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KU announces 50 Undergraduate Research Award winners

Tuesday, January 28, 2014
LAWRENCE — This spring, 50 KU students will work on research projects funded by the Undergraduate Research Award (UGRA) program, coordinated by the Center for Undergraduate Research. Recipients will receive $1,000 to fund their projects, which encompass departments from across campus and explore a wide range of topics.

Students apply for the award by writing a four-page research proposal under the guidance of a faculty mentor. This spring’s competition saw a 25 percent increase in the number of applications from the previous spring, making the awards all that much more competitive. Proposals were selected on the merit of the applicant's proposal, the applicant's academic record, and the recommendation from a faculty member who is familiar with the applicant and the proposed project.

 “We are thrilled to see an increase in student interest in the KU Undergraduate Research Awards,” said John Augusto, assistant vice provost. “Regardless of the funding outcome, we know that all applicants benefit from the process of writing the proposal with input from their research mentor. Students who participate in the proposal-writing process find they can use the skills that they learn in applying for scholarships, fellowships, and graduate and medical school applications.”

The UGRA program started in 1986 and was run for many years by the University Honors Program. The Center for Undergraduate Research took over this long-standing program after opening in the fall of 2012. The UGRAs are funded by a partnership among the College of Liberal Arts and Sciences, the Office of Research and the Office of the Provost.

The Center for Undergraduate Research is currently accepting applications from students who will be conducting research in the summer and fall 2014 terms. To learn more and apply, visit http://ugresearch.ku.edu/student/fund/ugra.

Students receiving awards are listed below by hometown, level in school, major, high school, brief description of the project and faculty mentor.

Kansas recipients


Jill Wenderott: senior majoring in physics; Wabaunsee High School; “Production of tungsten probe with micro-tip for precise modification of local area surrounding heterostructures,” a project to produce an electrochemically etched tungsten probe with micro-tip and then use it to remove unwanted materials that hinder the efficient studying of two-dimensional heterostructures; research mentor: Hsin-Ying Chiu, physics and astronomy.



Bailey Wilkerson: junior majoring in microbiology; Andover Central High School; “miRNA Targeting of Msi1 Proteins to Suppress Breast Cancer Cell Proliferation,” a study aimed at identifying effective miRNA targets of Msi1 mRNA and utilizing them to down-regulate Msi1 protein production, which will ideally inhibit breast cancer cell proliferation; research mentor: Liang Xu, molecular biosciences.



Brian Sitek, senior majoring in geology; Atchison High School; “Assessing the Nature of an Ancient Geological Boundary Using Microscopy and Cathodoluminescence Imaging,” a study determining the geologic and metamorphic history of a geological boundary using cathodoluminescense microscopy, petrographic microscopy, and scanning electron microscopy; research mentor: Andreas Moeller, geology.



Holly Good: junior majoring in chemistry; Shawnee Mission Northwest; “Synthesis of Novel Dentin Adhesives,” a study on the synthesis of dentin adhesives used to repair and restore teeth; research mentor: Paulette Spencer, mechanical engineering.



Anthony St. Aubin: junior majoring in astronomy & interdisciplinary computing; Derby High School; “Development of a semi-subtractive process for in-house fabrication of graphene circuitry,” a study aimed at proving the efficacy of a process to create flexible, transparent integrated circuits through the stacking of pre-patterned TDM sheets into arrays of heterostructure devices; research mentor: Hsin-Ying Chiu, physics.



Sam Buchanan: senior majoring in electrical engineering; Shawnee Mission East High School; “Active-Target Multistatic Receiver Digital Section for CReSIS Radar Calibration,” a project to design and implement the digital signal processing section of an active target multistatic receiver (ATMR) system for calibrating an ultra-wide bandwidth multichannel radar system; research mentor: John Paden, electrical engineering and computer science.



Kyle Lockhause: senior majoring in environmental studies; Gardner Edgerton High School; “Ashes to Ashes: Survey of the Fraxinus Tree Family for Conservation Efforts against the Agrilus planipennis Fairmaire,” a survey of the Ash tree population throughout the University of Kansas's campus to provide preliminary data for conservation efforts against the Emerald Ash Borer; research mentor: Robert Hagen, environmental studies.



Joshua Palmer, senior majoring in history & religious studies; Hutchinson High School; “The Rising Influence of Montecassino: A Constructed Identity Based Upon the Interactions of the Cenobitic Community with External Entities of the 10th and 11th Centuries,” a study of the peoples living at the Abbey of Montecassino in the Italian peninsula between the 10th and 11th centuries, with a focus on understanding why the monks chose to become active participants in political, economic, and intellectual issues of the secular world; research mentor: Steven Epstein, history.

