CUR eNews: Amazing Opportunities for Mentors and Undergraduate Researchers

CUR eNews: Amazing Opportunities for Mentors and Undergraduate Researchers

Download the October 5, 2023 CUR eNews here.

In this issue, you’ll find information on

  • Practical Tools for Sustaining Transformative Racial Equity in Undergraduate Research Programs Online Intensive
  • How to Get Involved with NCUR 2024
  • Designing a Research-Rich STEM Curriculum Online Intensive
  • SPUR Call for Proposals
  • CUR Awards
  • and more

Undergraduate Researcher Dreams of Medical Breakthroughs with Engineering Technology

Undergraduate Researcher Dreams of Medical Breakthroughs with Engineering Technology

“Look for the helpers,” Fred Rogers once said. Intended as advice to help children cope with fear, it has come to mean more for adults living in an era of unprecedented disrepair.  

Biological and Agricultural Engineering senior Atharv Dixit is one of those people. His interests range from engineering to psychology, and he aims to find solutions to developing global challenges. 

His character is as big as his ambition, and there are seemingly no limits to what he sets out to accomplish. 

Developing Character

Atharv’s motivation is closely tied to experiences thanks in part to his parents. 

The son of mechanical engineer Mehul Dixit and senior scientist Dr. Arati Dixit, he was fortunate to have spent his formative years in the United States and his adolescence near his family’s birthplace in India. Early on, his mother included him in engineering projects that also addressed social issues ranging from STEM education for women to technology access in remote locations. 

“For my parents, education was important, but along with that, so was the importance of being a good human being and understanding there are other facets of life that I also need to develop.”

Exposure to multicultural communities shaped Atharv’s character. He drew inspiration from his mother’s journey as only one of two women in her small engineering school in Kopargaon, Maharashtra, India to her role as an executive council member with the Association for Computing Machinery’s Council on Women Global Leadership Team.

“Her journey inspired me to create my own opportunities, to become an engineer and to make an impact,” he says.

Interdisciplinary interests combined with an engineering skill set and a growth mindset ultimately led Atharv to pursue his secondary education at NC State University. The only four-year American institution he applied to with intentions of majoring in computer engineering. 

“I was trying to convince [my family] about [the university], and I had already done a lot of research,” he says. He convinced his family enough that they drove four hours to the U.S. Embassy in Mumbai for a recruiting event to meet with an NC State admissions counselor. 

He was admitted in the fall of 2018 and returned to the U.S. to begin a new chapter. 

Seeking Opportunities 

Atharv’s first two years were similar to those of his peers – finding his place, and his people, on campus. 

With an interdisciplinary interest in engineering and medicine, he had difficulty declaring a major. “There are so many different engineering fields [at NC State] where interdisciplinary work is not just in the academic coursework, but also in the culture of research,” he says. “I saw an opportunity to combine my interests and apply what we were learning in the classroom to real-world scenarios. That’s what attracted me to biological engineering.”

BAE Agricultural Waste Management Professor Praveen Kolar was Atharv’s instructor for transport phenomena, which turned out to be a pivotal point in Atharv’s academic career. 

“Dr. Kolar’s enthusiasm for his work on biochar was contagious,” he says. “I wanted to explore how my interest in medicine could be integrated with his work in sustainability.” 

He also met BAE alumnae Victoria Augoustides who was conducting research in Kolar’s Environmental Analysis Lab, on the use of pine bark biochar in swine lagoon management. Her work showed Atharv that he could also conduct undergraduate research and empowered him to explore his own ideas. 

“As an undergraduate student, you kind of undermine yourself,” he says. “It’s important to find different avenues to learn as a student and to be better as an engineer.”

On the Move

By 2022, Atharv had served as a BAE student ambassador, completed NC State’s Leadership Development Program, was a member of NC State’s ASABE student chapter, the NC State Rural Health Outreach Club, and the NC State Pre-PA/Nursing Club and served as President of the Divine Youth Association. Additionally, he had been working as a habilitation technician providing one-on-one support to individuals with disabilities. 

