The Celebration of Undergraduate Research Best Poster Award

Written by Caleb Helms, OUR undergraduate assistant and Chemistry major

Before this year, I was unaware of the scale of the Celebration of Undergraduate Research. However, after experiencing it first hand, I now have a greater appreciation for the time and effort that undergraduate students put into research. On Wednesday, April 15, 2015, nearly 170 students gathered in the Great Hall of the Student Union to showcase their research in poster sessions and more than 40 students presented in neighboring panel sessions. From psychology, art, and sociology to mathematics, physics, and chemistry, all disciplines of research were well represented at the symposium. Watching so many students passionately present their research to students, parents, and faculty at the University was a unique experience. As I walked past group after group listening to descriptions of the research, I heard strings of intense words being spoken by the researchers. Words like “sclerochronological,” “ubiquitination,” and “Siderastrea siderea” that I had to look up to spell, and definitely remain unaware of their meaning. As a Chemistry major, I have continuously heard of the research opportunities available but never truly understood the level of rigor involved in undergraduate research. The immense amount of time invested by these students was evident in their presentations. It was amazing and inspiring to witness the commitment students had made to specific areas of research. I have carefully reviewed information that I know and none of my knowledge reaches the equivalent depth of these researchers. After experiencing the Celebration, I have an enriched appreciation for undergraduate research and the students who take part in it. I would recommend that students attend the Celebration of Undergraduate Research and view for themselves the sense of accomplishment achieved when students immerse themselves in a research project.

As an undergraduate assistant in the Office for Undergraduate Research, I was given the task of guiding a group of reviewers in selecting eight students to receive the “Best Poster Award.” The recipients of this award were decided based not only on the content of their research, but also the visual and oral presentation by the students. The graduate students and postdoctoral scholar judges worked hard to make it to each poster in the designated time limit. Each of the judges struggled to pull away from one poster and described the ‘immense detail’ or the ‘intriguing nature’ of the research that the students conducted. I thoroughly enjoyed having the opportunity to present the “Best Poster Award” winners with a ribbon for their accomplishments. Since only eight of the nearly one-hundred and seventy students received this recognition, the award was a huge accomplishment for the recipients.

The eight students recognized at the 2015 Celebration of Undergraduate Research with the “Best Poster Award” included:

• Courtney Shepard, Assessing the Sustainability of Impulse Social Enterprises
• Jonathan Garrick, A Late Holocene Sclerochronological Analysis
• Teresa Martz, Retinal Vessel Oxygenation in Diabetic Retinopathy
• Millicent Robinson, Superwoman Schema, Stigma, Spirituality, and Sensitive Providers
• Mary Ward, Exposing Students in Special Education to STEM
• Emily Davidson, Shifts in Aqueous Carbonate Chemistry
• Samuel Brotkin, Future Self-Continuity and Health Behavior
• Luma Essaid, Hepatocyte Growth Factors and Their Role in Breast Cancer

Along with the Office for Undergraduate Research, I would like to congratulate these students on their accomplishments and thank all the participants at the 2015 Celebration of Undergraduate Research.

 

“Best Poster Award” Winners from Session One. From left to right: Teresa Martz, Millicent Robinson, and Courtney Shepard. Not Pictured: Jonathan Garrick. Photo Credit: Dan Sears

“Best Poster Award” Winners from Session One. From left to right: Teresa Martz, Millicent Robinson, and Courtney Shepard. Not Pictured: Jonathan Garrick. Photo Credit: Dan Sears

 

 

 

Winners from the second session of the Celebration of Undergraduate Research. From left are, Samuel Brotkin, Luma Essaid, Emily Davidson, and Mary Ward.

 

 

“Best Poster Award” Winners from Session Two. From left to right: Samuel Brotkin, Luma Essaid, Emily Davidson, and Mary Ward. Photo Credit: Dan Sears

 

 

Congratulations to our Summer 2015 SURF recipients!

Congratulations to our 2015 Summer Undergraduate Research Fellowship (SURF) award recipients! After a thorough evaluation process, our multidisciplinary faculty selection committees awarded 79 students a SURF award.

