Faculty

• 2017 Mentorship Excellence Awards

mentorship3

In recognition of the pivotal role that mentors play in supporting undergraduate research and creative activity, the Office of Undergraduate Research is pleased to announce the recipents of the 2017 Mentorship Excellence Awards. These awards recognize two faculty members – one in a STEM field, and one in a non-STEM field – and one graduate student who exemplify the ways in which outstanding mentors challenge and support their students, enabling them to take intellectual risks and achieve milestones they might not have initially envisioned being able to reach.

The 2017 Mentorship Excellence Awards were presented to Virginia Hettinger, Morgan Tingley, and Amanda Coletti during the Frontiers in Undergraduate Research Poster Exhibition on Friday, April 7, 2017.


Virginia Hettinger, Associate Professor of Political Science
Professor Hettinger’s award was presented by Peer Research Ambassador Tom Cotton ’17 (ENG). The following text is excerpted from Tom’s presentation remarks.

Tom Cotton and Virginia Hettinger
Tom Cotton ’17 (ENG) presents the award to Professor Virginia Hettinger.

All of Professor Hettinger’s nominators commented on the profound effect she has had on their undergraduate careers. One noted, “Professor Hettinger has completely changed my college experience for the better. After my first meeting with her, I left feeling as if I could attempt anything.”

By involving students in research, both in the classroom and through mentorship of independent projects, Professor Hettinger had developed her students’ understanding and appreciation of different types of political science research.

Further, she has encouraged her students to pursue opportunities they doubted they could achieve, whether that is submitting a University Scholar application or competing for a national fellowship. Her advisees describe how she has provided just the right kind of mentorship at a given moment, whether that was a gentle push to try something new, guidance on how to resolve a problem, or encouragement to persist in spite of challenges.

Her impact as a mentor is best encapsulated in the words of one of her advisees, who wrote, “Research has been central to my intellectual and professional development in college. I see research as more than just a final assignment for a class – it is a way to approach and try to understand different political and social problems. This is largely because Dr. Hettinger has always encouraged me to follow my intellectual curiosity and challenged me to come up with my own research questions. I have gained a host of research, writing, and strategic planning skills I will bring to whatever situations I find myself in throughout my career.”


Morgan Tingley, Assistant Professor of Ecology and Evolutionary Biology
Professor Tingley’s award was presented by Genevieve Nuttall ’18 (CLAS), Sarah Rumsey ’19 (CLAS), and Nicholas Russo ’18 (CLAS), three undergraduate researchers mentored by Dr. Tingley. The following text is excerpted from Nick’s presentation remarks.

Morgan Tingley and mentees
Professor Morgan Tingley, at right, with his undergraduate mentees.

Under Dr. Tingley’s guidance, I reached a major goal early in my undergraduate career: publishing the results of a research project in a peer-reviewed journal. He has worked with me intensively over the past three years to make sure I understood how to do ecology, from experimental design to communicating results.

Dr. Tingley also stresses ownership of research, which I credit as the major driver of my growth as a researcher. He teaches us the methods and tools of ecological research, including advanced statistics and R statistical software, and expects us to come to him with ideas for how to use them in our research.

In fall 2016, Dr. Tingley and I applied for the Jed Burtt Mentoring Grant to cover research expenses for the upcoming field season, and travel to present the results at an ornithology conference Dr. Tingley explained that he never had the chance to attend a conference as an undergraduate, and thought I should have the opportunity. In fact, he couldn’t wait until next year—we presented at the 2017 meeting and spent two non-conference days birding around Florida. Overall, Dr. Tingley’s impressive birding skills, and his cycle of critique and praise of my work keeps me on edge, and motivated to mirror his success in ecological research.


Amanda Coletti, Ph.D. Student, Physiology and Neurobiology, Conover Laboratory
Amanda was presented with her award by Emily Norton ’17 (CLAS), one of many undergraduate researchers who works under her supervision in the Conover lab. The following text is excerpted from Emily’s presentation remarks.

Amanda Coletti with mentees.
Amanda Coletti with members of the Conover Lab.

I began working with Amanda when she joined our lab as a first year graduate student. Although I was initially nervous to begin working with someone new, we have become incredibly close over the years, and her constant support and mentorship have proved invaluable to myself and others as we learn the intricacies of scientific research.

