Double Hoo Research: Undergrads and Grads Team Up to Create Knowledge

Students sitting on the grass in front of the Rotunda

Photo by Sanjay Suchak, University Communications

When you pair graduate students with undergraduates, what do they talk about? In the case of the University of Virginia’s Double Hoo Awards, they discuss interactive machine learning, the genesis of false memories, how the brain controls infection and politicization in the field of intelligence, among other things.

This year, UVA awarded 21 Double Hoo Awards to new pairings of undergraduates and graduate student mentors, with the teams receiving up to $6,000. One team from last year’s recipients was awarded a renewal to continue their research, receiving $3,000 in support. The Double Hoo Award is funded by the Robert C. Taylor Fund.

“We love seeing the ways that these student pairs have come together to pursue research and creative inquiry,” Andrus G. Ashoo, director of the Office of Undergraduate Research, said. “The funded projects represent disciplines across the institution and are pursuing some fascinating questions. It gets me excited for next year’s research symposium, where they will all present.”

Rotunda Logo with the Text UVA

While undergraduate research is typically done in close collaboration with faculty members, the Double Hoo Awards add another element: the involvement of a graduate student mentor who plays a key role in defining the project. In the Double Hoo process, the undergraduate student submits the application with a project proposal and budget and identifies a graduate student with whom he or she will work. The graduate student also submits a statement of mentorship as part of the application process.

“Not only will the research these students pursue be valuable to their development intellectually, it will also help these students professionally and socially as they learn to navigate a new relational dynamic,” Ashoo said. “In addition, an opportunity like this can be an experience that helps to clarify questions that the undergraduate or graduate might have about their future goals. For the graduate students, this is an invaluable opportunity to develop as a mentor, learning to provide supervision and incorporating the undergraduate into the larger project goals. This experience will be important, whether they go on to roles in academia, industry or public service.”

This year’s Double Hoo recipients are:

