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KU announces Undergraduate Research Award winners

Monday, June 10, 2013

LAWRENCE — This summer, 33 University of Kansas students will receive Undergraduate Research Awards to support their research projects. Twenty-four of these students are in the College of Liberal Arts & Sciences.

“In many disciplines, summer has traditionally been a great time for students to spend time working on a research project. This summer, we have students doing research here at KU as well as on-site in many different locations,” said John Augusto, director of the Center for Undergraduate Research.

UGRA recipients receive $1,000 to support their research projects. KU students will use the funds this summer to help finance research trips to such destinations as Peru and England, as well as to support research taking place on the Lawrence campus.  These undergraduate researchers join others on KU’s campus, such as those in REU programs or the McNair Scholars Program, who are utilizing their summer breaks to pursue research opportunities.

The Undergraduate Research Awards are funded by a partnership among the College of Liberal Arts and Sciences, Research and Graduate Studies, and the Office of the Provost.  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.

Students receiving awards are listed below by hometown, level in school, major, high school, brief description of the project and faculty mentor. Those students listed with underlined names are in the College of Liberal Arts & Sciences.

Kansas recipients


Holly Lafferty, junior majoring in ecology and evolutionary biology; Shawnee Mission East High School; “The Study of the Biodiversity of Aquatic Insects Found in Leaf Packs as Bioindicators of Water Quality in Villa Carmen Biological Station, Madre de Dios, Peru,” a project to examine the presence and abundance of aquatic insects found in leaf packs on the side and bottom of streams in Peru and compare the results to data collecting in previous years in order to discover any changes occurring to the ecosystem due to pollution; research mentor: Caroline Chaboo, ecology and evolutionary biology.


Kayla Overbey, senior majoring in English and journalism; Hays High School; “A Spoonful of Sugar: A Comparison of 19th and 20th Century American and British Children’s Literature by Culture and Location,” a comparison of five classic children’s novels, two American and three British, to discover how the cultural situations of the time are depicted through their respective environments; research mentor: Mary Klayder, English.


Cody Alley, junior majoring in evolutionary biology and ecology; Lawrence High School; “Roles and Functions of Septate Junction Proteins in Drosophila melanogaster Larvae during Parasitization byLeptopilina boulardi Eggs,” a project to better understand the role and functions of septate junction proteins in the haemocytes of Drosophila larvae during parasitization events byLeptopilina boulardi eggs; research mentor: Robert Ward, molecular biosciences.

Clinton Rogers, senior majoring in printmaking; “An Investigation into the Aesthetics of Sacred Space,” a cross-cultural investigation and utilization of how artists and architects create what is connoted as "Sacred Space"; research mentor: Yoonmi Nam, printmaking.

Gregory Ervin, sophomore majoring in interdisciplinary computing - biology; “Investigating the Role of microRNAs in Selective Neuronal Vulnerability,” an investigation of whether microRNA expression can explain why parts of the brain are more vulnerable to neurodegeneration than others; research mentor: Elias Michaelis, pharmacology and toxicology.

Paul Fowler III, junior majoring in history; Lawrence High School; “African-American Class and Community in Lawrence, KS, 1880-1920,” an investigation of the process through which the African-American community of Lawrence, Kan., was formed and maintained from 1880-1920; research mentor: Elizabeth Kuznesof, history.

Marika Crider, junior majoring in mechanical engineering; Lawrence High School; “The Effect of Injury of the Medial Meniscus on the Kinematics of the Knee Joint,” a project that will explore how damaging or removing the medial meniscus affects the kinematics of the knee joint by using implanted sensors on cadaveric knees and a motion-capturing system; research mentor: Lorin Maletsky, mechanical engineering.

Karen Lewis, senior majoring in environmental studies; Calumet High School (Laurium, Mich.); “Community Health Clubs and their Application for Health and Environmental Education and Community Building in Matazano, Guatemala,” an investigation of whether the use of the education method known as “Community Health Club” (CHC) or a similar participatory model would be a viable way to educate indigenous citizens on best practices in regard to improving personal and environmental health in the Cho’rti Maya community of Matazano, Guatemala, which struggles with water supply and contamination issues on a daily basis; research mentor: Brent Metz, anthropology.

Kansas City, Kan.

