2018 Symposium Awards

The Symposium abstract booklet cover design was created by Gayatri Sundar Rajan (ENG ’22).

Outstanding Student Researchers

Based on nominations from their mentors, four students were presented with awards for outstanding summer research—a difficult task, considering the high caliber of work displayed.

Madeline Bucci, CFA Music Education
Mentor: Karin Hendricks, CFA Music Education
Arts Research Award Recipient
Professor Hendricks writes: “Madeline has gone beyond my expectations this summer, and has been fully responsible, engaged, and inspiring to work with.  Our project required us to visit a preschool and engage with people from ages two years old to nearing retirement. Maddy displayed a remarkable ability to interact with, and show respect and appreciation for, people of all ages and backgrounds. When we applied for this grant I mentioned in the application that I would have a lot of teaching and training to do, because Maddy had previously never done any research of this kind. By about halfway through the summer Maddy was fully capable to do whatever I asked her to do. By three quarters of the way through the summer she was “reading my mind.” accomplishing tasks even before I had to ask her to do them. By the end of the project She was coming up with innovative, noteworthy, and inspiring ideas that caused me to think differently about my own work. It has been a sheer pleasure to work with Maddy, and I am grateful to her for this amazing opportunity.” 

Wanli Cheng, CAS Mathematics & Statistics
Mentor: Emma Previato, CAS Mathematics & Statistics
Professor Previato writes: “Wanli, majoring in Mathematics and Statistics, has a considerable background in physics. We chose a highly ambitious and innovative project in the area of quantum information, a strongly interdisciplinary subject based on several advanced mathematical theories. Wanli developed a bird’s-eye-view of the theory, understanding the links that allow for geometric structures to feed algebraic information into the analytic spaces and create encoding/decoding algorithms. He built his own case study to apply the general theory to a classical geometric object rife with symmetries, which is still actively studied. One trait of Wanli is that he loves to discover connections between far-flung, currently developing theories (e.g., toric codes, tensor networks and quantum entanglement); he feels the need to make the burgeoning connections rigorous by giving them a deep mathematical basis which will be of lasting value as the foundation of further theories. Wanli is a rare gem, committed and hardworking, visionary, and it is always a pleasure and a privilege for me to have a brainstorming session with him.”

Brice Hounshel, SAR Behavior & Health
Mentor: Jessica Kramer, SAR Occupational Therapy
Professor Kramer writes: “Ms. Hounshel is one of the most mature, committed, and inquisitive UROP students I have had the pleasure of working with in my research lab. The field of rehabilitation is full of wonderful individuals who want to support people with disabilities, but few with the inquisitiveness, intellectualism, and ethical standard to conduct the rigorous research that is needed to determine the actual need, optimal approach, and outcomes. Brice is already emerging as a future leader in rehabilitation research, as evidenced by her strong UROP summer 2018 project and her upcoming planned thesis for distinction. She has the ability to articulate multiple intriguing yet answerable research question, and demonstrates critical and conceptual thinking when she links data with theoretical constructs she has learned through her coursework. Brice also has the ability to initiate tasks, monitor the quality of her work, and communicate effectively with myself and other members of the lab – qualities that make her not only a top UROP student but also a strong candidate for graduate studies.”

Sydney Hunter, CAS Archaeology
Mentor: John Marston, CAS Archaeology
Professor Marston writes: “Sydney designed her own research project focused on the analysis of phytoliths. Learning how to process, identify, and quantify phytoliths, her work culminated in a poster presentation at the annual meeting of an international professional organization. Her well-designed poster received considerable attention, including from leading scholars in the field. But even more impressive was Sydney’s work this summer, when she joined me and a small team conducting field work in western Uzbekistan. During a 5-week field season in one of the hottest, driest landscapes on the planet, living in challenging conditions and speaking none of the local languages, Sydney not only succeeded in conducting her planned research (taking soil samples for phytolith analysis for her honors thesis) but also teaching two of the Uzbek students how to recover archaeological plant remains using a water flotation system. Her outreach has been so successful that the Uzbek team told us that they now plan to implement this flotation system independently in future archaeological projects. This type of collaboration, across a significant language barrier, is impressive in any scholar, but especially in a student not yet finished with their undergraduate degree. She is already an Outstanding Student Researcher and I have no doubt that her senior thesis this year will yield a publishable article manuscript, and that she will have considerable success in graduate school and as a professional archaeologist in the future.”

Robb Kessel, ENG Biomedical Engineering
Mentor: Xue Han, ENG Biomedical Engineering
Professor Han writes:“Robb is one of the truly exceptional undergrads that I have seen, and as a rising senior, he functions at the level of a Ph.D. student. Robb has demonstrated a strong aptitude for scientific research, but his innate curiosity and desire to learn has truly set him apart from typical undergraduate students. Robb has immersed himself in the scientific process, and his inquisitive nature is the foundation to his involvement in every aspect of research from the design of his project to detailed data analysis. Robb shows immense dedication and care in the work he performs and is always an eager contributor to other projects in the lab. He is quick to offer a hand or train others on skills he has acquired. During his summer UROP fellowship he welcomed a new graduate student in the lab and trained her on a complex animal learning paradigm – walking her through data collection and the analysis of her data. His collaborative, motivated, and helpful nature has made him an indispensable contributor to my lab and wonderful student to mentor.

