‘Double Hoo’ Awards Power Undergrad-Grad Student Research Pairs

Up close of a white statue of Thomas Jefferson

‘Double Hoo’ Awards Power Undergrad-Grad Student Research Pairs

This summer, pairs of University of Virginia student researchers will examine corrosion in aluminum alloys, probe the social and economic impact of large urban development in the Middle East and develop new therapies for multiple sclerosis.The University has awarded 20 “Double Hoo” research awards, which fund pairs of undergraduate and graduate students who collaborate on research projects. Each project is awarded up to $6,000 toward research expenses, plus $500 to compensate a faculty mentor.

This year’s winners were selected from a pool of 44 pairs of applicants. The research grants were funded through the Cornerstone Plan, which captures many student, faculty and staff aspirations, organized around the theme of leadership.

The funding will allow some students to continue research they have already started; for others, it will be an opportunity to expand what they have been doing or to start something new. Five renewal awards also were presented to winners from last year to help fund the presentation and continuation of their research.

“The Double Hoo Award fosters meaningful interactions between the University’s undergraduate and graduate students,” said Brian Cullaty, director of undergraduate research opportunities at UVA’s Center for Undergraduate Excellence. “The graduate students gain valuable mentoring skills that will serve them well in their future careers, and the undergraduate students benefit from the learning that comes from serious scholarly inquiry.

“The relationships also provide an opportunity for the undergraduate students to learn more about the life of a graduate student and inform their decisions as they consider their own future education,” he added.

Archie Holmes, UVA’s vice provost for educational innovation and interdisciplinary studies, said academic scholarship is one of the more exciting endeavors in which undergraduates can get involved at the University. 

“Our participation in the Gallup-Purdue University survey of college graduates has shown us the importance of having students engage in experiential learning,” Holmes said. “Such participation leads to our graduates finding fulfillment in daily work and interactions, having strong social relationships and access to the resources people need, feeling financially secure, being physically healthy and taking part in a true community.”

Holmes views undergraduate research as an excellent experiential learning activity for students because they learn to collect and assimilate information and knowledge needed to answer questions in their area of interest, think clearly through complex issues and present their findings in a clear manner. “These are important skills that are invaluable in whatever the student chooses to do in their professional and personal life,” he said.

And while undergraduate research generally involves students and a faculty mentor, the Double Hoo grants add another element.

“The Double Hoo program involves graduate students, many of whom will be the faculty of the future,” Holmes said. “In addition to working with undergraduates to define a research project, graduate students gain experience in supervising and mentorship – important skills for them when they enter the job market.”

This year’s Double Hoo winners are:

• Daniel Ajootian of Providence, Rhode Island, a second-year honors politics and English double major, and Jack Furniss of London, a fifth-year history graduate student, who are researching how the United States, Britain and France all moved from emancipation to empire during the 19th century. By examining six prominent individuals who made the journey from advocating anti-slavery to defending imperialism, their project asks why these nations rejected one form of racial subjugation, only to embrace another.

• Caroline Alberti of Blue Bell, Pennsylvania, a global studies environments and sustainability major with a French minor, and Fatmah Behbehani of Kuwait, a second-year doctoral student in the constructed environment program at the School of Architecture, who are researching massive urban development and new building projects in the Middle East and North African region to see how these projects turn out, who lives in them and what social and economic implications they have on people who live there.

• Pranav Baderdinni of Chantilly, a second-year biomedical engineering major focusing on pharmacology, and Adishesh K. Narahari of Manassas, a third-year M.D./Ph.D. student in the School of Medicine, who are investigating the role of Pannexin (Panx1), a purinergic signaling channel, or membrane receptor pathway, in the initiation and maintenance of neuropathic pain in several different mouse injury models. Neuropathic pain is a chronic pain state that can arise from direct nerve injury, diabetes and chemotherapy.

• Kari Byrnes of Nashville, a third-year cognitive science major, and Stephanie Melchor of Auburn, Alabama, a third-year graduate student in the School of Medicine’s molecular and cellular basis of disease program, who are experimenting with using a parasite infection model to study how inflammation in different parts of the body can lead to chronic muscle wasting, which is a major clinical problem in many cancer patients and patients with other kinds of chronic illness.

• Megan Chappell of Fredericksburg, a first-year biology major, and Anthony Fernandez-Castaneda of Pico Rivera, California, a fourth-year neuroscience graduate student, who will explore novel therapeutics for multiple sclerosis.

• Demitra Chavez of Richmond, a second-year psychology major with a bioethics minor, and Cat Thrasher of Alexandria, a first-year graduate student in developmental psychology, who will research the how mothers regulate their children’s emotions. In a two-part study, they will measure the effect of a mother’s presence on children’s risk-taking behaviors and brain responses in a group of young competitive gymnasts in an effort to determine how variations in early care-giver availability might change a child’s understanding of his or her environment in the long term.

