Welcome to the Fall 2015 Semester

We are also happy to see and feel the energy that comes with the start of a new semester. As you’re thinking about your undergraduate research career here at Carolina, don’t forget about OUR resources and support.

You can talk with an OUR student Ambassador or Department Liaison for advice and support.

Check out opportunities that have been posted in the Database of Research Opportunities.

Review the criteria to be a Carolina Research Scholar and plan to earn this transcript designation.

Check out our Fall Event and our SURF Information Session schedule.

Read the OUR Blog, sign up for the biweekly e-newsletter, follow our Twitter feed and like us on Facebook.

A Different Kind of Semester — Research at a North Carolina Field Site

– written by Andrea Stewart, OUR Ambassador and Environmental Science major

The Institute for the Environment at UNC is praised for its network of field sites, where students can venture for a semester in North Carolina or abroad and do coursework, take field trips, hold internships, and perform group research projects. As an environmental science major with a concentration in natural resources and conservation, I chose the Highlands Field Site, a beautiful place in the NC mountains known for its high biodiversity. Little did I know that through this program, I would have the opportunity to study at Coweeta Hydrologic Laboratory, home to one of the oldest continuous environmental studies in North America.

A waterfall in the experimental watershed

A waterfall in the experimental watershed

I was assigned a research internship at Coweeta and visited the lab several times each week in the fall semester of my junior year. My mentor was an ecologist who is interested in studying the effects of logging on forest vegetation dynamics. Research at Coweeta usually focuses on one or more watersheds, or areas of land where all the water flows to the same location. In our study, we examined a watershed that was partially logged by researchers in the 1950s. We asked – how was this forest changed over the past 60 years?

To answer that question, I trekked into the field, a mountainous forest that ranged in elevation over 1300 feet. I located large plots that were established in the 1930s to measure vegetation. One by one, I measured and identified all the trees in these plots, careful to record the data accurately, not get tangled in rhododendron shrubs, and watch out for black bears! Considering that Coweeta is located in a temperate rainforest, the work outdoors was not always easy, but it was very informative. I learned to identify many tree species, observe vegetation patterns, and recognize different forest ecotypes, skills that I could not have gained by simply reading a textbook.

Measuring tree diameter at Coweeta Lab

Measuring tree diameter at Coweeta Lab

After completing the field work, we resurrected historical data from the 1930s and 1950s and compared it with our data. We also used similar data from a watershed that was completely logged and a watershed that was unaltered by humans. I was surprised to discover that, in some ways, partially logging affects the characteristics of a forest significantly less than clearcutting. We also observed that forest hydrology is not significantly changed due to partial logging, a finding that has important implications for water sustainability.

My internship at Coweeta Hydrologic Lab through the Highlands Field Site was an exceptional introduction to ecological research. This project elucidated for me what exactly “research” looks like and how it is conducted. Furthermore, it helped me solidify my interest in forest ecology and ecohydrology. I encourage all students to consider a research project or independent study at a field site; the experience outside the typical classroom cannot be matched!

Science and Math Achievement and Resourcefulness Track Program Symposium

2015 SMART symposium

2015 SMART symposium

On July 17, 2015, the SMART Program hosted a research symposium highlighting the work of SMART undergraduate researchers. This program is supported by the Office for Undergraduate Research, and the NSF-funded North Carolina Louis Stokes Alliance for Minority Participation, (NC-LSAMP) Phase IV. Dr. Laura Miller is the PI for the NC-LSAMP Grant. You can read more about the program here.

In his opening comments, program director Dr. Gidi Shemer praised the students and encouraged them to think of their summer research as just the first step in their journey. Research, Dr. Shemer observed, is an excellent way to develop critical thinking skills. He noted the power of witnessing the transformation of the students as they learned to think like scientists and matured into scholar-scientists. The students reported that their projects pushed them to step outside of their comfort zones; many were initially surprised at the high expectations of their labs, PIs, and co-mentors. They were, in fact, expected to do real research! Dr. Shemer announced that plans are underway to build in more interaction between the SMART and SMART-Transfer cohorts for next summer’s participants.

Nicholas Larsen presents his project

Nicholas Larsen presents his project

In two poster sessions in the lobby of the Genome Science Building, program participants discussed their summer research projects. There was an impressively diverse range of projects from many academic disciplines, including Computer Science, Biology, Chemistry, Nutrition and more. Students discussed using network analysis of bill co-sponsorship to determine relationships between US Senators, the efficacy of the flu vaccine in obese subjects, the connection between head impact and reaction time in high school football players, and more.