Merritt Schenk, senior majoring in applied behavioral science; Buhler High School; “Behavioral Science Goes to the Arcade: A Translation of the Generalized Matching Law to Predict and Analyze Human Performance in a Simulated Environment,” a study that will employ video game performance under varying avatar attribute manipulations to answer fundamental questions regarding theories of choice and reinforcement; research mentor: Derek Reed, applied behavioral science.



Caleb Christianson, senior majoring in engineering physics; home-schooled; “Development of Custom Staggered Herringbone Microfluidic Chips for Rapid Mixing of Liposomes and Stable Nucleic Acid Lipid Particles,” a project to develop custom staggered herringbone microfluidic chips for manufacturing nanoparticles for therapeutic applications; research mentor: Judy Wu, physics and astronomy.

Betsy Ramirez, senior majoring in microbiology; home-schooled; “Isolation and Crystallization of PvdJp2, a Non-Ribosomal Peptide Synthetase Domain in Pseudomonas aeruginosa,” a project aimed at isolating and crystallizing PvdJp2, a protein domain involved in siderophore biosynthesis; research mentor: Audrey Lamb, biochemistry.

Julio Ramirez, senior majoring in genetics; Bishop Ward High School; “Shielding Effect of Asexual Reproduction on Mutation Load,” a project to develop a computer simulation model representing three reproductive strategies found in one population of plants: self-fertilization, outcrossing, and asexual reproduction; research mentor: Maria Orive, ecology and evolutionary biology.



Jacklyn Baillergeon, senior majoring in journalism & political science; Lansing High School; “The New Get Out the Vote? Effects of Data Targeting on Voter Turnout Rates,” a study to determine if a relationship exists between the use of data targeting methods and an increase in voter turnout rates in state legislative races; research mentor: Mark Joslyn, political science.



Joel Bonner, senior majoring in English and creative writing; Free State High School; “Bringing the Intellectual and Personal Benefits of Epic Literature to Children,” a project aimed at making classic epic literature more accessible and understandable for a young audience through the writing of narrative poetry; research mentor: Giselle Anatol, English.

Luke Daniels, sophomore majoring in biology; Lawrence High School; “Synthesizing Historical Literature Pertaining To The Reptiles Of Malawi For Use In Creating A Current Field-guide,” a project that will review the historical literature of reptiles from Malawi; research mentor: David McLeod, undergraduate biology.

Marcella Hangen, senior majoring in applied behavioral analysis; Free State High School; “Stability and Reinforcer Efficacy of Young Children’s Preference for Edible and Tangible Items,” a project to conduct longitudinal preference and reinforcer assessments with young children to see how often their preferences change and if the items they select are reinforcing; research mentor: Pam Neidert, applied behavioral science.

Adam Miltner, senior majoring in microbiology; Free State High School; “How MAB-5 Drives Posterior Migration of the Q Neuroblasts in Caenorhabditis elegans,” a study to gain insight on how MAB-5, a transcription factor, drives posterior migration of the Q neuroblasts in Caenorhabditis elegans and to also investigate redundancy between MAB-5 and another transcription factor LIN-39; research mentor: Erik Lundquist, molecular biosciences.

Andrea Phillips, senior majoring in applied behavioral science; Perry-Lecompton High School; “Brewing Fairness: A Behavioral Economics Approach to Consumer Demand for Coffee under Fair Trade Tariffs,” a study aimed at identifying behavioral economic markers for consumer demand for a potentially addictive commodity, coffee, under various fair trade tariff conditions; research mentor: Derek Reed, applied behavioral science.

Natalie Sabillon: senior majoring in Illustration; Free State High School; “Jip the Zebra Children's Book,” a project to produce a children’s book along with a second-grade class at Hillcrest Elementary School; research mentor: Barry Fitzgerald, illustration.

Abigail Schletzbaum: freshman majoring in Behavioral Neuroscience; Free State High School; “Numerical Bifurcation Analysis of Comparative Climate Models,” a study aimed at identifying the scenarios under which tipping points, irreversible and dramatic changes in climate, will occur, specifically analyzing ocean currents and aerosol cloud precipitation models coded in MatLab and analyzed with numerical bifurcation analysis tools; research mentor: Erik Van Vleck, mathematics.

Kristina Van Anne: senior majoring in Spanish & business; Free State High School; “The Role of Lexical Stress in Word Recognition of English-Speaking L2 Learners of Spanish,” a study aimed at identifying the role of lexical stress in the word recognition process of late English-speaking L2 learners of Spanish in order to determine if lexical stress constrains word recognition for these late L2 Spanish learners; research mentor: Annie Tremblay, linguistics.



