Award Announcements

• Congratulations, 2019 SURF Award Recipients!

SURF logo 2The Office of Undergraduate Research is pleased to announce the selection of 45 undergraduate students to receive SURF Awards in support of their summer undergraduate research projects.

Click here to view the full list of Summer 2019 SURF awardees.

Congratulations, SURF awardees! Your academic achievements, curiosity, initiative, and motivation were evident in your applications. 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; Engineering; Nursing; and Pharmacy, who all contributed 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 2019 SURF awards, and good luck with your summer projects!

Analyse Giordano '20 (CAHNR)
With her SURF Award, Analyse Giordano ’20 (CAHNR) will research whether biocompatible ceramic nanoparticles and nanotexturing can increase the longevity of implantable glucose monitors. (Carson Stifel/UConn Photo)
Isabella Ferrante '19 (CLAS)
Isabella Ferrante ’19 (CLAS) will conduct SURF-supported research in archives in the UK to understand how Shell Shock was perceived and understood after World War I. (Peter Morenus/UConn Photo)

• Congratulations, Spring 2019 UConn IDEA Grant Recipients!

Congratulations to the 33 UConn undergraduates who have been awarded UConn IDEA Grants in the spring 2019 funding cycle!

The award recipients represent a variety of disciplines, from anthropology to animal science, and from biomedical engineering to art. They will conduct independent research, develop creative works in different media, and lay the groundwork for entrepreneurial ventures.

Click here to view the full list of spring 2019 UConn IDEA Grant award recipients.

Special thanks to the faculty and staff who supported student applications to the UConn IDEA Grant and to those who will be mentoring the award recipients as they complete their projects.

The UConn IDEA Grant program awards funding to support self-designed projects including artistic endeavors, community service initiatives, research projects, prototyping and entrepreneurial ventures, and other creative and innovative projects. Undergraduates in all majors at all UConn campuses can apply. Applications are accepted twice per year from individuals and from small groups who plan to work collaboratively on a project. The next application deadline will be in December 2019.

• 2019 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 2019 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 2019 Mentorship Excellence Awards were presented to Seok-Woo Lee, Charles W. Mahoney, and Elizabeth Knapp during the Frontiers in Undergraduate Research Poster Exhibition on Friday, April 12, 2019.


Seok-Woo Lee, Assistant Professor, Materials Science and Engineering
Professor Lee’s award was presented by Hetal Patel ’19 (ENG). The following text is excerpted from Hetal’s presentation remarks.

Hetal Patel presents plaque to awardee Seok-Woo Lee.
Hetal Patel ’19 (ENG) presents the award to her mentor, Professor Seok-Woo Lee.

When I started at UConn in the School of Engineering, I had set a benchmark by which I would define my success in the next four years, and that was to have a full-time engineering job ready before I graduated. In my first semester, I noticed many of the undergraduates do research, particularly in the honors community, and so I decided it would be a good idea to join a lab and to learn more about my field. I reached out to many professors and it was Dr. Lee who showed an interest in me joining his group. This is where my story took off. During our very first meeting, his passion for science, his care towards his students, and his immense positive energy became clear. In the last four years, this hasn’t changed a single bit. We have been meeting 1×1 every single week and his care and kindness towards me have been a steady source of motivation.

On the technical side, he has trained me to have a strong foundation and has taught me to be patient and think divergently because things don’t go as planned in research. He gave me projects that led to publication in high impact journals and also gave me the opportunity to present my UScholar work at one of the biggest Materials Science conferences. He always encouraged me to try other labs or internships and when it came to applying for graduate schools, he always said to aim higher. He has been a constant support when it comes to writing papers, thesis, posters, or applications, whether it was for UScholar, fellowships, summer programs or graduate school.

Overall, he has changed the trajectory of my career through his energy, passion, and care. I have exceeded all my academic expectations for myself in the last four years due to Dr. Lee’s immense commitment to mentor me. He has dedicated hundreds of hours towards me in a selfless manner and has worked far beyond his required duties for me to be here. He works so incredibly hard that it inspires me to work even harder.

To end, I am happy to say I will be heading to UC Berkeley this fall for my Ph.D. in MSE on a prestigious Department of Defense fellowship. Clearly, my goals and benchmark have changed, and I owe that to Dr. Lee. If I hadn’t met him I would have never thought of applying for University Scholar or have decided to pursue a Ph.D. Having him as my research advisor is the best thing that happened to me at UConn. Dr. Lee is the highlight of my day and his mentorship is the hallmark of my UConn career.


