U.Va. Awards Eight Double-'Hoo Research Grants

April 5, 2010 — The University of Virginia has awarded eight "Double-'Hoo" research awards, which fund pairings of undergraduate and graduate students who 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 delighted by the high level of interest in the Double-'Hoo program and by the quality of the applications," said Lucy S. Russell, director of the Center for Undergraduate Excellence, which administers the program.

This year there were 38 applications for funding. Money to support these researchers is provided by the Jefferson Trust, the College and Graduate Schools of Arts & Sciences, the vice provost for academic programs, and the associate vice president for graduate studies and private donations. This year's projects represent a range of fields, including psychology, music and poetry, physics, biomedical engineering and anthropology.

"As a faculty member I wear many hats, but my favorite role is the one of research adviser and mentor," said Roseanne M. Ford, associate vice president for graduate studies and a professor in the Department of Chemical Engineering. "Through the Double-'Hoo program, graduate students have an opportunity to experience the role of research mentor to an undergraduate student and see what it's like to lead a student through the process of discovery."

She said the questions that curious undergraduates ask about the motivation for the study, the choice of methodology, or the data analysis can challenge their graduate student mentors to explain aspects of the project they may have come to take for granted, which then helps to solidify their own understanding of the project.

"Undergraduates benefit from an inside look at the life of a graduate student and have a firsthand source of information if they decide to pursue graduate studies themselves," she said. "For many undergraduates, working side-by-side with a graduate student allows them to imagine themselves in that role as an independent researcher one day."

This year's winners are:

• Anjun Bose, 20, of Lexington, Ky., a third-year biomedical engineering major, and Karin Holmberg, 23, of Wilbraham, Ma., a second-year graduate student in biomedical engineering, who will measure the activity of components in the cell signaling network, to answer questions about how cells process information on the molecular level and how these processes are deregulated in disease. Their adviser is assistant professor Kevin Janes in the Department of Biomedical Engineering.

• Claire Galdun, 20, of Knoxville, Tenn., a third-year psychology and modern studies double major, and Robyn Kondrad, 28, of Jamestown, N.C., a third-year graduate student, who are conducting research in children's cognitive development. Their adviser is associate professor Vikram K. Jaswal of the Department of Psychology.

• Chelsea Hicks, 19, of Suffolk, a second-year English major, and Erik DeLuca, 24, of New Port Richey, Fla., a first-year graduate student of composition and computer technologies, are researching using writing and fiction techniques in song-like lyrical fashions to complement sounds found in Alaska with stories and poems. Their adviser is professor Lisa Russ Spaar in the English department's Creative Writing Program.

• Jacqueline Hodges, 19, of Gainesville, a second-year chemistry-biochemistry major, and Alison Dewald, 31, of Reading, Pa., a fourth-year Ph.D. candidate in the Department of Chemistry, who will study proteins found in the outer membrane of bacterial pathogens to understand how these proteins infect and colonize human cells. Linda Columbus, an assistant professor in the Department of Chemistry, is the principal investigator of the lab.

• Stephen Holtz, 20, of Ashburn, a third-year neuroscience major, and James A. Corson, 27, of Trenton, N.J., a fifth-year graduate student, who are studying the organization of the orosensory brainstem, specifically examining the neural circuit of nerves that enervate the oral cavity and their connections in the rodent brainstem. Their adviser is Alev Erisir, an associate professor in the Department of Psychology and director of the Cognitive Science Project.

• David Kamensky, 20, of Arlington, a third-year computer science and physics major concentrating in scientific computing, and Huong Ngoyen, 28, of Hanoi, Vietnam, a third-year graduate student studying high-energy physics, who are attempting to use U.Va.'s Cross Campus Grid, a large network of computers, to perform particle physics calculations. Their adviser is Robert J. Hirosky, an associate professor in the physics department.

• Aradhya Nigam, 19, of Danville, a second-year neuroscience major, and Nicholas Hargus, 27, of Allentown, Pa., a fifth-year neuroscience graduate student in the Department of Anesthesiology, who will study the cellular and molecular changes that occur in temporal lobe epilepsy that produce the hyperexcitability found with seizures. Their adviser is Manoj K. Patel, an assistant professor in the Department of Anesthesiology.

• Alexandra Worth, 19, of Charlottesville, a second-year double major in Languages and Cultures of Africa (Echols interdisciplinary major) and English, and Ann Githinji, 38, of Nairobi, Kenya, a second-year graduate student in the anthropology department, who are researching the assimilation, acculturation and educational experiences of Burundian refugees in Charlottesville. Their adviser is Cynthia Hoehler-Fatton, associate director in the Carter G. Woodson Institute of African-American Studies and an associate professor in the Department of Religious Studies.

— By Matt Kelly