., a third-year chemistry major in the College studying physiology, is researching mapping the synthesis and translocation of hyaluronan through its synthase.
• Rebecca Babski, 20, of Smithfield, a second-year biochemistry major in the College, is researching a manipulated form of curcumin, an antimutagent that can be made to fluoresce in the near-infrared region.
• Maria Bennici, 20, of Walkersville, Md., a third-year foreign affairs and French major in the College, is researching, with Samuel Carrigan, the "French Veil Ban: One Year Later."
• Jennifer Bergner, 20, McLean, a third-year chemistry major in the College with an environmental engineering minor, is researching emerging contaminants, including pharmaceutical drugs and personal care products, in water systems.
• Anna Brosnahan, 19, of Arlington, is a second-year chemistry major in the College, is researching tris(pyrazolyl)alkane ligands.
• Tyler Brobst, 21, of Woodbridge, a third-year biomedical engineering major in the School of Engineering and Applied Science, is researching retinal angiogenesis.
• Sam Carrigan, 20, of Newport News, a third-year government and philosophy double major in the College, is researching, with Maria Bennici, a ban the French put in place in 2011 on wearing face coverings – particularly Islamic veils – in public.
• Kelvin Chan, 20, of Brooklyn. N.Y., a third-year neuroscience major in the College, is researching developmental neuroscience.
• Michelle Choi, 20 of Fairfax, a third-year biology major in the College, is researching attempts to crystalize and determine the structure of ExbB, a Gram-negative bacterial membrane nutrient transport protein.
• James Drake, 20, of Warrenton, a third-year neuroscience major in the College, is researching a role for T cells in the transient opening of the blood-brain barrier in response to stress.
• David Dwyer, 21 of Richmond, a third-year neuroscience and biology major in the College, is seeking to synthesize a novel set of peptide reagents specific for class III β-tubulin isotype and its glutamylation states.
• Wilson Hammett, 20 of Blacksburg, a second-year anthropology major in the College, is researching, in partnership with Katie Athaide and Brooke Schuler, the empowerment of adolescent girls through cooking and nutrition classes. They are conducting their research through the Young Women's Leadership Program.
• Danielle Heffner, 21, of Orwigsburg, Pa., a third-year neuroscience major in the College, concentrating on developmental neurobiology, is researching the interaction between "pro-survival" and "pro-death" signaling pathways during sensory nervous system development and how an imbalance between these two signaling pathways can lead to pain hypersensitivity.
Lansdale Henderson, 22, of Upper Marlboro, Md., a third-year neuroscience major in the College, is researching adult neurogenesis, a natural mammalian phenomenon by which neural stem cells in the adult brain become functional neurons throughout life.
• Nathanael A. Hirscher, 18, of Manassas, a second-year chemistry major in the College, is researching new transition metal catalysts for hydrocarbon functionalization.
• Evelyn Kling, 20, of Richmond, a second-year English major in the College, is researching narrating cultures and reconciling differences within the Anglican Church.
• Christina Knippler, 20, of Fairfax, a third-year biology and music double major in the College, is researching recreating a protein complex (Mis18) found in the centromere of human chromosomes.
• Arjan Kool, 21, of Vienna, a third-year chemical engineering major in the Engineering School, is researching molecular simulations.
• Alyssa Long, 20, of Downingtown, Pa., a third-year biomedical engineering major with a minor in engineering business, is researching, with Tyler Brobst and Jessica Ungerleider, microvascular remodeling in the retina.
• Ari Mandell, 20, of Vienna, a third-year cognitive science and psychology major, concentrating on neuroscience, in the College, is researching cognitive aging.
• Katie Martin, 20, of Leesburg, a third-year biology major in the College, is researching a hamster mutant with a longer circadian rhythm than the normal 24 hours.
• Walker McKusick, 20, of Charlottesville, a third-year history and economics double major in the College, is researching the judiciary in the United Kingdom, particularly the decline of parliamentary sovereignty and the rise of judicial review of legislation.
