Students receive first-time
Harrison research grants
Faculty Senate awarded grants of up to $4,000 this week to 26
outstanding undergraduate students and their faculty mentors for
support of innovative research projects in a variety of disciplines
and schools. The students received the Faculty Senate Harrison
Undergraduate Research Awards during a Feb. 2 ceremony in the
Rotunda Dome Room.
research awards are funded by a $100,000 gift from alumnus David
A. Harrison III, a retired investment banker who has supported
awards over the past several years to recognize exceptional faculty
teaching and academic leadership. The Faculty Senate proposed
this year to use the money to recognize and fund outstanding undergraduate
research. This is the first time the Harrison Awards have provided
grants for this purpose.
awards emerged from the idea that we should publicly recognize
the strong interrelationship between teaching and scholarship,"
said Robert M. Grainger, professor of biology who heads the Faculty
Senate's Research and Scholarship Committee. "We wanted to
recognize and enhance the research side of undergraduate training.
the fall, students were invited to apply for the grants and were
required to describe their research project, detail their budget
requirements and plan of action, and how they would collaborate
with a faculty mentor. The selection committee reviewed 157 applications
during the winter break, made their selections, and notified the
26 winners on Jan. 15. The awards range from $1,880 to a maximum
of $3,000, depending on the needs of the particular project. Each
student's faculty mentor will receive $1,000.
winning students will begin work on their projects this semester
and must complete their work by the end of summer. Final project
reports will be submitted to the Faculty Senate, and plans are
being developed for a way to highlight some of the projects next
has inspired our selection committee is how inventive the students'
project proposals are," said Grainger. "The projects
are not mere reflections of what the student's faculty mentors
are doing -- these are bright, creative, well thought-out efforts
to make unique contributions to a particular field of learning.
The students have demonstrated enormous energy, enthusiasm, talent
and drive. These are the criteria we had, and the students came
says the committee wanted to make sure that the money would make
the difference in a student's ability to accomplish a research
the student needs to travel, for example, or get a break from
a job in order to do the work, we wanted to help make that happen."
One such winner, Elsa A. Olivetti, an engineering/materials science
major, will use her grant to study how the bacteria Pseudomonas
putida can be used to help clean up groundwater contamination.
plan to use the grant money to make two trips," Olivetti
said. "One to the labs at the University of Iowa where the
bacteria strain was developed, and the other to a field site where
the bacteria could actually be used in groundwater cleanup studies."
student, Jeffrey I. Marcus, an architecture major, is investigating
ways to provide security for public buildings while still representing
open-door democracy in the architecture.
light of the Oklahoma City bombing, and attacks on U.S. embassies
in Africa, it has become increasingly important for public buildings
to balance increased security with the desire to maintain democratic
openness," Marcus said. "I plan to use my grant to visit
one or two U.S. embassies, as well as meet with experts on this
subject in New York City and Washington, D.C. The goal of my project
is to design a U.S. embassy as an exercise using the principles
I learn during my investigation."
education major Jennifer A. Johnson will use her grant to look
for ways to improve the recruitment of minorities into the teaching
profession. She will visit high schools in Northern Virginia and
the Tidewater region to conduct surveys and to interview minority
students on their views of teaching as a career.
hope to gain insight to why more minorities are not interested
in the teaching profession," said Johnson. "I then plan
to develop recommendations for ways to recast teaching as a desirable
career choice for more minorities."
to Grainger, the Faculty Senate is hoping the University can find
a way to fund undergraduate research awards as an annual honor
for the most innovative student scholars and researchers.
is so much talent and drive among the undergraduates at this university,
it would be a shame not to continue this initiative," he
awards provide an opportunity for students to experience college
as more than merely a route to a career, said Marcus.
should inspire creative thought and open people to new ideas,
to become enlightened. These new research awards open up new opportunities
for undergraduates to do exactly that, to explore ideas beyond
Grounds, and to come back with new perspectives."