Julio Ramirez, junior majoring in genetics; Bishop Ward High School; “Relative Effects of Meiotic and Mitotic Mutation under Sexual and Asexual Reproduction,” a revision and expansion of a previously proposed theoretical reproduction model in plants to strengthen its biological range and relevance; research mentor: Maria Orive, ecology and evolutionary biology.

Betsy Ramirez, junior majoring in microbiology; “Isolation and Crystallization of a Non-Ribosomal Peptide Synthetase Domain,” a project aimed at isolating, purifying and crystallizing a small domain of a nonribosomal peptide synthetase involved in the pyoverdin biosynthesis of P. aeruginosa; research mentor: Audrey Lamb, molecular biosciences.


Charles Barkley, junior majoring in English and history of art; Manhattan High School; “‘You’re Not a Real Marxist and You Know It’: Robert Jordan’s Rejection of Communism and his Deliberate Anti-Fascism in Ernest Hemingway’s ‘For Whom the Bell Tolls,’” an exploration of the politics in Hemingway’s classic, ‘For Whom the Bell Tolls’; research mentor: James Carothers, English.

Medicine Lodge

Kolton Stimpert, junior majoring in mechanical engineering; Medicine Lodge High School; “Undergraduate Research Proposal to Examine Flexible Piezoelectric Materials in Harvesting Energy,” a project aimed at developing flexible composites capable of producing therapeutic amounts of electrical power as a result of stresses normally observed in the human body; research mentor: Lisa Friis, mechanical engineering.


Katherine Gwynn, sophomore majoring in English and women, gender, & sexuality studies; Saint Thomas Aquinas High School; “Queering Neverland: Divergent Sexuality and Gender in the World of J.M. Barrie's ‘Peter Pan,’” an exploration of the fluctuating spectrum of sexuality and gender in the works of J.M. Barrie using Queer Theory lens; research mentor: Giselle Anatol, English.


Jacqueline Sullivan, sophomore with an undeclared major; Ottawa High School; “Understanding Relationships among ‘Fanged’ Frogs of Lao PDR and Cambodia,” a project to collect and analyze morphological data for two unconfirmed candidate species of the Limnonectes kuhlii complex in order to provide the additional line of evidence necessary to identify the frogs as separate taxonomic entities; research mentor: David McLeod, Biology.

Overland Park

Ryan Smith, junior majoring in English and history; Blue Valley North High School; “Gendering the Gods: The Production of the Sexes in the Prophetic Books of William Blake,” an examination of the production of the sexes and the process of gendering in William Blake's private mythology; research mentor: Ann Rowland, English.

Mitchell Newton, sophomore majoring in chemistry; Blue Valley Northwest High School; “Deducing the Mechanism of Chemobrain Using Capillary Electrophoresis to Analyze Living Rat Brains,” a research project that might lead to a greater understanding of chemobrain by analyzing rats; research mentor: Craig Lunte, chemistry.


Edward Raab, senior majoring in film and media studies; Pleasanton High School; “DER FILM AUS DEUTSCHLAND,” a hands-on look into the filmmaking process from the perspective of a small production company in Berlin; research mentor: Michael Graves, film and media studies.


Jacquelynn Miller, senior majoring in geology; “Reconstructing Past Environments in the Kansas River Valley Using Stable Carbon Isotope Data,” a project involving the application of stable isotope techniques to analyze prehistoric plant community environments (and climate by extension) from buried soils here in the lower Kansas River; research mentor: William Charles Johnson, geography.


Chloe Seim, junior majoring in art history; “Investigating Conventions in Illustrated Fiction through the Creation of a Novella,” a project that will take extensive research on the contemporary illustrated novel, graphics novels and picture books to create an illustrated novella which is equally reliant on artwork and text in its storytelling; research mentor: Mary Klayder, English.


Josie Harmon Kemp, senior majoring in architecture and anthropology; Shawnee Mission North; “Caring to Sell: Diabetes in the Information Age,” a project that examines diabetic technology, and whether or not it is critical to diabetes management from the perspective of those who use it versus those who provide it, as well as how this issue illustrates greater trends and potential problems in the American health care system; research mentor: Sandra Gray, anthropology.


Nathanael Dinwiddie, senior in film and media studies; Topeka High School; “The Technological Utopianism of Jacque Fresco,” a project that entails producing a biographical film documenting the life and ideas of renowned futurist Jacque Fresco; research mentor: Madison Lacy, film and media studies.


