Author: McGuire, Caroline

• Research Assistant in REINVENT-PT Lab

Opportunity Description

The REINVENT-PT lab (REhabilitation INnoVations & Emerging Novel Technologies in Physical Therapy, PI: Dr. Sudha Srinivasan) at the University of Connecticut (UConn) is interested in understanding developmental trajectories of individuals with neuro-developmental disabilities including Autism, Cerebral Palsy, Down syndrome, etc. across the lifespan.

We are interested in studying how infants and children with developmental disabilities explore their physical and social environment compared to typically developing peers and the cascading effects of motor difficulties on a child’s social communication and cognitive development. We are also interested in assessing health-related outcomes in adolescents and young adults with developmental disabilities, including their physical activity and physical fitness levels. Based on our understanding of the developmental trajectories of individuals with disabilities, our goal is to develop multisystem, engaging, evidence-based, behavioural interventions and assistive technologies to empower the lives of people with disabilities.

At present, the lab has 4 ongoing research projects – (1) exploring the utility and efficacy of using playful joystick-operated ride-on-toys to promote upper extremity function and spontaneous use in children with hemiplegic Cerebral Palsy both in a camp setting and as a home-based program. Specifically, we are also interested in comparing the efficacy of single versus dual joystick ride-on-toy navigation training in improving uni- and bimanual function in children with hemiplegic CP, (2) assessing the ability of healthy neurotypical children to drive joystick-operated ride-on-toys using their non-dominant side, (3) assessing physical activity and physical fitness levels in adolescents and young adults with developmental disabilities compared to age-matched typically developing peers and understanding factors at the personal and environmental levels that influence physical activity engagement in young adults with disabilities, and (4) assessing the effects of a novel, icon-driven Augmentative and Alternative Communication (AAC) device on social communication and behavioral skills of children with Autism Spectrum Disorder using a longitudinal study design.

We specifically need help with projects (1) and (2) listed above in terms of recruitment efforts, data collection, and data analyses.

Student Qualifications
We are looking for passionate, energetic, and empathetic undergraduate students interested in working on projects involving infants, children, and adults with disabilities. Students can pursue research at the lab for credit, for work study, and with the potential of converting a subset of the research into an honor’s thesis.

Students are required to commit to pursuing research in the lab for at least 2-3 semesters in order for the experience to be meaningful for students. Students are required to complete CITI training given that our research is with human subjects (details will be provided by the study PI). Students from diverse backgrounds including but not limited to psychology, physiology and neurobiology, biology, exercise science, communication sciences, allied health, and education are encouraged to apply.

How to Apply
Interested students should contact Dr. Sudha Srinivasan at sudha.srinivasan@uconn.edu via email. Please attach your resume/CV and unofficial transcript to the email.

Mentor: Sudha Srinivasan, Assistant Professor
Department: Kinesiology (Physical Therapy)
Email: sudha.srinivasan@uconn.edu
Timing: Fall 2022, Spring 2023, Summer 2023
Campus: Storrs

• Research Assistant in Lab Exploring Outcomes After Pediatric Critical Illness

Opportunity Description
Dr. Perry-Eaddy is focused on understanding outcomes in children after critical illness. Namely, she is interested in understanding the underlying biological mechanisms that may increase a child’s risk of poor recovery, such as hyper-inflammation. This position will include assisting in the start-up of a study of critically ill children who survive the Pediatric Intensive Care Unit (PICU). The student research assistant will aid in conducting literature reviews, analyzing literature, preparing grants, IRB submissions etc. Additionally the student will aid in the development of research data collection tools, as well as preparation of sample collection kits. The student will learn the essentials of launching a clinical research study. There may be opportunities for the student to have unique opportunities such as writing/publishing a manuscript or poster presentation, answering a research question with existing data, and applying for internal grant funding.

There is a potential opportunity to receive honors course credit, which would be discussed with student and major advisor in advance.