Throughout my time working with her, Amanda has made every teaching experience engaging and thought-provoking. Her passion for science and learning is contagious, and has heavily influenced our own involvement within the lab. While teaching us difficult techniques with skill, she has emphasized the importance of fully understanding our work and how each decision we make relates to our research question. Instead of criticizing us, she turns every mistake into an experience we can learn from. Her determination to involve us and teach us to work independently has led to our development of critical and creative thinking skills that will prove beneficial in all facets of our lives.

Amanda’s interest and guidance in our lives goes beyond the scope of lab work. She frequently dedicates her time and energy into helping and supporting her undergraduate team. Whether it be through answering late night stress emails, proofreading countless program applications, or celebrating our accomplishments, Amanda has been there to support us throughout all endeavors.


Congratulations to the 2017 award recipients! The Office of Undergraduate Research thanks the undergraduate students who nominated their faculty and graduate student mentors as well as the Peer Research Ambassadors who served on this year’s selection committee.

• Health Research Program – Opportunities for Summer 2017 & Academic Year 2017-18

The Office of Undergraduate Research is pleased to announce the next phase of the Health Research Program (HRP). This program offers a new pathway into undergraduate research for students with interests in health and/or the biomedical sciences. By facilitating connections between UConn Health researchers and UConn undergraduates, the program aims to involve more students in research at UConn Health.

For students interested in participating in this program for Summer 2017 and/or Academic Year 2017-18, here is the key information:

  • Summer 2017 opportunities are now posted on the HRP website. There are 24 opportunities that range from software development to health policy, biosensors to neuroscience, genetics to molecular medicine. The application deadline for these opportunities is Friday, February 24, 2017. Most Summer 2017 opportunities are slated to continue into the 2017-18 academic year (they will continue if the student makes satisfactory progress over the course of the summer and both the student and the faculty mentor are interested in continuing the placement); those that will not continue are marked “Summer Only.” Summer researchers will receive a stipend of $4,000 to cover the expenses associated with participating in this program
  • Academic Year 2017-18 opportunities (i.e., research placements that begin in the fall) are also now posted on the HRP website. There are 4 opportunities in molecular medicine, orthopaedics, neuroscience, and immunology. The application deadline for these opportunities is also Friday, February 24, 2017. These academic year opportunities can continue into summer 2018, as long as the student makes satisfactory progress over the course of the academic year, both the student and the faculty mentor are interested in continuing the placement for summer, and the student will be returning to UConn as an undergraduate student for 2018-19.
  • To be eligible for Summer 2017 and Academic Year 2017-18 HRP opportunities, students must plan to graduate no sooner than May 2018.

Further details and answers to frequently asked questions are available on the Health Research Program website. Students are encouraged to peruse the posted opportunities and begin preparing application materials for any placements of interest. We also urge students to take care to consider the time commitment and schedule options involved in a given opportunity to ensure that they can accommodate these demands in their summer and/or academic year schedule.

Please contact Caroline McGuire, OUR Director, at caroline.mcguire@uconn.edu with any questions.

• Announcing the Health Research Program

The Office of Undergraduate Research announces the launch of a new undergraduate research program, the Health Research Program. The Health Research Program offers a new pathway into undergraduate research for students with interests in health and/or the biomedical sciences. This program, sparked by President Herbst’s interest in facilitating connections between UConn Health researchers and UConn undergraduates, aims to involve more students in research at UConn Health. The Health Research Program is supported by the Office of the Vice President for Research and the Office of the Provost, and coordinated by the Office of Undergraduate Research.

For students interested in participating in this program for Spring 2017, here are key details to consider:

  • Spring 2017 opportunities are now posted on the Health Research Program website. There are 18 opportunities that range from psychiatry to science policy, biomaterials to neuroscience, genetics to molecular medicine. The application deadline for these opportunities is Friday, January 6, 2017.
  • To be eligible for these spring opportunities, students must plan to graduate no sooner than December 2017. This is because these research placements are not intended to be for spring alone – they will extend into summer and/or next academic year, assuming satisfactory research progress is made in spring and both the student and faculty mentor are interested in continuing the placement.

