KU announces Undergraduate Research Award winners

LAWRENCE — Fifty-eight University of Kansas students will work on research projects funded by the Undergraduate Research Award program this semester.

“The Undergraduate Research Award, or UGRA, program has been around KU for over 20 years,” said John Augusto, director of the Center for Undergraduate Research. “This class of recipients will be the first class awarded by the Center for Undergraduate Research.  As impressive as the students’ research proposals are, what is as equally impressive is the number of outstanding mentors involved with these projects.”

The research awards are funded by a partnership between the College of Liberal Arts and Sciences, Research and Graduate Studies, and the Office of the Provost. Proposals 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.

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

Kansas recipients, listed by city:


Jill Wenderott, junior majoring in physics; Wabaunsee High School; “Production of Two-Dimensional Heterostructures via the Wedging Transfer Process,” an exploration of new production techniques to overcome the limitations of graphene; research mentor: Hsin-Ying Chiu, Department of Physics and Astronomy.


William Wright, senior in behavioral neuroscience; Augusta High School; “The Effects of Stress-Related Noradrenergic Changes on Attentional Selection and Flexible Thought,” an investigation of the impact of acute stress on creativity and decision making; research mentor: Evangelia Chrysikou, Department of Psychology.

Bonner Springs

Sophia Hilleary, senior majoring in industrial design; Bonner Springs High School; “Designing for an Unstructured Play Experience,” an exploration of the dynamics of unstructured play experiences in order to design children’s play environments that encourage such skills as problem solving, cooperation, imagination, empathy, and emotional regulation; research mentor: Richard Branham, Department of Design.


Stoney Weaver, senior majoring in philosophy; Cherryvale High School; “Fallen Idols,” a project that portrays the complex philosophical ideas of Friedrich Nietzsche in a comic book format; research mentor: Scott Jenkins, Department of Philosophy.

Clay Center

Casey Pederson, junior majoring in psychology; Clay Center Community High School; an examination of the way that different subtypes of aggression uniquely relate to conduct problems in children and the parenting factors that may buffer and/or contribute to their development; research mentor: Paula Fite, Clinical Child Psychology Department.


Wesley Landis, senior majoring in photomedia; “Interstate I-70,” a project to document the beauty along I-70 through photography; research mentor: Pok Chi Lau, Department of Design.


Kayci Vickers, senior majoring in behavioral neuroscience; “Effects of Transcranial Direct Current Stimulation Over Prefrontal Cortex for Decision Making and Creative Thinking,” an exploration of the effect of electrical stimulation on creativity and decision making; research mentor: Evangelia Chrysikou, Department of Psychology.


Holly Lafferty, junior majoring in ecology and evolutionary biology; Shawnee Mission East High School; a study of nitrogen isotopes in two species of minnows to understand the effects of starvation; research mentor: James Thorp, Department of Ecology and Evolutionary Biology.

Garden City

Rubie Peters, senior majoring in psychology; Garden City High School; “How One’s Locus of Control Relates to Evolutionary Attitudes and Literacy,” an exploration of the relationship between locus of control, religion and belief in evolution; research mentor: Patricia Hawley, Department of Psychology.


Cynthia Brown, senior majoring in psychology; Anderson County Junior Senior High School; “College Living Arrangements and Body Dissatisfaction: The Case for Males,” an exploration of the impact of living arrangements on self-perceptions of the body and body-image related problems among college men; research mentor: Ric Steele, Department of Applied Behavioral Science.


Andrew Jamison, senior majoring in behavioral neuroscience; Goddard High School; “The Effects of Prediction on Lexical Access: An ERP Study of Reading,” a study of brain activity in language use among native speakers of English; research mentor: Ruth Ann Atchley, Department of Psychology.