Kristin Miller: senior majoring in applied behavioral science & communication studies; Shawnee Mission East; “Increasing Young Children’s Compliance with Essential-Routine Procedures: Acquisition, Maintenance, and Generalization,” a study that will use behavioral strategies to increase young children with intellectual and developmental disabilities' compliance with health care procedures; research mentor: Pamela Neidert, applied behavioral science.



Thomas Anneberg: senior majoring in organismal biology; Manhattan High School; “Investigation of the subspecies status of Drosophila americana americana and Drosophila americana texana,” a study to produce evidence to determine if two forms of Drosophila are in fact distinct subspecies; research mentor: Jennifer Gleason, ecology and evolutionary biology.

Sean Weston: senior majoring in American studies; Manhattan High School; “Protestants and Poverty: Religious Responses to Unionization and Strikes in Crawford County, Kansas, 1893-1900,” analysis of the discourse among Protestant communities in Crawford County, Kansas, in response to the unionization and strikes of coal miners between 1893 and 1900; research mentor: Cheryl Lester, American studies & English.



Lindsey Roesti: senior majoring in theatre & film & media Studies; McPherson High School; “A Study of KU Performance Graduates in the Entertainment Industry,” a project to create a short documentary about the post-graduate life of actors that have graduated from the University of Kansas with a Theatre Performance degree living in the three entertainment capitals of the U.S.: Los Angeles, New York, and Chicago; research mentor: Peter Zazzali, theatre.



Nicholas Malley: senior majoring in film and media studies; St. Thomas Aquinas; “The Big Brother Project,” a short film project that follows the final days of a man about to retire from his job in security/surveillance at a mall and a young new hire soon to be his replacement; research mentor: Robert Hurst, film and media studies.

Lauren Smith: junior majoring in community health; Olathe South High School; “Relationships Between Individual's Perceptions of Physical Activity Climate and Their Motivational Responses,” an examination of the relationship between individual's perceptions of the climate in their physical activity setting to their motivational responses; research mentor: Mary Fry, health, sport, and exercise sciences.

Raeann Whitney: sophomore majoring in microbiology; Olathe South; “Identification of ABC Transporter Dimerization Partners of the WHT G Subfamily,” a study that will utilize the split GFP method to identify the dimerization partners of the WHT G subfamily of half ABC transporters in Caenorhabditis elegans; research mentor: Lisa Timmons, molecular biosciences.



Seth Polsley: senior majoring in computer engineering; Olathe Christian School; “System for Prediction of User Movement Using EMG Signals,” a project to develop a system that will analyze a user's muscle movements, captured using electromyography, and attempt to determine the user's intended actions with a classifying neural network; research mentor: James Rowland, electrical engineering and computer science.



Stephanie Chen: senior majoring in psychology; “Body Dissatisfaction as a Changer of the Relationship between Physical Self-Concept and Physical Activity,” a study of the relationships between physical self-concept, physical activity, and body dissatisfaction in a sample of college-aged females; research mentor: Ric Steele, psychology.

Kyle Dorsey: senior majoring in applied behavioral science; Blue Valley North High School; “The Effects of a Garden-Education Program on Young Children's Food Preferences,” a study of the effects of a garden-education program on children’s preferences for fruits and vegetables; research mentor: Pamela Neidert, applied behavioral science.

David Gier: junior majoring in physics & computer science; St. Thomas Aquinas High School; “Improvements to the Data Acquisition System of the Pixel Tracker of the CMS Detector,” a study aimed at improving the speed and precision of tests of read out chips in the pixel tracker of the CMS detector; research mentor: Alice Bean, physics and astronomy.

Mitchell Newton, sophomore majoring in chemistry; Blue Valley Northwest; “Developing a Local Seizure Model in the Rat to Elucidate the Chemical and Electrical State of the Brain after a Seizure Event,” a project to develop a complete model of a localized seizure in rats that more closely represents human epileptic events using liquid chromatography and electrocorticography; research mentor: Craig Lunte, chemistry.

Sukhindervir Sandhu: junior majoring in biochemistry & humanities; Shawnee Mission West; “Analysis of Differential Trichome Production in Mimulus Guttatus Using Virus-Induced Gene Silencing,” a study to determine whether the Arabinofurinosidase gene or the SKP-1 gene is responsible for differences in trichome production between the coastal and montane populations of yellow monkeyflower; research mentor: Lena Hileman, ecology and evolutionary biology.



