Nicole Perry
Center for Undergraduate Research

KU announces 21 Undergraduate Research Award winners

Fri, 08/30/2013

LAWRENCE — Twenty-one University of Kansas students will receive Undergraduate Research Awards (UGRAs) to support their research projects this fall.

“Students who receive the Undergraduate Research Award represent some of the best student scholarship on the Lawrence campus,” said John Augusto, director of the Center for Undergraduate Research. “These students have mentors who invest a lot of time training them, and the mentors’ work comes through when you read the students’ proposals.”

Recipients will receive $1,000 to support their respective research projects. The Undergraduate Research Awards are funded by a partnership between the College of Liberal Arts and Sciences, the Office of Research and Graduate Studies, and the Office of the Provost.  Applicants wrote a four-page research proposal with the assistance of their research mentor. Recipients of the award were selected on the merit of the applicant's proposal, the applicant's academic record and the recommendation from a faculty member who is familiar with the applicant and the proposed project.

The Center for Undergraduate Research will begin taking applications for the spring 2014 awards in September, with a Nov. 13 deadline.  For more details and to apply, visit

Students receiving awards are listed below by hometown, level in school, major, high school, brief description of the project, and faculty mentor.

Kansas recipients


Kathryn Scherich, junior majoring in chemical engineering; Emporia High School; “Viscoelastic Properties and Cell Response of Colloidal Gels made with Fluorapatite and Hydroxyapatite,” a project that will replace the nanoparticle in colloidal gels currently being tested by the Berkland Research Group with fluorapatite and mixtures of fluorapatite and hydroxyapatite, and test the fluid properties and response of stem cells to the material; research mentor: Cory Berkland, chemical and petroleum engineering.


Sarah Hall, junior majoring in visual art; Halstead High School; “Accelerated Energy Expansion,” a project to create 7-10 paintings representing the human figure in a way that expresses the notion of accelerated energy expansion; research mentor: Judith McCrea, drawing and painting.

Kansas City, Kan.

Caleb Christianson, senior majoring in engineering physics; “Investigation of the Immune Response of Coated Gold Nanoparticles on Leukocytes,” a project to understand to what extent gold nanoparticles functionalized with varying carbon chain lengths modulate the immune system response of human leukocytes; research mentor: Judy Wu, physics and astronomy.


Alexa Varady, junior majoring in mathematics and computer science; Blue Valley High School; “Statistical Estimation of Scattered Memory Processes,” a research project aimed at finding a new, more efficient model for the memory structure of stochastic processes; research mentor: Zsolt Talata, mathematics.


Ryan Xiao, junior majoring in cell biology and English; Rockhurst High School; “How Does FMI-1 Affect the Anterior-Posterior Specification of the VD neurons of C. Elegans?,” a project that will use standard cloning procedures and microscopy to investigate the mechanisms by which FMI-1 directs the anterior specification of axon outgrowth in the VD neurons; research mentor: Brian Ackley, molecular biology.


Elizabeth Braden, junior majoring in biochemistry; Shawnee Mission North High School; “N-terminal Localization of PIAS Enzymes,” a project aimed at better understanding the mechanism of localization of the SUMO E3 ligase, PIAS, through its N-terminal domain; research mentor: Yoshiaki Azuma, molecular biosciences.


Kendra Marr, junior majoring in cell biology; Olathe North High School; “Mechanism Underlying Eggshell Defects in a Strain of Drosophila virilis That Carries a High Transposon Load,” a research project that will utilize imaging and other techniques to visualize the patterning of egg chambers during oogenesis in a strain of Drosophila virilis that carries a high transposon load in their genome in order to elucidate a possible mechanism underlying certain embryo axis-specification defects; research mentor: Justin Blumenstiel, ecology & evolutionary biology.

Jackson Young, sophomore majoring in physics and mathematics; Olathe North High School; “X-Ray Studies Of The Pixel Readout for the CMS Detector,” a project to conduct X-ray studies of pixel readout modules for the 2016 upgrade of CMS silicon tracker detector at the University of Kansas; research mentor: Alice Bean, physics.

Audra Odeh, senior majoring in ecology and evolutionary biology; Olathe South High School; “Re-description of Japanese Endemic Frog Limnonectes namiyei,” a project to re-describe the endangered Japanese frog Limnonectes namiyei in order to more appropriately reflect the morphological characteristics and phylogenetic relationships of the species; research mentor: David McLeod, undergraduate biology.