Further details and answers to frequently asked questions are available on the Health Research Program website. Students are encouraged to peruse the posted opportunities and begin preparing application materials for any placements of interest. We also urge students to take care to consider the time commitment and schedule options involved in a given opportunity to ensure that they can accommodate these demands in their spring schedule.

Please contact Caroline McGuire, OUR Director, at caroline.mcguire@uconn.edu with any questions.

• SURF 2017: Program Updates

surf3As we prepare for the SURF 2017 application to go live on December 1st, we would like to take the opportunity to highlight some updates and changes to this year’s SURF program. SURF continues to offer students from across the academic disciplines the opportunity to focus full-time on a research or creative project for 9-10 weeks over the summer.

Updates for 2017

  • Stabilized funding. Over the past few years, SURF funding has contracted significantly due to university-wide budget cuts. We are very pleased to announce that the program is on firm financial footing for 2017 due to a generous pledge of support from the Office of the Provost, as well as a multi-year funding commitment from the Office of the Vice President for Research. SURF funding will continue to come from a number of sources – including contributions from donors to the university, from the Deans of many Schools and Colleges, and from OUR’s budget – and we anticipate being able to make approximately 60 awards for 2017, consistent with pre-cut funding levels.
  • Application changes. See the full application outline here.
    • Data collection and data analysis. Reviewers sought greater specificity from applicants regarding their data collection and data analysis plans. The project proposal prompt now includes the following items:
      • For projects involving the collection of data, provide details about your data collection strategy and the types of data you will collect.
      • For projects involving the analysis of data, provide details about your planned analytic procedures and show how your analysis will answer your research question(s).
    • Upload of data collection tools. Reviewers requested that students using survey or interview methods be required to upload their data collection tool(s) (e.g., survey, assessment instrument, interview protocol) so that reviewers might better assess the proposed research design. A PDF upload field is included in the online application for this purpose; students not using survey or interview methods can skip this upload field. Students, please contact OUR with any questions about the use of this upload field.
  • Timeline changes. See timeline guidance and samples here.
    • Literature review. In most cases, literature review and synthesis will have been conducted to inform the development of the SURF proposal. Accordingly, timeline weeks should not be allocated solely to literature review unless the development of a synthesis of the literature is a major component of the proposed summer project. Any student intending to focus his/her SURF project on literature review is especially encouraged to meet with OUR staff (via appointment or SURF office hours) to discuss the project and how to present it most effectively.
    • Coursework and study abroad. Students are expected to account for summer course enrollment, participation in study abroad programs, or any other substantial summer commitment in their SURF timelines. SURF timelines need not be continuous, and the number of SURF project hours can vary from week to week. It is strongly recommended that students not pursue more than 3 credits of coursework simultaneously with the SURF project.
  • Budget policies. See the Budget Policies and Samples page for detailed guidance about allowable expenses (now including maximum dollar amounts for expenses like poster printing) and examples of budgets that show the appropriate level of detail. Faculty advisors of students conducting laboratory research: Please work with your advisee to ensure s/he has accurate information about the costs of lab supplies that can be procured through university purchasing channels and contracts.
  • Submitting letters of recommendation. Letters of recommendation will still be collected electronically, but via online form. In addition to uploading their letters of recommendation, project advisors will be asked about the research compliance status of the proposed project; this change is being made due to delays that negatively impacted SURF awardees in past years.
  • SURF Mailing List. Students planning to apply for SURF can sign up for the SURF Mailing List to receive helpful application tips via email.

We look forward to another excellent set of SURF applications this year! The application deadline is Monday, January 30, 2017. We encourage all students to make use of SURF Office Hours to get feedback on their draft materials and to ask any questions they might have about the program or the application. SURF Office Hours are scheduled for 12/8, 12/9, 1/17, 1/20, and 1/23. Full detail about times and location can be found in the sidebar on the main SURF webpage.

Photos of SURF recipients

• 2016 Mentorship Excellence Awards

mentorship3

In recognition of the pivotal role that mentors play in supporting undergraduate research and creative activity, the Office of Undergraduate Research is pleased to announce the recipents of the 2016 Mentorship Excellence Awards. These awards recognize two faculty members – one in a STEM field, and one in a non-STEM field – and one graduate student who exemplify the ways in which outstanding mentors challenge and support their students, enabling them to take intellectual risks and achieve milestones they might not have initially envisioned being able to reach.

