• 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.


• 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.


• 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.

• Congratulations, Fall 2013 UConn IDEA Grant Recipients!

idea_logo_standard_color_bottomWEBThe UConn IDEA Grant program provides funding of up to $4,000 for self-designed projects including entrepreneurial ventures, community service initiatives, traditional research projects, or other creative endeavors. Proposals for the UConn IDEA Grants represented a variety of disciplines, ranging from history to mechanical engineering.

Congratulations to the nine undergraduates who have been awarded UConn IDEA Grants in the second award cycle of this new program coordinated by the Office of Undergraduate Research (OUR)! Click here to download the list of grant recipients and their projects.

Rosse Gates ’16 (ENGR) – Autonomous Navigation Systems and Algorithms

  • Rosse will work to develop an autonomous quadcopter that can track its position in relation to the environment and survey disaster areas in GPS-devoid environments.

Dillon Jones ’15 (ENGR) – Gentleman’s Gantry Machine

  • Dillon will work to build a “Gentleman’s Gantry Machine,” a general purpose, computer controlled positioning system of his own design that will enable multiple forms of manufacturing on one device.

Saher Kazi ’16 (CLAS) – Investigation and Analysis of the Barriers to Mental Health Care in India

  • Saher plans to investigate the factors influencing access to mental healthcare in India in a study involving mental health clinics in the town of Nashik in Maharashtra, India.

Kiersten Kronschnabel ’16 (CLAS) – POWER: Providing Optimal Strategies for Patient Retention While Transitioning from Pediatric to Adult Care 

  • Kiersten’s project is a community service initiative to address the dearth of resources for facilitating the pediatric-adult care transition for HIV-positive adolescents.

Katelyn McFadden ’15 (CANR) – Effects of Poor Maternal Nutrition on Liver Development in Lambs

  • Katelyn’s project builds on a collaborative study in the Department of Animal Science evaluating the effects of poor maternal nutrition on the growth of offspring in sheep. Katelyn will analyze liver samples in lambs to understand the mechanisms at work affecting offspring growth and development.

Amoolya Narayanan ’16 (CLAS) – Investigating the Use of Natural Antimicrobials to Control Urinary Tract Infections in a Mouse Model

  • Amoolya will investigate the potential of trans-cinnamaldehyde, a natural antimicrobial molecule contained in cinnamon, as an antimicrobial coating on urinary catheters to control urinary tract infections.

Zachary Raslan ’15 (CLAS) – Historic GIS Mapping of Hartford, CT

  • Zachary is partnering with a larger research project, Virtual Hartford, to acquire and digitize the earliest maps of Hartford, CT. He will apply GIS software to create maps that detail the evolution of the city and show changes to the physical landscape after significant historic events.

Aaron Rosman ’16 (CANR) – Elatine Ambigua and Elatine Triandra

  • Aaron will conduct research on invasive plant species Elatine Ambigua and Elatine Triandra to clarify the species boundaries and provide insights on their source and vector of introduction in the U.S.

Rachel Winsor ’15 (ENGR) – Project XX

  • Rachel plans to partner with UConn groups and departments to help bridge the gender gap to success by developing and implementing a series of empowerment workshops for the UConn community.


Thank you to the faculty members who have agreed to supervise the UConn IDEA Grant students in their projects. Thank you as well to the faculty members and program directors who served on the UConn IDEA Grant Proposal Review Committee!

• Announcing the 2014 Roper Awards for Research Experience (RARE)

The Roper Award for Research Experience (RARE) supports undergraduate research apprenticeships that make use of the archives of the Roper Center for Public Opinion Research. We are pleased to announce the two student/faculty RARE teams who have received awards for Spring 2014 and thank the Roper Center for its generous support of these student awards.

Project TitlePublic Perception and Judicial Legitimacy
Student Apprentice and Major: Molly Rockett, Political Science
Faculty Mentor and Department: Virginia Hettinger, Political Science

Ms. Rockett and Professor Hettinger will be using the DRI National Poll on the Civil Justice System to explore public perceptions of the judicial decision-making process and poll respondents’ assessments of firsthand experiences (as litigants, jurors, or witnesses) with the legal system.

Project Title: The Right to Bear Arms: The Role of Federalism in Gun Control Policy
Student Apprentice and Major: Brian Tiedt, Political Science & Economics
Faculty Mentor and Department: Paul Herrnson, Political Science

Mr. Tiedt and Professor Herrnson will use the metadata available on iPOLL and a variety of data sets to consider the evolution of public opinion on gun control, subgroup variation in opinion, and public perceptions of the role of the federal government in regulating firearms.

Press Release from the Roper Center

• Congratulations, 2014 SHARE Award Recipients!

SHARE awards support undergraduate research apprenticeships in the social sciences, humanities, and arts. Following the most competitive application cycle to date, we are pleased to announce the 20 awardees for the Spring 2014 semester. Congratulations!

