Faculty

• 2019 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 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.

• SURF 2019: Program Updates

SURF logoWith the SURF 2019 application cycle underway, we would like to take the opportunity to highlight some updates and changes to this year’s SURF program. SURF continues to offer students from across the academic disciplines the opportunity to focus full-time on a research or creative project for 9-10 weeks over the summer.

Updates for 2019

New Application Management System

We are using the UConn Quest Portal, a new application management system powered by SurveyMonkey Apply, to collect, process, and review SURF applications for summer 2019. This new system will allow students to complete the various components of the SURF application in the most appropriate order for them and to make edits as needed prior to submission of their application.

  • Letters of Recommendation. As before, two letters of recommendation are required for the SURF application.
    • Student applicants must request recommendation letters through the application system by entering the name and email address of the faculty members who have agreed to write letters on their behalf. The system will send the recommenders an individual link for recommendation submission.
    • Faculty recommenders will receive an email from the Quest Portal on behalf of the student who is requesting a letter of recommendation. Both first and second recommenders will submit their letters through the portal by uploading a PDF file. Faculty who are serving as the project supervisor (1st recommender) will also be asked to answer a series of research compliance questions.

Application Reminders (See the full application outline here)

  • Budget reminders. Students should visit the Budget Policies and Samples page for detailed guidance about allowable expenses (now including maximum dollar amounts for expenses like poster printing) and examples of budgets that show the appropriate level of detail.
    • Student requesting stipend as part of a Plan A or Plan C budget should be careful to use accurate stipend language as noted on the Budget Policies page.
    • Faculty advisors of students conducting laboratory research: Please work with your advisee to ensure s/he has accurate information about the costs of lab supplies that can be procured through university purchasing channels and contracts.
  • Timeline reminders. Student should visit the Sample Timeline page for guidance on developing a detailed timeline. The SURF proposal timeline should clearly indicate start and end dates, the anticipated number of project work hours each week, and a week-by-week listing of planned project milestones.
  • Research Compliance reminders. Students and faculty should note that research compliance approvals are complex and take significant time. Please plan accordingly. While the necessary approvals are not required at the application stage, students should be aware that SURF funding will not be disbursed until all necessary compliance documents have been submitted to OUR, and that SURF awards will be rescinded if documentation is not received by the stated deadline. Both faculty and students are reminded to take care in reading the series of questions concerning biological materials as this category encompasses a wide range of items.

ESTA Requirement/Documentation of Safety Training

Students proposing SURF project work that will take place in a setting with hazards such as a lab, theater, or studio will be required to complete the Employee Safety Training Assessment (ESTA) with their faculty mentor to determine which safety training courses are required in order to work where hazards are present.

  • Student applicants will be asked about completion of the ESTA in the Research Compliance section of the application. We encourage students to complete the ESTA with their faculty supervisor prior to submitting their application.
  • Information on how to document completion of the ESTA and completion of the indicated training/registration for upcoming training is available on OUR’s Safety Training page.

SURF Mailing List. Students planning to apply for SURF can sign up for the SURF Mailing List to receive helpful application tips via email.

We look forward to another excellent set of SURF applications this year! The application deadline is Monday, February 4, 2019. We encourage all students to make use of SURF Office Hours to seek feedback on their draft materials and to ask any questions they might have about the program or the application. SURF Office Hours are scheduled for 1/22, 1/25, and 1/28. Full detail about times and location can be found in the sidebar on the main SURF webpage.

Photos of SURF recipients

• 2018 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 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.

• 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.

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

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

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

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

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

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

• Announcing the Health Research Program

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

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

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

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

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

• SURF 2017: Program Updates

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

Updates for 2017

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

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

Photos of SURF recipients

• 2016 Mentorship Excellence Awards

mentorship3

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

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


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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

 

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

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

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

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

ISA-Awards-Flyer

• Launch of the Mentorship Excellence Awards

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

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

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

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