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As a major research institution, The University of Georgia encourages undergraduates to participate in research with faculty in all academic disciplines. From their first moments on campus, Foundation Fellows are introduced to top-tier faculty members who can direct them to people and projects that complement their interests. With funding from the Fellowship, many Fellows also pursue research opportunities off campus at institutions in the United States and abroad. These experiences bring classroom subjects to life, confer practical skills, and guide students toward the next steps in their academic and professional careers.

student in lab processing data

Zoe Li – International Affairs

Before coming to UGA, I had only been exposed to research in a science lab setting. I had no idea that a world of social science research existed, waiting to be explored. One day, I walked into Dr. Maryann Gallagher’s office hours after her Intro to International Relations course to ask about the projects she was working on, and the rest is history. I have since traveled with her for two summers to The Hague in the Netherlands to interview prosecutors at the International Criminal Court and presented iterations of our work at conferences in Athens, Atlanta, and Cambridge. After this project, I felt confident pursuing my own research in outer space policy for the Security Leadership Program at the Center for International Trade and Security. These skills ultimately brought me to Washington, DC, playing a major role in my internships at the U.S. Department of State Office of Emerging Security Challenges and at the Cybersecurity Initiative at New America, a public policy think tank.

Foundation Fellow Todd Pierson conducting research in a North GA stream

Tarun Daniel – Biology, Psychology

My introduction to research in college was at the Regenerative Bioscience Center under the supervision of Dr. Steve Stice. Early on, I spent my time analyzing neural network formation burst patterns using a microelectrode array. This was my introduction to wet lab work, and the abstract from this project was presented at the World Stem Cell Summit. This work lent itself to other projects in the lab, such as observing stem cell proliferation after injection into chicken embryos and studying intermediate phenotypes in the formation of oligodendrocytes.

Researching neuroscience from a cellular perspective for two years proved a valuable experience, but I wanted to understand the psychological aspect of neuroscience as well to gain a more holistic perspective of the nervous system. I began researching with the Clinical and Cognitive Neuroscience Laboratory, which is led by Dr. Jennifer McDowell and Dr. Brett Clementz. I have learned a great deal about schizophrenia and bipolar disorder, including how these disorders are currently diagnosed and how that ought to be adjusted. I have done research on response inhibition tasks that test for cognitive deficits, and I have helped with functional MRI experimentation and alignment of fMRI data.

Abroad, I performed immunohistochemistry on mouse dorsal root ganglia at the Nuffield Department of Clinical Neuroscience at Oxford University after freshman year, and this study was included in a paper which has been published in Oxford’s Brain Journal. The next summer, I performed a literature review on the diverging cognitive tracks of dementia and healthy aging at Trinity College Dublin along with another Honors student and under the supervision of Dr. Lorina Naci, a Foundation Fellow alumna. The manuscript from this research was recently published in Frontiers in Aging Neuroscience.

astronomy and physics students conducting research

Ashley Amukamara – Genetics, Psychology

After giving research in the social sciences a try, I thought to myself, “This must not be for me.” I put research at the back of my mind. That is, until I changed my major to genetics and my friend (Prab!) talked me into giving research another try. I would either find a project I really loved, or it would solidify that research and I didn’t jive. Both would be valuable lessons. So once again, I began scouring for a new lab, and in the topsy-turvy halls of Life Sciences I found Dr. Allen Moore and his burying beetles.

For reasons still unbeknownst to me, Dr. Moore handed me a species of understudied burying beetle termed Nicrophorus sayi and trusted me to observe and record its normal developmental timeline. I was also responsible for documenting the effects of parental removal on offspring growth and mortality. A year and a half later, I am excited to say that my findings were recently published in Ecological Entomology.

After I finished my first project, we planned to study the effects of RNA interference on inotocin, the oxytocin ortholog found in insects. However, if research has taught me anything, it’s that it is unpredictable. The small red and black beetles that were going to be my subjects started dying in droves. Dr. Moore and I brainstormed and agreed that it would be best if I waited to start the inotocin project. In the meantime, I would move up a floor to his wife’s lab to start working on Oncopeltus fasciatus, the large milkweed bug. With Dr. Patricia Moore, I began investigating DNA methylation in insects and the effects of DNMT1 knockdown on nymph mortality. Given previous data, we didn’t expect the nymphs to make it to adulthood, but to our surprise, the little buggers didn’t die! We went back to one of the many drawing boards scattered throughout the lab and revamped the experiment, this time focusing on fertility and fecundity. While the role of DNA methylation in insects remains enigmatic, with every new discovery, our inquiries get more and more interesting, complex, and fun.

