U.Va. Undergraduates Receive Undergraduate Research Awards

March 31, 2009 —  Thirty-nine University of Virginia undergraduates have received Harrison Undergraduate Research Awards, which will assist them in conducting independent research during the summer. The Harrison Awards, funded by the family of the late David A. Harrison III, were first presented in 2000.

Two other students have had their research underwritten by gifts from the Stull family and the Finger family.

Harrison Awards support students who present detailed plans for independent-study research projects that have been endorsed by a faculty mentor. The winners are selected by faculty members. Students receive up to $3,000, and the faculty mentor who oversees the project receives $1,000.

"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 Stulls and Fingers have followed this lead by creating their own research awards."

The proposed research projects span the humanities and social sciences, as well as the sciences and engineering. The selected students' research topics are diverse, ranging from "Student Volunteerism in China " to "Factors Affecting Fetal Development in Rural Appalachia" to "Oxidative Decomplexation and Hydroaminations of a De-aromatized Tungsten-phenol Complex."

"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 and chairwoman of the Faculty Senate's Research and Scholarship Committee, which oversees the awards. "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."

"What a wonderfully unique opportunity for U.Va. undergraduates to conceive of, complete and then publicly present their own independent research," Norris said. "This is just one example of the many opportunities that exist at U.Va. — giving our students a competitive advantage over students from elsewhere."

"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."

More than 50 percent of U.Va.'s 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:

•    Hamid Abrahimpour, 26, of Afghanistan, a foreign affairs major, "From Victory to Struggle: War on Terrorism and the Challenges in Afghanistan."

•    Zimra Ahdout, 20, of Roslyn, N.Y., an economics and public policy major, "Are Lawmakers Doing Enough to Prevent Rape? An Evaluation of Rape Shield Laws & National Sex Offender Registries."

•    Claudia Antonacci, 20, of Tallahassee, Fla., a religious studies and environmental thought and practices major, "A Study of Collaboration: Religious Non-Governmental Organizations in Bangladesh."

•    Megan Barry, 20, of Shrewsbury, Mass., a politics honors major, "We are Ready: Women's Engagement in Politics and Public Policy."

•    Yi Cai, 20, of Shanghai, China, a biomedical engineering and economics major, "Agent-Based Model of Prostate Cancer for Radiation Therapy Dose Optimization."

•    Anastasia Crihfield, 21, of Falls Church, Va., a neuroscience major, "Assessment of Food Security of Women of Childbearing Age in Thohoyandou, Limpopo Province, South Africa."

•    Ian Czekala, 20, of Miller Place, N.Y., an aerospace engineering and astronomy major, "Collaborative Engineering on a Universal Scale: The Atacama Large Millimeter Array."

•    Ian Diner, 19, of Sag Harbor, N.Y., an organic chemistry major, "Oxidative Decomplexation and Hydroaminations of a De-aromatized Tungsten-phenol Complex."

•    Michelle Dorsey, 21, of West Point, Va., a nursing major, "Factors Affecting Fetal Development in Rural Appalachia."

•    Eamon Drumm, 20, of Virginia Beach, Va., a political and social thought major, "The Politics of Immigrant and Colonial Representation in French National Museums."

•    Jason Duke, 21, of Springfield, Va., an anthropology and Spanish major, "The Effect of Modern Outside Threats on the Political and Social Organization of Indigenous Amazonian Communities in Peru."

•    Ruffin Evans, 18, of Charlottesville, a chemistry and physics major, "Development of Difluoroboron: Diketone Nanoparticles for Oxygen-Sensitive Fluorescent Imaging."

•    Nathaniel Farrar, 19, of Christiansburg, Va., an environmental sciences major, "Surface Water Runoff Impact on Fay Spring."

•    Effie George, 20, of New York City, an American studies major, "Using an Instrumented Car to Test the Effect of Temperature Inversions on Pollutant Concentrations in Mountainous Terrain."
•    Allissia Gilmartin, 21, of South Burlington, Vt., "Molecular Mechanisms of Ebola Virus Infection."