The 2016 Mentorship Excellence Awards were presented to Dwight Codr, Etan Markus, and Samantha Yohn during the Frontiers in Undergraduate Research Poster Exhibition on Friday, April 8, 2016.


Dwight Codr, Associate Professor of English
Professor Codr’s award was presented by Giorgina Paiella ’16 (CLAS), who has completed several research grants and projects under his advisement. The following text is excerpted from Giorgina’s nomination and presentation remarks.

Dwight Codr and Giorgina Paiella
Mentorship Excellence Award winner Dwight Codr with Giorgina Paiella.

There are some people with whom you cross paths who end up having a tremendous impact on your life. Professor Dwight Codr is one of those individuals. I met him almost four years ago, when I was a freshman in his Introduction to Literary Studies course. That class was the first English course of my college career, and to this day, it is one of the best classes that I have taken at UConn. The course, more commonly known among English students as “the Frankenstein course,” is renowned in the department for being an engaging, creative approach to literary interpretation. He is unsurprisingly a favorite professor to many students of English.

Professor Codr has guided me through one class seminar, two independent studies to prepare me for my thesis work, a summer research paper, an exhibition that I curated in the Dodd Center, and my University Scholar project. This fall, I applied to graduate school. Professor Codr guided me through writing my personal statement and gathering my application materials. The application process would have been difficult were it not for Professor Codr’s constant support and encouragement of my promise as a student. He is a tireless mentor who responds to student emails late at night far beyond what is required of his duties as an instructor. He encourages office hour visits and calls in order to work through research questions and other inquiries, and he does this all out of a passion for student learning and growth. Professor Codr is an exceptional researcher, an engaging and passionate instructor, and at the same time humble and caring. It is rare to find these qualities combined in a person, and even rarer in a mentor.

I am happy to say that I will be pursuing a graduate degree in the fall. It is my goal to become a university professor, where I hope to pay forward the support that I have received at this university and aim for the exceptional mentorship standard that Professor Codr has set.


Etan Markus, Professor of Psychological Sciences
Professor Markus’ award was presented by Stephanie Vu ’16 (CLAS), one of many undergraduate researchers in the Markus lab. The following text is excerpted from Stephanie’s presentation remarks.

Photo of Markus Lab members
Current and past undergraduate researchers from the Markus Lab surround Professor Etan Markus, 2016 Mentorship Excellence Award winner.

Dr. Markus takes a personal interest in the lives of his undergraduate researchers to ensure that we not only conduct exceptional research but enjoy doing so. He has cultivated a sense of community within the lab by hosting lab dinners, conducting weekly lab meetings, and most importantly, providing a constant supply of snacks and hot chocolate in the lounge so that we never go hungry after running hour-long experiments.

Clearly, this kind of care and commitment to his students also translates into the excellent mentorship he provides within the lab setting. Despite being a mentor for over 15 undergraduate researchers, Dr. Markus has never failed to inspire each and every one of us to pursue our future aspirations and to be confident in our academic and research abilities. He has encouraged us to pursue independent research, attend research conferences such as NEURON and Society for Neuroscience, and apply for research awards and fellowships. There have been countless times when Dr. Markus has come in on weekends to work with his students 1:1. He has even taken me on spontaneous field trips to the Depot Campus or the supply store to test out new experimental designs to improve my research project. His enthusiasm and passion has empowered us to push the limits of our undergraduate education and to engage in quality research.

These past four years I have been fortunate enough to learn from Dr. Markus’s research abilities and to have a mentor who is truly invested in his students’ successes. I can speak for the other students in his lab that working under Dr. Markus’s guidance has been one of the hallmarks of our college careers.


Samantha Yohn, Ph.D. Student, Behavioral Neuroscience, Salamone Laboratory
Dr. Yohn – who successfully defended her dissertation the day prior – was presented with her award by Giuseppe Tripodi ’16 (CLAS), one of many undergraduate researchers who works under her supervision in the Salamone lab. The following text is excerpted from Guiseppe’s presentation remarks.