Charles W. Mahoney, Professor, English
Professor Mahoney’s award was presented by Lauren Cenci ’19 (CLAS). The following text is excerpted from Lauren’s presentation remarks.

Lauren Cenci presents plaque to awardee Charles W. Mahoney.
Lauren Cenci ’19 (CLAS) presents the award to her mentor, Professor Charles W. Mahoney.

Describing Professor Charles Mahoney’s extraordinary mentorship to me over the past several semesters in just a few short remarks is a difficult task. His passion for what he does is unmatched and very evident to anyone who has taken a class with him. I first met Professor Mahoney during my second official semester as an English major, during which I enrolled in his advanced poetry course on Lord Byron. I entered that course with little direction and confidence in myself as an English student but exited with a strong sense of purpose and a heightened awareness of English poetry. Professor Mahoney sees the best in each of his students and pushes them to strive to achieve this. He has high expectations of his students because he is aware of their potential and as such will not accept anything short of their finest work.

Charles is the chair of my University Scholar Project on the elegy, a genre of poetry that deals with mortal loss and mourning; I have completed two independent studies with him and am currently finishing up my thesis project this semester with his diligent guidance and feedback. The type of work I have pursued with Charles made me realize that I want to pursue a graduate degree in English and this fall I submitted applications to various universities. Throughout the summer, Charles read several drafts of both my critical writing sample and personal statement, provided in-depth feedback on both documents, and met with me on multiple occasions to discuss my progress. I most certainly would not have had the confidence to apply to graduate school had he not made me aware of my potential and research prowess.

Although Charles is very tough on his students and holds them to high standards, he is one of the kindest and most caring professors I have ever had the privilege of working with. It is rare to encounter a professor of his caliber, and I am extremely grateful for the opportunity I’ve had to work with him and grow as a student and a scholar with his guidance. Despite being an extremely busy individual, he has never made me feel as though my work is unimportant; each meeting and correspondence I have with him feels like a priority. This upcoming fall I will be attending graduate school, and I firmly believe that Charles’s exceptional mentorship has both gotten me to this point as well as thoroughly prepared me for what lies ahead.


Elizabeth Knapp, Ph.D. Candidate, Physiology and Neurobiology, Sun Laboratory
Elizabeth was presented with her award by Ekatarina (Katya) Skaritanov ’20 (CLAS) and Celina Caetano ’19 (CLAS), two of the undergraduate researchers who work under her supervision in the Sun lab. The following text is excerpted from Katya’s presentation remarks.

Ekatarina Skaritanov (left) and Celina Caetano (right) present plaque to awardee Elizabeth Knapp (center).
Ph.D. candidate Elizabeth Knapp (center) is presented her award by mentees Ekatarina Skaritanov ’20 (CLAS), at left, and Celina Caetano ’19 (CLAS), at right.

Over the past year I have had the absolute pleasure of working with Liz Knapp in the Sun Lab. Her intelligence, passion for teaching, and kind heart inspire me to put my best foot forward and not give up even when experiments don’t go according to plan.

I can confidently say that without Liz I would not be the scientist I am today. One of the most important lessons she taught me is that making mistakes only makes you a better researcher. After all, it is only through failure in the lab that one can develop patience and perseverance, which are key to successful research. I have witnessed Liz’s passion for teaching through how much she cares about everyone she works with. Whether she is at her computer making figures, or at the microscope doing experiments, I know that I can approach her with a question and get a thoughtful answer. No matter how busy she is, she will always make time to explain things in multiple ways to ensure you understand the logic. Liz does not only make sure that you understand WHAT you’re doing, but also that you understand WHY you’re doing it, which is imperative to leading a successful independent research project.

For a long time when I first started in lab I felt like I had no idea what I was doing. Even though I had my own project, I felt lost because I didn’t fully understand all the background and jargon behind my work. However, during one of our first sessions at the confocal microscope and probably without even realizing it, Liz raised my confidence and self-esteem by telling me that she was once in the exact same position I was in and that soon everything I feel like I don’t understand will naturally fall into place.

Liz, thank you for being the epitome of what a strong and confident woman in science looks like. Thank you for pushing me to be the best that I can be, and putting up with all my questions even when I ask you the same one five times in a row. Thank you for being a good friend, and most of all thank you for infecting us all with your love and excitement for science.


Congratulations to the 2019 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.

• Congratulations, Fall 2018 UConn IDEA Grant Recipients!

