Award Announcements

• 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.

• Congratulations, 2018 SHARE Award Recipients!

We are delighted to announce the 13 student-faculty teams selected to receive awards for Spring 2018 and thank the University of Connecticut Humanities Institute for its generous support of two of these student awards. 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: The Impact of an Outsider President on Candidate Emergence in Congressional Elections
Student Apprentice: Kyle Adams, Political Science
Faculty Mentor: Paul Herrnson, Political Science

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

Project Title: Interpersonal Coordination of Goal Directed Actions
Student Apprentice: John Farrar, Cognitive Science
Faculty Mentor: Adam Sheya, Psychological Sciences

UCHI LogoProject Title: The Scholio Project: Designing Online News Comments to Promote Intellectual Humility in Public Discourse
Student Apprentice: Brendan Hogan, Political Science & Psychological Sciences
Faculty Mentor: Michael Morrell, Political Science
Award Co-Sponsored by the University of Connecticut Humanities Institute

UCHI LogoProject Title: Diverse Experiences of and Evaluations about Sexting and Sexting Victimization
Student Apprentice: Emily Mendoza, Human Development and Family Studies
Faculty Mentor: Alaina Brenick, Human Development and Family Studies
Award Co-Sponsored by the University of Connecticut Humanities Institute

Project Title: Executive Approval Analyses in Latin America and Recent Political Developments
Student Apprentice: Shankara Narayanan, Political Science & International Relations
Faculty Mentor: Matthew Singer, Political Science

Project Title: Undergraduate Nursing Students’ Perspectives of Witnessed Simulated Cardiopulmonary Resuscitation and Death in an Opioid Addicted Patient
Student Apprentice: Justin Pedneault, Nursing
Faculty Mentor: Carrie Eaton, Nursing

Project Title: Accountability in Government?:  Assessing the Effectiveness of Ethics Commissions in Connecticut Municipalities
Student Apprentice: Samuel Rostow, Political Science
Faculty Mentor: Kimberly Bergendahl, Political Science

Project Title: A Computer Intervention to Help Reduce Problematic Gambling in College Students
Student Apprentice: Skyler Sklenarik, Psychological Sciences
Faculty Mentor: Robert Astur, Psychological Sciences

Project Title: Social Policy and the Political Lives of American Teenagers
Student Apprentice: Olivia Sykes, Urban and Community Studies & Human Rights
Faculty Mentor: Edith Barrett, Urban and Community Studies

Project Title: Hollow Earth
Student Apprentice: Isabella Uliasz, Studio Art
Faculty Mentor: John O’Donnell, Art and Art History

Project Title: African American Breast Cancer Survivors
Student Apprentice: Caira Ward, Human Development and Family Studies, Africana Studies
Faculty Mentor: Edna Brown, Human Development and Family Studies

Project Title: Psychosocial Factors Influence Pain and Quality of Life in Young Adults with Irritable Bowel Syndrome
Student Apprentice: Tessa Weidig, Nursing
Faculty Mentor: Xiaomei Cong, Nursing

 

• 2017 Mentorship Excellence Awards

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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.

• Congratulations, Summer 2017 SURF Award Recipients!

SURF logo 2The Office of Undergraduate Research is pleased to announce the selection of 54 undergraduate students to receive SURF Awards in support of their summer undergraduate research projects. The faculty review committee was impressed by the extremely high caliber of the 80 applications submitted this year.

Click here to view the full list of Summer 2017 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 Provost’s Office, 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; 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 2017 SURF awards, and good luck with your summer projects!

• Congratulations, Spring 2017 UConn IDEA Grant Recipients!

idea_logo_standard_color_bottomWEB_cropCongratulations to the twenty-nine UConn undergraduates who have been awarded UConn IDEA Grants in the spring 2017 funding cycle!

Nineteen of the award recipients will be completing individual projects, and ten will be working on collaborative group projects. The award recipients represent a variety of disciplines, from nursing to elementary education, animal science to biomedical engineering. They will work on designing prototypes and software systems; producing short films, graphic novels, and animations; developing educational programs; and conducting independent research.

Click here to view the full list of spring 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. We would also like to thank the faculty and staff from around the University who served as reviewers.

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 will be in December 2017.

• Congratulations, Fall 2016 UConn IDEA Grant Recipients!

idea_logo_standard_color_bottomWEB_cropCongratulations to the twenty-two UConn undergraduates who have been awarded UConn IDEA Grants in the fall 2016 funding cycle!

Sixteen 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 marine sciences to political science, illustration to biomedical engineering – and include two recipients from the Avery Point campus. They will create multimedia exhibitions, develop prototypes, assess educational interventions, and evaluate environmental impact.

Click here to view the full list of fall 2016 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. We would also like to thank the faculty and staff from around the University who served as reviewers.

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 13, 2017.