The SURF program attracts a variety of students, from the novice researcher looking to discover something new to the student preparing for their honors thesis. A wide range of projects are fostered by the program. The 2015 selected project titles include: “The Role of Household Chaos in Infant Sleep Development”, “A Critical Examination of Online Registration Services at Universities in North Carolina”, and “How do you create stigma-free charity care?”

Each SURF recipient will engage in undergraduate research, scholarship or performance for at least 9 weeks between May and August, with a minimum of 20 hours per week. Projects will be supervised by faculty research advisors, and collaborations with graduate students or postdoctoral fellows are encouraged. To learn more about the SURF program and the application process, please visit here.

Luis Acosta, Chemistry

Kevin Anderson, Physics & Astronomy

Cathy Anderson, Chemistry

James Andrews, Biology

Allison Baker, Biology

Ishmael Bishop, English and Comp. Literature

Ashley Bittner, Physics/Astronomy

Alexander Buckley, English and Comp. Literature

Kyle Bullins, Geology

Amanda Carew, Chemistry

Jules Carter, Sociology

Michael Catalano, Economics

Jesse Chang, Health Policy and Management

Yasemin Cole, Biology

Griffin Creech, History

Rukmini Deva, Biology

Isaac Durrington, Exercise & Sport Science

Matthew Fay, Chemistry

Le Feng, Sociology/Public Policy

Lindsey Freeman, Psychology

Vineet Gopinathan, Enviro. Sci. & Engineering

Hailey Gosnell, Biology

Joshua Green, Sociology

Apoorva Gupta, Biology

Marc Gutierrez, Chemistry

Kescia Hall, Sociology

Caroline Hamilton, Geography

Laura Hamon, Biology

Tracie Hayes, Biology

Wesley Holland, Biology

Thomas Hunold, Biostatistics

Apoorva Iyengar, Biology

Austen Kelly, Mathematics

Subreen Khatib, Nutrition

Jeremy Kim, Computer Science

Michelle Kramer, Exercise & Sport Science

Dana Landress, History

Mia Lei, Psychology

Spencer Lewis, Computer Science

Szu-Aun Lim, Biology/Chemistry

Gillian Litynski, Nursing/Global Studies

Parth Majmudar, Chemistry

Gabrielle McHarg, Psychology

Grace McLaughlin, Biology

Mariauna Moss, History

Meaghan Nazareth, MDS

John Ogunkeye, Psychology

Pranati Panuganti, Nutrition

Mark Paradzinsky, Chemistry

Michael Peralta, Biology

Daniel Perron, Biology

Kaylyn Pogson, Biology

Elizabeth Porter, Chemistry/Computer Science

Jacqueline Poston, Biology

Joe Puccio, Computer Science

Danny Rahal, Psychology

Kyler Riker, Chemistry

Hannah Saggau, Health Policy & Management

Pranavi Sanka, Biology

Ellen Saunders-Duncan, American Studies

Coertney Scoggin, Biology

Neal Shah, Chemistry

Meghana Shamsunder, Nutrition

Karen Sieber, American Studies

Nathan Smith, Philosophy

Haley Solomon, Psychology

Lauren Speare, Environmental Science

Charlotte Story, Biology

Preethika Sundararaj, Psychology

Bryan Wang, Biology

Boya Wang, Chemistry

Joseph Welsh, Applied Sciences

Katherine Wiley, Psychology

Brandon Wong, Religious Studies

Catherine Wood, Chemistry

Eleanor Wu, Psychology

Zimeng Xie, Biostatistics

Kaitlyn Yelton, American Studies

Daniel Zeitouni, Nutrition

Zhan Zhang, Communication Studies

Mentor Spotlight: Exploring Research and Jellyfish

- written by Julia Samson, second-year Biology graduate student.

I am a graduate student in the Biology department, and I conduct research in the Miller Lab. The Miller Lab studies the behaviors of organisms in their fluid environments (liquids or gases). I specifically have studied the biomechanics of upside-down jellyfish, known as Cassiopea, and the interactions between these animals and their fluid environment.  I’ve really enjoyed the research that I’ve done, but one of my favorite aspects of being involved with the Miller Lab has been my role as a mentor.

An upside-down jelly fish, known scientifically as Cassiopea.

