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Ten Students Awarded Undergraduate Research Grants

Providence, R.I.--Ten students from seven academic disciplines are the recipients of the first round of the 2011-12 Undergraduate Research Grants at Providence College.

Totaling more than $5,000, the grants are provided by the Office of Academic Affairs and administered by the College’s Undergraduate Research Committee (PC-URC). They are awar​ded to support undergraduate scholarly research and creative and artistic work during the 2011-12 academic year.

To be eligible for the award, students must be juniors or seniors and have an overall GPA of at least 3.0. They also must have a full-time faculty member serving as a project mentor. Students from all academic disciplines are encouraged to apply.

Although most awards are up to $500, funding may be granted up to $1,000 in exceptional circumstances. Among the items funded are supplies and travel to locations related to the projects.

The primary goals of the undergraduate research program are for students to develop a mentoring relationship with a faculty member; acquire a deeper knowledge of an academic discipline; and enhance academic credentials to support applications for scholarships, awards, employment, and entry into graduate school.

Diversity of research at PC highlighted

With projects ranging from fostering better technique in choral and solo singing to the role a chemical in broccoli plays in suppressing cancer development, these awards highlight the varied research being undertaken throughout the College. Disciplines represented by the student-researchers include biology, chemistry, English, physics, history, music, and secondary education.

Christina D’Angelo ’12 (North Kingstown, R.I.), a psychology major, is studying the attitude of pre-service teachers toward middle-school students with her faculty mentor, Dr. Kevin J. O’Connor, assistant professor of education. She said the funding she received is invaluable because it allows her to conduct important research on a significant topic.

“It is thought that there is a negative stereotype placed on middle-school children that may deter teachers from going on to teach in middle schools,” she said. “If we can identify this stereotype, we may be able to take steps to change it.”

She added that going through the grant application process and being able to take the lead in a research project have been empowering experiences.

“I love the possibilities that conducting research holds, especially when it can change the way people think and, ultimately, benefit others,” she said.  

Michael Murphy ’12 (Barrington, R.I.), a biology major, is leading a genetic investigation of the cellular pathway in yeast cells that induces program cell death when exposed to the drug Sulforaphane. The expensive chemotherapeutic agent is the focal point of his research project, which he is undertaking with Rev. Nicanor Austriaco, O.P., associate professor of biology.

“My research has opened my eyes to the true benefits that it provides me and allowed me to see what I am capable of,” Murphy said. “This grant has strengthened my learning, my relationships with my fellow students and professors, and my enthusiasm for science.”

Although the grants program is still in its formative phase, Dr. Jack Breen, associate professor of chemistry and chair of the PC-URC, said the committee is drawing an increasing number of applications from an expanding number of areas on campus.

“Undergraduate research gives students a chance to creatively integrate and expand upon their classroom experiences,” he said.  “The PC-URC is very pleased that students and faculty are recognizing this opportunity.”

The students, faculty mentors, project titles, and award amounts are:

  • Grace Cullen ’13 (Maplewood, N.J.) and Nicole Sassu ’13 (Bristol, Conn.), Dr. Jay D. Pike, assistant professor of chemistry, “Small-molecule Regulation of Base Excision Repair Mechanism,” $817.90 and $445.80, respectively
  • Christina D’Angelo ’12 (North Kingstown, R.I.), Dr. Kevin J. O’Connor, assistant professor of education, “Pre-service Teachers’ Perceptions of Middle School Students,” $250.04
  • Matthew Keaveney ’12 (Westwood, Mass.), Dr. Darra D. Mulderry, assistant professor of history, “Dissecting Vivisections: Understanding the Persons and Motives behind a Divisive Issue,” $400
  • Eliza Mandzik ’13 (Burlington, Conn.), Dr. T.J. Harper, assistant professor of music, “Fostering Choral and Solo Singing: A Comparative and Cooperative Approach,” $190
  • Michael Murphy ’12 (Barrington, R.I.), Rev. Nicanor Austriaco, O.P., associate professor of biology, “The Role of Sulforaphane in the Program Cell Death in Yeast Cells,” $550
  • Ashwin Paudel ’13 (Providence, R.I.), Dr. Stephen J. Mecca, professor of physics, “Modeling the Process of Aerobic Digestion that Utilizes Multiple Organisms in a Closed System,” $858
  • Melanie Pavao ’12 (Fall River, Mass.), Dr. Bruce E. Graver, professor of English, “An Examination of Stoic Emotion in Tennyson’s In Memoriam,” $375.09
  • Taylor Remillard ’12 (Syracuse, N.Y.), Dr. Kathleen A. Cornely, professor of chemistry, “Isolation and Purification of the Anti-apoptotic Bax-Inhibitor 1 Protein from Yeast,” $667
  • Alison Trainor ’12 (Beverly, Mass.), Dr. Kenneth R. Overly, associate professor of chemistry, “Asymmetric Epoxidation of Alkenes Using Organic Catalysts,” $507

Further funding available

The deadline to apply for the second round of grants to fund projects taking place in the spring 2012 semester is December 2. The deadline for the third round is February 10. 

For a complete explanation of requirements and application procedures, go to http://www.providence.edu/academic-affairs/Documents/undergraduate-research-grant-program%20Flyer.pdf​.

For general information, contact Christine A. Baccari, administrative coordinator, at cbaccar1@providence.edu.

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