David Liu, CAS Biochemistry and Molecular Biology
Mentor: Thomas Gilmore, CAS Biology
Professor Gilmore writes: “David has had an amazingly productive research career in my lab, and I have seen him grow tremendously as a scientist and a person. He is already performing at the level of a first- or second-year graduate student. David has been working on a project that is a collaboration between my lab and those of Karen Allen and Adrian Whitty (CAS Chemistry). In this project, there were considerable experimental challenges, and new techniques to be learned. David never flinched at these sometimes-unexpected challenges and has produced exciting and exceptional results. He is co-author on two papers that will soon be submitted. He has helped others in the lab on a number of occasions, as is already the go-to expert in certain procedures in the lab, especially as related to computational or systems biology. He is forthcoming and generous with his time, confident but in no way arrogant. Simply put, another strength of David is that he works hard.  He loves being in the lab. Moreover, he is one of the few undergrads who has understood early on that there is a lot to be gained from reading the scientific literature, and he has brought several papers to my attention. He comes up with good experimental ideas and is careful and persistent. David and I both eagerly look forward to two more productive and learning years in my lab.”

Mercedes Muñoz, CAS Psychology
Mentor: Kathleen Corriveau, SED Applied Human Development
Professor Corriveau writes: “This summer, Mercedes Muñoz has continued to surpass nearly all expectations despite also excelling during the school year as a freshman research assistant. She is a fast-paced learner with a keen eye for improving all aspects of her work; she has made substantial improvements to not only study procedures but also played a vital role in designing a system for coding the strategies 4, 5, and 6-year-old children use when completing STEM-based problem-solving tasks. Due to her contributions to these studies, she has earned authorship on not one, but two,  symposium submissions for upcoming conferences. Outside her work on her studies, she has also become a strong voice in lab leadership meetings and a proactive guide to RAs who have been at the university far longer than she has. Mercedes has firmly established herself as a researcher and we look forward to providing her with more opportunities to distinguish herself in the fall.”

Outstanding Mentors

Prakash Ishwar, ENG Electrical Engineering
Student: Hiroki Kawai, ENG Computer Engineering
Hiroki writes: “Dr. Ishwar is an outstanding mentor. He has worked with me through each step of my project and has helped me figure out precisely what is happening behind each result of my experiments. He has always motivated me by showing me the value of what I have achieved and the final goal I would be able to reach. He has expanded my knowledge outside of my project into mathematical theories of machine learning technology, which allow me to understand this technology from its fundamental philosophy to varied usages in society. I have worked with him only over this summer, but I have learned and achieved so much under his guidance.”

Yang Jin, MED Pulmonary
Student: Jonathan Carnino, SAR Human Physiology
Jonathan writes: “Dr. Jin took a chance and gave me the opportunity to work in her lab knowing I had little to no wet lab experience. She showed confidence in my ability to be successful with my research project, and that assurance pushed me to be confident in myself. Dr. Jin would meet with our entire lab every other week, and kept in contact with us through email often to stay up to date with our latest progress.  If anyone in her lab ran into a problem with their project, she would immediately assist in working through the issue with them. She also asked me to continue my project through the remainder of the summer and the school year, so I can pursue my first publication, an achievement I would have only dreamt of before.”

Takeo Rivera, CAS English
Student: Audrey Poe, CAS English
Audrey writes: “I could not have asked for a better mentor for my research than Professor Rivera. His expertise and personal understanding of Asian American literature was invaluable – each time we spoke, he would recommend another relevant scholar or theory I could explore, but he was also realistic about what I could fit into my project. Beyond being knowledgeable, Professor Rivera was encouraging and always willing to talk through any doubts I was experiencing. He was available to answer my questions, but more importantly, he asked me questions – brainstorming and patiently fleshing out ideas with me. While attentive, he also allowed me to work independently, a careful balance that is helpful and healthy for any research project. His humor, empathy, and passion for his field and students are only some of the qualities that make Professor Rivera an incredible mentor and educator.”

James Traniello, CAS Biology
Student: Billie Goolsby, CAS Biochemistry & Molecular Biology
Billie writes: “Dr. Traniello has been an extraordinary mentor for me both in scientific research and for graduate school. His patience and encouragement empowered me to develop my own scientific inquiries while helping me fine tune my technical approaches and methods to produce publishable work. He listens to the undergraduates in the lab and gave us a space where we could all develop as researchers. Dr. Traniello met with me to discuss my research plans as I entered into my honors thesis as my summer research ended. After hearing about my graduate school interests, Dr. Traniello took the time to name PI’s across the country he found to be a good fit. I have interviewed with two and will soon have my third meeting with a PI for graduate school. Without Dr. Traniello’s help, I do not think I could have developed into the strong undergraduate researcher I am today and the potential graduate researcher I will become.”