A list of potential tasks the student may perform include the following:
-Conduct literature searches
-Extract information from sources
-Organize and classify data
-Proofread and edit data collection forms in REDcap
-Test data collection forms prior to going live with clinical subjects
-Create sample collection kits
-Assist in maintaining REDcap database
-Look up and check references
-Tabulate and analyze data

Student Qualifications
Required:
-Be an undergraduate student in the Honors Program
-Be able to operate computer, phone, and/or other research equipment
-Have strong communication skills (verbal and written)
-Be able to maintain confidentiality

Preferred:
-While not required, students with interest in clinical and/or translational research are best suited for this position. Especially those enrolled in health-related programs (i.e. nursing, pre-med, allied health, pharmacy, etc.).
-Prior research experience, including literature reviews and/or completion of W-level coursework is strongly encouraged.
-Knowledge of REDcap database is preferred, though not required.

How to Apply
If interested, please submit your resume and cover letter to Dr. Perry-Eaddy (mallory.perry@uconn.edu), addressing your interest in pediatric critical care clinical and/or translational research, and what you hope to gain from the experience.

Mentor: Dr. Mallory Perry-Eaddy, Assistant Professor
Department: Nursing
Email: mallory.perry@uconn.edu
Timing: Ongoing
Campus: Storrs

• Research Assistant in Transportation Engineering

Opportunity Description

Dr. Monika Filipovska’s research group seeks research assistants for a few research projects focusing on advancements in transportation research, including intelligent transportation systems and IoT, mobility on demand, and modeling of autonomous vehicles. Depending on the student’s skills, they may work on tasks involving data cleaning and pre-processing, database management, use of GIS software for pre-analysis, running numerical experiments using programming software, or assistance with the use of driving simulation equipment and software.

Through this experience, students will learn about new advancements in the field of transportation engineering, including new mobility services and vehicle or infrastructure technologies. Students will have the opportunity strengthen their coding and data analysis skills, and learn new skills related to the use of traffic and driving simulation software. Students will be expected to participate in research meetings and work collaboratively with other undergraduate or graduate assistants. The students will have the opportunity to receive additional mentoring from graduate students, postdoctoral associates, and other research staff they may work with.

Depending on the progress and skills of specific students, and for how long they are available to work in the research group, students may have the opportunity to also contribute to data analysis and writing, and build their research, analytical and writing skills.

This is a paid opportunity, at the Class II assistant level ($13.15/hour to $14.35/hour) according to JobX classification.

Students may have the opportunity to continue working on related topics through independent study or directed research credits in the upcoming semesters if they are interested.

Student Qualifications
At minimum the applicants should have:
· Interest in research related to transportation systems
· Ability to follow direction
· Ability to work independently and as part of a team
· Strong quantitative skills

Applicants should have some combination of the following:
· Proficiency in Excel
· Data cleaning, organizing, pre-processing, and formatting skills
· Programming using Python, MATLAB and/or R
· Strong background in statistical analysis, math, or computer science
· SQL server and database management experience
· Working knowledge or experience with ArcGIS Pro

Please note that each applicant need only have some of these skills. This list would be the combined set of skills of multiple hired students.

How to Apply
This opportunity is advertised via JobX with the Job ID 12861. Please submit your applications there. Applications should include: a short resume, a description of any experience related to this job, a brief summary of any unique skills, qualifications or interests relevant to this job.
Please also share your availability (summer / semester and hours), and what you hope to gain from this experience.

Mentor: Monika Filipovska, Assistant Professor
Department: Civil and Environmental Engineering
Email: monika.filipovska@uconn.edu
Timing: Summer 2022, Ongoing
Campus: Storrs

• 2022 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 recipients of the 2022 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.

Please join us in congratulating Jason Oliver Chang, Sarah Knutie, and Mia Kawaida on their selection as this year’s Mentorship Excellence Award recipients. The awards were presented on Friday, April 8, 2022 during the 25th annual Frontiers in Undergraduate Research Poster Exhibition.


Jason Oliver Chang, Associate Professor, History and Asian American Studies
Professor Chang was nominated by Karen Lau ’25 (CLAS). The following text is excerpted from Karen’s nomination.

A portrait of Jason Oliver Chang
2022 Mentorship Excellence Award winner Jason Oliver Chang, Ph.D., Associate Professor of History and Asian American Studies.