One of his first research opportunities was with BAE Professor Sanjay Shah and College of Veterinary Medicine Assistant Professor Ravi Kulkarni on a diagnostics development project focusing on avian disease modeling that would be used to prevent infectious diseases in the poultry industry. 

This year, he was selected as a BAE Research and Education Enhancement Project (REEP) Scholar. Under the advisement of Kolar, Atharv explored his research idea of creating magnetic nanoparticles out of pine bark biochar for targeted drug delivery systems. 

“The idea is to load these nanoparticles with chemotherapeutics and inject them into the patient’s body. Using an external magnetic source, guide those nanoparticles directly to the spot doctors want to treat. That allows us to increase chemo dosage, reduce side effects and improve survival rates,” Atharv explains. “We’re able to create this sustainable treatment by using waste products, which increase farmers’ profits and decrease the cost of treatment further enabling patient access to affordable healthcare.” 

He presented his project, titled An Approach to Innovation in Medicine through Sustainability in Biotechnology: Synthesis of a Magnetic Core Shell Nanoprobe from biomass of Pinus taeda (Loblolly Pine), at the Duke University Cell and Molecular Biology Symposium where he received first prize for the poster competition. He also received second prize in the American Association of Agricultural and Biological Engineers (ASABE) Tri-State Section Meeting 3-minute thesis competition, third prize in the Bayer 2-minute pitch research competition and third prize the North Carolina Agriculture and Life Sciences (NCALS) Research Foundation Board 2-minute pitch competition. 

Simultaneously, he was working on an independent research project with BAE doctoral alumnus Nitesh Kasera who was developing biochar hydrogels for nitrogen absorption. 

“In an effort to understand biochar magnetization, I proposed impregnating these hydrogels with iron to create magnetic hydrogels for wastewater decontamination,” he explains. “We created a biodegradable, non-toxic biofilter, made entirely from organic wastes obtained from farms that could absorb nutrients from agricultural wastewater. The spent media could then be sent back to the farms to be used as a slow-release fertilizer for their crops.” 

Their project won first prize at the NC State 2023 Make-A-Thon.

“Spending long hours in the lab during the week of the Make-A-Thon, I knew that research is truly my passion, as its potential impact motivates me beyond belief.” 

And this spring, he competed with an interdisciplinary team, including BAE MS graduate Nur-Al-Sarah Rafsan, in the Deloitte NC State StartUp Event where their biochar-to-battery startup named Char-ger won the Best Idea category.

What’s next? Atharv has an interest in pursuing a doctoral degree or perhaps an advanced medical degree. Where he lands next, he’ll always choose to follow Kolar’s mantra to Dream Big.

Written by: Laura Riddle for North Carolina State University; used with permission. Find the original article here.

Psychology Division Newsletter Fall 2023

Psychology Division Newsletter Fall 2023

Download the fall 2023 newsletter from the CUR Psychology Division here.

In this issue, you’ll find

  • Greetings from the Chair, Karen Gunther
  • Psychology Division Awards Details
  • Meet the new Psychology Division Representatives
  • Teaching Tips (Artificial Intelligence Edition)

Chemistry Division Newsletter Fall 2023

Chemistry Division Newsletter Fall 2023

Download the fall 2023 newsletter from the CUR Chemistry Division here.

In this issue, you’ll find

  • a welcome from the chemistry division chair Joe Reczek,
  • a musing on mentoring from 2023 Chemistry Outstanding Mentor awardee Lea Vacca Michel,
  • where you can find the latest ChemCUR-created resources, and
  • upcoming chemistry-related funding programs and deadlines.

CUR Releases 2023 STR Program Participants

CUR Releases 2023 STR Program Participants

The Council on Undergraduate Research (CUR) congratulates the following 41 teams accepted to be a part of the 2023-24 Scholars Transforming Through Research (STR) Program. The STR Program is a competitive application-based professional development opportunity for teams consisting of a campus representative and one to three undergraduate students. These teams will participate in a six-month program aimed at developing their communication and advocacy skills which will empower them to convey the power of the high-impact practices of undergraduate research, scholarship, and creative inquiry experience to diverse stakeholder groups.

“We need civically engaged researchers now more than ever. As we enter into our second year of the STR Program, I look forward to working with these 2023-24 STR participants as they learn how to elevate their engagement skills and spread the word about the importance of undergraduate research.”