Trey Stafford, junior majoring in geography; Goddard High School; “Proposal to Study the North American Breeding Bird Survey’s Capacity to Sample Suitable Breeding Habitat for Henslow’s Sparrow,” an investigation of the accuracy of a common bird survey in understanding the endangered status of Henslow’s Sparrows; research mentor: A. Townsend Peterson, Ecology and Evolutionary Biology


Evan Reznicek, junior majoring in mechanical engineering; Wetmore High School; “Evaluation of Thermoelectric Devices as a Means of Condensing and Retaining Evaporated Moisture,” a study aimed at developing a way to retain water during the process of getting energy from biomass fuel sources; research mentor: Christopher Depcik, Department of Mechanical Engineering.


Tyler Darland, senior majoring in cell biology; Bishop Carroll Catholic High School; “The Role of Mical Within the UNC-6/netrin Signaling Pathway,” a study of the role of axon development and guidance in the nervous system; research mentor: Erik Lundquist, Department of Molecular Biosciences.


Gregory Burg, junior majoring in engineering physics; Lawrence High School; a study aimed at developing a new manufacturing technique for piezoelectric composites; research mentor: Lisa Friis, Department of Mechanical Engineering.

Kenneth Stowe, senior majoring in communication studies; Lawrence High School; a rhetorical study of the religious ideology of the Christian identity movement; research mentor: Robert Rowland, Department of Communication Studies.

Kirsten King, senior majoring in atmospheric science; Lawrence High School; “The Relationship Between ENSO and Relative Tornado Spatial Distribution During Spring Months,” an investigation of the relationship between El Nino-Southern Oscillation and the frequency and severity of tornadoes; research mentor: Johannes Feddema, Department of Geography.

Daniel Nicholson, senior majoring in sociology; Lawrence High School; “Case Study: The State of Homelessness and the Role of Social Networks in Lawrence, Kansas,” an exploration of the role of social networks in the lives of homeless people; research mentor: Shirley Hill, Department of Sociology.

Sebastian Schöneich, sophomore majoring in biochemistry; Free State High School; a study of the migration of neuroblasts and neurons in the nematode Caenorhabditis elegans  in order to better understand the development of neural defects in humans; research mentor: Erik Lundquist, Department of Molecular Biosciences.


Andrew Wagner, senior majoring in English and philosophy; a study of the relationship between Shakespeare’s texts, his classical readings and Elizabethan print culture; research mentor: Jonathan Lamb, Department of English.


Megan Nelson, junior majoring in economics; Manhattan High School; “Tipping: An Economic Anomaly,” an exploration of the variables that lead to higher or lower tips in the service industry; research mentor: Neal Becker, Department of Economics.

Dylan Snyder, junior majoring in film and media studies; Manhattan High School; project will result in a short documentary film that focuses on the life and works of socio-cyber-engineer Jacques Fresco; research mentor: Madison Lacy, Department of Film and Media Studies.


Elizabeth Braden, junior majoring in biochemistry; Shawnee Mission North High School; a study to better understand enzyme processes associated with SUMO proteins; research mentor: Yoshiaki Azuma, Department of Molecular Biosciences.


Rachel Bruursema, senior majoring in psychology; Olathe South High School; “BAN-FEAR: Bio-Acoustical Neuromodulation for Fear and Excessive Anxiety Reduction,” an exploration of the possibilities to use sound to reduce anxiety produced by a phobia; research mentor: Nancy Hamilton, Department of Psychology.

Isaac Cook, junior majoring in computer science; Olathe South High School; development of an automated public transit tracking system to improve system efficiency and rider satisfaction; research mentor: Gary Minden, Department of Electrical Engineering and Computer Science.

Heathyr Johnson, sophomore majoring in secondary English education; Olathe East High School; “‘To Roam Is Where Your Heart Is’: A Song Cycle by Heathyr Johnson, in collaboration with Andrew Shaw,” a project designed to produce a song cycle, which is a series of musical theatre style songs that are each intended to play a specific part in a broader theme as they are performed in sequence; research mentor: Mary Klayder, Department of English.

Spyros Siscos, senior majoring in health, sport, and exercise science; Saint Thomas Aquinas High School; “Computerized Neurocognitive Assessment Tests and Detection of the Malingering Athlete,” a study to develop better tests for assessing when an athlete with a concussion can safely return to the playing field; research mentor: Phillip Vardiman, Department of Health, Sport and Exercise Science.