Rachel Sites, junior majoring in ecology and evolutionary biology; Maize High School; “Dragonflies and Damselflies of the CICRA Biological Station, Madre de Dios, Peru (Insecta: Odonata),” a survey of Odonate fauna in Southern Peru, creating a checklist of existing dragonflies and damsel flies for future comparison and research, possibly for use as bioindication; research mentor: Caroline Chaboo, ecology and evolutionary biology.


Out-of-state recipients

Arvada, Colo.

Savannah Roemer, freshman majoring in biology; Ralston Valley High School; “Orchid Bees (Hymenoptera: Apidae: Euglossini) of the Villa Carmen Biological Station, Madre de Dios, Peru,” an inventory of orchid bee diversity dependent on deforestation of the Amazonian rain forest at the Villa Carmen Biological Station in Madre de Dios, Peru; research mentor: Caroline Chaboo, ecology and evolutionary biology.

Austin, Texas

Christopher Dill, freshman majoring in mechanical engineering; St. Andrew's Episcopal High School; “Validation of a Mechanical Spine Testing Machine,” a project to manufacture and test samples of various stiffness in a novel mechanical spine testing machine to find correction factors to improve the accuracy of the data output; research mentor: Lisa Friis, mechanical engineering.

Allen, Texas

Sarah Kraus, junior majoring in East Asian languages and cultures and environmental studies; “A Comparative Analysis of Urban and Rural Ecovillages: Proximity to Dominant Culture,” a project investigating how an urban and rural ecovillage negotiate the opportunities and constraints presented by varying degrees of proximity to the dominant culture in terms of achieving their goals of (1) modeling a socially and environmentally sustainable lifestyle and (2) influencing the dominant society to adopt similar values and alter existing institutions; research mentor: Chris Brown, environmental studies and geography.

Fayetteville, Ark.

Carissa Smardo, junior majoring in chemistry; Fayetteville High School; “Synthesis of Fluorophores to Study Biological Systems,” a project to explore methods of synthesizing Pacific Blue to develop higher yielding methods and facilitate applications of this valuable fluorophore; research mentor: Blake Peterson, medicinal chemistry.

Gurnee, Ill.

Lindsay Horwitz, junior majoring in exercise science and minoring in business; Warren Township High School; “Characterizing Limonectes kuhlii Tadpoles and Tadpoles from Lao PDR and Cambodia,” a project that uses tadpoles to understand the relationships among the frogs of the Limonectes kuhlii complex from Lao PDR and Cambodia; research mentor: David McLeod, biology.

Kampala, Uganda

Mugabi Byenkya, junior majoring in environmental studies & global and international studies; Rainbow International School Kampala; “National Parks as Neo-colonialism?,” an investigation of whether a national parks system is an effective method of preserving and promoting the growth of biodiversity in Uganda; research mentor: Byron Caminero-Santangelo, English and environmental studies.

Lima, Peru

Ana Villanueva, freshman majoring in mechanical engineering; Hans Christian Oersted; “Validation of a Mechanical Spine Testing Machine,” a project that will analyze motion data and compare it with theoretical calculations to find correction factors to improve the accuracy of the data output of a mechanical spine testing machine; research mentor: Lisa Friis, mechanical engineering.

North Liberty, Iowa

Erin Evans, junior majoring in neurobiology; Iowa City West High School; “Microchip Electrophoresis with Electrochemical Detection for Use in Studying Caenorhabditis elegansNeurotransmitters,” a study using microchip electrophoresis with electrochemical detection in order to effectively correlate concentration of neurotransmitters with behavior; research mentor: Susan Lunte, chemistry.

Port Orchard, Wash.

Jonathan Coup, junior majoring in electrical engineering; South Kitsap High School; “Real Time Operating System Implementation for Unsupported Microcontrollers,” a project to develop real-time operating systems onto microcontrollers; research mentor: Gary Minden, electrical engineering and computer science.

St. Charles, Mo.

Henry Clever, senior majoring in mechanical engineering; DeSmet Jesuit High School; “Developing a Protocol to Image Non-Newtonian Fluid Spreading,” a project to measure the spreading of a relatively large area of fluid as it flows down a slope in order to determine fluid flow behavior of non-Newtonian gels used in microbicide drug delivery; research mentor: Sarah Kieweg, mechanical engineering.