During my freshman year, I took Dr. Chang’s Asian American Experience Since 1850 course and became his mentee. He encouraged me to join Make Us Visible CT, a group of educators and students working together to advocate for the development and implementation of Asian American studies curricula in public schools across multiple states. Through Make Us Visible, I worked with fellow students to collect data on the demographics of public school districts, Boards of Education, and Directors of Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion in Connecticut. As a young, Asian American woman, I have seldom seen myself represented by my educators’ experiences or cultures. Dr. Chang’s teaching has opened my eyes to beautiful aspects of my family’s immigration history, culture, heritage, and identity that I have been blind to in the past.

Currently, Dr. Chang and I are working with the Connecticut Commission on Women, Children, Seniors, Equity & Opportunity to create a first-of-its-kind political opinion survey for Asian American Connecticut residents. Throughout the creation of this survey, Dr. Chang has taught me about building large-scale surveys and ethical data collection. He motivated me to draft questions about accessibility, civic engagement, political opinions, and the impact of COVID-19. Dr. Chang’s vision of uplifting Asian residents of Connecticut has been extremely inspiring.

Dr. Chang inspired me to be unafraid of the unknown, to dig deeper to learn about my home state’s impact on Asian Americans, and to be bolder in my advocacy in education reform. He frequently made space for me to ask questions, provide my ideas and insight, and empowered me to collaborate with historians and cultural anthropologists. At a time when I struggled with separating my identity from being a student the most, Dr. Chang taught me that I am much more than a student; in fact, I am capable of changing the education landscape and battling inequities that my generation faces. Dr. Chang is never discouraging or doubtful of his students’ abilities to conduct research in history. He works with students to achieve their academic and social goals, whether that may be lobbying the CT General Assembly to pass ethnic studies legislation or creating a curriculum about power and colonialism. His extraordinary compassion for his students, his commitment to increasing the visibility of students of color, and his fierce advocacy for policies that benefit marginalized students and educators have benefited me immensely. Without any doubt, Dr. Chang’s mentorship has been the most empowering aspect of my college experience at UConn.


Sarah Knutie, Assistant Professor, Ecology and Evolutionary Biology
Professor Knutie was nominated by Mahima Mehta ’22 (CLAS). The following text is excerpted from Mahima’s nomination.

A portrait of Sarah Knutie
2022 Mentorship Excellence Award winner Sarah Knutie, Ph.D., Assistant Professor of Ecology and Evolutionary Biology.

Science and research touch all aspects of our lives. Up until my sophomore year of college, I had a very skewed view of it all – I knew it existed, but I didn’t know to what extent and completely believed it was not something for someone like me. Upon my first conversation with Dr. Sarah Knutie, I was amazed by the questions she was investigating and could clearly see myself working in her lab. When I became a member of the Nest Parasite Community Science Project, this was my first exposure to research and I found myself nervous. I didn’t know what to expect and was afraid I wouldn’t do well. I quickly realized how silly these fears were as Dr. Knutie supported and encouraged me to ask questions to clarify and better understand the various topics being investigated.

The largest lesson, and most important lesson, Dr. Knutie has taught me is the importance of asking questions. It is rather easy to feel, as an undergraduate student, that the questions we have may be “dumb.” Dr. Knutie made a conscious effort to squash that misconception and taught me asking questions is the basis of research and science. When I joined her lab, Dr. Knutie encouraged me to keep a notebook of things I noticed and wondered. We revisited that notebook a year later and I had developed pages of trends and questions, some of which had the potential to be studied in my remaining time as an undergraduate student. Dr. Knutie suggested I choose the question that most interested me to pursue as an independent research project. As someone who has always been interested in the effects of climate change, I developed a project that focused on that and applied for an IDEA Grant. She helped me every step of the way, reminding me that no question is a bad question and that she was there to guide me through the process.

