highlights work of Harrison undergraduate researchers
row, l-r: Faculty Senate Chair Rob Grainger, environmental
sciences professor Deborah Lawrence and undergraduate Laura
Second row, l-r: Undergraduate Esther Huang, Commonwealth
Professor of Spanish David Gies, and students Elizabeth Whelan
and Poonam Sharma.
Top row, l-r: Psychology professor David Hill, student Chris
Yuskaitis, chemistry professor Michal Sabat, and student Gregory
By Matt Kelly
undergraduate students presented their research Nov. 6 to a group
of fellow students and faculty members at the Colonnade Club.
students were among 43 winners last year of the David A. Harrison
III Undergraduate Research Awards.
submitted applications for the next round of Harrison grants this
with $100,000 in Harrison money through the Presidents
office and another $60,000 from the Provosts office,
this coming round is the last for the awards under the current
funding plan, which covered only three years. Faculty Senate members
are seeking new funding for the program.
hope someone is interested enough in undergraduate research to
provide permanent funding for it, said Susan Perry, who
chairs the Faculty Senates research and scholarship committee.
President and Provost Gene Block, in his opening comments,
noted that his alma mater, Princeton, recently boasted of a new
undergraduate research funding program similar to what U.Va. already
presentations ranged from a photo essay on the aftermath of a
hurricane in Honduras, to an analysis of soil respiration in the
rain forest, to taste bud structure and function to the molecular
properties of nanoparticles, to an examination of health care
in rural Virginia and India. Introduced by their faculty mentors,
the students outlined their presentations with computer assisted
slides and overhead projections.
presentations opened with Milton Brown, assistant professor of
chemistry, introducing Jonathan Grimm, who is working with anticonvulsant
compounds that could be used in the treatment of epilepsy.
studies professor James Childress introduced Katherine Kimbrell,
who is researching the availability of health care in rural Virginia
and India. Kimbrell, with the help of slides, detailed her volunteer
work and travels in India, where health care is an entitlement,
but some doctors are corrupt and people distrust Western medicine.
also spent time at the Blue Ridge Medical Center in Nelson County,
shadowing a physician.
Michal Sabat, director of the chemistry departments molecular
structure lab, introduced Gregory Broughton, who is investigating
the molecular properties of nanoparticles crosslinked by DNA.
Whelan presented some of the more than 2,500 photographs she took
in Honduras in the aftermath of Hurricane Mitch as part of her
study on how the Catholic church is assisting with the rehabilitation
of a village that suffered 70 percent devastation. She said the
church there is an integral part of peoples lives and the
people were willing to submit to Gods will, believing the
hurricanes devastation was part of Gods grander plan
which they could not fathom.
Lawrence, assistant professor of environmental sciences, who is
also familiar with Honduras, said the hurricanes devastation
was caused by deforestation. Lawrence introduced student Laura
Cacho, who is studying soil respiration in rain forests in relation
to species, function type and species richness.
Huang is studying the protective role of AT2 receptor in hypertension.
Huang discussed her research in which she studies the effects
of different drugs on mice with artificially induced high blood
pressure. Huang said the research could have an impact on heart
disease, which she said is linked to 40.6 percent of all deaths
in the country.
professor David Hill introduced Christopher Yuskaitis, who is
investigating the structure and function of taste buds, using
mice that have a gene modification affecting normal cell death.
Sharma explained some of her research in the evolution of autoantibody
responses in lupus, a disorder affecting predominantly female
victims in which the immune system turns on the body.
the student presentations, Shadi Kourosh, of the student-run Undergraduate
Research Network, talked about URN and what it offers student
researchers, including streamlining resource processes and setting
consistent guidelines, providing mentorship and holding annual
symposiums to celebrate the research.
Gies, the former Faculty Senate chair, praised the student researchers
and urged others who are considering research projects to apply
for Harrison grants.
worst that can happen is we say No, you cant have
$3,000, he said.