  • Austin Amacher of Alexandria, a second-year biomedical engineering student, and Beverly Miller of Portland, Oregon, a graduate student in chemical engineering, who will research using hydrogel-nanoparticle composites to improve the efficiency of localized antibiotic delivery.
  • Mithra Dhinakaran of Fairfax County, a second-year economics and global security and justice double major, and Alexis Jihye Yang of Seoul, South Korea, a Ph.D. candidate in foreign affairs, who will research re-contextualizing successful outcomes for militant organizations in conflict to expand the scope of how the end of conflicts should be understood, and to help close the gap between academic discussions and real-life implications to widening this definition.
  • Isabella Dressel of Clifton, a first-year student, and Mary Angelique Demetillo of Union, New Jersey, an environmental sciences graduate student, who will research applying satellite measurements in evaluating air pollution, specifically comparing airborne nitrogen dioxide measurements to satellite measurements and identifying the causes of high nitrogen dioxide events in New York City.
  • Sai Gajula of Brambleton, a second-year neuroscience major with a minor in statistics, and Yen Nguyen of Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam, a Ph.D. candidate in microbiology, immunology and cancer biology, who will research microglia, the sole immune cells of the central nervous system that both defend and shape its neuronal networks, and how Ras, a fundamental signaling protein, impacts the cell’s behavior.
  • Garvey Goulbourne of Atlanta, a second-year global development studies and foreign affairs major, and Matthew Slaats of Charlottesville, a graduate student in the constructed environment in the School of Architecture, who will explore the mechanisms Black communities can use to combat oppression and how Black-led cooperatives have grown and developed in the past.
  • Caroline Holliday of Nashville, a second-year neuroscience major with an entrepreneurship minor, and Hannah Ennerfelt of Salisbury, Maryland, a neuroscience Ph.D. student, who will research microglia, the immune cells of the brain, a cell type recently implicated in Alzheimer’s disease severity, to prevent and slow the progression of the disease.
  • Anupama Jayaraman of Fairfax, a second-year chemical engineering major, and Keka Mandal of Mumbai, India, a Ph.D. student in chemical engineering, who will seek to construct a model to predict the range of conditions under which used platinum catalysts can be regenerated to maximize their use.
  • Erica Kem of Woodbridge, a second-year global studies major on a global public health track, and Alexander Ball of San Ramon, California, a microbiology graduate student, who will research metabolic changes in the lymph node after vaccination.
  • Anne Kickert of Leesburg, a first-year student in the College, and Jessica Swoboda of Hanover Township, Pennsylvania, a Ph.D. student in English, who will research the ineffability of aesthetic experience.
  • Kasra Lekan of Irvine, California, a first-year student planning to major in computer science and economics, and Mark Alan Rucker of Charlottesville, a graduate student in systems engineering, who will research a foundation for interactive machine learning known as Contextual Bandit Applications.
  • Ariel Liu of Sterling, a dual major in kinesiology and computer science, and Faten Hasan of Alexandria, an exercise physiology graduate student, who will research the effects of high- versus medium-intensity exercise on attenuating postprandial triglyceride levels after a high-fat meal.
  • Samuel Adrian Mamaril of Manila, Philippines, a second-year foreign affairs and commerce major with a data analytics minor, and Christopher Dictus of Green Bay, Wisconsin, a politics graduate student, who will research intelligence briefs from the Kennedy administration to the Ford administration to understand the degree of interference by politicians in the field of intelligence, to determine how national security policy changes between administrations.
  • Sarita Mehta of Austin, Texas, a third-year politics honors major with a psychology minor, and Jaclyn Lisnek of Buffalo Grove, Illinois, a Ph.D. student in social psychology, who will research conversations about race and the interaction of anxiety and humility, specifically materials that can be expanded to wider audiences, as well as rigorously testing those materials.
  • William Meyer of Chicago, a second-year computer science and cognitive science student, and Isabelle Moore of Charlottesville, a cognitive psychology Ph.D. student, who will research the genesis of false memories, to provide insights into how memories can become distorted.
  • Austin Nguyen of Falls Church, a second-year biology and psychology major with a minor in data analytics, and Jessica Gettleman of Paradise Valley, Arizona, a cognitive psychology graduate student, who will seek a better understanding of the factors that contribute to cross-race misidentifications in criminal cases, with the ultimate goal of reducing the occurrence of these misidentifications as well as false convictions that result from them.
  • Lauren O’Neil of Richmond, a political philosophy, policy and law major with minors in sociology and public policy, and Julia Stamper of Goldsboro, North Carolina, a student in the School of Law, who will research the successes and shortcomings of Albemarle County’s kinship care policy, to be utilized in legislative campaigns on the state level to pursue more robust kinship care policies with a goal of mitigating the emotional and psychological burdens experienced by children and families in the child welfare system.
  • Medha Prakash of Portland, Oregon, a second-year environmental science and statistics major with a mathematical statistics concentration and an astronomy minor, and Marion McKenzie of Lancaster, Pennsylvania, an environmental sciences graduate student, who will research the Cordilleran Ice Sheet and the nature of its retreat by examining the various geologic signatures it has left in the Puget Lowland in Washington state.
  • Arnaldo Sandoval-Guerrero of Houston, a second-year youth and social innovation and public policy and leadership double major, and Melissa Lucas of Manassas, an educational psychology-applied developmental science graduate student, who will research race-ethnicity, parent-child and teacher-child relationships and equity, with a particular focus on inequalities in educational opportunities available to minoritized students.
  • Ish Sethi of Chantilly, a second-year neuroscience major, and Maureen Cowan of Charlottesville, a Ph.D. student in neuroscience with a neuroimmunology concentration, who will research how the brain, a classically defined “immune-privileged” organ, is able to effectively mount an immune response against a brain parasite known to chronically infect a large portion of the human population.
  • Alex Taing of Midlothian, a second-year biomedical engineering with a computer science minor, and Lauren Pruett of Weaverville, North Carolina, a biomedical engineering graduate student, who will research optimization of a hydrogel scaffold using agent-based modeling to improve diabetic wound healing.
  • Charan Vemuri of Falls Church, a second-year biology major, and Tan Truong of Los Angeles, a Ph.D. candidate in cell and developmental biology, who will research the mechanisms that resolve merotelic attachments that essentially result in cancers, the most prominent being breast tumors.

One of last year’s projects has been renewed for a second year:

  • Isaani Patnaik of South Riding, a third-year biology major with a psychology minor, and Nicholas Dunham of Smithfield, a biochemistry and molecular genetics graduate student, who are researching how human diseases originate and spread within an individual, and in particular the role for TAL1, a transcription factor, in acute myeloid leukemia relapse pathogenesis.

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