Outstanding mentors not only lead by example, but also provide opportunities for their mentees to learn through experience. After participating in the Nest Parasite Community Science Project for a year, I became the lead undergraduate on the project – my first time leading anything this big. Despite Dr. Knutie being at her long-term study site in the Galápagos, she has made sure to always be available to me when I need her, and has even gone as far as to set up weekly meetings to discuss that project, my IDEA Grant project, and work on presenting research in a poster and manuscript. I joined the lab without having the slightest idea of the opportunities that research may come with, and now I am working on my very own manuscript and coauthoring another. This is incredibly exciting as it makes the broader impact of the study more tangible. A large part of Dr. Knutie’s research focuses on scientific communication and making the questions we investigate digestible to the public. She has shown me the importance of making science accessible to everyone.

Dr. Knutie exemplifies excellence in mentorship because of the unique sense of purpose, importance, and passion she enables us to find in ourselves. The members of the Knutie Lab agree that she truly wants us all to succeed. Dr. Knutie has been my biggest supporter and inspiration and I am incredibly grateful for her encouragement in all of my passions.


Mia Kawaida, Ph.D. Student, Animal Science
Mia was nominated by Vianna Bassani ’23 (CAHNR). The following text is excerpted from Vianna’s nomination.

A portrait of Mia Kawaida
2022 Mentorship Excellence Award winner Mia Kawaida, Ph.D. student in Animal Science.

Beginning undergraduate research, I did not know what to expect, as I had never participated in anything like this before. I was nervous to work with graduate students and PI’s knowing I had such limited experience. Meeting Mia through Dr. Reed’s lab relieved these nerves and has helped me be where I am today. Mia was always so caring and welcoming from the start. She helped me understand basic laboratory techniques and worked closely with me to help me actually understand what I was doing, instead of just going through the motions.

When I first started the lab work for my project, Mia and I sat down together and went through my assay kit. We read every word of the manual together, did every step together, and spent 7 hours together in one day to get it done, just to find out that we would not be able to use the data and would have to redo everything. While I was disappointed with the result, Mia took this so-called failure and turned it into a positive learning experience that science is not always easy or perfect but it is messy, and that is what makes science, science, as our PI Dr. Reed would say.

This year, I really feel like I have gained an appreciation for research, and this comes in part from working with Mia. She is patient, knowledgeable, and dedicated to the field, and these are the reasons I look up to her when completing my own research project now. From spending time practicing pipetting to hours working on my own assays, Mia has been there to support me and provide me with assistance, including answering the infinite questions that arise. It is important to mention that Mia’s PhD project does not even include the sheep research, however, you would never know because she is 100% dedicated to the project and leads with ease. Through working closely with Mia inside the lab, she is one of the reasons I was given the privilege of becoming a shift leader for feeding and checking the research sheep, lambs, and calves. This opportunity not only gave me the confidence to feel like I belonged in the lab and field of research, but that I was also provided with hands-on experience and leadership skills that I know are positively contributing to my future career goals. As I continue in research through my undergraduate career, I will continue to appreciate the kindness, organization, ethical care for the research animals, and mentorship that Mia embodies.


Congratulations to the 2022 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.

Research Assistant in the Hoeft BRAINLens Laboratory

Opportunity Description

Part-time research opportunity to contribute to the study of effects of toxicants and teratogens on perinatal neurodevelopment!

Seeking motivated undergraduate research assistants who are available to work an average of 9 hours per week (fully remote) to contribute to an exciting project on the effects of toxicants and teratogens on perinatal neurodevelopment and subsequent achievement in reading and mathematics. This is a project of the Hoeft BRAINLens Laboratory. The research group includes scientists from the University of Connecticut and the University of California San Francisco.

Responsibilities on this project will include working with Deborah Schneider (UCONN postdoc) and Florence Bouhali (UCSF postdoc) to complete a systematic search of research papers at the intersection of brain imaging and the effects of toxicants and teratogens on perinatal neurodevelopment. Thus, the work will involve:
• Filtering through abstracts and full text articles to select relevant papers
• Documenting reasons why articles are excluded
• Coding papers for key variables such as sample characteristics, brain imaging measures, study quality, etc.
• Conferencing with subgroup team to make decisions on articles
• Assembling tables and documents to keep track of the search process

Prior familiarity with neuroscience, cognitive science, and related fields is preferred but not required. Please contact deborah.schneider-richardson@uconn.edu if interested.