Mary Ritch, senior majoring in applied behavioral science & psychology; Osawatomie High School; “The effects of calorie presentation on food choice by obese individuals,” an examination of the effects of presenting caloric information with food on actual caloric consumption in obese individuals through quasi-random alternation of intervention (caloric presentation) and non-intervention (no caloric presentation) sessions; research mentor: David Jarmolowicz, applied behavioral science.



Gavin Hanson: senior majoring in behavioral neuroscience and neurobiology ; “The Role of Attention in Goal-Directed Semantic Retrieval: A Multi-Voxel Pattern Analysis Study,” a study aimed at identifying the location and nature of attentional signals involved in goal-directed retrieval of feature-specific semantic information using multivariate analysis of functional magnetic resonance imaging data; research mentor: Evangelia Chrysikou, psychology.



Nathan Kern: senior majoring in biochemistry; Midland Adventist Academy; “Behavior of Lipid-Linked Oligosaccharides and Oligosaccharyltransferase in Membranes,” a study performing molecular dynamics simulations of lipid-linked oligosaccharides and oligosaccharyltransferase with the goal of learning their orientations and behavior in membranes; research mentor: Wonpil Im, molecular biosciences.

Alexandria Roy: junior majoring in neurobiology; Mill Valley High School; “miR-137 Mediated Knockdown of KLF4 in Colon Cancer,” a study of the regulatory roles of miR-137 and KLF4 in colon cancer clonogenic growth; research mentor: Liang Xu, molecular biosciences.



Rachel Cross: junior majoring in English; Wichita High School East; “’From The Beaks of Drowned Hummingbirds’: The Ecopoetics of Natural Spaces,” a project that seeks to explore the natural spaces of Costa Rica through the lens of ecopoetics, a combination of poetry and ecology, in order to examine the relationship between nature, culture and language; research mentor: Megan Kaminski, English.

Matthew Hobart: senior majoring in history of art; Wichita East High School; “Logging in to New Identities in Contemporary Art: Themes of Identity and the Use of the Internet in the work of Jayson Musson,” a project examining how contemporary multimedia artist Jayson Musson brings new perspective to themes found in art history through his use of YouTube in his art; research mentor: David Cateforis, history of art.


Out-of-State Recipients


Bryce Tappan: sophomore majoring in environmental chemistry; Brookings High School; “Photoluminescence of Mercaptoazulenes and Their Complexes with Gold (I),” a study focused on characterizing the photoluminescence properties of mercaptoazulene-gold(I) complexes, as these properties govern the possible applications of mercaptoazulene-gold complexes as optical sensors; research mentor: Mikhail Barybin, chemistry.



Julia Nehring, senior majoring in environmental studies & Spanish; Westlake High School; “The potential of milkweed floss as a natural fiber in the textile industry,” a project aimed at finding the optimal combination of brittle milkweed "fluff" with other natural fibers to create sustainable textiles; research mentor: Mary Anne Jordan, visual art.



Ana Villanueva: sophomore majoring in mechanical engineering; Hans Christian Oersted; “The Mechanics of Material/Tissue Interfacial Failure,” a project analyzing the mechanics of the behavior that affects the durability and integrity of the material at the adhesive/dentin interface; research mentor: Paulette Spencer, mechanical engineering.



Eric Rivera: senior majoring in architectural engineering; Omaha Bryan High School; “Quantifying CO2 Removal in Living Walls: A Case Study of the Center for Design Research,” a project that will use field measurements and computer simulation to look at the CO2 absorption rate of a living wall located at the Center for Design Research (CDR); research mentor: Jae Chang, Department of Architecture.



Erin Evans: senior majoring in neurobiology; Iowa City West High School; “Separation optimization of neurotransmitters in Caenorhabditis elegans using capillary electrophoresis with UV detection,” a study to effectively correlate concentration of neurotransmitters with behavior; research mentor: Sue Lunte, chemistry.



Erin Dvorak: senior majoring in photo media; Spencer High School; “A Photographic Survey of Electricity Generation in Eastern Kansas,” a project to photograph power plants in Kansas with the purpose of visually communicating current energy methods while promoting the importance of resource and environmental awareness; research mentor: Bryon Darby, School of Architecture, Design and Planning.



Corey Boucher: junior majoring in architecture; Lutheran High School of St. Charles County; “Creating a ‘Homeplace’ in Temporary Living Environments: Residents’ Evaluation of KU Scholarship Halls,” an examination of the architectural design of six KU scholarship halls to find out the design attributes that contribute to the success of those residence halls in creating a 'sense of home' in college; research mentor: Kapila Silva, architecture, design and planning.