During the summer, I became a graduate mentor to an undergraduate student named Andy, a Science and Math Achievement and Resourcefulness Track (SMART) student at the Miller Lab.  When he started, Andy had almost no lab experience, and as a first-year student, he hadn’t taken many science classes yet.  I knew I had my work cut out for me, but I was excited to take him under my wing.  The project Andy chose focused on the jellyfish group dynamics – to investigate this, he recorded groups of jellyfish and analyzed the videos to see how individuals behaved.

Andy set up his own project, from brainstorming the idea to presenting the results. At the start of his project, he had to learn a lot about jellyfish: their biology, how to take care of them, and what insight could be gathered from them.  We talked about research protocol and how to conduct research effectively. He needed some guidance in getting started, but after a few weeks, he was running experiments on his own.

Apart from actually conducting the research, I was impressed with how Andy really became a part of the lab team.  He attended our weekly lab meetings, shared his updates, and heard about other people’s research projects. We had the opportunity to go to a marine station, where Andy talked with marine scientists about his research.  Seeing him grow from an inexperienced lab member to being confident enough to present his work to marine scientists made me very proud, and I felt I had a real impact on him.

Upside-down jellyfish travel in large groups, such as the one pictured here. Andy’s project studied the group dynamics of these organisms.

Doing research is an invaluable experience that you can’t get from class and lectures, and I really encourage any student interested to get involved. You will experience how things really work outside of your textbooks, but more importantly, your time in the field and in the lab will help you grow as a person.  I know that Andy developed a lot during the course of his research, and as I provided leadership and guidance for him, I also was able to grow a lot.

Faculty Spotlight – Professor Beth Grabowski

Beth Grabowski

Beth Grabowski

- written by Sagar Patel

Meet Beth Grabowski, a professor and director of undergraduate studies for Studio Art.  Professor Grabowski received her BA in Studio Art from the University of Virginia, and her Masters of Fine Arts from the University of Wisconsin-Madison.  Immediately after graduate school, Prof. Grabowski joined the UNC Art Department faculty.

Prof. Grabowski finds that the research-oriented perspective of UNC makes for a rich environment in which to study, make, and teach art. She says that contrary to the popular characterization of creativity as divine inspiration or available only to those with native talent, creative research actually requires a deliberate and disciplined practice of “critical making.” The notion of criticality calls upon students to ask not only how something is made, but also why, and to understand the context of production. Hallmarks of this practice include the abilities to adapt to change, to acquire skill, knowledge, and understanding through physical experience and to read meaning in the unfamiliar. The art-making process includes a great deal of experimentation. Starting anywhere, students will create something, receive feedback, analyze it themselves, and then make changes, try variations or in the event of an “accident” or “failure,” see if different question reframes a next step. She calls this process “iterative thinking” and in this way, research in art is very similar to research in other subjects – there is a need to “fail” (and recover!) to learn something new.

Prof. Grabowski serves as a faculty mentor for Summer Undergraduate Research Fellowship (SURF) students, and an honors thesis advisor.  In this role, she has overseen many interesting student projects.  For example, one student traveled to Arizona and worked under the guidance of a native Hopi medicine woman to study traditional medicinal plants (through drawing).  Another went to Cairo, Egypt as the post-Mubarek political landscape was unfolding and documented street art made by women artists exploring issues of sexual harassment and women’s rights.  Whether traveling across the country, overseas, or staying right here in Chapel Hill, Prof. Grabowski’s students have conducted some amazing research projects.  Prof. Grabowski says her favorite part of being a mentor is seeing the enthusiasm and passion that students have for their projects.

A sample of Professor Grabowski's work

A sample of Professor Grabowski’s work

When asked to give one piece of advice to undergraduate students interested in research, Prof. Grabowski said the following: “Be curious. Treat all assignments and tasks as personal challenges–make them take you somewhere new. Students who explore on this deeper level and resist grabbing for answers that reinforce what is already known, are already engaging in research.”

Professor Grabowski currently teaches book art and photo printmaking.

Pictures taken from Beth Grabowski’s faculty webpage at http://art.unc.edu/studio-art/faculty/beth-grabowski/.

