University of Virginia Awards 37 Undergraduate Research Awards

February 24, 2010

February 24, 2010 — Thirty-five University of Virginia undergraduates have received Harrison Undergraduate Research Awards, which will assist them in conducting independent research during the summer.

Two other students have had their research underwritten by the Stull family of Dallas and the Finger family of Houston.

Harrison Awards support students who present detailed plans for independent study research projects that have been endorsed by a faculty mentor. Members of the Faculty Senate, working with other scholars, select the winners. Students receive up to $3,000, and the faculty mentor who oversees the project receives $1,000.

The proposed research projects span the humanities and social sciences, as well as science and engineering. The selected students' research topics are diverse, with project titles ranging from "Edible Rain Gardens: A Multi-Faceted Approach to Community Food Systems and Stormwater Management" to "Impact of Microfinance on Women in the Southern Atlantic Autonomous Region of Nicaragua" to "Investigation into the Physio-Chemical Properties of Inclusion Membrane Protein A of Chlamydia Trachomatis Through 2-D Nuclear Magnetic Resonance Structural Studies."

"The Harrison Undergraduate Research Awards are a perfect example of the unique and personalized research environment at U.Va.," said Pamela Norris, professor of mechanical and aerospace engineering, who chairs the Faculty Senate's Research and Scholarship Committee. "This program allows undergraduates complete access to the labs, tools and intellects of our faculty while having the opportunity to complete their own independent research."

"The Harrison Awards have worked as a catalyst to stimulate others to give generously to the University to support undergraduate research," said Lucy Russell, director of the Center for Undergraduate Excellence. "The Stull family and Finger family have followed this lead by creating their own research awards."

Norris said many of the research projects were student-initiated. 

"These awards give our students a competitive advantage over students from elsewhere," Norris said. "They have the opportunity to personally conceive of a research problem, conduct the research under the advisement of our faculty, and to then publicly present their research to the University community."

Research is also a major part of learning.

"Performing a significant, independent research project with a faculty member can be an experience that our students recall as one of their best at U.Va.," said J. Milton Adams, vice provost for academic programs. "They get to ask a question no one has answered before and do the hard work to try to make progress toward an answer. Student inquiry and discovery can be a motivating and exciting way to educate themselves and to apply and deepen what they learn in their classes."

"The Harrison Research Awards encourage undergraduates to think of research as an important component of their education," Russell said. "They allow students to engage in significant scholarly work with the guidance of a faculty adviser. This is a wonderful program made possible through the generosity of the Harrison family."

More than 50 percent of U.Va. 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.

"Research adds real depth to the educational experience," she said. "Students learn from the entire process, from formulating the initial inquiry and writing a proposal all the way through analyzing what they have found and presenting their conclusions. The excitement of discovery benefits us all. We are so fortunate that our students have this opportunity available to them."

This year's award winners and their research topics are:

• Katherine L.M. Becker, 21, of Virginia Beach, an art history major, "God of Two Lame Legs: Divinity and Deformity in Ancient Greek Art."

• Reginald G. Benbow, 20, of Baltimore, majoring in a political and social thought and African-American studies, with a minor in Middle Eastern studies, "California Fault Lines: Black Americans and Proposition 8."

• Kerri Coon, 20, of Springfield, a biology and biostatistics double major, "Pathogen Dispersal Patterns Across the Range Limit of a Disease."

• Michael Downey, 21, of Blacksburg, double major in anthropology and environmental thought and practice, "Edible Rain Gardens: A Multi-Faceted Approach to Community Food Systems and Stormwater Management."

• Walid El-Nahal, 20, of Cairo, Egypt, a chemical engineering major, "The Utility and Optimization of Molecular Dynamics Simulations in the HIV-RT Inhibitor Susceptibility to Mutation."

• Max Friedfeld, 20, of Vienna, an environmental chemistry major, "New Catalysts for the Oxidative Hydroarylation of Olefins: Catalyst Development and Mechanistic Studies."

• Catherine Hartmann, 20, of Oldwick, N.J., a religious studies and South Asian studies major, "Conception, Differentiation and Representatives of Space at the Khachoe Drubling Monastery."

• Mary Olivia Hutton, 20, of Madbury, N.H., an environmental sciences major, "Food Supply and Nitrogen Dynamics in a Tanzanian Village."

• Andrew Jehl, 20, of Memphis, Tenn., a government and economics major, "Understanding the Vote Motive: A Study of Participation Economics in the 2008 Presidential Election."

• Ashley Keller, 21, of Midlothian, a chemistry major with specialization in biochemistry and a minor in biology, "Investigation into the Physio-chemical Properties of Inclusion Membrane Protein A of Chlamydia Trachomatis Through 2-D Nuclear Magnetic Resonance Structural Studies."