Lindsay Currie, CUR executive officer

These teams represent 35 institutions from 19 states and are made up of 41 Campus Representatives and 90 undergraduate researchers. 


  • Helena Heiberger | University of North Alabama
  • Hanna Jefcoat | University of North Alabama
  • Cynthia Stenger | University of North Alabama
  • Scarlett Swinea | University of North Alabama


  • Jose G. Moreno | Northern Arizona University
  • Sophia Zuniga | Northern Arizona University


  • Maureen Dolan | Arkansas State University
  • Paige Fithen | Arkansas State University
  • Drew Fleming | Arkansas State University
  • Mishka Jeevan | Arkansas State University
  • Landon Rogers | Arkansas State University
  • Hannah Seats | Arkansas State University
  • Emilio Soriano Chavez | Arkansas State University
  • Carli Tackett | Arkansas State University


  • Yumi Aguilar | California Polytechnic State University – San Luis Obispo
  • Jay Bettergarcia | California Polytechnic State University – San Luis Obispo
  • Chenin Gelera | California Polytechnic State University – San Luis Obispo
  • Amrit Pradhan | California Polytechnic State University – San Luis Obispo
  • Subodh Bhandari | California State Polytechnic University
  • Hetkumar Ghadia | California State Polytechnic University
  • Bazil Alvarez | California State University – Fullerton
  • Megan Liang | California State University – Fullerton
  • Jatin Mahey | California State University – Fullerton
  • Ankita Mohapatra | California State University – Fullerton
  • Taylor Gomez-Douglas | University of California – Los Angeles
  • Kelly Kistner | University of California – Los Angeles
  • Madison Lee | University of California – Los Angeles
  • Citlali Tejada | University of California – Los Angeles


  • Skylar Butler | Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University
  • Benjamin Chaback | Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University


  • Daniel Farr | Kennesaw State University
  • Hannah Walden | Kennesaw State University
  • Sarah Bauer | Mercer University
  • Xzavier Longacre | Mercer University
  • Anna Ruth Madera | Mercer University
  • Shay Bataille | Piedmont University
  • Addie Bowen | Piedmont University
  • Julia Schmitz | Piedmont University
  • Imani Vincent | Piedmont University


  • Justin Anderson | Southeastern Louisiana University
  • Victoria Debarbieris | Southeastern Louisiana University
  • Kolby Sheets | Southeastern Louisiana University
  • Breanna Statum | Southeastern Louisiana University


  • Cayson Hamilton | The Jackson Laboratory
  • Laura Muller | The Jackson Laboratory
  • Elisa Saint-Denis | The Jackson Laboratory
  • Michelle Seeler | The Jackson Laboratory


  • Sumra Chaudhry | Towson University
  • Eber Guzman-Cruz | Towson University
  • Dajaha Kenney | Towson University
  • John Weldon | Towson University


  • Alice McQueney | University of Nebraska at Omaha
  • Suzanne Sollars | University of Nebraska at Omaha
  • Gavin Toews | University of Nebraska at Omaha
  • Brandon Villanueva Sanchez | University of Nebraska at Omaha

New Hampshire

  • Crystal Bickford | Southern New Hampshire University
  • Ester Mills | Southern New Hampshire University

New York

  • Megan Dennis | Marist College
  • Maggie Gravano | Marist College
  • Chelsea Venters | Marist College
  • Ryan Wise | Marist College
  • Charly Campanella | St. John Fisher University
  • Zachary Murphy | St. John Fisher University
  • Kristina Wilson | St. John Fisher University
  • Kodjo Adabra | SUNY Geneseo
  • Genesis Flores | SUNY Geneseo
  • Jessica Gilbert-Overland | SUNY Geneseo
  • Seynha Jean Coute| SUNY Geneseo
  • Olaocha Nwabara | SUNY Geneseo
  • Arianna Whittaker | SUNY Geneseo
  • Nora Whorton | SUNY Geneseo
  • Emily Rendek | University of Rochester
  • Lilli Tamm | University of Rochester
  • Stephanie Wang | University of Rochester