Lauren Askew: OUR Ambassador

Askew Picture NewestThis is my first year being an ambassador for the Office for Undergraduate Research, and it has been a great experience. It’s nice to be an individual on campus who can provide some guidance that other undergraduates are seeking. Research has been a large part of my undergraduate experience and has influenced my career pursuits substantially. I hope to spark enthusiasm into the minds and hearts of fellow students and hopefully be a positive influence as they try to gain experiences that will refine their goals for the future. “If you wait until you can do everything for everybody, instead of something for somebody, you’ll end up not doing anything for anybody” (Malcom Bane).

Make a difference, and apply to be an ambassador!

 

2014 SURF – An Unexpected Adventure

- written by Sarah Bird, 2014 SURF recipient

In the fall of 2013, I responded to a prompt for a paper assigned to me in my freshman English class. “Pick a research question and write a mock proposal for the Summer Undergraduate Research Fellowship (SURF).” I didn’t think much of it as I didn’t know what SURF was, but I wrote my assignment based on a research question I had come up with in my marine science class. When February came around, I decided to actually submit the proposal for consideration, because… why not? I had ended up spending way more time on the assignment than I intended to because, to tell you the truth, I couldn’t stop thinking about it.  Almost accidentally, I had found something I liked and was passionate about.

Lake Wylie lies on the NC/SC border, 20 minutes south of Charlotte, NC.

Lake Wylie lies on the NC/SC border, 20 minutes south of Charlotte, NC.

Research and proposal writing became a big part of my life in the following year leading up to my submission for the 2014 SURF. Working on my SURF proposal became an obsessive hobby, and something I came to see myself doing for the long haul. The most valuable benefits from preparing for SURF were the relationships I formed. I started talking with my professors more after class, bouncing ideas around and formulating research goals.

Lake Wylie’s fish contain high levels of contamination, whether it be PCBs, mercury or tritium. The fish are big enough to catch and eat, which leads to these alarming warning signs posted around the lake.

Lake Wylie’s fish contain high levels of contamination, whether it be PCBs, mercury or tritium. The fish are big enough to catch and eat, which leads to these alarming warning signs posted around the lake.

My faculty advisor became a great mentor, as she supplied me with her lab and equipment in the UNC Marine Science department, taught me the necessary field and lab techniques, and connected me with scientists around the country for advice. I even got the chance to speak with the Executive Director of the Catawba Riverkeeper Association, whose input was incredibly valuable to my proposal.

By February 2014, I had come up with the proposal for a project that I was proud of and excited about. It revolved around the spills that had occurred at the Catawba Nuclear Center in Lake Wylie, SC. I proposed to investigate the effects of the spilled tritium (a radioactive compound) on the organisms of Lake Wylie.

While there have been many twists and turns since I was awarded the SURF, the experience has been beyond fulfilling. I intend to have significant results by the end of the year, and I can’t wait to present my findings at the Celebration for Undergraduate Research in the spring. Furthermore, the SURF experience has solidified my interest in pursuing a career in environmental research. I would encourage anyone interested in research or in a real-world topic outside their course of study to pursue the SURF, and undergraduate research in general, because you may just find something you love.

The Celebration of Undergraduate Research and Other Spring 2015 Events to Highlight Undergraduate Research

Here in the Office for Undergraduate Research we are busy gearing up for the annual Celebration of Undergraduate Research which will be held on Wednesday, April 15 from 1:00-3:15 p.m. as part of National Undergraduate Research Week.

 

We are fortunate to have additional events taking place on campus this spring that highlight undergraduate researchers at Carolina. Please join us at the Celebration and also take advantage of these other opportunities to support other students and learn about the wide range of research being conducted by Carolina undergrads.

Upcoming Events:

Biology Undergraduate Research Poster Session
Friday, April 17, 2015
2:00-5:00 p.m.
Genome Sciences Building, lower level lobby

BIOL 395 students in their second semester of research will present their findings. The posters will be displayed throughout the week of April 13-17.

Undergraduate Art Symposium
Wednesday, April 22, 2015 (tentative)

Details forthcoming

If your department or unit is hosting an undergraduate research conference, symposium or event, please let us know and we will be happy to include it on this list.