Samantha Yohn and Salamone lab members
Award winner Samantha Yohn with Professor John Salamone and undergraduate researchers in the Salamone lab.

Sam is a Psychology Ph.D. student in the Salamone Lab, and I have been privileged to work beside her since the beginning of my junior year. As a student with zero experience in the field of research, I felt nothing short of intimidated and overwhelmed. However, with Sam’s guidance and talent, she made me feel as if I had been a part of the lab for years.

With finesse, she explains difficult, unfamiliar concepts easily, as if it were second nature to her. Every day she teaches us novel concepts and techniques crucial for the lab to function properly, quizzing us out of the blue to make the information stick, and pushing us to practice under a watchful eye until our techniques are perfected.

Over countless hours working with her, my fellow undergraduate students and I began not just to trust one another but also to trust ourselves, to become self-reliant. In her rare absences we are able to act independently whenever the need arises, a skill many are not fortunate enough to be able to practice in the field of research, and for that, we are in her debt.

Lastly, Sam’s involvement has reached us not only on a professional level, but also a personal one. She is never hesitant to donate her time or effort to help her undergrads, whether we need it because of stress from school, family troubles, or fears of the future. Sam has truly established a second family here in the Salamone lab, and she will undoubtedly be missed as she leaves to further her career at Vanderbilt University.


Congratulations to the 2016 award recipients! The Office of Undergraduate Research thanks the undergraduate students who nominated their faculty and graduate student mentors as well as the Peer Research Ambassadors who served on this year’s selection committee.

Jennifer Lease Butts, Giorgina Paiella, and Dwight Codr
Assistant Vice Provost Jennifer Lease Butts, Giorgina Paiella, and honoree Dwight Codr.

Etan Markus and Stephanie Vu
Stephanie Vu presents Etan Markus with his Mentorship Excellence Award.

Salamone, Yohn, and Tripodi
Professor John Salamone, honoree Samantha Yohn, and Giuseppe Tripodi.

 

• New funding opportunity: ISA Honors Awards for Undergraduate International Studies Research

This year, through the generous support of the International Studies Associations’ Headquarters and UConn’s Office of Global Affairs, a new research award program is being offered for undergraduate students: the ISA Honors Awards for Undergraduate International Studies Research.

This award program provides students with up to $1,000 in support to assist them in conducting social science projects that span across countries, regions, or the globe. Students must be members of the Honors Program in order to be eligible for the program. They need not be majoring in a social science discipline, but the proposed project must make use of the theories and methods of one or more social sciences. Award applications will be reviewed on a rolling basis through March 31, 2016.

Full program details are available on the ISA Awards webpage and we encourage faculty and students to contact us with any questions they might have about the program.

ISA-Awards-Flyer

• Launch of the Mentorship Excellence Awards

Chemical engineering student Derek Chhiv '14, right, discusses with Professor Anson Ma his group’s prototype for an artificial kidney.
Chemical engineering student Derek Chhiv ’14, right, discusses with Professor Anson Ma his group’s prototype for an artificial kidney.

In recognition of the critically important role that mentors play in supporting undergraduate research and creative activity, the Office of Undergraduate Research is pleased to introduce a new annual award program for outstanding mentorship. This program was developed in collaboration with the OUR Peer Research Ambassadors, undergraduates engaged in research and creative scholarship across the disciplines who help promote undergraduate inquiry at the university.

The Mentorship Excellence Awards will be presented each year to one faculty recipient and one graduate student recipient. A committee of undergraduate students will select the award recipients, who will be formally presented with their awards in April during the Frontiers in Undergraduate Research Poster Exhibition.

Students are encouraged to nominate their outstanding mentors before the close of the nomination period on Wednesday, March 11, 2015. Learn more and access the nomination forms on the Mentorship Excellence Awards webpage.

• Congratulations, Fall 2013 UConn IDEA Grant Recipients!

idea_logo_standard_color_bottomWEBThe UConn IDEA Grant program provides funding of up to $4,000 for self-designed projects including entrepreneurial ventures, community service initiatives, traditional research projects, or other creative endeavors. Proposals for the UConn IDEA Grants represented a variety of disciplines, ranging from history to mechanical engineering.