• Robin Kendall, 21, of Woodberry Forest, a finance major at the McIntire School of Commerce and a global development studies major in the College of Arts & Sciences, "Impact of Microfinance on Women in the Southern Atlantic Autonomous Region of Nicaragua."

• Michelle Kew, 20, of Chantilly, a biology major, "Combinatorial Therapeutic Approaches to Melanoma."

• Shayan Moosa, 20, of Vienna, a neuroscience major, "Testing of Radiation Therapy Intolerance in Relation to Hypoxia Inducible Factor 1 and Proto-Oncogene pim 1 Response to Hypoxia in C6 Glioblastoma Cells."
• Daniel Michael O'Connor, 21, of Annandale, a neuroscience major, "Assessment of a Novel Cardiac Muscle Basement Membrane Extract in a Murine Model of Reperfused Myocardial Infarction Using High Frequency Ultrasound."

• Mehul Patel, 20, of Chesapeake, a biochemistry and biology major, "Mechanism of Biosynthesis and Membrane Translocation of Hyaluronan."

• Pratik Patel, 21, of Forest, a neuroscience major, "The Effects of Adult Neurogenesis on Contextual Fear Memory."

• Avery Paxton, 20, of Free Union, an environmental science major, "Biological Aspects of North Carolina Shipwrecks."

• Sarah Peterson, 20, of Burke, a politics honors and environmental science major, "Implementations and Implications of Policies that Establish Government- and User-Financed Payment Schemes for Environmental Services."

• Michelle Rehme, 20, of St. Louis, an environmental thought and practice and English major, "New Farm Economics: Examining Regional Agriculture Support Systems and Morven Farm's Role in the Central Virginia Foodshed."

• Mitchell Ross, 20, of Edmond, Okla., a biology major, "Regulation of Cytoplastic Dynein-mediated Transport of Mitochondria in Neurons."

• Parth A. Saraiya, 20, of Chester, a distinguished major in cognitive science with a concentration in neuroscience, "Sodium Channel Gating Behavior in Entorhinal Cortex Neurons."

• Joseph Scarpa, Jr., 21, of Rochelle Park, N.J., a neuroscience major, "The Effects of Modulating GABA(A) Receptors on Neuropathic Pain”
• Dean Smith, 21, of Richmond, a chemical engineering major, "Novel Method for Increased Fermentative Butanol Production Using Cocultures of Clostridium and Gas Stripping."

• Megha Subramanian, 20, of Herndon, a double major in neuroscience and biology, "Interactions Between Gonadal Steroids and Neurodegeneration-related Genes May Affect Cognitive Behavior."

• Albert Tao, 19, of Charlottesville, a biology major, "Characterizing the Circadian Rhythm of Ovarian Sensitivity to Luteinizing Hormone: Does the Ovarian Clock Control the Time of Ovulation?"

• Heba Tellawi, 20, of Alexandria, a global development studies major, "Women and Children Refugees in Amman, Jordan: Fieldwork and Analysis."

• Sarah Triolo, 19, of Rockville, Md., a chemical engineering major, "Bioremediation to Remove Chemical Pollutants in Drinking Water."

• Francesca Tuazon, 21, of Vienna, a biology major, "miRNA Processing and RISC Function in Xenopus Oocytes and Embryos."

• Laura Wang, 20, of Blacksburg, a neuroscience and biology major, "Glucocorticoids and Mineralocorticoids: Entraining Signals for Peripheral Oscillators."

• Sipian Wang, 22, of Shanghai, China, a commerce and mathematics major, "GARCH vs. BSM Option Models Amid the Subprime Mortgage Turmoil."

• Hilary Whitworth, 21, of Maitland, Fla., a biology major, "Signaling Pathways Regulating Androgen Sensitivity."

• Kezhou Xiao, 21, of Guangzhou, China, a math and statistics major, "Where is the Distortion: Data Quality in Official Chinese Statistics."

• Yang Yang, 21, of McLean, a chemical engineer, "A Novel Synthesis of Advanced Nanocomposites via Surface Modification of Silica Nanoparticles.”

• Yue (Charles) Yuan, 19, of Wuxi, Jiangsu, China, an economics and mathematics major, "Explicit Steering Controls for Periodic and Nonlinear Dynamics, with Applications to Mechanics and Economics."

• Ricky Rizal Zein, 20, of Greenbelt, Md., an anthropology and global development studies double major with an Asian Pacific-American studies minor, "The Interaction of National Queerness and the Indonesian Elections."

• The Finger Family Award: Katie Drash, 20, of Richmond, a history major, "Gender Roles and Marital Influence in 15th-Century Provincial England."

• The Stull Family Award: Navin Vigneshwar, 20, of Richmond, an economics major, "Study of Kalarippayattu Medical Treatment and Its Relation to Modern Western Medical Treatment."

— By Matt Kelly