Congratulations to the 11 UConn undergraduates who have been awarded UConn IDEA Grants in the fall 2018 funding cycle!

The award recipients represent a variety of disciplines, from English to materials science, and from biological sciences to design and technical theater. They will conduct independent research, develop creative works in different media, and initiate programs that engage the University community.

Click here to view the full list of fall 2018 UConn IDEA Grant award recipients.

Special thanks to the faculty and staff that supported student applications to the UConn IDEA Grant and to those who will be mentoring the award recipients as they complete their projects.

The UConn IDEA Grant program awards funding to support self-designed projects including artistic endeavors, community service initiatives, research projects, prototyping and entrepreneurial ventures, and other creative and innovative projects. Undergraduates in all majors at all UConn campuses can apply. Applications are accepted twice per year from individuals and from small groups who plan to work collaboratively on a project. The next application deadline is March 11, 2019.

• Congratulations, 2019 SHARE Award Recipients!

We are delighted to announce the 15 student-faculty teams selected to receive awards for Spring 2019. Congratulations to all award recipients!

SHARE Awards support undergraduate research apprenticeships in the social sciences, humanities, and arts, offering students majoring in these fields opportunities to develop inquiry skills and explore research interests early in their college careers.


Project Title: Exploring the Upper Crust of Mesopotamian Society: An Archaeological Study of Bread Production at Tell Leilan
Student Apprentice: Stephen Baker, Anthropology and Physiology & Neurobiology
Faculty Mentor: Alexia Smith, Anthropology

Project Title: Head vs. Heart Beliefs: Comparing Intuitive and Rational Cognitive Judgments
Student Apprentice: Erin Blake, IMJR: Mental Health & Well-Being
Faculty Mentor: Crystal Park, Psychological Sciences

Project Title: Post-traumatic Growth in Eating Disorder Recovery
Student Apprentice: Michelle Franklin, Nursing
Faculty Mentor: Carrie Eaton, Nursing

Project Title: Study of Language and Math – Mapping Abilities and Math Fluency in Hearing and Deaf Children
Student Apprentice: Caroline Hebert, Speech, Language & Hearing Sciences and Cognitive Science
Faculty Mentor: Marie Coppola, Psychological Sciences

Project Title: “Advice and Consent” or “Search and Destroy?”: The Senate Judiciary Committee’s Review of U.S. Supreme Court Nominations in the Era of Party Polarization
Student Apprentice: John Kelly, Political Science
Faculty Mentor: Kimberly Bergendahl, Political Science

Project Title: The Scholio Project: Designing Online News Comments to Promote Intellectual Humility in Public Discourse
Student Apprentice: Addison Kimber, Political Science and Biology
Faculty Mentor: Michael Morrell, Political Science

Project Title: Justice in the Dark: How Secretively Funded Campaign Advertisements Shape Judicial Campaigns
Student Apprentice: Hollianne Lao, Political Science
Faculty Mentor: Virginia Hettinger, Political Science

Project Title: The PRISM Project: A Mindfulness Intervention on Substance Abuse
Student Apprentice: Kasey Macedo, Psychological Sciences and Human Development & Family Studies
Faculty Mentor: Beth Russell, Human Development & Family Studies

Project Title: Preterm Infant Feeding Type in Relation to Neurobehavioral Development Outcomes and Performances in the NICU
Student Apprentice: Effie Makris, Nursing
Faculty Mentor: Xiaomei Cong, Nursing

Project Title: Musical Rhythm and Nationalism in the Eastern Bloc
Student Apprentice: Maria Mandoiu, Music History and Anthropology
Faculty Mentor: Daniel Goldberg, Music

Project Title: Patterns of African American Life in Post War Hartford (1940-2010)
Student Apprentice: Chloe Murphy, Africana Studies
Faculty Mentor: Fiona Vernal, History and Africana Studies

Project Title: Puerto Rican Heritage Trail
Student Apprentice: Alejandro Rodriguez, History
Faculty Mentor: Anne Gebelein, Latin American and Caribbean Studies

Project Title: Digitizing the Paper Trail: Enslaved and Freedpeople in The Spanish Empire
Student Apprentice: Jenifer Rojas Orellana, Political Science
Faculty Mentor: Ricardo Salazar-Rey, History

Project Title: Can Inclusive Education Programs Reduce Racial and Gender Discrimination in the Labor Market?
Student Apprentice: Mary Vlamis, Economics and Political Science
Faculty Mentor: Jorge Aguero, Economics

Project Title: Stratified Model Minorities: Educational Experiences and Social Mobility of Chinese Immigrants from Taishan and Fuzhou
Student Apprentice: Jingya Zhu, Sociology and Communication
Faculty Mentor: Simon Cheng, Sociology

• 2018 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 2018 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 2018 Mentorship Excellence Awards were presented to Andrea Voyer, Nicholas Eddy, and Laura Mickelsen during the Frontiers in Undergraduate Research Poster Exhibition on Friday, April 13, 2018.