  • Jeff Dusek | Baldwin Wallace University
  • Nicole Schwartz | Baldwin Wallace University
  • Julia Stein | Baldwin Wallace University
  • Zach Hooten | Ohio State University
  • Ray Mathew-Santhosham | Ohio State University
  • Erin Murray | Ohio State University
  • Kamorah Ryhlick | Ohio State University


  • Kylie Calogero | Millersville University
  • Ty Geiger | Millersville University
  • Tatiana Pashkova-Balkenhol | Millersville University
  • Sarah Qundes | Millersville University
  • Sydney Rauchut | Millersville University
  • Julissa Rodriguez | Millersville University
  • Carrie Smith | Millersville University


  • Maryam Gerges | Lipscomb University
  • Leah Jacobs | Lipscomb University
  • Joshua Owens | Lipscomb University
  • Chad Phan | Lipscomb University
  • Abby Powell | Lipscomb University
  • Amanda Williams | Lipscomb University
  • Edmund Zhu | Lipscomb University
  • Mina Abdulkareem | Middle Tennessee State University
  • Jamie Burriss | Middle Tennessee State University
  • Brooke Busbee | Middle Tennessee State University
  • Maxwell Brown | Milligan University
  • Hailey Hetzler | Milligan University
  • Thomas Johnson | Milligan University
  • Kristen Mudrack | Milligan University
  • Peyton Caroline Crates | University of Tennessee
  • Vermont Dia | University of Tennessee
  • Naylen Bryce McKenzie | University of Tennessee
  • Alex Becker | Vanderbilt University
  • Madison Roy | Vanderbilt University


  • Nathan Abalos | Lamar University
  • Ian Lian | Lamar University
  • Morgan Luke | Lamar University
  • Zaid Mohammed | Lamar University
  • April Andreas | McLennan Community College
  • Gisela Delfin | McLennan Community College
  • Lum Kari | McLennan Community College
  • Paloma Pena | McLennan Community College
  • Alexandria Bell | University of Texas – Permian Basin
  • Sarah Cho | University of Texas – Permian Basin


  • Cristina Chirvasa | Utah State University
  • Matteo Petit Bon | Utah State University


  • Connor Eickelman | Hampden-Sydney College
  • Luis Meza | Hampden-Sydney College
  • Andrew Winans | Hampden-Sydney College
  • Michael Wolyniak | Hampden-Sydney College
  • Ashley Glover | Radford University
  • Sekyung Jang | Radford University
  • Stockton Maxwell | Radford University
  • Mira Smith | Radford University


  • Stephanie Beckman | Madison Area Technical College
  • Robyn Deters | Madison Area Technical College
  • Nikki Luck | Madison Area Technical College
  • Danica Washington | Madison Area Technical College

Building from the success of the inaugural 2022-23 class of the STR Program. The STR program begins in October 2023 and concludes in April 2023 with a celebration of the program graduates during a spring capstone presentation activity.

Future Doctor Finds Passion for Research

Future Doctor Finds Passion for Research

Undergraduate Eliza Klos has already crafted a sturdy foundation to flourish as a physician. 

One of Klos’ first pivotal steps when she got to Binghamton University was declaring a major in neuroscience — an interesting choice for a pre-health student. Klos said she sought a concentration that would allow her to learn about people holistically. 

“I wanted something that was going to be different,” says Klos, a member of the class of 2024. “I like that (neuroscience) is interdisciplinary and it involves more than just biology. It has more of a human-basis so it’s been a really good fit for me so far.”

The next step Klos took was getting involved in research early — even before getting into college.  Klos grew up in Buffalo, which is where she discovered her passion for helping others. Through a high school summer program at the Roswell Park Comprehensive Cancer Institute, Klos was able to gain her first taste of what it would mean to be a physician and a researcher. She was given an independent project where she examined a type of cancer called mantle cell lymphoma, which targets the lymphatic system. 

“The summer before my senior year, I worked in a lymphoma and myeloma cancer research lab,” Klos recalls. “My research focused on examining a potential mechanism for resistance of the cancer to chemotherapy drugs. If the pathway can be discovered, it could be targeted with drugs, hopefully eliminating the problem of resistance.”