Completed Events:

Curriculum for the Environment and Ecology Student Research Symposium
Saturday, February 21, 2015
9:00 a.m. – 2:00 p.m.
North Carolina Botanical Garden

The 3rd annual CEE Student Research Symposium is designed to showcase many of the program’s students and their research accomplishments.  The symposium will incorporate oral and poster presentations from both graduate and undergraduate students over the course of the day.  In addition, the symposium will serve as a great networking vehicle for various members of CEE to meet and get to know one another. This event’s main goals are to provide student researchers the opportunity to present their research in a supportive environment and to foster relationships among members of the Curriculum, the University community, and the Research Triangle.​ You can review the program: CEE Symposium 2015.

McCain African and Diaspora Student Undergraduate Research Conference
Department of African, African American, and Diaspora Studies
March 20-21

The McCain African and Diaspora Student Undergraduate Research Conference presents undergraduate research projects on a variety of aspects of African, African American and Diaspora studies. The Dunbar-Stone lecture will kick off the conference on Friday, March 20; the keynote speaker is Cami Chavis. The conference will follow on Saturday, March 21 from 10:00 a.m. – 2:00 p.m. Read about this Conference here.

Biology Undergraduate Research Honors Symposium
Monday, March 23, 2015
All day in Coker 215

Biology senior honors thesis students present their research. Open to the public.

Department of Sociology Honors Research Presentations
Monday, March 23, 2015
3:30 PM
Hamilton 271

Sociology Honors students from Duke and UNC will be presenting their findings. Everyone is invited to attend.

Are You Interested in Serving as a 2015-16 OUR Ambassador?

Have you had a substantial undergraduate research experience? Do you enjoy talking about your research, scholarship and/or creative work? Would you like to have access to professional and leadership development opportunities? Are you interested in helping to support and expand the work of the Office for Undergraduate Research?

If so, please consider applying to serve as an OUR Ambassador! We’d like to recruit several additional Ambassadors for the 2015-2016 academic year.

You can read about some of our current Ambassadors here.

Our goals for the program:

  • To build a cohort of student ambassadors to support and enhance the work of the Office for Undergraduate Research
  • To provide opportunities for students to help continue to build a culture of undergraduate research at UNC
  • To provide peer mentors to incoming and current students interested in research
  • To provide professional and leadership development opportunities to OUR Ambassadors
  • To provide assistance to OUR in developing fundraising activities

Requirements:

  • Complete application and interview process
  • Meet 3-5 times during the academic year with OUR staff for program planning and professional development
  • Commit 15-20 hours/semester to Ambassador activities. In addition to Ambassador meetings, you might mentor current and incoming students, participate in panels or present in classes about undergraduate research, and engage in other outreach activities, including fundraising

If you are interested in applying to be an OUR Ambassador for next year, please complete the application on or before March 20, 2015 and email a copy of your current resume.

If you have any questions, email us.

Structuring Cities in the Past and Present

- written by Drew Cabaniss, BA Classical Archaeology, Class of ’15

Picture1

Drew on site in Crete

Cities vary greatly in their organization and social dynamics. As more people live in larger settlements, we would like to understand the constraints on cities as well as the effect of alternate forms of social, political, and economic organization. Defining these frontiers of possibility requires an understanding of urban diversity, an issue best targeted by studying present day cities alongside the anthropological and archaeological record of urbanization and urbanism.
I first became interested in this sort of work during a Research Experience for Undergraduates (REU) program at the Santa Fe Institute, where I had the opportunity to work with Luis Bettencourt and Scott Ortman on urban scaling in archaeological contexts. Urban scaling is observing how a city changes over time – factors such as economic productivity, population, and resource consumption contribute to these changes. Our work focused on the Basin of Mexico, where we found evidence for scaling patterns similar to modern cities in smaller communities occupied between 1000 BCE and 1500 CE. These sorts of commonalities between the past and present form were interesting; they helped us set a baseline for urban settlements as a whole.