Most importantly, aside from the research itself, I’ve found a family in the Moore labs. We’ve bonded over hours of counting eggs and sperm under a microscope. We relish any excuse that allows us to eat cake, whether it be for a birthday or a published paper.

Foundation Fellow David Millard working on a robotics research project

Trisha Dalapati – Anthropology, Biochemistry & Molecular Biology, M.S. Comparative Biomedical Sciences

As a freshman, I was overwhelmed by undergraduate research, but I was overwhelmed in a good way. I had a long list of labs to explore and received support from CURO in finding the best fit. As an aspiring OB/GYN, I wanted to investigate complications during pregnancy, and I had developed an interest in global health after childhood trips to India. Finally, I sought a lab culture that would be personally nurturing and would foster resilience and critical thinking skills, both of which are foundational to scientific investigation.

I joined Dr. Julie Moore’s lab in the Center for Tropical and Emerging Global Diseases in January 2016. The Moore Lab focuses on studying malaria during pregnancy. I studied how malaria infection kickstarts a dangerous cycle of inflammation and coagulation in the placenta. When I became invested long term in my project, the Honors Program guided me in designing a joint bachelor’s-master’s program in biochemistry-infectious diseases. To explore tropical diseases in an endemic setting, I went to Thailand for eight weeks in summer 2017 to work at the Mahidol-Oxford Tropical Medicine Research Unit. The internship was financially supported by the Foundation Fellowship and The Office of International Education’s Freeman-Asia Grant. Under Dr. Markus Winterberg, I worked with infected patient samples to identify protein biomarkers for malaria and other neglected diseases of Southeast Asia. The goal was to incorporate identified biomarkers into a rapid diagnostic test that could be used in rural clinics. In contrast to my lab at home, I worked in a resource-poor area and with precious patient samples. I observed how clinicians and scientists collaborated to optimize the impact of their work and address the immediate concerns of patients.

Through research at UGA and abroad, I have gained both the technical skills needed in the lab and the passion for investigating tropical diseases that afflict vulnerable populations around the world.

Foundation Fellow Matt Tyler working in a classroom

Matt Tyler - Education, Political Science

Over the past four years, I’ve participated in several research projects abroad – all supported by the Fellowship and the Honors Program. I’m a fourth-year Fellow completing a combined bachelor’s/master’s in political science. I came to UGA expecting to go to law school and signed up for a one-hour CURO seminar on law research my first semester. The professor who taught the class did research in education law, and after asking to work with him the next semester, I became interested in education research.

The subsequent semester, I participated in an Honors book discussion with Dr. Ron Butchart on education policy. By this time I was already planning to do the SPIA at Oxford program in spring 2012. The program ended in mid-March, so I planned to volunteer at a school in Ghana for the rest of the semester. After talking with Dr. Butchart, however, I realized I could turn my travel into a research opportunity. I applied for and received a grant from the Honors International Scholars Program to visit schools in Ghana, France, Italy, and England after the Oxford program. In each location, I participated in homestays; interviewed teachers, students and government officials; and conducted classroom observations and statistical analyses. On this trip I became interested in the politics of education (how a country’s history and social context affect how teachers teach), which became the focus of my master’s thesis two years later! And I received class credit for it, which helped to make the timing more feasible.

Fast forward to spring 2013. I was in a similar situation as before – I was planning to participate in the UGA China Maymester through the political science department. The China program was only going to last three weeks, but I wanted to stay in the region longer. When I mentioned this to the professor leading the trip, he said that I could receive funding through the Freeman-ASIA program, a scholarship administered through several departments at UGA for the purpose of internships and research in Asia. With this in mind, I targeted universities in Hong Kong (since it’s largely a bilingual region) with professors conducting research in education. After emailing five or six professors, one responded and said that I was welcome to come. I received money from the Freeman Foundation and spent a month conducting research on teacher self-efficacy in relation to group learning in a comparative study with Cambridge University.

Five months later I reached out to the professor at Cambridge with whom we were working to talk about their master’s program (which I applied to). She mentioned that the professor in Hong Kong spoke highly of me and said off-the-cuff that they would love for me to help with their data analysis. To the professor’s surprise, I told her that I had grant money from the Foundation Fellowship and could make a trip to England for a few weeks to help them. I went at the beginning of January 2014 for ten days. Both the Hong Kong and the Cambridge trips resulted in conference proposals, and our research in Hong Kong got nominated for a ‘best paper’ award at the International Conference for Education Research in Seoul!

fellows presenting at curo symposium

 

 

 

 

 

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