• Lydia Erbaugh of Dayton, a first-year biomedical engineering major with a focus in neuroscience, and Nick Murphy of Apex, North Carolina, a third-year Ph.D. candidate in chemical engineering, who are researching a new bio-responsive, on-demand treatment for those with relapsing multiple sclerosis, immediately eliminating the damage done by a relapse before a patient can receive treatment.

• Raewyn Haines of Vienna, a second-year systems engineering major with a minor in materials science, and Matthew McMahon of Rochelle, Illinois, a second-year doctoral student in materials science, who are developing new analysis methods to investigate factors contributing to the stress corrosion cracking of naval-grade aluminum alloys.

• Kate Haynes of Springfield, a second-year neuroscience major, and Caroline Kelsey of Greenwich, Connecticut, a second-year Ph.D. student in developmental psychology, who are researching the neural underpinnings of pupil mimicry in infants using functional near-infrared spectroscopy, which measures the rapid delivery of blood to active neural tissue.

• Christina Kim of Fairfax, a second-year biomedical engineering major with a minor in American Sign Language and deaf culture, and Mark Rudolf of Rochester Hills, Michigan, a fourth-year graduate student in the Medical Scientist Training Program, who are researching the regeneration of sensory hair cells of the inner ear, which may aid future efforts to reverse hearing loss.

• Alex Levin of Troy, Michigan, a third-year double major in psychology and American studies, and Diane-Jo Bart-Plange of Kansas City, Missouri, a first-year graduate social psychology student, who will examine whether exposure to news coverage of police shootings of unarmed black victims has an effect on people’s race-related attitudes and behaviors, and what role emotional regulation plays in shaping these attitudes. Their project aims to use psychological research to shed light on the possible consequences of bearing witness to police violence.

• Mikayla Marraccini of Lynchburg, a second-year global public health and biology major, and Anna Way of Kalisz, Poland, a first-year biology graduate student, who will investigate, at the molecular level, how C. elegans, a nematode, allocates nutrients and energetic resources to either its reproductive tissues or to other tissues, with an eye toward better understanding more complex organisms, such as humans.

• Madeleine (Maddi) Mitchell of Richmond, a second-year psychology major, and N. Meltem Yucel of Istanbul, Turkey, a second-year developmental psychology Ph.D. student, who are researching whether emotions shape how people differentiate moral norms from conventional norms by comparing data from 2- to 4-year-olds to data for undergraduate students.

• Ahmed Osman of Fruitland, Maryland, a second-year civil and environmental engineering major, and Mohamad Alipour of Mashad, Iran, a third-year civil engineering doctoral candidate, who are researching innovative methods for assessing the condition of structures and developing camera-based sensors to monitor the health of critical infrastructure, such as bridges.

• Derek Richardson of Virginia Beach, a third-year biology and sociology double major, and Mary-Collier Wilks of Baton Rouge, Louisiana, a third-year graduate student in the sociology Ph.D. program, who will research how East Asian international non-governmental organizations work with community activists and other local organizations to achieve their missions in Phnom Penh, Cambodia. Richardson will focus on health-related NGOs seeking to ameliorate the HIV/AIDS situation in Cambodia, while Wilks will examine NGO projects in the areas of gender, education and economic development.

• Tsering Say of Annandale, a second-year political and social thought and economics double major, and Andrew Taylor of Houston, a second-year Ph.D. student in religious studies focusing on Buddhism, who are researching how the religious lives of Tibetan nuns and laywomen have changed as traditional Tibetan religious institutions (e.g. nunneries, monasteries) have changed.

• Lynette Sequeira of Richmond, a first-year biomedical engineering major, and Jessica Yuan of North Bethesda, Maryland, a third-year biomedical engineering graduate student, who will seek to develop a computational model to represent the effects of the tumor microenvironment on brain cancer cells.

• Daniel Song of Burke, a second-year chemistry major, and Fang Wang of Wenzhou, China, a second-year graduate student in chemistry, who are researching luminescence properties that can be observed using the naked eye, but analyzed by studying chemical structure alterations and electron density.

• Yifan Wang of Yancheng, China, a second-year political philosophy, policy and law and statistics double major, and Denise Deutschlander of Seattle, a Ph.D. candidate in sociology and an Institute of Education Sciences pre-doctoral fellow in the Curry School of Education, who are evaluating a randomized controlled trial that leverages the relationship parents have with college students to encourage low-income, first-generation and Latino students to seek out faculty and staff while in college and thereby increase college completion rates.

• Zeming (Eileen) Zheng of Chantilly, a second-year neuroscience major, and Robyn Sherman of Coto de Caza, California, a second-year biochemistry and molecular genetics graduate student, who are researching a potential cure for Rett syndrome, a childhood neurodevelopmental disorder that primarily affects females.

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