This is a volunteer position. Course credit (PSYC 3889 [Undergraduate Research]) will be offered in lieu of other compensation.

Student Qualifications
Applicants must be in their junior or senior year. Prior familiarity with neuroscience, cognitive science, and/or related fields is preferred but not required.

How to Apply
Please contact deborah.schneider-richardson@uconn.edu if interested.

Mentor: Deborah Schneider, Postdoctoral Researcher
Department: Hoeft BRAINLens Laboratory
Email: deborah.schneider-richardson@uconn.edu
Timing: Spring 2022
Campus: Full remote opportunity

Research Assistant in Global Environmental Remote Sensing in the GERS Lab

Opportunity Description

This research project investigates using satellite images for mapping global environmental change, climate change, and sustainability. We will use dense time series of satellite data acquired during day and night time to monitoring, assessment, and projecting landscape change at large scales. More information regarding the GERS Laboratory can be found at this link: https://gerslab.uconn.edu/

We work together with concepts from environmental science, machining learning, climate change, remote sensing, and image processing within a rich interdisciplinary field. We have several projects all focused on mapping and characterizing land change at a continental or global scale. Our lab works closely with scientists from USGS and NASA. As an undergraduate research assistant, you would aid primarily in image interpretation, as well as potentially develop algorithms for Earth observation.

You are expected to receive training to use a high-performance computing facility to process satellite data, aided by a graduate student/postdoc researcher mentor. Once you have gained the knowledge in using remote sensing data, you will be able to collect satellite data in your own interest area and apply remote sensing techniques to extract useful information. The time commitment is flexible and is minimal for a semester (renewal for the future semesters is possible and encouraged). The assistantship will start in the summer of 2021 and going forward. RAs will receive research course credits and authorship (if published) as compensation for the work.

Student Qualifications
Preferred Qualifications (but not limited to):
– Basic knowledge of remote sensing and use of satellite data (e.g., have taken the NRE Remote Sensing of Environment course)
– Experience with programming languages (Matlab, R, Python, or others).
– Strong interest in find answers to big science questions.

How to Apply
Please email zhe@uconn.edu and include a brief description of why you are applying for this position and a resume. Strong applicants will go through a virtual or face-to-face interview with the faculty.

Mentor: Zhe Zhu, Assistant Professor
Department: Natural Resources and the Environment
Email: zhe@uconn.edu
Timing: Summer 2021, Fall 2021, Spring 2022, Ongoing
Campus: Storrs

• 2021 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 recipients of the 2021 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.

Please join us in congratulating Bradley Wright, Beth Lawrence, and Jessica Gutiérrez on their selection as this year’s Mentorship Excellence Award recipients. As we are only able to celebrate the 2021 Mentorship Excellence Awards virtually this spring, we look forward to presenting the awards in person later this year during the Fall Frontiers in Undergraduate Research Poster Exhibition in October 2021.


Bradley Wright, Professor, Sociology
Professor Wright was nominated by Nidhi Nair ’23 (CLAS) and Irene Soteriou ’23 (CLAS). The following text is excerpted from Irene’s nomination.

Bradley Wright
2021 Mentorship Excellence Award winner Bradley Wright, Ph.D., Professor of Sociology.

I first began working with Dr. Wright during my freshman year. This was my first experience with undergraduate research, and I am grateful to Dr. Wright because his purpose-driven and student-focused approach enabled me to grow extensively from this experience, both in learning to redefine my understanding of research, and also in considering my own identity within this context. As a freshman with little confidence in my own capacity as a researcher and no clear understanding of the greater purpose of engaging in research, I was consistently challenged intellectually in the very best way from my every interaction with Dr. Wright. He inspired me to question my preconceptions, motivated me to dig deeper in pursuit of knowledge, and believed in me before I believed in myself. Dr. Wright was always excited to engage in deep, thought-provoking conversations, and from them I was able to reflect more often and more carefully on my identity, reassess my impact, and reevaluate my priorities. Over time, I found that the girl who applied to UConn with a very vague and superficial notion of her future had become a woman with a much more grounded and meaningful awareness of her present purpose.

