UGA undergraduate researchers learn from hands-on projects in various disciplines

Tuesday, June 27, 2006

Writer: Joelle Prine, 706/583-0727, jprine@uga.edu

Contact: Pamela Kleiber, 706/542-0530, pkleiber@uga.edu

UGA undergraduate researchers learn from hands-on projects in various disciplines

Athens, Ga. – Twenty-seven University of Georgia undergraduates have chosen to use their summer vacation to delve deeper into specific research topics, thanks in part to summer fellowships provided by UGA’s Center for Undergraduate Research Opportunities (CURO).

Since 2001, CURO has competitively awarded these fellowships to undergraduate researchers who work side-by-side with faculty mentors on individual projects. The Provost’s Office, the Biomedical and Health Sciences Institute, the Office of the Vice President for Research and the Interdisciplinary Toxicology Program have provided funding to CURO to support these students.

Additional funding has come this year from the UGA Alumni Association plus a private gift that established a CURO Cancer Research Summer Fellowship in the name of Jane and Bill Young. Stephen Shellman, an assistant professor of international affairs who has been awarded a National Science Foundation grant for his Project Civil Strife, is using part of that grant to support one summer fellow.

“The ability to perform meaningful research over the summer gives students a competitive advantage when applying for graduate schools or for scholarships,” said David Williams, director of UGA’s Honors Program, which administers CURO. “I am very pleased we were able to make this opportunity available and I am very impressed by the quality of the students who have taken advantage of it.”

Pamela Kleiber, associate director of the Honors Program, said the caliber of the students’ proposals has increased each year as more applicants are being exposed to research at the start of college or through interactions with other undergraduate researchers.

In Adele Handy’s case, she first learned of research options when she took an introductory chemistry course with Gregory Robinson, Franklin Professor of Chemistry, and asked if she could tour his organometallic chemistry lab. She ended up working under his direction for the past 1 ½ years.

“My research experience thus far has been truly amazing,” said Handy, a biology and psychology major who hopes to become a pediatrician and medical researcher one day. “I owe a great deal to Dr. Robinson because he was willing to let me be a part of his group despite the fact that I had no background in chemistry. I feel like I have learned so much, and I think that so far this is the part of my college experience that I value the most.”

Robinson also notes how Handy’s science sleuthing abilities have developed in such a short timeframe and how her summer work will keep up the momentum. “From both academics and attitude, Adele is simply an exceptional student,” he said. “She already has co-authored a peer-reviewed research publication. The CURO summer fellowship will allow her to completely dedicate herself to her research project for an extended period of time, thus allowing her to better embrace the research enterprise.”

Danielle Pearl, a rising fourth-year international affairs major, values undergraduate research so much that she postponed her graduation plans until December. She would have finished school in three years this past May, but wanted to participate in the CURO summer fellows program. She is in Croatia, interviewing journalists, publishers and other professionals about press freedom and the future of Croatian media for her thesis.

“The summer fellows program has been wonderful because it has enabled me to spend additional time in Croatia conducting this research,” she said. “For now, my future career goals are to find a good graduate program, earn a Ph.D. and eventually work in democratic development in Eastern Europe.”

Although research projects are typically in the life sciences or social sciences, graphic design major Celan Hardman applies the same critical thinking and problem-solving skills to the arts. Currently in Costa Rica, Hardman is absorbing the country’s culture through interviewing the indigenous people as well as sketching, painting and journaling about her experiences.

“I have become increasingly interested in other cultures and international issues and would like to focus my career as an artist in exposing hardships and changes within different cultures through artistic expression,” she said. “The CURO summer fellowship has given me the opportunity to explore another country and culture, bringing back experiences that I can share with future students as they develop their skills as artists.”

The summer undergraduate researchers earn academic credit for conducting their individual projects and give presentations of their work at the undergraduate research symposium CURO sponsors every spring. They also share their research experiences with other students through panel discussions held during the academic year.

For more information on the CURO summer fellows program, visit http://www.uga.edu/honors/curo.

The 2006 CURO summer fellows are:

From Georgia

Name, Hometown, Major(s), Faculty Mentor

Sarah Breevoort, Acworth, biochemistry & molecular biology, (pre-med)
Walter Schmidt                                                   
Lamar Moree, Albany, biochemistry & molecular biology, Alan Darvill,
cellular biology
Sonia Talathi, Alpharetta, genetics, Brian Cummings
Daniel Perry, Athens, physics & astronomy, David Landau
Susan Fang, Atlanta, graphic design, Christopher Hocking
Danielle Pearl, Atlanta, international affairs, Keith Langston
Erika Vinson, Augusta, Honors interdisciplinary studies, Richard Siegesmund
Bonney Reed, Clarkesville, psychology, Ronald Blount
Mandy Redden, Columbus, biological engineering (pre-med), Robert Arnold
Celan Hardman, Covington, graphic design, Joe Norman
Courtney Grant, Evans, biology, psychology, Julie Coffield
Shannon Yu, Evans, genetics, Nancy Manley
Jesse Oakley, Gainesville, international affairs, (pre-law), Laurie Fowler
Andrew Pierce, Lawrenceville, political science, Thomas McNulty
Katie Orlemanski, Lilburn, international affairs, Patricia Richards
Daniel Weitz, Marietta, international affairs, Gary Bertsch
Sana Hashmi, Martinez, biology, microbiology, religion, Lance Wells
Lauren Coffey, Peachtree City, history, Stephen Shellman
Adele Handy, Peachtree City, psychology, biology, Gregory Robinson
Anna-Marieta Moise, Rincon, psychology, biology, Andrea Hohmann
Joshua Watkins, Snellville, political science, Patricia Sullivan
Emily Powers, Stone Mountain, geography, Steven Holloway
Brian Levy, Valdosta, sociology, Larry Nackerud

From Out-of-State

Name, Hometown, Major(s), Faculty Mentor

Richard Piercy, Lutz, Fl., biology, Cory Momany
Maggie Mills, Champaign, Ill., international affairs, Stephen Shellman
Lisa Rivard, Lake Elmo, Minn., environmental health, Jeff Fisher
Erica Hall, Aiken, S.C., genetics, Jessica Kissinger


Note to editors: A partial group photo of the 2006 CURO Summer fellows is available by calling 706/542-6927.