Andrea Voyer, Assistant Professor, Sociology
Professor Voyer’s award was presented by Savannah-Nicole Villalba ’18 (CLAS). The following text is excerpted from Savannah-Nicole’s presentation remarks.

Savannah-Nicole Villalba presents plaque to awardee Andrea Voyer.
Savannah-Nicole Villalba ’18 (CLAS) presents the award to her mentor, Professor Andrea Voyer.

I had Dr. Voyer for one of the required classes for our major, social theory. Dr. Voyer gracefully worked us through the dense theories of 19th century sociologists. It was my first time engaging with sociological theory, and many of us were struggling to understand the concepts. Dr. Voyer was patient with us as we tried to make connections to the material. She was encouraging so that we weren’t afraid of being wrong, and was personable in a way that encouraged students to work harder.

This mentality was one that she brought with her when we began the IDEA Grant application process. When we started discussing the possibility of applying, she did not bring me in to work on something she was interested in. In our first meeting, she asked me what I was passionate about and I could tell she genuinely cared. Dr. Voyer was the first person to believe in my passions and to tell me that my research questions were valid. We spent months working on the application process, and when the grant was approved, I knew it would not have been possible without her guidance.

With her own incredible research and personal life, she has always been accessible to discuss the newest challenge I faced. Instead of just providing answers, she would offer suggestions on ways to problem solve to reach reasonable solutions. Even though Dr. Voyer has been away this school year, she has helped me apply (and be accepted) to graduate school, supported (and protected) me at my first research conference, and has shown me what an academic mentor should be.


Nicholas Eddy, Assistant Professor in Residence, Chemistry
Professor Eddy’s award was presented by Pranjali Ichalkaranje ’18 (CLAS). The following text is excerpted from Pranjali’s presentation remarks.

Pranjali Ichalkaranje presents plaque to awardee Nicholas Eddy.
Pranjali Ichalkaranje ’18 (CLAS) presents the award to her mentor, Professor Nicholas Eddy.

Research with Dr. Eddy has been the most rewarding experience I could have wished for as an undergraduate. I was able to grow tremendously by obtaining knowledge and skills applicable not only in research but also other aspects of life. In terms of research, teaching an undergraduate student with experience in life sciences but limited knowledge in Organic Chemistry was a challenging task that Dr. Eddy took on with no hesitation.

I was challenged each day, whether it was mixing a solution or reading articles with little background on the material. He was not afraid to hold me to a higher standard and push me beyond my limits, allowing me to put classroom knowledge into practice and increase my critical thinking and problem solving skills. He encouraged me to read, write, ask questions, and – most importantly – make mistakes. Though I made more than he agrees to, he offered reassuring and constructive feedback each time. Most importantly, he made sure I had everything I needed to succeed in anything I put my mind to – a role he took on as my mentor.

My research experience opened my eyes to career opportunities in research and medicine. I have been able to grow immensely as a scientist, researcher, student, writer, teacher and an overall individual.

Dr. Eddy represents the diligence, passion and commitment that students, scientists and teachers need on a daily basis. He puts his students, researchers and colleagues before himself. He is the highlight of the students’ day, and a source of comfort for many as they embark on their undergraduate experience.


Laura Mickelsen, Ph.D. Candidate, Physiology and Neurobiology, Jackson Laboratory
Laura was presented with her award by Eric Beltrami ’19 (CLAS) and Jacob Naparstek ’18 (CLAS), two of the undergraduate researchers who work under her supervision in the Jackson lab. The following text is excerpted from Eric’s presentation remarks.

Photo of James Costanzo, Jacob Naparstek, awardee Laura Mickelsen, Eric Beltrami, and Alexander Jackson.
Award winner Laura Mickelsen, center, is pictured with undergraduate researchers James Costanzo, Jacob Naparstek, and Eric Beltrami, as well as Professor Alexander Jackson.

Laura is an incredible scientist and speaker, and she has made an effort to help develop those skills in us. She challenges us to explain our projects and try to troubleshoot our setbacks independently so that when we present our work we are prepared to take ownership of what we did and understand the scientific process behind it thoroughly.