As a First-Year Research Immersion Program (FRI) participant and a member of Binghamton University’s Scholars Program, Klos has had plenty of research experiences since then. For FRI, her project focused on creating a novel model of the effect coronavirus-related stress had on children. Their chosen schematic? Rats.

“This was the first time this project was done in the neuroscience stream,” Klos says. “Really we were trying to find a way to model what that kind of stress that came for kids during the time of COVID-19 would look like in rats. So that involved socially isolating the rats for short periods of time and then analyzing both their behavior and their neurochemistry.” 

Following her last semester in FRI, Klos knew she wanted to continue doing research, so she emailed several professors with similar interests. That’s how she landed her next research opportunity as an undergraduate research assistant in Assistant Professor Laura Cook’s biology lab. 

The lab’s main focus is on streptococcus A, the bacteria that may cause strep throat symptoms in some patients, but not in others. It’s important to understand differences between bacteria that require treatment and those that don’t. As a means to deter the onset of antibiotic resistance, physicians need to be able to narrow down whether certain patients need to be prescribed antibiotics, even despite their strep tests coming back positive.

Within the Cook lab, Klos is something of a head researcher, helping with the organization of the lab’s undergraduates, training them and keeping Cook informed on their progress. According to Cook, she’s also in charge of collecting samples, testing them, reporting all the data and forming training initiatives. 

“She’s a leader, both socially and scientifically,” Cook says. “We had some issues with contamination, especially with all of the new workers, but she’s been helping us troubleshoot that. She streamlined the undergraduates and their processes, taught them sterile technique and suggested training. She always goes above and beyond!”

Klos serves as the vice president of the American Medical Women’s Association on campus. It’s an organization devoted to advancing women and others in medical careers. 

“It’s really meant for anyone who has an interest in medicine, whether they’re hoping to go into medicine or just find it interesting,” Klos says. “We try to be open to everyone.”

Klos’ antibiotics research did not stop in the Cook lab. As a university scholar, she had access to the Guthrie Scholars Premedical Internship, where besides helping with research, she also had the chance to shadow different doctors and present a research lecture before a panel. Her main focus for the lecture was her collaboration with an orthopedic surgeon, studying the necessity of antibiotics among elective foot and ankle surgery patients.

“One of my favorite things [about research] has been communicating it to other people,” Klos says. “I’ve done quite a few presentations and a pretty big research lecture at Guthrie, and it’s very exciting to share the research I’ve been working on. I’m very proud of all of it and it’s so nice to get positive feedback and bounce ideas off of different people who are even more knowledgeable than I am.”

While she isn’t set on any one medical career yet, Klos knows medical school is her next step following graduation. Anesthesiology has been the most interesting focus for her, given the personable nature of the position.

“Being an anesthesiologist involves talking with patients at a high-stress time for them, so you have to focus on making sure patients are comfortable,” Klos says. “It’s been one of my favorite specialties so far, but I still have more to explore.”

Written by: Blessin McFarlane for Binghampton University; used with permission. Find the original article here.

From a dream to a double major and prestigious honor thanks to Undergraduate Research

From a dream to a double major and prestigious honor thanks to Undergraduate Research

Allyson Thompson has always felt at home hiking in a prairie.

To her, life is better lived along a winding path. So it’s almost fitting that her path to NIU involved several twists and turns.

Thompson had a child at age 19, dropped out of high school, earned her GED and worked an office job for about a decade before pursuing her dream career of wildlife preservation and conservation.

“It feels like a calling,” said Thompson, who began spending time in nature as a boisterous child to avoid being bullied. “I played in the prairie, caught caterpillars and picked flowers instead of playing with other kids… My whole life I’ve always had an affinity for nature.”

If all goes as planned, the 34-year-old University Honors student will graduate next May with a double major in environmental studies and biological sciences.

As proud as Thompson is of everything she’s accomplished so far, she never thought she’d qualify to become a Yale Conservation Scholar this summer.

NIU Professor Holly Jones and Thompson’s mentor, Ph.D. candidate Erin Rowland-Schaefer, thought otherwise. With their encouragement, Thompson applied and earned the distinction.