2015 SMART participants

2015 SMART participants

This event was an impressive example of summer undergraduate research at Carolina. Thanks to the PIs and co-mentors who welcomed our students into their labs and supported their interest in scientific research, and to all who attended the symposium.

SMART and SMART-Transfer Research Presentations

Each summer the Office for Undergraduate Research offers the Science and Math Achievement and Resourcefulness Track (SMART) and SMART-Transfer program. This program is conducted in partnership with North Carolina A & T University, the lead campus in the NSF-funded North Carolina Louis Stokes Alliance for Minority Participation, (NC-LSAMP) Phase IV. Dr. Laura Miller is the PI for the NC-LSAMP Grant and Dr. Gidi Shemer is the SMART Programs Director.

SMART 2015 participant Dana Elhertani gives a chalk talkThe students selected to participate in the program are matched to a laboratory based on their interests; they spend nine weeks during the summer doing 30 hours of research per week under the mentorship of a lab member and the principal investigator of the lab. Students also attend weekly meetings with their peers and the program director where they discuss scientific papers, present chalk talks, and gain scientific writing skills.

SMART 2015 students studyOn Friday, July 17, at 12:00 p.m. in the Genome Science Building lobby, there will be a research symposium where the SMART and SMART-Transfer students will present their summer research projects. Dr. Shemer noted that a wide range of STEM fields were involved in this program; projects included: “A computer-science approach to design an easily accessible keyboard for the disabled,” “Comparing water treatment protocols to determine which provides the best (almost) germ-free water that we should drink,” and “How to use Nanodoplets to fragment chromatin and to improve personalized cancer screening.”

Feel free to join us at the research symposium, and keep an eye out for these up-and-coming scientists.

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

 

 

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!

 

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.

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.

Letters from Panama, Summer 2014

Brianna Osinski, who graduated from Carolina in May with a major in Biology, in is Panama on a research internship with the Smithsonian Tropical Research Institute. As an undergraduate, Brianna studied phenotypic plasticity in spadefoot toads in the lab of Dr. David Pfennig. Brianna has been sharing her experiences with her mentor, Dr. Peter White, and agreed to let us publish the following excerpts. Thanks, Brianna!

From: Osinski, Brianna
Sent: June 7, 2104, 4:20 pm
To: White, Peter S
Subject: Panama, week 1 review

So, wow, Panama! How have I never been here before!?!? It is so verdant and life is brimming everywhere you look. My alarm clock here consists of a chorus of green parrots that roost outside my window and the occasional trio of tamarind monkeys. Then there are the agouti that just stroll through the backyard eating our mangoes and the iguanas zipping about around them. I think so far I’m most captivated by the leaf-cutter ants. Their sheer numbers are amazing and their industrious nature is simply admirable. Also, the trees here are breathtaking. I just keep stopping to gape at all the buttress roots and staring up into the canopy trying to take in the enormity of the nature surrounding me.Brianna trees

The scientific community here is wonderful, too. I’ve yet to meet an unkind soul and the best part is that everyone here is in love with what they’re studying. So, when I ask questions, a LOT of questions, I’m met with excitement and joy, because they want to talk about what they’re studying just as much as I want to hear about it. We had our first “frog talk” yesterday, which is when all the people here studying frogs gets together and present their research, and it was heavenly! I’ve found my niche, and it is amongst biologists.

Our research with the Tungara frogs is going well. We start at 7:30 pm and collect pairs for about 2 hours at various sites. Then we take them back to the lab, run the females through some phonotaxis tests in our sound chamber to observe their mate preference, we weigh/measure/and toe clip them (toe clipping took some getting used to :/), and last but not least we put them back where we found them before the sun comes up. Ideally, we’re done by 3:30 am, but some nights, like last night, run long and we were working till 6:30. But, since I love what I’m doing, it’s really not so bad when it goes late. If I had infinite energy levels and didn’t require that whole sleep thing, I’d do research all day long.

Week Two in review.

Week 3 was as grand as could be!

Animals galore during week 4!

Great to be alive during week 5!

Rhyming week 6 has me in a fix!

Note: If you are interested in learning more about Brianna’s research or about STRI itself, please feel free to contact Brianna: bosinski@live.unc.edu.