Campus News

UGA CURO summer research fellowships

UGA students discover, innovate through CURO summer research fellowships

Athens, Ga. – Twenty-six undergraduates at the University of Georgia are spending eight weeks this summer immersed in research projects in their fields of interests through the Honors Program’s Center for Undergraduate Research Opportunities.

The students, who have earned 2009 CURO summer fellowships, will be investigating various topics in disciplines such as physics, literature, psychology and veterinary medicine under the guidance of faculty in those fields. CURO has provided UGA students with these unique summer opportunities since 2001.

“Sometimes undergraduates’ research proposals have been developed during a class or research experience with a professor during the academic year,” said Pamela Kleiber, associate director of UGA’s Honors Program. “The essence of the summer fellowships is the uninterrupted opportunity UGA students have in order to investigate their research questions or problems more fully and be able to obtain support and encouragement from faculty mentors in the one-on-one interactions.”

Rising senior Alexandra Walker’s career goals include obtaining a Ph.D. so that she can become a chemist. Walker, a chemistry major from Warner Robins, credits her faculty research mentor Timothy Dore for introducing her to the research community at UGA. They had first met refereeing soccer together.

Now working in Dore’s organic chemistry laboratory at UGA, Walker’s project is focused on producing a new chromophore, a group of atoms and electrons in an organic molecule responsible for its color, and manipulating its photochemical properties to see if they can potentially be used to control a specific gene expression activity in cells. This technique can lead to better understandings of intracellular physiology in biological systems.

“Conducting research with Dr. Dore at the undergraduate level has given me a more accurate understanding of what doctoral study entails and what to look for in a graduate program,” said Walker, who will graduate this fall, a semester earlier than expected. “I have not only learned skills to prepare me for an occupation in chemistry, but I have already begun my career as a chemist.”

On the humanities side, Joe Reynolds says that opportunities at UGA have given him the necessary experience to pursue his own research questions in philosophy and psychology, his two majors. Reynolds, who is from Duluth, says the CURO summer fellowship allows him to devote an entire summer to a project that he hopes will be the foundation for his Honors thesis. His research mentor is Frank Harrison, Josiah Meigs Professor of Philosophy.

“To be able to academically pursue my own passions and interests has truly been a rewarding and fulfilling experience,” said Reynolds, who would like to become a college professor. “Dr. Kleiber and Dr. Harrison, along with the CURO program, have encouraged my growth, not only as an academic, but as a person.”

Taking an interdisciplinary approach to his research, Reynolds is studying the happiness of the individual and the most effective life path to true enlightenment or fulfillment. He will be analyzing texts related to these ideas in physics, psychology, philosophy and the religious beliefs in Buddhism and ancient and medieval Christianity.

UGA’s Honors Program, the Office of the Vice President for Instruction, the Biomedical and Health Sciences Institute, the Office of the Vice President for Research, the UGA Alumni Association, the Interdisciplinary Toxicology Program, and the Jane and Bill Young Scholarship provided the funding for the $3,000 fellowships.

New this year is the addition of Valeriya Spektor, a psychology major at the College of Wooster in Ohio, who is participating in the Howard Hughes Medical Institute Exceptional Research Opportunities Program. While she is on campus this summer, Spektor has been invited to participate in CURO activities. Her mentor is Susan Wessler, UGA Foundation Chair in the Biological Sciences and an HHMI Professor. She will be helping in the design of laboratory modules for Wessler’s future courses on genome analysis.

For more information on the Honors Program’s Center for Undergraduate Research Opportunities, see

The 2009 CURO summer fellows are:

Name, Hometown, Major(s)

Christine Akoh, Athens, food science

Sambita Basu, Griffin, chemistry

Charles Blackburn, Roswell, English

Corbin Busby, Woodstock, art history, English

Kelly Cummings, Marietta, biological sciences

Charles Ginn, Ellerslie, history, theater

Erin Hansen, Lilburn, biology, psychology

Dillon Horne, Loganville, comparative literature

Tiffany Hu, Suwanee, microbiology

Whitney Ingram, Stone Mountain, physics

Daniel Jordan, Birmingham, Ala., comparative literature, anthropology

Fahad Khan, Powder Springs, biology

Max Klein, Marietta, biochemistry and molecular biology

Susan Klodnicki, Marietta, biology, mathematics

Bridget Mailley, Athens, international affairs

Francisco Marrero, Columbus, chemistry

Amar Mirza, Hiram, biochemistry and molecular biology

Cody Nichol, Lilburn, German, psychology

Emily Pierce, Lawrenceville, applied biotechnology (combined bachelor’s/master’s degrees)

Akanksha Rajeurs, Roswell, biochemistry and molecular biology

Al Ray III, Lithonia, cellular biology

Joe Reynolds, Duluth, philosophy, psychology

Matthew Sellers, Perry, chemistry, English

Michael Slade, Ringgold, philosophy

Alexandra Walker, Warner Robins, chemistry

Shuyan Wei, Athens, biology