Dr. Wright stands out as the best candidate for this award because of the unique sense of purpose that he instills in his mentees. Under Dr. Wright’s mentorship, my view of undergraduate research transformed from something one typically does in college because it is the expectation, to something one does for a purpose — it became exciting and exploratory and meaningful rather than just another box to tick off from my college experience. His mentorship and contagious enthusiasm for learning guided me towards greater clarity of how I could reframe my life in this context — how I could pursue research, scholarship, and creative activity with a greater intention in mind. And beyond making himself consistently available to discuss ideas, provide constructive feedback, and offer advice, Dr. Wright supported me further in the pursuit of my purpose by nominating me for growth-intensive programs, connecting me with contacts, and writing letters of recommendation so that I could pursue future scholastic development.

I immediately thought of Dr. Wright when I saw this award opportunity because he continues to make an effort to understand my short- and long-term goals within the context of my purpose, and is always challenging me to take the next steps in my work, whether through programs, conversations, initiatives, or research projects. Dr. Wright has also demonstrated excellent mentorship by serving as a role model. By maintaining transparency and inclusivity in his leadership of our research team, Dr. Wright has given me a style of leadership to look up to as I inherit larger leadership roles myself. His eagerness to support the success of those around him motivates me to do the same, and his love for his work inspires me to seek out what brings me fulfillment as well. Moreover, his emphasis on recognizing the impact and purpose behind all that we do in our research team has translated significantly into the way that I now lead my own life, and given me a profoundly transformative outlook moving forward.


Beth Lawrence, Assistant Professor, Natural Resources and the Environment
Professor Lawrence was nominated by Drew Tienken ’22 (CLAS). The following text is excerpted from Drew’s nomination.

Beth Lawrence
2021 Mentorship Excellence Award winner Beth Lawrence, Ph.D., Assistant Professor of Natural Resources and the Environment.

Dr. Lawrence has exposed me to a breadth of opportunities that have fostered my personal and professional growth, helped satisfy my academic curiosities, and prepared me for a successful future as I aim to attend law school. To put into context how influential and extraordinary of a mentor she is, the graduate students and I in our lab describe ourselves as being in a ‘Beth Bubble,’ as we have the pleasure of being around a mentor who is able to consistently inspire us to be better scientists and people. After working with her over the past two years, Beth has continuously been able to push me towards success. Watching her passion for wetlands as she explains important concepts to me has been infectious and greatly increased my interest in wetlands research. When we talk about science, she makes sure that I understand not just the ‘what’ and the ‘why,’ but also the ethical and societal dilemmas of scientific investigation, such as describing why it’s important to have a colorblind palette on your figures, or how to be actively anti-racist while conducting environmental research. Her relationship with her students as a mentor goes beyond the superficial, as she continuously stresses the importance of taking breaks and caring for one’s mental health in times where external stress is high. When I was considering doing research my freshman year, I was admittedly a little scared. After I met Dr. Lawrence, I realized that my fears were irrational; Dr. Lawrence has enabled me to grow throughout my undergraduate career as a student, scientist, and person.

