• 2017 Mentorship Excellence Awards


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.

• 2016 Mentorship Excellence Awards


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


• Upcoming Presentations of Student Research and Creative Activity

While the largest-ever Frontiers in Undergraduate Research Poster Exhibition may now be over, there are several additional opportunities to see UConn students’ work in the coming days and weeks.

BFA Art Exhibition

April 17-27, 2014
ArtSpace, Windham Gallery, 480 Main Street, Willimantic, CT 06226

See this exhibition of work by students graduating from the BFA program in the Art and Art History Department, School of Fine Arts.

UConn School of Nursing ATHENA Research Conference

April 25, 2014
School of Nursing Widmer Wing

The program for this annual conference includes a poster presentation session from 1-2:30pm featuring the work of Honors students.

Language Fest 2014

April 26, 2014
9am – 4pm, Oak Hall

The UConn Language Fest is a University-wide research conference, now in its fourth year, which showcases the many facets of research on language in the UConn community. Poster sessions are scheduled for 10-11am, 1-2pm, and 3-4pm, and feature the work of undergraduate researchers from a number of UConn departments and programs.

Undergraduate Research Colloquium in Biology

May 2, 2014
8:30am-6:00pm, TLS 111

Graduating senior biology students (BIOL, PNB, EEB, MCB, BPHYS) will present short talks on their research at this 32nd annual biology research colloquium. All presentations are limited to ten minutes. Advisors, undergraduates, graduate students, faculty, postdocs, staff, parents, and friends are welcome and encouraged to attend.

UConn School of Engineering – Senior Design Demonstration Day

May 2, 2014
1-4pm, Gampel Pavilion

Senior Design Day, an exhibition of capstone projects from across the School of Engineering, affords parents, alumni, friends and project sponsors the opportunity to view project outcomes, interact with students and faculty, and learn more about the School. This year, 475 students will display and demonstrate 154 projects, and the whole university community is invited.

• Join us for the screening of two student documentaries!

Please join us for a screening of two original documentaries directed by UConn IDEA Grant Recipients Peter Logue and David Pereira. A discussion with the filmmakers will follow the screenings.

The Search for the White Rose – a film by Peter Logue – View the film trailer

Free Time – a film by David Pereira and RJ Anderson

Date: Friday, April 11th
Time: 7:00PM
Location: Laurel 101

Click here for more information on the documentaries.


• Hone Your Presentation Skills: Upcoming Events

You’re involved in undergraduate research or creative activity – terrific! Now, how do you go about sharing your findings and experience with others? Two upcoming events will help you do just that.

Drop the Jargon and Get to the Point! How to Effectively Communicate Your Research to a Wide Range of Audiences
Tuesday, March 4, 2014
Laurel Hall 102

Effectively communicating science to a wide range of audiences is becoming an increasingly needed skill for scientists of all disciplines.

Dr. Ellen Prager is a marine scientist who has moved away from traditional career paths and now focuses much of her time on communicating earth and ocean science to broad audiences through writing popular science and children’s books, public speaking, working with the media, and consulting.

Using both her successes and failures as examples, she will share what she’s learned about effectively communicating science and how you can be better prepared and successful. She will also let you in on some of the secrets to engaging your audience and getting your points across.

This event is sponsored by the Graduate School, and you can RSVP at this link. Undergraduates are welcome.

Poster Presentation Information Session: Get Ready for Frontiers
Wednesday, March 5, 2014
Rowe 320

Will you be sharing your project at Frontiers this year? Have you been accepted to present your work at a professional conference? Are you unsure about where to start when it comes to putting your project into poster form and talking about it with an audience? If your answer to any of those questions is “yes,” this information session is for you. Undergraduate students will share posters they have designed and presented, and we will discuss such topics as templates, fonts, images, and how to prepare yourself as a presenter.

• STEM Research Seminar Series for Undergraduates

STEM Seminar Series for Undergraduates

The Office of Undergraduate Research and the McNair Scholars Program have joined forces to organize a lunchtime STEM research seminar series for the 2013-14 academic year. We are pleased to announce our lineup of speakers for the fall semester:

Friday, October 4, 2013
PCSB 139, 11:45am-1pm
EGFR Signaling Stimulates Anabolic Changes in Articular Cartilage
J.B. Shepard
6th year PhD student
Skeletal, Craniofacial, and Oral Biology  / Dealy Research Group, UConn Health Center

Wednesday, November 6, 2013
KNS 202, 11:45am-1pm
(Part A) Olefin cross-metathesis of α-alkylidene lactones for the rapid assembly of β-lactones as inhibitors of the Fatty Acid Synthase (FAS): lessons from nocardiolactone
(Part B) Synthesis of sulfatides and examination of their roles in the NKT cells activation in immunomodulation
Kaddy Camara
5th year PhD student
Chemistry / Howell Research Group, UConn-Storrs

Monday, December 2, 2013
PCSB 139, 11:45am-1pm
Development of Vitamin D3 Analogues as Selective Hedgehog Signaling Inhibitors
Albert DeBerardinis, Ph.D.
Post-doctoral Fellow
Pharmaceutical Sciences / Hadden Research Group, UConn-Storrs

This is a brown bag style seminar series. Light refreshments will be served.