Paul Thomas, sophomore majoring in anthropology and classical antiquities; Ottawa High School; “Archaeological Survey of Center Chapel, Franklin County Kansas,” an archeological investigation of the ruins of a small Kansas chapel built around the year 1900; research mentor: Philip Stinson, Department of Classics.

Shelby Webb, sophomore majoring in biology; West Franklin High School; “A Lack of Nuclear Apc,” a study of the behavior of a tumor-suppressing protein; research mentor: Kristi Neufeld, Department of Molecular Biosciences.

Overland Park

Jason Bates, junior majoring in chemical engineering; Shawnee Mission East High School; “Mesoporous Solid Acid Catalysts for Alcohol Dehydration,” the development of a process to reduce our reliance on petrochemicals by deriving chemicals from plant-based biomass; research mentor: Bala Subramaniam, Chemical and Petroleum Engineering.

Ryan Limbocker, sophomore majoring in chemistry; Blue Valley North High School; “Constructing Parameters for the Optimization of 6-OHDA Lesioned Rats as a Model of ADHD to Establish a Paradigm for Future Research,” a study seeking to establish research criteria for using rats to develop new drugs to treat ADHD; research mentor: Michael Johnson, Department of Chemistry.

Joseph Siess, senior majoring in history; Hyman Brand Hebrew Academy; a study examining the Moroccan Jewish experience from the beginning of the French protectorate in North Africa in 1912 until the Moroccan Jewish cultural exile and mass exodus to Israel in the 1950s and ’60s; research mentor: Marie Grace Brown, Department of History.

Jennifer Geller, senior majoring in art history; Hyman Brand Hebrew Academy; “Shrines and Visual Sanctity in Medieval Christian Tradition: A Case Study of the Basilica of Sant'Ambrogio, Milan,” an examination of the architecture, artwork and symbols in a medieval Italian church; research mentor: Kathryn Gerry, Department of Art History.

Sarah Terranova, senior majoring in photomedia; Blue Valley North High School; “Immigrant America,” a photography project to document the Laotian immigrant experience in the Kansas City/Lawrence area; research mentor: Pok Chi Lau, Department of Design.

Ness City

Ben King, junior majoring in creative writing; Ness City High School; an investigation of English dialects in the Province of Maryland in the period between 1660-1680 in order to create authentic dialogue for a creative work; research mentor: Peter Grund, Department of English.

Roeland Park

Erin Reid, senior majoring in chemistry; Shawnee Mission North High School; “Separation Optimization of L-DOPA and its Metabolites using Microchip Electrophoresis with Electrochemical Detection,” a study meant to improve scientists’ ability to measure the level of dopamine in animals; research mentor: Susan Lunte, Department of Chemistry.


Rena Detrixhe, senior majoring in visual art; Russell High School; “Bring to the Table,” an installation art project exploring our relationship to the environment; research mentor: Cima Katz, Department of Visual Art.


Cassandra Osei, sophomore majoring in history and Latin American studies; Shawnee Mission Northwest High School; “‘The Personal is Political’ and Historical: Writing History in Black Feminist Circles within Academia,” an exploration of the intersection of race and gender in the historical writings of black feminist academics; research mentor: Kim Warren, Department of History.

Andrew Shaw, junior in music education; Shawnee Mission Northwest High School; “‘To Roam Is Where Your Heart Is’: A Song Cycle by Andrew Shaw, with collaboration with Heathyr Johnson,” a project designed to produce a song cycle, which is a series of musical theatre style songs that are each intended to play a specific part in a broader theme as they are performed in sequence; research mentor: John Staniunas, Theatre Department.


Nathanael Dinwiddie, junior in film and media studies; Topeka High School; “Man of Tomorrow,” a project that entails producing a biographical film documenting the life and ideas of renowned futurist Jacque Fresco; research mentor: Madison Lacy, Department of Film and Media Studies.