Overland Park

Adam Morel, junior majoring in civil engineering; Blue Valley Northwest High School; “Assessment of State Transportation Sustainable Indicators-Benchmarking Matrix,” a project to develop a framework to benchmark the sustainability performance of states and corresponding transportation agencies; research mentor: Oswald Chong, civil, environmental and architectural engineering.


Jacqueline Sullivan, junior majoring in biology; Ottawa High School; “Describing a New Species of ‘Fanged’ Frog from Myanmar,” a project concerned with the analysis of morphological data (assessing structural features) pertaining to an unconfirmed candidate species of the Limnonectes kuhlii complex, finally producing a taxonomic paper describing the frog as a new, taxonomic species; research mentor: David McLeod, undergraduate biology.


Tasha Cerny, senior majoring in creative writing; Salina High School South; “Children, Fairy tales, and Culture: A Poetic Examination of the Social Issues and Cultural Ideologies of Disney,” a project to develop a collection of poetry exploring the ways in which Disney's fairy tale films both project and teach about American social issues and cultural ideologies, and how these aspects of these films affect the ways in which children view the world; research mentor: Darren Canady, English.

William Thompson, senior majoring in behavioral neuroscience; Salina Central High School; “The Role of Unipolar Depression in Cognitive and Emotional Empathy,” an examination of the effect of rumination on empathy, and how this corresponds to known symptoms in depression; research mentor: Evangelia Chrysikou, psychology.


Jack Rogers, freshman majoring in chemical engineering; Shawnee Mission Northwest High School; “Development of an Algorithm to Predict Molecular Stability,” a research project aimed at developing a computer program which would receive the code for a molecular formula and return a “stability rating” based on the estimated bond dissociation energies of the molecule; research mentor: Kyle Camarda, chemical engineering.


Anna Wenner, sophomore majoring in English and history; Topeka West High School; “The Women Behind the Boys: J.K. Rowling and S.E. Hinton, The Initials That Sell Books,” a project examining the gender dynamics within two books, "The Outsiders" by S. E. Hinton and "Harry Potter and the Philosopher's Stone" by J. K. Rowling, and the publishing dynamics that led publishers to ask these female authors to use their initials rather than their full names; research mentor: Giselle Anatol, English.

Bryne Gonzales, junior majoring in speech-language-hearing; Washburn Rural High School; “Speech Intelligibility in Reverberation and Noise by Adults Fitted with Auditory Prostheses,” a study that seeks to better understand speech intelligibility by cochlear implant listeners in noisy and reverberant settings; research mentor: Kostas Kokkinakis, speech-language-hearing.


Tyler Wieland, senior majoring in atmospheric science; Valley Heights High School; “Urban Heat Island Magnitude and Downwind Precipitation Increase: Analysis and Threshold Values,” a project to analyze cities of various sizes to quantify the correlation between the size of the Urban Heat Island and the increase in precipitation downwind; research mentor: Nathaniel Brunsell, geography.


Pann Pichetsurnthorn, junior majoring in chemical engineering; Wichita High School East; “Development of Microanalytical Methods with Electrochemical Detection for Detection and Identification of Reactive Nitrogen Species in Immune Cells,” a project that will optimize microchip electrophoresis coupled to amperometric detection to probe heterogeneity of the production of reactive nitrogen species in immune cells in order to better understand diseases such as atherosclerosis; research mentor: Susan Lunte, chemistry.

Jack Walter, senior majoring in chemical engineering; Wichita Southeast; “Pulsed Flow for Minimizing the Shunt Current Phenomenon Seen in Stacked Fuel Cells,” a project aimed at developing an electrolyte manifold to reduce the shunt current phenomenon seen in flow batteries for energy storage; research mentor: Trung Nguyen, chemical & petroleum engineering.

Out-of-state recipients

Lafayette, La.

Ian Cook, senior majoring in English; “Things I Tried to Sing but Had to Say,” a project that combines poetry and music into a synchronous performance that will seek to explore the malleability of both.