Congratulations to the nine undergraduates who have been awarded UConn IDEA Grants in the second award cycle of this new program coordinated by the Office of Undergraduate Research (OUR)! Click here to download the list of grant recipients and their projects.

Rosse Gates ’16 (ENGR) – Autonomous Navigation Systems and Algorithms

  • Rosse will work to develop an autonomous quadcopter that can track its position in relation to the environment and survey disaster areas in GPS-devoid environments.

Dillon Jones ’15 (ENGR) – Gentleman’s Gantry Machine

  • Dillon will work to build a “Gentleman’s Gantry Machine,” a general purpose, computer controlled positioning system of his own design that will enable multiple forms of manufacturing on one device.

Saher Kazi ’16 (CLAS) – Investigation and Analysis of the Barriers to Mental Health Care in India

  • Saher plans to investigate the factors influencing access to mental healthcare in India in a study involving mental health clinics in the town of Nashik in Maharashtra, India.

Kiersten Kronschnabel ’16 (CLAS) – POWER: Providing Optimal Strategies for Patient Retention While Transitioning from Pediatric to Adult Care 

  • Kiersten’s project is a community service initiative to address the dearth of resources for facilitating the pediatric-adult care transition for HIV-positive adolescents.

Katelyn McFadden ’15 (CANR) – Effects of Poor Maternal Nutrition on Liver Development in Lambs

  • Katelyn’s project builds on a collaborative study in the Department of Animal Science evaluating the effects of poor maternal nutrition on the growth of offspring in sheep. Katelyn will analyze liver samples in lambs to understand the mechanisms at work affecting offspring growth and development.

Amoolya Narayanan ’16 (CLAS) – Investigating the Use of Natural Antimicrobials to Control Urinary Tract Infections in a Mouse Model

  • Amoolya will investigate the potential of trans-cinnamaldehyde, a natural antimicrobial molecule contained in cinnamon, as an antimicrobial coating on urinary catheters to control urinary tract infections.

Zachary Raslan ’15 (CLAS) – Historic GIS Mapping of Hartford, CT

  • Zachary is partnering with a larger research project, Virtual Hartford, to acquire and digitize the earliest maps of Hartford, CT. He will apply GIS software to create maps that detail the evolution of the city and show changes to the physical landscape after significant historic events.

Aaron Rosman ’16 (CANR) – Elatine Ambigua and Elatine Triandra

  • Aaron will conduct research on invasive plant species Elatine Ambigua and Elatine Triandra to clarify the species boundaries and provide insights on their source and vector of introduction in the U.S.

Rachel Winsor ’15 (ENGR) – Project XX

  • Rachel plans to partner with UConn groups and departments to help bridge the gender gap to success by developing and implementing a series of empowerment workshops for the UConn community.

 

Thank you to the faculty members who have agreed to supervise the UConn IDEA Grant students in their projects. Thank you as well to the faculty members and program directors who served on the UConn IDEA Grant Proposal Review Committee!

• Announcing the 2014 Roper Awards for Research Experience (RARE)

The Roper Award for Research Experience (RARE) supports undergraduate research apprenticeships that make use of the archives of the Roper Center for Public Opinion Research. We are pleased to announce the two student/faculty RARE teams who have received awards for Spring 2014 and thank the Roper Center for its generous support of these student awards.

Project TitlePublic Perception and Judicial Legitimacy
Student Apprentice and Major: Molly Rockett, Political Science
Faculty Mentor and Department: Virginia Hettinger, Political Science

Ms. Rockett and Professor Hettinger will be using the DRI National Poll on the Civil Justice System to explore public perceptions of the judicial decision-making process and poll respondents’ assessments of firsthand experiences (as litigants, jurors, or witnesses) with the legal system.

Project Title: The Right to Bear Arms: The Role of Federalism in Gun Control Policy
Student Apprentice and Major: Brian Tiedt, Political Science & Economics
Faculty Mentor and Department: Paul Herrnson, Political Science

Mr. Tiedt and Professor Herrnson will use the metadata available on iPOLL and a variety of data sets to consider the evolution of public opinion on gun control, subgroup variation in opinion, and public perceptions of the role of the federal government in regulating firearms.

 
Press Release from the Roper Center