The series is open to all undergraduate and graduate students and is designed especially for students conducting (or interested in conducting) undergraduate STEM research.

Caroline McGuire, Ph.D.
Interim Director
Office of Undergraduate Research
Renée Gilberti, Ph.D.
Program Coordinator
McNair Scholars Program


• Join Us for the Fall Frontiers Research Poster Exhibition

All members of the UConn community are invited to join us for the Fall Frontiers exhibition, which will feature the projects of 31 outstanding student researchers working across the academic disciplines. A brief keynote address will be given by Michelle Williams, Associate Vice President for Research, and light refreshments will be served.

Inaugural Fall Frontiers in Undergraduate Research Poster Exhibition - Wednesday, October 23, 2013 - 5-7 pm - Wilbur Cross South Reading Room

Several student presenters have been profiled by reporters from the Daily Campus. Learn more about their projects at the links below:

  • Profile of Krisela Karaja by Kathleen McWilliams. Research Project: “Latino/Latin American Transnational Narratives of War and Violence”
  • Profile of Rob Stickels by Domenica Ghanem. Research Project: “The Role of Estrogen in the Early Male Gonad”
  • Profile of Rachel Adams by Julia Werth. Research Project: “Development of a Tissue Treatment and Sorting Protocol in the Fabrication of Transcatheter Aortic Valves”


• OUR Hosting Inaugural Fall Frontiers Poster Exhibition

The Office of Undergraduate Research (OUR) is pleased to announce that the inaugural Fall Frontiers Poster Exhibition will be held on Wednesday, October 23, 2013 from 5:00-7:00pm in the Wilbur Cross South Reading Room.Any undergraduate student may apply to showcase his or her research, scholarship, or creative activity.

The Fall Frontiers event provides another opportunity for UConn’s talented undergraduate researchers to share their work with the university community. Given the growth of student participation in the Frontiers in Undergraduate Research Poster Exhibition that has been held each spring for the past 16 years, the Office of Undergraduate Research is excited to provide a new option for interested students to share their work during the fall. The increasing number of students who are conducting research supported by OUR award programs such as UConn IDEA, SURF, SHARE, and RARE, marks the need for an additional venue to highlight the work of student researchers and their dedicated faculty mentors.

The brief application and instructions for applying are available on the Fall Frontiers page of the OUR website: The deadline to apply for Fall Frontiers is Wednesday, October 2, 2013.

• UConn IDEA Workshops Added for Fall 2013

The Office of Undergraduate Research will be holding two additional fall workshops giving students the opportunity to learn about the new UConn IDEA Grant program. UConn IDEA (Imagine/Develop/Engage/Apply) Grants are open to students at all campuses in all majors. Funding of up to $4000 is available to support a self-designed artistic product, community service initiative, entrepreneurial venture, innovation, traditional research project, or other creative endeavor.

The additional workshops will be held on Monday, September 30 from 12:15-1:15pm in ROWE 320, Monday, November 4 from 4:00pm-5:00pm in Laurel 110, and Thursday, November 14 from 12:30-1:30pm in ROWE 320.

Applications for the Fall round of the IDEA Grant program are due by 4:00pm on October 15, 2013. Students awarded a grant in the Fall round will plan and develop the project in Spring 2014 and complete the project work in summer 2014. A new cycle of the IDEA program will begin in Spring 2014 with applications due on March 17, 2014.

2013 Frontiers Program Now Available

We hope that you’re planning to attend the Frontiers exhibition this Friday afternoon or Saturday!

Here’s a link to the program. We have 218 undergraduate students presenting posters for 175 research projects. STEM fields, social science, humanities, and the arts are all well represented. Many students who are presenting their research have received SURF, SHARE, and other Office of Undergraduate Research awards.


The artwork for the Frontiers poster was produced by talented Holster Scholars, Kaitrin Acuna and Julianne Norton. The poster was designed by Mallory Matula. Thank you all!