I admire Dr. Lawrence most for her tenacity as a mentor, her willingness to push me forward, and her dedication to see her students grow. One moment I will never forget was being awarded a coastal science research fellowship from the Connecticut Sea Grant. I remember it not for the award itself, but more so the context surrounding it. Early in Spring 2020, Dr. Lawrence pointed me to this external fellowship and expressed how she thought it would be a good opportunity for my academic development. Although I was unsure and nervous to apply at the time, Dr. Lawrence couldn’t have been more correct. She pushed me to apply, and together we wrote a proposal and I received the fellowship. However, shortly after I was awarded it COVID struck and I was absolutely heartbroken. I had been so close to pursuing my own research project, collecting my own data, and answering my own question. I remember how Beth acted when I went to discuss how COVID would affect my project with her. It wasn’t the defeated sentiment that ‘the project is ruined’ like I was thinking. It wasn’t a question of ‘what’s the next opportunity;’ with Dr. Lawrence it was a question of ‘how do we change this proposal to allow you to continue to grow? How do we make this proposal COVID safe so you can receive the experience you deserve?’ A few weeks prior to this meeting, I had lost an immediate family member as well. I told Dr. Lawrence about the news and how it affected my financial situation, and like any mentor who truly cares about their students she encouraged me to take time for myself to process and reassured me that research will wait. Under the surface, however, she continued to think of a way for me to be able to complete the fellowship I applied for, not just for the experience itself but also because she was aware that my family member’s loss caused me newfound financial insecurity. In the end, she helped me formulate a new question where I could use remote sensing and satellite imagery to map the extent of salt marsh grass zones, safely from my laptop in my own home. Because of her tenacity and dedication to her students, I was able to have an enriching fellowship experience. In the wake of a family emergency and COVID-19, I was lucky enough to have a mentor who understood my circumstances and pushed me for greatness. I am incredibly grateful to have met Dr. Lawrence and have her as a mentor; her kindness has truly changed my life.


Jessica Gutiérrez, M.S. Student, Ecology and Evolutionary Biology
Jessica was nominated by Mahima Mehta ’22 (CLAS). The following text is excerpted from Mahima’s nomination.

Jessica Gutierrez
2021 Mentorship Excellence Award winner Jessica Gutiérrez, M.S. Student in Ecology and Evolutionary Biology.

To put it simply, if it were not for Jessica, I would not have found the right research lab for me – nor would I have the opportunities that come with being in a research lab. As a sophomore, I was interested in research but had no idea how I could go about getting involved because I was unaware of the process. Jessica took the time to have multiple meetings with me where she helped me find professors that were conducting research and better understand the work they did. She even went as far as teaching me how to write an email to reach out to professors and how to conduct a strong interview with them. With her help, I was able to join Dr. Sarah Knutie’s research lab, a lab where she is also a member.

One of the most exciting aspects of research is the ability to ask new questions. Oftentimes, students have questions but are unsure of how to go about asking them. I was one of those students and, fortunately, Jessica took me under her wing so I could find ways to answering my research questions. After joining the same research lab that she is involved in, she has continued to aid me in my short and long-term goals. Jessica has continuously provided constructive feedback on my scientific writing, helped critique my interview-taking strategies, and assisted me in networking with other individuals with similar interests as me. This can particularly be seen in her involvement in the UConn SEEDS Chapter. As the Graduate Student Representative, she has been inclusive in easing our tensions about life after our undergraduate career and how to navigate the process that follows, regardless of our backgrounds or prior knowledge. This is especially reflective of Jessica’s character because we both are people of color and first-generation college students. For this reason, she is truly able to develop a holistic view of the kind of person I am because she understands what I have gone through as a fellow person of color.

She is transparent with her experiences and is willing to answer all questions I may have that relate to relevant skills I’ll need for my future. Jessica has helped me raise my confidence in myself as both a student and researcher. If it were not for her guidance, I would not have become the researcher that I am today. She is the embodiment of an intelligent and hard-working woman. Having met Jessica has been one of the biggest highlights of my college career because she has opened an abundance of doors that I didn’t even know were available to me. Jessica has taught me the importance of believing in myself and my capabilities, and I cannot thank her enough!


Congratulations to the 2021 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.

• Undergraduate Research in Cell Biology

Opportunity Description

Preclinical research in cancer therapeutics. Our lab in collaboration with with a small biotech company pioneered the use of high-Z nanoparticles to enhance radiation therapy of cancers–with a special emphasis on brain cancers–both primary gliomas and metastatic brain tumors. Our original work was done with gold nanoparticles. We are currently working with iodine nanoparticles. Full-time summer research and 9 hrs/week course research in fall and spring are available.