Project TitleDeferred Examination
Student Apprentice and Major: Patrick Adams, Economics
Faculty Mentor and Department: Talia Bar, Economics

Project Title: Evaluation of Gifted Education Using State Accountability Systems
Student Apprentice and Major: Daniel Arndt, Education
Faculty Mentor and Department: Jonathan Plucker, Educational Leadership

Project Title: Implementing and Evaluating K-3 Literacy Support in CT Schools
Student Apprentice and Major: Rachael Cerutti, Elementary Education
Faculty Mentor and Department: Michael Coyne, Educational Psychology

Project Title: Exploring Prunus Domestication in the Southern Caucasus
Student Apprentice and Major: Joyce Fountain, Anthropology
Faculty Mentor and Department: Alexia Smith, Anthropology

Project TitleAssessing Legal Protections Against Rape in the 50 U.S. States
Student Apprentice and Major: Celia Guillard, International Relations
Faculty Mentor and Department: David Richards, Political Science

Project TitleThe New Husky Study: Stress, Coping and Health Behavior Change in First-Year Students
Student Apprentice and Major: Megan Iacocca, Psychology
Faculty Mentor and Department: Crystal Park, Psychology

Project TitleDamini: Illuminating the Flaws in India’s Legal System and Rape Laws
Student Apprentice and Major: Tina Lapsia, Political Science
Faculty Mentor and Department: Betty Hanson, Political Science

Project TitleCongressional Responsiveness During the ‘New Gilded Age’
Student Apprentice and Major: Phillip Menard, Political Science
Faculty Mentor and Department: Thomas Hayes, Political Science

Project TitleGifted Students Achievement Patterns Beyond High School
Student Apprentice and Major: Jennifer Moore, Secondary Education
Faculty Mentor and Department: Del Siegle, Educational Psychology

Project TitleDiscourse in Linguistically Diverse Mathematics Classrooms
Student Apprentice and Major: Bailey Muchin, Special Education
Faculty Mentor and Department: Mary Truxaw, Curriculum and Instruction

Project TitleNeural Mechanisms for Behavioral Differences on Visual Integration in Schizophrenia
Student Apprentice and Major: Fariya Naz, Psychology
Faculty Mentor and Department: Chi-Ming Chen, Psychology

Project Title: Observations on the Genderization of Security: A University (UConn/Avery Point) Community Perspective
Student Apprentice and Major: Kaitlin Pealer, Anthropology
Faculty Mentor and Department: Richard Cole, Political Science

Project Title: Beyond Nation States
Student Apprentice and Major: Marissa Piccolo, Political Science
Faculty Mentor and Department: Prakash Kashwan, Political Science

Project Title: Understanding of Social Relationships in Children with a History of Autism Who Have Achieved Optimal Outcomes
Student Apprentice and Major: Kaitlyn Porter, Speech, Language and Hearing Sciences
Faculty Mentor and Department: Deborah Fein, Psychology

Project Title: Counting Strategies in Deaf Homesigners in Nicaragua: Can Fingers Help?
Student Apprentice and Major: Devika Prasad, Psychology
Faculty Project Title: Marie Coppola, Psychology

Project Title: Neonatal Nurses’ Perceptions of Mother-Infant Skin-to-Skin Contact in NICUs: A National Survey
Student Apprentice and Major: Kelsey Richardson, Nursing
Faculty Project Title: Xiaomei Cong, Nursing

Project Title: Examining Questioning in Reading Classrooms
Student Apprentice and Major: Melissa Scarbrough, Secondary Education/French
Faculty Project Title: Catherine Little, Educational Psychology

Project Title: Preparation of Engraved Editions of Late Piano Works by American Modernist Composer Dane Rudhyar
Student Apprentice and Major: Jonathan Schmieding, Music -Composition and Performance
Faculty Project Title: Ronald Squibbs, Music

Project Title: Gap Detection and Frequency Discrimination Abilities in Individuals High in Autism Spectrum Disorder Symptomatology
Student Apprentice and Major: Emily Thompson, Speech, Language and Hearing Sciences
Faculty Project Title: Inge-Marie Eigsti, Psychology

Project Title: Social Challenges for Correctional Nurses Delivering Healthcare
Student Apprentice and Major: Alyssa Zabin, Psychology
Faculty Project Title: Denise Panosky, Nursing

• Announcing New Research Internship Program at UConn Health Center

The Office of Undergraduate Research is pleased to announce a new research internship program for UConn undergraduates – the Translational Research Internship Program. This summer research internship is designed to provide undergraduate students with greater insight into the physician-scientist career path (combined M.D./Ph.D). Students will conduct research under the direction of a faculty member at UCHC while gaining a better understanding of the clinical side of medicine by shadowing a physician/surgeon. The program will allow students to see firsthand the interplay of biomedical research and clinical medicine: how clinical medicine influences and inspires basic research and how basic research translates into therapies used in the clinic.

For information on eligibility, funding, and the online application, visit the Translational Research Internship webpage.

• 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”


• Call for Proposals: Roper Award for Research Experience (RARE)

The Roper Award for Research Experience (RARE) is a subcategory of the SHARE (Social Sciences, Humanities, and Arts Research Experience) Award. SHARE and RARE are designed especially for students in the earlier stages of their college careers, to introduce them to research in their chosen fields and to develop the skills they will need for further research projects.

Many UConn students don’t realize that The Roper Center for Public Opinion Research is located on the Storrs campus. The Roper Center is one of the world’s leading archives of social science data, specializing in data from surveys of public opinion.

RARE is designed to encourage faculty and undergraduates to use the resources of the Roper Center in undergraduate research and creative projects. Students will spend 10 hours per week during the spring semester working on a project with a faculty member. Ideally, the RARE partnership will continue past the spring semester, allowing both the faculty mentor and student apprentice to continue the project, potentially leading to a more independent role for the student or a thesis project.

Funding: During the spring semester, student apprentices will receive a $1,500 stipend (paid out as an hourly wage) and faculty mentors will receive a $500 professional development stipend.

RARE Teams: RARE teams consist of a faculty mentor and a student apprentice who apply jointly for the program.  Faculty members are encouraged to recruit student apprentices to work with them on a potential RARE project, and students interested in the program may also approach faculty members to express their interest in a potential project.

Deadline: RARE Applications (both Faculty and Student applications) must be submitted by 4:00 pm on October 28, 2013. Additional program details and a link to the Faculty and Student applications are available online at http://ugradresearch.uconn.edu/rare/.