Outstanding summer scholars recognized at research symposium

Monday, July 31, 2017

More than 100 undergraduate students competed in this year’s Charlotte Research Scholars Symposium, recently held as part of a University summer program for students pursuing bachelor’s degrees.

Each participant stood by his or her poster in a large hall of the Barnhardt Student Activity Center awaiting the arrival of judges. Students presented a three-minute summary of their research, then responded to questions from the judges.

 “It’s stressful for these young men and women,” said Nathaniel Fried, a professor in UNC Charlotte’s Department of Physics and Optical Science. Fried directs the Charlotte Research Scholars Program and the annual symposium, the program’s crowning event.

“These are extremely bright students, and this has all the atmosphere, excitement and tension of an athletic event. Even the more than 50 judges, highly qualified volunteers from among faculty and administrators, sense and share the anxiety,” Fried said. 

In the category “Engineering, Physical Sciences, Nanotechnology and Computing,” Andrea Mullen placed first for “Developing New Fluorescent Silicon Complexes.” Second place went to Deep Ghaghara for “Better Object Detection at No Extra Cost,” and Cobey McGinnis took third for “Microspherical Nanoscopy: Perfecting Quantification of Resolution.”

For the category “Biomedical, Biological Sciences and Public Health,” Elvira An placed first for “Identifying Cancer Drug Targets Using a Novel Yeast Small Compound Screen.” Matthew Kustra took second place for “Toxin Expression and Effects on Predator and Prey in Two Model Sea Anemone Species,” and the third-place winner was Austin Paytes for “Optimization of DNA Extraction Protocols for the Analysis of the Environmental Microbiome”

In the “Humanities, Social Sciences, Education, Business and the Arts” category, Geraldine Abinader received first place for “Student Learning + Retention = Teacher Growth: A Product Evaluation Case Study among CTI Fellows.” Second place went to Jessica Prince for “Examining the Influence of Meaning-Making on the Association Between Stress and Positive Mental Health in African American College Students,” and Hannah Hardy placed third for “Development Screenings for Publicly-funded Pre-kindergarten: Comparing Children Experiencing Homelessness and their Stably-housed Peers.”

Students received award certificates and gift cards.

Pinku Mukherjee, chair of the Department of Biological Sciences and the Irwin Belk Distinguished Professor of Cancer Research, was the event’s keynote speaker.

“Intensive research such as these students have conducted is not ordinarily associated with undergraduate education,” Mukherjee noted. “These students are preparing to pursue graduate education, which is defined by its focus on honing research skills and creating knowledge. These are the agile minds that will advance understanding in many areas that affect our lives.”

The Charlotte Research Scholars Program is a summer program begun in 2012 for high-achieving undergraduate students to gain experience in research and professional development in their field of interest. Such opportunities are not typically available in the undergraduate classroom. In addition to mentored research activities, scholars participate in weekly professional development training to build skills critical to professional success. 

Photo: Andrea Mullen, the first-place winner in the “Engineering, Physical Sciences, Nanotechnology and Computing” with her poster at the symposium, and “Biomedical, Biological Sciences and Public Health” first-place recipient Elvira An conducting research in the lab.

Photos by Lynn Roberson