Samuel Long, junior majoring in human biology; Topeka High School; “Phenotypic Analysis for Examination of Subcomplex Formation in Septate Junction Biogenesis,” a study of the proteins found in the membranes of fruit flies; research mentor: Robert Ward, Department of Molecular Biosciences.

Austin Schauer, senior majoring in English; Washburn Rural High School; “La Femme Fatale: French Feminism, Ecocriticism and Faulkner,” an application of French Feminist theory and Ecofeminism to William Faulkner’s book “As I Lay Dying”; research mentor: Paul Outka, Department of English.

Arianna Morgart, senior majoring in speech-language-hearing; Seaman High School; “Gender and Maternal Responsivity as Factors in Number of Conversational Turns in Adolescents with Developmental Disabilities,” a study of the interactions between mothers and children with developmental disabilities; research mentor: Nancy Brady, Department of Speech-Language-Hearing.


Out-of-state recipients

Fayetteville, Ark.

George Holtzen, senior majoring in chemistry and Spanish; Fayetteville High School; “Organo-Catalytic Application of Cyclopropenes as Prochiral Enamine Precursors,” a study using organo-catalytic techniques to synthesize products; research mentor: Michael Rubin, Department of Chemistry.

Los Angeles

Hunter Finch, senior majoring in sociology; Alexander Hamilton High School; an exploration of the changing constructions of masculinity in the top-grossing films from the 1940s through the 2000s; research mentor: Sandra Albrecht, Department of Sociology.

Antioch, Ill.

Meaghan Moody, senior majoring in English; Antioch Community High School; an exploration of the common features of the “Gothic relationship” in Gothic literature; research mentor: Ann Rowland, Department of English.

Palatine, Ill.

Claire Gorey, senior majoring in psychology and applied behavioral science; St. Viator High School; an exploration of the relationship between increased heart rate variability and tolerance for pain; research mentor: Sarah Pressman, Department of Psychology.

Lee’s Summit, Mo.

Hailey Baker, junior majoring in microbiology; Lee's Summit North High School; “Gurken mRNA Localization in Drosophila, the Common Fruit Fly,” a study of the behavior of mRNA in fruit flies; research mentor: Robert Cohen, Department of Molecular Biosciences.

Athens, Ohio

Gregory Pach, junior majoring in physics; Athens High School; an investigation of the 62 Myr periodicity trend in mass extinctions among marine genera; research mentor: Adrian Melott, Department of Physics and Astronomy.

Brookings, S.D.

Bryce Tappan, freshman majoring in environmental studies and Spanish; Brookings High School; “The Mapping of Four Indigenous Tawahka Communities,” a project that will map the boundaries of four indigenous communities in Honduras; research mentor: Peter Herlihy, Department of Geography.

Allen, Texas

Sarah Kraus, junior majoring in East Asian languages and cultures and environmental studies; “A Comparative Analysis of Urban and Rural Ecovillages: The Influence of Mainstream Society,” an exploration of the role that location plays in the ability of ecovillages to achieve their goals; research mentor: Chris Brown, Departments of Environmental Studies and Geography.

Guangzhou, China

Zhoudunming Tu, senior majoring in physics and mathematics; “Single Diffraction Detected by Forward Shower Counters,” a study of relativistic heavy ion collisions; research mentor: Michael Murray, Department of Physics and Astronomy.

Penang, Malaysia

Alyssa Ong, junior majoring in finance and accounting; International College Penang; “Alternative Breaks: Their Impact on Students’ Perceptions, Attitudes and Behaviors,” a study of the impact of KU’s Alternative Break program on college students compared to other break experiences; research mentor: Catherine Schwoerer, School of Business.


Magdalene Lee, junior majoring in journalism; Pioneer Junior College; an investigation of the role of viewing ‘The Daily Show’ on Midwestern college students’ attentiveness to politics and distrust in politicians; research mentor: Hyunjin Seo, School of Journalism and Mass Communications.

Fri, 01/18/2013


Nicole Perry

Media Contacts

Nicole Perry

Center for Undergraduate Research