She will spend the summer at a wildlife sanctuary in Sharon, Conn., as an intern in the Yale Conservation Scholars – Early Leadership Initiative (YCS-ELI) internship program. Part of the Justice, Equity, Diversity, and Sustainability Initiative at the Yale School of the Environment, the program provides opportunities for undergraduates who are traditionally underrepresented in the conservation field.

“Allyson has boundless energy, excitement and expertise to bring to this internship,” said Jones, who works with Thompson in her Evidence-Based Restoration Lab. Thompson joined the lab as a Research Rookie during her first year at NIU.

“All she needed from me as a mentor was a small push in the direction of applying. She did the rest and I’m so excited to see where this opportunity takes her,” said Jones, who holds a joint appointment at NIU in Biological Sciences and the Institute for the Study of the Environment, Sustainability and Energy.

Thompson will take part in a two-day orientation in May before starting a nine-week internship at the wildlife sanctuary of the National Audubon Society in Sharon, Conn. The YCS-ELI program provides living stipends and a salary for interns to work directly with environmental professionals. Scholars can return for a second year to intern with a different organization, laboratory or field site.

“I’m not sure exactly what it’s going to look like once I get there, but in terms of the job itself, it feels like home,” said Thompson, who’d like to become a wildlife conservationist working to help endangered or threatened species. She also enjoys land management.

“I want to get out and get my hands dirty as often as I can,” she said. “This opportunity is just going to open so many doors for me in the future so that I can actually make a difference.”

Now living in Sycamore, Thompson spent her middle school years in Woodstock, Ill. Growing up, she’d watch the late Steve Irwin, known as “The Crocodile Hunter,” and documentaries on animals and nature. Today, she ends her emails with the Irwin quote: “If we save our wild places, we will ultimately save ourselves.”

“It’s my calling to help repair the damage that’s been done in little ways that make a big difference so when I leave I’ve left a legacy I can be proud of and I’ve done my part,” said Thompson, who hopes to set a good example for her now nearly 16-year-old child.

She decided to pursue her career path during the pandemic.

“I just basically looked at my life and was like, ‘Am I happy? Is this what I want to do? Is this the example I want to set for my child?’ The brass tacks answer was no,” she remembered.

She eventually earned two associate’s degrees at Kishwaukee College before transferring to NIU. Before enrolling, she’d already read papers written by Professor Jones “just because I’m kind of nerdy and I really admired her work,” she said.

She learned about Research Rookies during orientation and immediately sought to become part of Jones’ lab. It took some convincing when Jones first approached her about the Yale program because she said she felt a bit of the imposter syndrome, as if she wasn’t worthy. The application required essays and a curriculum vitae she had yet to create.

With the backing of Jones and Rowland-Schaefer, she said she just “laid it all out there.” She wrote about being adopted as a child, her Native American roots and her experiences as a teen mom parenting her child, who identifies as gender queer and uses they/them/their pronouns.

“I really had to ask myself, ‘Do I have what it takes to represent NIU as a Yale Conservation Scholar and how can I do that in the best way possible?’ I guess they liked my answers,” Thompson said.

She now finds herself nervous, but eagerly anticipating the summer.

“This type of opportunity will be transformational for Allyson,” Jones said. “She will have the opportunity to connect with other like-minded scholars who are underrepresented in conservation, and to get critical hands-on experience. She was already bound to be a trailblazer in her future career; this will help launch her even further.”

Written by: Nothern Illinois University; used with permission. Find the original article here.

Utah State Sends 12 to Present at Conference for English Majors

Utah State Sends 12 to Present at Conference for English Majors

USU’s English Department was well-represented at the annual Sigma Tau Delta Convention in Denver, Colorado, from March 29-April 1 with 12 undergraduate participants from four different campuses. The Sigma Tau Delta Convention is the largest organization in the country dedicated to supporting undergraduate research and professional development for English majors. About 1,000 students attend from all over the country. In addition to workshops about leadership, editing, publishing, and teaching, students present their creative and critical projects and hear from major authors. Dakota Mecham, from the Vernal campus, says of her experience, “I had so much fun at convention and learned so much! From breakout sessions on Frankenstein to heartfelt discussions on how we can change what our future looks like, it was a full four days. I met students from around the country to talk about the future of English and the Humanities. It re-energized me for school and gave me inspiration to continue on in my degree.” 