• Abhinav R. Mohan, 20, of Fairfax, is a second-year chemical engineering major in the Engineering School researching the enhancement of thermal stability of an enzyme through site-specific incorporation of hydrophobic noncanonical amino acids.
• Lara Morris, 20, of Charlottesville, a third-year history major in the College is researching Roman bias and distortion of the historical sources on Alexander the Great.
• Amelia Katherine Nemitz, 20, of Potomac Falls, a third-year distinguished history and Spanish double major in the College, is researching the history of self-defense as an American legal concept.
Roy Elliott Oakley, 20, of Arlington, a third-year anthropology and economics double major in the College, is researching, with Caio Setubal, an alternate understanding of the numbers – how people think about counting and grouping the things they encounter – and notions of spatio-temporal orientation – how people understand their position within their community and broader world, including spirituality, and in relation to the past, present and future.
• Krista O'Connell, 20, of Virginia Beach, is a third-year global development studies and Latin American studies double major in the College researching the impact of cultural tourism.
• Jeff O'Dell, 32, of Martinsville, a third-year mechanical engineering and materials engineering double major in the Engineering School, is researching body armor.
• Jonathan Pan, 20, of Vienna, a third-year double major in biomedical engineering in the Engineering School and economics in the College, is researching laboratory cardiac imaging using MRIs.
• Michael Pokrass, 20, of Ashburn, a third-year biochemistry major in the College, is researching monoclonal antibody mediated complement-dependent cytotoxicity of malignant cells.
• Robert Richards, 20, of Wellesley, Mass., a second-year biology major in the College, is researching fungal disease on the alpine carnation.
• Brooke Schuler, 21, of Houston, a third-year American studies major with a leadership minor in the College, is researching cooking as an activity for adolescent empowerment. She is conducting this research with Katherine Athaide and Wilson Hammett.
• Caio Setubal, 20, of Blacksburg, a third-year anthropology and mathematics double major in the College, is researching indigenous Amazonian counting and number systems. He is conducting his research with Roy Oakley.
• Sneha Shah, 20, of Fairfax, a third-year neuroscience major in the College, is researching the neural changes the underlie obesity by characterizing the role of autophagy in the hypothalamus in regulating energy balance.
• Rowan Sprague, 20, of Richmond, is a third-year civil and environmental engineering major in the Engineering School researching the relationship between engineering and sustainable agriculture.
• Jessica Ungerleider, 20, of Vienna, a third-year biomedical engineering major in the Engineering School, is researching microvascular remodeling in the retina.
• John Joseph Vater, 21, of Oklahoma City, a third-year modern studies in English and South Asian studies major in the College, is researching how Dalits, the lowest caste in India, use Hindi literature to inculcate Dalit solidarity and challenge upper-caste Hindu hegemonic narratives in the mass media.
• Morgan Wagner, 20, of Crozier, a third-year biology major specializing in environmental and biological conservation in the College, is researching plant ecology and evolution.
• Julian Wills, 20, of Great Falls, a third-year psychology and cognitive science major in the College, is researching the intersection of psychology, religion and morality.
• Jueyu "Sherry" Wu, 20, of Suzhou, China, a third-year psychology and economics major in the College, is researching "flow," a state of optimal experience when people spend hours after hours doing things they like with intense concentration.
• Ellen Zhong, 19, of Vienna, a second-year chemical engineering major in the Engineering School, is researching nanoscale-level simulation of protein unfolding on chromatographic surfaces.
This year's Finger family research award winner is:
• Thomas Howard, 21, of Richmond, a third-year distinguished major in history [in the College, who is researching the ratification of the U.S. Constitution in North Carolina. His research is being unwritten by the Finger family of Houston.
This year's Stull family research award winner is:
• Isaac McBride, 21, a third-year classics and history major, focusing on archaic and early classical Greece, in the College, with a minor in religious studies, who is researching the origins of Spartan society by comparing its institutions with ones that seem similar in central Crete. His research grant is underwritten by the Stull family of Dallas.