•    Thushara Gunda, 21, of Alexandria, Va., an environmental sciences and environmental thought and practices major, "Topographical and Hydrological Influences on the Spatial Distribution of Mercury at the Catchment Scale."

•    Kelsey Gustin, 21, of Sugar Land, Texas, a history and art history major, "Influence of World War II Propaganda on the London Homefront."

•    Jenny Han, 21, of McLean, Va., a biomedical engineering major, "Characterization of Visfatin at the Myoendothelial Junction."

•    Genevieve Heckel, 21, Lake Ridge, Va., a linguistics major, "Negotiating Languages in a Restaurant Setting in a Bilingual Community."

•    William Jacobs, 21, of Fredericksburg, Va., a physics and engineering science major, "Simulation of Hypersonic Impact on Carbon Nanotube-Polymer Composite Coatings."

•    Jennifer Kefauver, 19, of Danville, Va., a physics and biology major, "Characterization of Synthetic Virus-based Nanoparticles for Gene Delivery."

•    Justin Jung Shik Kim, 19, of Centreville, Va., a chemistry major, "Characterization of Protein-Detergent Complexes Using Biophysical Methods."

•    Aaron McCrady, 21, of Richmond, Va., a neuroscience and philosophy major, "A Simple Experimental Model of Parkinson's Disease."

•    Colin McCrimmon, 20, of Charlottesville, a chemistry and biology major, "A Multi-Pronged Computational Approach to Protein Crystallography."

•    Rafat Mehdi, 20, of McLean, Va., a mechanical engineering major, "Modeling Spastic Muscle: Understanding the Underlying Mechanics and Morphological Changes of Muscle Spasticity."

•    Kara Morgenstern, 20, of Lido Beach, N.Y., a communications disorders and psychology major, "Verbal and Simplified Sign Treatments in Adults with Anomia of Speech."

•    Laura Nelson, 20, of Westwood, Mass., major undeclared, "Student Volunteerism in China."

•    Antonia Pusso, 20, of Spotsylvania, Va., a neuroscience major, "Effects of Premature Birth on the Visual System."

•    Emily Rowell, 20, of Tuscaloosa, Ala., a religious studies major, "Theology in Practice: Alternate Visions of Economy."

•    Matthew Ryals, 20, of Charlottesville, a chemistry and neuroscience major, "MicroRNA Control of Stem Cell Pluripotency."

•    Caroline Ryon, 21, of Kennett Square, Pa., an English and drama major, "Hallie Flanagan: Directing Federally Supported Theatre During Economic Crisis."

•    Ben Schildkraut, 20, of Tenafly, N.J., a politics honors and music major, "U.S. Policy, Israeli Domestic Politics, and the Peace Process."

•    Kathryn Strobel, 20, of Pleasant Hills, Pa., a chemical engineering major, "Clean Water for the World Through Bioremediation."

•    Daniel Tarjan, 20, of Fair Haven, N.J., a biology major, "Transcription Attenuation for Metabolic Control by Engineering Intrinsic Terminators."

•    Ann Marshall Thomas, 20, of Staunton, Va., a political and social thought major, "A Study of Collaboration: Religious Non-Governmental Organizations in Bangladesh."

•    Wuttisak Trongsiriwat, 21, of Bangkok, Thailand, a mathematics major, "Modular Representation Theory of Symmetric Groups."

•    Therese Verkerke, 21, of Charlottesville, a psychology major, "Using Mindfulness Meditation to Reduce Judgmentalism."

•    Emily Whalen, 21, of Virginia Beach, Va., a history major, "Anglo-French Diplomacy in the Elizabethan Age."

•    Catherine Woodward, 21, of Atlanta, a history major, "The Development of Health Care in the Arabian Peninsula."

•    The Finger Family Award: Katie Croghan, 21, of Dumfries, Va., a history and psychology major, "Political and Social Maneuvers of Monasteries in York 1530-1540."

•    The Stull Family Award: Blair Stocks, 21, of Reston, Va., a biomedical engineering major, "Autologous Human Adipose Stromal Cells for the Healing of Chronic Diabetic Wounds."

— By Matt Kelly