This year’s featured writer was Brenda Peynado, who authored the short story collection, The Rock Eaters, which explored themes of immigration, belonging, gender, identity, class, and political action. Two groups of USU students focused their research on Peynado’s book. Vanessa Garcia-Vazquez, Amanda Gromanchy, Ericka Stone, Basil Payne, and Ashleigh Lyon presented their roundtable discussion, “Insiders and Outsiders in The Rock Eaters,” with Professor Christine Cooper-Rompato acting as faculty moderator. Jenny Carpenter, Dakota Mecham, Aimee Olson, Beth Pace, and Preston Waddoups presented their roundtable discussion, “Sticks and Stones: Politics in The Rock Eaters,” with Associate Professor Michaelann Nelson acting as faculty moderator. Jimmy Shupe, from the Brigham City campus, presented his essay, “Jane Austen and Feminism,” which originated in Professor Alan Blackstock’s class and argues that Jane Austen’s work, especially Persuasion, portrays proto-feminist ideals. Preston Waddoups, from the Logan campus, presented his essay, “The Aesthetic Philosophy of Anna Karenina,” which also originated in Alan’s class and argues that the novel conveys Tolstoy’s very specific ideas about the aesthetic function of art in society.  

Ericka Stone, from the Logan campus, presented her essay, “Value in Cabeza De Vaca and Lalami’s Accounts,” which originated in Professor Keri Holt’s class and explores the differing perspectives of Estebanico, an enslaved Moroccan who survived Cabaza de Vaca’s North American expedition, in de Vaca’s original account and in the retelling in Laila Lalami’s The Moore’s Account. She says of this experience, “The Sigma Tau Delta Convention was a great opportunity to hear from authors about their work and to learn what English students across the country are reading and writing about. It was also so fun to experience Denver with my fellow USU students and make new friends.” 

Additionally, Shaun Anderson, an alum of USU and member of the alumni chapter of Sigma Tau Delta, won the Alumni Award of $250 for his creative work, “Labor of Language.” Jack Bylund, an English Department graduate student in creative writing, also presented “The Profound Deaths.” 

Two USU teams, comprised of students and faculty, also competed in Literary Trivia Night against hundreds of other English students and faculty from around the country. They won first place in two of the three rounds! Not only did they win gift cards to a local bookstore, but they also won bragging rights about the outstanding literary program USU has.

Written by: Utah State University; used with permission. Find the original article here.

Triple-Major Undergraduate Researcher Becomes OSU’s 30th Goldwater Scholar

Triple-Major Undergraduate Researcher Becomes OSU’s 30th Goldwater Scholar

It is not every day that you meet a student like Alex Bias.

Bias is a senior at Oklahoma State University and is triple majoring in chemical engineering, mathematics and political science.

She first became passionate about research as a high school junior. She has worked in four labs during her time at OSU and currently works on computational chemistry alongside Dr. Christopher Fennell, an associate professor in the Department of Chemistry.

“I first got involved with computational chemistry research in 2020 while looking for research that I could continue during the pandemic,” Bias said. “I was a bit nervous about getting into a project so heavily focused on computer programming, as I had little to no experience with coding, but I quickly fell in love with the problem solving and logic involved.”

Fennell noted the significance of Bias’ willingness and drive to get involved in research early on in her college career. He described Bias as intelligent, adaptable and ambitious.

“Computational chemistry is usually something students may get involved with in a class later on,” Fennell said. “Alex was able to pick this up right away.”

Bias’ research within the College of Arts and Sciences (CAS) assisted her in being named OSU’s 30th Goldwater Scholar. The Barry M. Goldwater Scholarship is a prestigious award that was established by Congress in 1986 to support outstanding undergraduate researchers on their path to become highly-qualified future professionals. Out of 1,242 applicants from 433 institutions, Bias was selected. The Goldwater Scholarship opens many doors to Bias as a researcher.