Laura’s exceptional mentorship is not limited to guidance in our research projects. Laura has fostered a family of people who deeply care about one another… and the lateral hypothalamus. Laura makes coming to lab not only incredibly productive but also fun. With her effortless humor and kind heart she has made lab somewhere we look forward to going every day. She never hesitates to make sure we are keeping up in our courses and ask us about our extracurricular involvement. It is clear to us that she cares about our personal lives and is always there to provide us guidance in our daily life and about our career goals. I can honestly say that Laura’s mentorship was a major factor in my decision to pursue a career in which I can make research a part of my life.

Laura, whatever path you take on your journey to success will be an amazing and rewarding one because of your incredible dedication and love for what you do. I am constantly inspired by your personal drive and ability to master such a diverse set of skills. James, Jake and I cannot thank you enough for everything.


Congratulations to the 2018 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.

• Congratulations, 2018 SURF Award Recipients!

SURF logo 2The Office of Undergraduate Research is pleased to announce the selection of 59 undergraduate students to receive SURF Awards in support of their summer undergraduate research projects.

Click here to view the full list of Summer 2018 SURF awardees.

Congratulations, SURF awardees! Your academic achievements, curiosity, initiative, and motivation were evident in your applications. 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; Engineering; Fine Arts; Nursing; and Pharmacy, who all contributed 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 2018 SURF awards, and good luck with your summer projects!

• Congratulations, Spring 2018 UConn IDEA Grant Recipients!

Congratulations to the 40 UConn undergraduates who have been awarded UConn IDEA Grants in the spring 2018 funding cycle! 26 of the award recipients will be completing individual projects, and 14 will be working on collaborative group projects.

The award recipients represent a variety of disciplines, from graphic design to history, animal science to biomedical engineering. They will conduct independent research, create art exhibitions and short films, design prototypes, and develop programs that engage the University community.

Click here to view the full list of spring 2018 UConn IDEA Grant award recipients.

Special thanks to the faculty and staff that supported student applications to the UConn IDEA Grant and to those who will be mentoring the award recipients as they complete their projects.

The UConn IDEA Grant program awards funding to support self-designed projects including artistic endeavors, community service initiatives, research projects, prototyping and entrepreneurial ventures, and other creative and innovative projects. Undergraduates in all majors at all UConn campuses can apply. Applications are accepted twice per year from individuals and from small groups who plan to work collaboratively on a project. The next application deadline will be in December 2018.

• Congratulations, Fall 2017 UConn IDEA Grant Recipients!

Congratulations to the nineteen UConn undergraduates who have been awarded UConn IDEA Grants in the fall 2017 funding cycle! Thirteen of the award recipients will be completing individual projects, and six will be working on collaborative group projects.

The award recipients represent a variety of disciplines, from nursing to puppetry, biomedical engineering to ecology and evolutionary biology. They will conduct independent research projects; produce documentaries, novels, and creative nonfiction pieces; design prototypes; and engage in service initiatives.

Click here to view the full list of fall 2017 UConn IDEA Grant award recipients.

Special thanks to the faculty and staff that supported student applications to the UConn IDEA Grant and to those who will be mentoring the award recipients as they complete their projects.

The UConn IDEA Grant program awards funding to support self-designed projects including artistic endeavors, community service initiatives, traditional research projects, entrepreneurial ventures, and other creative and innovative projects. Undergraduates in all majors at all UConn campuses can apply. Applications are accepted twice per year from individuals and from small groups who plan to work collaboratively on a project. The next application deadline is March 12, 2018.

• Congratulations, Summer 2018 UConn Co-op Legacy Fellows!

The Office of Undergraduate Research is delighted to announce the four students selected to receive UConn Co-op Legacy Fellowships to support projects they will complete summer 2018.

Click here to view the full list of Summer 2018 UConn Co-op Legacy Fellowship Recipients.

Born out of the UConn Co-op’s commitment to public engagement, innovative entrepreneurship, social impact, and active mentorship, the UConn Co-op Legacy Fellowship Program provides undergraduates the opportunity to pursue funded summer research projects and/or creative endeavors. Projects pursued through this program represent the legacy of the UConn Co-op’s commitment to public engagement, innovation, and social impact.

Special thanks to the faculty and staff that supported student applications to the UConn Co-op Legacy Fellowship and to those who will be mentoring the award recipients as they complete their projects.

Click here for more information on the UConn Co-op Legacy Fellowship Program.