U.Va. Awards 10 Double 'Hoo Research Grants to Undergrad-Grad Duos

May 5, 2009 — The University of Virginia has awarded 10 "Double 'Hoo" research awards, which fund pairings of undergraduate and graduate students to collaborate on research projects.

Each project is awarded up to $5,000 toward research expenses, as well as an additional $500 for the faculty mentor overseeing the project.

"We were surprised and delighted by the high level of interest in the Double 'Hoo program and by the very high quality of the applications," said Lucy S. Russell, director of the Center for Undergraduate Excellence. "The Double 'Hoo program allows undergraduates to work closely with more advanced researchers and pursue more complex projects. It also provides great experience to graduate students in mentoring younger researchers."

This year there were applications for 64 projects. Money to support these researchers is provided by the Jefferson Trust, the College of Arts and Sciences, the Vice Provost for Academic Programs and the Associate Vice President for Graduate Studies, as well as through a private donation.

This year's selected research topics range from computer music to the health of streams in the Shenandoah National Park to the feeding of low-birth-weight infants.

The winners are:

• Sameer Bajikar, 20, of Ashburn, Va., a third-year biomedical engineering major, and Joshua Meisner, 26, of Knoxville, Tenn., a first-year graduate student, who are seeking to determine how immune cells, physical forces and signaling molecules interact to promote blood vessel remodeling. Their adviser is associate professor Richard J. Price in the Department of Biomedical Engineering.

• Savanna Barry, 20, of Beaverdam, Va., a third-year biology major with a concentration in environmental and biological conservation, and Luke W. Cole, 30, of Weymouth, Mass., a Ph.D. candidate in environmental sciences, who are researching the composition of fish and invertebrate species in natural and restored seagrass beds to see if the restored beds are providing suitable habitat. Their adviser is associate professor Karen J. McGlathery of the Department of Environmental Sciences.

• Kadeem Cooper, 20, of Brooklyn, N.Y., a third-year politics major, and Laura Blessing, 26, of Concord, Mass., a first-year graduate student in American politics, who are researching the purge of liberal Republicans in Congress in the early 1980s, both how it happened and what effect it has on national politics. Their adviser is associate professor Jeffery A. Jenkins in the Department of Politics.

• Kelly Hokanson, 20, of Virginia Beach, Va., a third-year environmental science major, and Ami Riscassi, 34, of West Hartford, Conn., a third-year Ph.D. student studying hydrology in the environmental sciences, who are researching mercury levels within streams in Shenandoah National Park to determine when and where mercury is mobilized in these ecosystems and how changes in the environment may affect their movement and subsequent contact with fish and human populations. Their adviser is Todd Scanlon, an assistant professor in the Department of Environmental Sciences.

• Joseph J. Klembczyk, 20 of Voorheesville, N.Y., a second-year biomedical engineering major, and Arvind K. Chavali, 24, of Charlottesville, a biomedical engineering graduate student, who are researching metabolism and regulation of Leishmania parasites, a tropical disease affecting mostly Third World nations, through computational modeling for potential drug targets. Their adviser is Jason Papin, an assistant professor in the Department of Biomedical Engineering.

• Eric Montgomery, 20, of South Riding, Va., a third-year double major in music and computer science, and Peter Traub, 34, of Charlottesville, a fifth-year Ph.D. student in the composition and computer technologies program in the music department, who are seeking to create a system for sharing sonic space over a computer network, to merge resonant properties of two separate spaces, and then explore the musical potential of that hybrid acoustic space. Their adviser is Judith Shatin, William R. Kenan Jr. Professor of Music.

• Laura Wang, 19, of Blacksburg, Va., a second-year neuroscience major, and Pinar Pezuk, 27, of Izmir, Turkey, a third-year Ph.D. student in biology, who are investigating the effects of the hormones corticosterone and melatonin on the circadian rhythms in various peripheral tissues such as liver, kidney, lung and cornea. Their adviser is biology professor Michael Menaker.

• Margaret Tillar, 18, of Mechanicsville, Va., a first-year student who has applied for a biomedical engineering major, and Dr. Lacey Colligan, of Charlottesville, a first-year graduate engineering student, who are researching designs for a computer system that will optimize feeding for premature babies. Their adviser is Stephanie Guerlain, an associate professor in the Department of Systems and Information Engineering.

• Brian Luu, 20, of Annandale, Va., a third-year biology major, and Karen Wheeler, 27, of Buckingham, Va., a sixth-year MD/Ph.D. student, whose research is in characterizing the cells involved in an induced autoimmune disease in mice. Their adviser is Kenneth S. Tung, a professor in the Department of Pathology.

• Josh Katz, 21, of Charlottesville, a third-year neuroscience major, and Zofia Lasjecka, 28, from Warsaw, Poland, a fourth-year Ph.D. candidate in the Neuroscience Graduate Program at the School of Medicine, who are researching compounds making connections among neurons in a nervous system. Their adviser is associate professor Bettina Winckler in the Department of Neuroscience.

— By Matt Kelly