“In computational chemistry, resources are limited because running simulations takes time. If you are running a simulation of a protein in water, you want most of the time for the simulation to be taken by interactions of the protein,” Bias said. “You definitely don’t want to have hours of your simulation taken up by water solvent moving around.”

Bias’ research explores how to address this problem of inefficiency: “My specific project is creating a single-point model for water using spherical harmonic interaction functions,” Bias said. “This calculation allows a water model to be built up from the fundamental interactions that guide its behavior and has the potential for a more efficient and more effective model. The resources required for this model are reduced by a degree of magnitude from the commonly used three-point models (one point for each atom). Using this style of model for water alone is exciting, but perhaps more exciting is the potential to scale up to larger compounds.”

Bias will graduate in spring 2023 and will then pursue a Master’s of Philosophy at the University of Cambridge on behalf of a W.W. Allen Scholarship from Oklahoma State University.  She plans to let her time abroad determine the next steps in her career.

To utilize all three of her majors, Bias would like to look at the way foreign policy is constructed through a lens with math and science. The idea of law school was mentioned, but Bias said she may just do research forever because of her love for it.

Written by: Kalynn Schwandt for Oklahoma State University News; used with permission. Find the original article here.

Undergraduate Research Project Finds Elusive European Yeast for Lager Beer

Undergraduate Research Project Finds Elusive European Yeast for Lager Beer

A new paper in FEMS Yeast Research reports that, for the first time in Europe, scientists have discovered the ancestor of the yeast species necessary for the production of lager beer.

Brewing is one of the oldest human industries. Scientists have uncovered evidence of fermented beverages from China from at least 7,000 years ago, and from Israel from up to 13,000 years ago. Modern brewing developed in Europe, where until the Middle Ages, most beer brewing was associated with a yeast called Saccharomyces cerevisiae. This is the same species of yeast that is still used today to make ale-style beer, wine, and bread.

Most beer made nowadays, however, is lager beer, not ale, and there is considerable interest in understanding the historical shift from ale to lager in Europe. Lager brewing, which first appeared in the 13th century in Bavaria, uses a different species of yeast, Saccharomyces pastorianus.

S. pastorianus is a hybrid of two parents, only one of which is S. cerevisiae. The identity of the second parent was a mystery until 2011, when Saccharomyces eubayanus was discovered in the Patagonian Andes in South America. Like S. pastorianus, S. eubayanus is cold-tolerant, and scientists believe that the lager-style of cold brewing was selected for the formation of the S. pastorianus hybrid yeast from an ale strain of S. cerevisiae and a wild S. eubayanus isolate.

Although the records show that the first use of S. pastorianus was in breweries in southern Germany, the S. eubayanus parent was never found in Europe. Instead, researchers have discovered the yeast in South America, North America, China, Tibet, and New Zealand. This curiosity caused some researchers to wonder whether S. eubayanus had, in fact, ever been in Europe, and if not, from where the lager yeast S. pastorianus had come. But most recently, researchers at University College Dublin have discovered and isolated S. eubayanus in a wooded area of their campus.

The Irish researchers isolated two different S. eubayanus strains, from soil samples collected on the Belfield campus of University College Dublin, as part of undergraduate research projects to identify wild yeasts and sequence their genomes. The isolates came from soil on two sites on the university campus, about 17 meters apart, collected in September 2021. The genome sequences of these two isolates showed that they are related to the ancestral S. eubayanus strain that initially mated with S. cerevisiae to form S. pastorianus.

The discovery of S. eubayanus in Ireland shows that this yeast is native to Europe and it seems likely that it has lived in other parts of the continent. This new study supports the view that there were natural populations of the yeast in southern Germany in the Middle Ages and these provided the parents of the first lager yeast. The question of whether these ancient populations still remain hidden somewhere in the forests of Bavaria remains to be answered.

“This discovery is a fantastic example of research-led teaching,” said the paper’s lead author, Geraldine Butler. “Our undergraduates have found more than a hundred yeast species in Irish soil samples over the past five years, and we’re delighted to stumble across S. eubayanus on our own doorstep. We’re hoping to find a commercial partner to brew with it so we can find out what it tastes like.”

Written by: Oxford University Press for Find the original article here.