Wanna Skype? Chancellor gets creative to surprise Truman winner. See it here:
Rock Chalk! Junior Ashlie Koehn named KU's 18th Truman Scholar
Ashlie Koehn, a University of Kansas junior from Burns studying in Kyrgyzstan, interrupted helping her host family prepare dinner to make a Skype call on Monday evening.

.@KU bschool 's KIP team includes @KU _SADP students in all-ages housing project. #KUworks
Wanna Skype? Chancellor gets creative to surprise Truman winner From KU News Service: Ashlie Koehn, a University of Kansas junior from Burns studying in Kyrgyzstan, interrupted helping her host family prepare dinner to make a Skype call on Monday evening. To her surprise, Chancellor Bernadette Gray-Little was on the other end of the call letting Koehn know she had been named a 2015 Harry S. Truman Scholar. Koehn is the 18th KU student to be named a Truman Scholar and the only 2015 recipient from the state of Kansas. Earlier this month, she was also named a 2015 Udall Scholar. And in spite of a distance of more than 10,800 kilometers and 11 time zones, Koehn’s thrill from hearing the news from the chancellor came through loud and clear. “Ashlie’s experience at KU epitomizes a quality undergraduate experience. She challenged herself in her coursework, exposed herself to different research opportunities, studied abroad in Germany, Switzerland and Kyrgyzstan, and participated in both student government and community service projects,” Gray-Little said. “This is quite a year for Ashlie. Her hard work is a wonderful reflection on her and also a great reflection on the university, and we all congratulate her.” Each new Truman Scholar receives up to $30,000 for graduate study. Scholars also receive priority admission and supplemental financial aid at some premier graduate institutions, leadership training, career and graduate school counseling, and special internship opportunities within the federal government. Koehn, a member of KU’s nationally recognized University Honors Program, is majoring in environmental studies, economics and international studies. Her goal after earning her KU degree is to pursue a master’s degree in economics at either the London School of Economics or the University of Reading, with a focus on the economics of climate change. In 2014, she received KU’s Newman Civic Engagement Award for her work establishing the Coalition against Slavery and Trafficking. Her involvement with the issue was sparked by Hannah Britton, associate professor of political science and women, gender, and sexuality studies, who hosted national conference on contemporary slavery at KU three years ago. “Ashlie and I met several times to think about what KU students could contribute to the issue of slavery and human trafficking, and the result was her founding of KU CAST,” Britton said. “After a year as president, Ashlie successfully handed the organization over to the next student leader. She demonstrated her strong leadership qualities by setting a unique goal and then pursuing it with her sense of passion, engagement and dedication. No matter the country or context, her leadership strength is evident in her coursework, her public service and her work experiences.” The University Honors Program works with a campus committee to select KU’s nominees for the Truman Scholarship and supports them during the application process. Anne Wallen, assistant director of national fellowships and scholarships, noted it was an amazing ruse to pull off the surprise. Originally, the call was set up to be between Wallen and Koehn. “I was totally not prepared to be greeted by Chancellor Gray-Little, but it was an amazing surprise for sure,” Koehn said. “As a first-generation student, it took time to learn the collegiate system, but my parents taught me to be resourceful and independent from a young age and KU and the Kansas Air National Guard have provided me with the opportunities to drive me into the future, both at graduate school and in my career. I plan to use the Truman Scholarship to pursue a career as an environmental economist helping to shape future trade agreements and leverage action on important international environmental issues, particularly concerning climate change.” Koehn also had a surprise of her own for the chancellor — the meal she was helping to prepare was not exactly typical Kansas dinner fare. On the menu with her host family in Kyrgyzstan on Monday was a traditional Kyrgyz meal called Beshbarmak, or “five fingers,” because you eat it with your hands. The dish is made of horse and sheep and was being prepared as a birthday celebration for Koehn’s host mom. Chancellor Gray-Little, as she signed off from Skype, made sure to encourage Koehn to enjoy her Beshbarmak. Koehn is the daughter of Rodney and Carolyn Koehn of Burns. She graduated from Fredric Remington High School in Moundridge. She is an active member of the Kansas Air National Guard and currently on leave while studying abroad in Bishkek, Kyrgyzstan. She is a member of the KU Global Scholars Program and a past member of the Student Senate. In addition to being named a 2015 Truman and Udall scholar, she was named a 2014 Boren Scholar and Gilman Scholar and in 2013 was named the Kansas Air National Guard Airman of the Year.

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