UVA Backs Students’ Research Projects

UVA Backs Students’ Research Projects

From examining how James Joyce’s work relates to civil unrest to quantitative eco-labeling schemes, and from researching Roman property law to analyzing the pathology of Alzheimer’s disease, 50 University of Virginia undergraduates will pursue 46 grant-funded research projects this summer.

Forty-five proposals involving 49 students received Harrison Undergraduate Research Awards and another student has had his research underwritten by the Stull family of Dallas. This marks the 17th year of the program, which helps further a key component of the UVA student experience: pursuing hands-on research.

The research awards support students who present detailed plans for projects that have been endorsed by a faculty mentor. In February, a Faculty Senate committee selected the winners, who receive up to $3,000. Faculty mentors who oversee the projects receive $1,000.

“The Harrison Undergraduate Research Awards provide an opportunity for undergraduate students to participate in a core purpose of the University by creating and advancing new knowledge,” said Brian Cullaty, director of undergraduate research opportunities at UVA’s Center for Undergraduate Excellence. “The program aspires for these student-faculty collaborations to make an original intellectual or creative contribution to the discipline.”

The center received more than 70 grant applications, which were reviewed by nearly 50 faculty members, including the members of the Faculty Senate’s Research, Teaching and Scholarship Committee.

“The winning applications were those that addressed an important societal problem, addressed a clear question and described a well-designed research approach,” said Silvia Blemker, Commonwealth Associate Professor of Biomedical Engineering and chair of the Faculty Senate’s Research, Teaching and Scholarship Committee. “It was a very competitive selection process; the committee was extremely impressed with the creativity, passion and depth illustrated by all the applications.”

The research awards open new avenues of learning for the undergraduates.

“The Harrison Award is a unique opportunity for students to work intimately at the edge of knowledge, defining their own research direction while being closely mentored by faculty members,” Blemker said. “Many Harrison awardees go on to present their findings at national conferences and publish their work in peer-reviewed journals.”

This year’s Harrison Undergraduate Research Award winners and their research topics include:

  • Emily Jane Cox of Fairfax, a second-year art history major with a minor in French, is researching how Impressionist artist Camille Pissarro exploited spatial and temporal liminality in his nocturnal scenes to explore the political and social shifts that transformed Paris in the 1880s and ’90s, particularly the relationship between the artist’s works and his anarchist philosophy.

  • Katherine Crump of Oakton, a third-year biomedical engineering major, is researching the use of yoga therapy as a complementary treatment modality for chronic diseases with musculoskeletal involvement.

  • Zack Dailey of Great Falls, a third-year neuroscience major, is researching the effects of a protein on the development of hair cells in the inner ears of mice.

  • Patrick Depret-Guillaume of Fairfax, a third-year student double-majoring in history and archaeology, is researching the evolution of religious practices of the pueblo of Acoma, from the founding of the first settlements on the mesa to the Mexican War of Independence in the early 19th-century.

  • Jenny Liu of McLean, a third-year human biology major, is researching how molecules and cells operate on a macro scale.

  • Kyle Scott of Clifton, a third-year biomedical engineering major, is investigating the effects of a particular protein expression on malignant cancer cell growth and metastasis.

  • Sabrina Yen of Fairfax, a second-year pre-commerce student with a minor in statistics, will study Germany’s implementation of quantitative eco-labeling schemes to see what can be used in creating quantitative eco-wine certification criteria and procedures in the U.S.