Once back at UNC, I started working with Prof. Donald Haggis in the Classics Department on Greek urbanism in Crete, where clan groups were exceedingly important in the social and political life of settlements.  That summer I joined the Azoria Project, an archaeological excavation of a city in east Crete occupied from the 12th through 5th centuries BCE.  The site had been burned and abandoned in the 5th century, and the topography was monumentally transformed in the 7th century, making it very useful in observing the process of urbanization and city structure.

Picture2

The site of Azoira, seen from Kavousi Kastro in eastern Crete

I spent my first season working as a trench supervisor, overseeing the excavation of a small portion of the site, and then returned the following season as a Geographic Information Systems (GIS) Specialist. I now manage the equipment and software infrastructure for recording most spatial aspects of the excavation, such as the depth of stratigraphy and the location of artifacts. Combined with the increasingly digitized records from the first six years of excavation, I’m slowly building a geodatabase that contextualizes the recovered materials in their space on the site and within buildings. We’re already getting a clearer image of how a clan-based urban society works, with important consequences for the types of processes that maintain the social and economic structure of cities over long periods of time. As we build up our knowledge of Cretan urbanism, we’re understanding the limits and trends of human settlement, providing powerful tests and predictions for the present.

The discussions and contacts I have had over the course of my research has prepared me for graduate study and a future career in the field.  I have met numerous people interested in working with me and have gotten a few invitations to join graduate programs. Between the range of skills developed and the useful discussions, I have a range of possibilities open in archaeology as a direct result of this undergraduate research experience.

Reflection and Resolution: The Summer Internship Program at NIEHS

Written by Yasemin Cole, Biology Major

As the year came to a close, I reflected on the opportunities UNC-Chapel Hill has given me and the amount I have grown academically since I entered as a first year student. One experience topped the list: this past summer, as I was preparing to leave for my nine week journey to study abroad in London, I received exciting news from my mentor at the National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences (NIEHS) that I would be a co-author of a scientific research article. I was ecstatic to hear the news and the memories came flowing back in my mind of my time in the lab running western blots and going into the dark room time after time to develop films. My experience at NIEHS sparked my passion for scientific research and gave me fundamental research skills that I have built upon as a Biology major at UNC.

Reflecting on the experience, I knew that my hard work in the lab for the past two summers had paid off — not because a paper was published with my name on it but because I had helped find something that no one has seen before.

During the summer before my freshman year and the summer before my sophomore year I spent 8 weeks each summer working at NIEHS with the Summer Internship Program (SIP). With the help of my mentor, I researched the role of Glis3 (a transcription factor which regulates insulin production) in transdifferentiating an exocrine cell into an insulin-producing beta cell. The following summer, I built upon this work by researching the protein-protein interaction between an ubiquitin ligase and Glis3 to see how it affects insulin transcription. Through this research process, I learned the art of experimentation and built the curiosity to analytically question results one step at a time.

National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences (NIEHS) in Research Triangle Park

National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences (NIEHS) in Research Triangle Park

To a non-science major student these terms may be unfamiliar but the point is that as a first year I was able to learn about these incredible cellular mechanisms that occur in each cell of your body. To me, that is an amazing thing! Potentially in the future, with further research, we will be able to identify therapeutic targets for the treatment of diabetes (an insulin related disease). I know that my research is one small step in the many steps that will eventually help someone who is sick.

Beyond working in the lab, the SIP program provided me with the opportunity to explore my scientific interests by listening to talks and presentations given by other labs at NIEHS. Furthermore, all SIP participants attended planned seminars and workshops on topics such as UV radiation and pollution (which were my favorite). At the end of the program, all participants presented their research at the poster session. Apart from these enriching activities, I met other UNC students and college students from around the U.S. who are as passionate as I am for science. This program by far went beyond the expectations that I had when I applied.

My suggested New Year’s resolution for you is to apply for this internship program and to take part in this incredible experience. If I could apply again for this internship program I wouldn’t think twice; I believe this is a once in a lifetime opportunity. It made me realize how basic scientific research works and how it benefits human health. Since this research experience, I have been brought back to these thoughts in all of my Biology classes where we learn about amazing scientific discoveries and feats. But nothing can compare to tangibly performing experiments and discovering results that no one has seen before; that is the beauty of scientific research.

 

Note: The deadline for the Summer 2015 SIP is March 1, 2015.