Athens, Ga. – University of Georgia undergraduates no longer have to wait until graduate school to engage in inquiry-based research endeavors guided by faculty. For almost a decade now, first-year and second-year UGA students have been involved in these activities as participants in the Apprentice Program sponsored by the Honors Program’s Center for Undergraduate Research Opportunities.
Through these faculty-mentored research partnerships, 30 CURO apprentices are currently working 10-12 hours a week on a variety of projects in disciplines ranging from infectious diseases and kinesiology to music and international affairs. Their environments range from the lab to the library to the field.
“Every year CURO Apprentices are welcomed into research environments by faculty research mentors who are tops in their field,” said Pamela Kleiber, associate director of the Honors Program. “When we put high-achieving students together with top faculty researchers, the learning outcomes for the students are illustrated by their success in earning scholarships and admission to top graduate and professional schools.”
First-year student Oluremi Ojo said that the program has given her the opportunity to focus on a subject that is very personal to her. Working under the guidance of infectious diseases professor David Peterson, she is investigating the genetic behavior of a particular strain of a mosquito-transmitted parasite, Plasmodium falciparum, which attaches to the placenta in pregnant women and causes malaria.
“My father is from Nigeria, a malaria-stricken part of the world, and my uncle was diagnosed with malaria a few years ago,” said Ojo, who is from Stone Mountain and pursuing a bachelor’s degree in biological sciences. “When I read about Dr. Peterson’s research, I was immediately interested because I knew it would help me understand this disease. He is very passionate about the project, which has made me really care about the information that could be derived from this project. I am learning more than I ever could in a classroom.”
Second-year apprentice Donny Snyder said that the insider’s perspective in a particular field of research also helps to determine what kind of career path to pursue. He is studying different types of campaign influences during presidential elections with political science professor Paul-Henri Gurian, his faculty research mentor. Snyder would like to pursue a career in government or politics and may focus on political campaigns.
“Working on research projects has allowed me to understand the components of the research process, as well as developing personal contacts in a way that would not be possible otherwise,” said Snyder, who is from Albany and pursuing a bachelor’s degree in political science. “I think CURO, more than anything else, is what I will be proud to have been a part of while at the University of Georgia.”
The Apprentice Program also provides further engagement and support through weekly seminars and peer advising. The apprentices attend seminars and special workshops that focus on research pedagogy practices or guest speakers who share their latest academic and research activities.
“One of the real strengths of the CURO Apprenticeship is that it offers a full-fledged program of support and opportunities rather than just a stipend,” said David S. Williams, director of UGA’s Honors Program. “The students build strong mentoring relationships with the faculty and are involved on the frontlines of meaningful research that impacts society in various ways.”
In addition, the apprentices receive advice and guidance from three teaching assistants, all former CURO apprentices, who facilitate small group discussions and share their own research experiences. Third-year student and teaching assistant Muktha Natrajan said that plans are underway to have more extracurricular activities scheduled in order to build an even more cohesive community of scholars.
“My teaching assistants provided valuable advice to me during my freshman and sophomore years as I learned about national conferences, summer programs and campus activities from them,” said Natrajan, who is from Martinez and pursuing a combined bachelor’s/master’s program in which she will earn a bachelor of science degree in genetics and a master of public health degree in environmental health science. “The CURO apprenticeship opened up a world of opportunities for me and has really led me to my decision to pursue a research career in neuroscience. I want to do the same for this year’s apprentices.”
Only high school seniors are eligible to apply for the CURO Apprentice Program. Those who choose to continue to the second year need a minimum 3.4 cumulative GPA and a satisfactory performance review.
For more information on the CURO Apprentice Program, see http://www.uga.edu/honors and click on CURO.
The 2009-2010 CURO apprentices are:
Name / Hometown / Major(s)
Jessica Alcorn / Monroe / cellular biology, international affairs
Christina Azahar / Milledgeville / international affairs, Latin American and Caribbean studies
Jason Bowman / Kennesaw / biochemistry and molecular biology
Adriana del Valle / Alpharetta / anthropology, history
Vinh Dong / Warner Robins / biology, chemistry
Eric Ekwueme / Snellville / pre-business
JoyEllen Freeman / Milton / English
Rachel Johnson / Dacula / Spanish (pre-med)
David Mapp / Union Point / political science (pre-law)
Christopher Morehouse / Atlanta / biology, ecology
Oluremi Ojo / Stone Mountain / biological sciences (pre-med)
Laura O’Neill / Atlanta / pre-med
Rachel Pérez / Savannah / history
Akil Piggott / Suwanee / management (pre-business)
Edward Wells Jr. / Statesboro / political science
Christine Akoh / Athens / food science
Amarachi Anukam / Athens / health promotion and behavior
Michael Burel / Acworth / cellular biology
Jaharris Collier / Oglethorpe / biology, psychology
Craig Hayes / Conyers / philosophy, biology
Shelby Hipol / Boxborough, Mass. / advertising
Kema Hodge / Lithonia / advertising
Dillon Horne / Loganville / comparative literature (pre-law)
Francisco Marrero / Columbus / chemistry
Amanda McKenley / Snellville / psychology
Patricia Mitchell / Tucker / chemistry
Akanksha Rajeurs / Roswell / biochemistry
Al Ray III / Lithonia / cellular biology
Donny Snyder / Albany / political science
Teddy Story / Byron / pre-business
The 2009-2010 CURO teaching assistants are:
Name / Hometown / Major(s)
Marcus Hines / Albany / cellular biology, microbiology
David Mitchell / Fayetteville / accounting, finance
Muktha Natrajan / Martinez / genetics, environmental health science