Please go to our Cell Biology web site to see a short description of our lab’s interests and most of our publications since 2000. The attached link is a virtual talk I gave at the most recent Society for NeuroOncology meeting. https://www.dropbox.com/s/hrxqzdsf3hqngno/Henery%2011.01.2020.mp4?dl=0

If you think you might have interest in our lab, e-mail smilowitz@uchc.edu and I can discuss specific projects. Many of the students who intern in our lab publish with us as co-authors.

Student Qualifications
Looking for responsible, very talented students with strong performance in STEM and strong work ethic.
Prefer students interested in a career in medicine (getting MD) or research (getting PhD)
Prefer rising seniors who wish to pursue a senior thesis, but open to rising juniors and sophomores.
Prefer previous lab experience, but open to students that have had course lab experience
Prefer students who are facile with instrumentation and have good computer skills.
Prefer students who are open to working with lab animals.

How to Apply
Please forward the following items to Dr. Smilowitz via email to smilowitz@uchc.edu.

1. Resume
2. Transcript
3. Personal letter with interests, motivations, long-term goals and availability for this research experience
4. At least one letter of recommendation from someone who knows you well

Mentor: Henry Smilowitz, Associate Professor
Department: Cell Biology
Email: smilowitz@uchc.edu
Timing: Ongoing – provisionally available for Spring 2021 (will depend on Covid situation)
Campus: UConn Health (Farmington)

• Research Assistant in Lay Theories of Prejudice Lab – Psychology

Opportunity Description

Join the Lay Theories of Prejudice Lab led by Dr. Kim Chaney in the Psychology Department for the Fall 2020 semester! The lab is currently conducting research examining how people come to believe anti-White bias is present in our society, how effective confronting anti-Black prejudice is at reducing bias, and how cues in one’s environment shape expectations of experiencing prejudice (or not). Undergraduate research assistants will work directly with Dr. Chaney to develop new study questions, prepare and conduct research, and submit research for presentations and publications. Students will earn up to 3 course credits (PSYC 3889).

Student Qualifications
Students should be interested in the psychology of prejudice and majoring (or considering majoring) in psychology or a related field. Past research experience is not needed.

How to Apply
To apply, please complete an application (https://www.kimchaney.com/join-the-lab) and email to kim.chaney@uconn.edu. Review will begin immediately but opportunity is ongoing. Please also feel free to email with questions!

Mentor: Kim Chaney, Assistant Professor
Department: Psychological Sciences
Email: kim.chaney@uconn.edu
Timing: Ongoing
Campus: Storrs

• Congratulations, 2020 SURF Award Recipients!

SURF logo 2The Office of Undergraduate Research is pleased to announce the selection of 50 undergraduate students to receive SURF Awards in support of their summer undergraduate research projects. All SURF projects will be pursued remotely this summer in accordance with restrictions on undergraduate research due to COVID-19.

Click here to view the full list of Summer 2020 SURF awardees. Please note that the project titles listed reflect the original projects proposed.

Congratulations, SURF awardees! Your curiosity, initiative, and motivation were evident in your applications. Your flexibility, creativity, and collaboration with your mentors have shone through in the contingency plans you developed to adapt your projects to our current constraints. In spite of significant challenges, you have an exciting summer of deep engagement with the process of academic inquiry ahead of you. We look forward to hearing about all you learn and discover!

We thank the faculty members who supported SURF applicants in a range of roles: mentors, letter writers, and faculty review committee members. SURF represents a collaborative effort between students and faculty. This program would not be possible without the support and participation of the UConn faculty!

OUR also extends thanks to SURF supporters in the UConn community. We are grateful to the Office of the Provost, the Office of the Vice President for Research, and to the Deans of the Schools and Colleges of Agriculture, Health and Natural Resources; Education; Engineering; Fine Arts; Liberal Arts and Sciences; Nursing; and Pharmacy, who all pledged funding to the SURF competition this year. Alumni, parents, and friends of UConn also helped fund SURF awards. This collaborative funding effort ensures that SURF supports a diverse array of undergraduate research endeavors. We are grateful to all of our program partners for making intensive summer research opportunities available to students seeking to enrich their undergraduate experience in this way.

Once again, congratulations to the recipients of 2020 SURF awards, and good luck with your summer projects!