Student Researchers Recognized at the Annual Undergraduate Research Exposition

By Blake Silberberg ’13
Univ. Communications


On April 19, the University of Rochester held its annual Undergraduate Research Exposition.  The Expo included a speaker’s symposium, poster fair, and awards ceremony. Awards were given to the top symposium and poster participants and were chosen by a panel of faculty judges.

The Undergraduate Research Exposition is a College-wide event that gives undergraduate students the opportunity to present the academic research they’ve conducted throughout the year. The Expo showcases the passion that both professors and students have for investigative, creative research.


The symposium allowed 17 students representing the four distinct disciplinary sections of the College: humanities, natural sciences, social sciences, and engineering, to present their research topics and take questions from fellow students. The poster presentation fair then served as a venue for all presenters to showcase their findings to the College community. It was immediately followed by the awards, ceremony, which included the presentation of the President’s Prize, the Deans’ Prizes, the Professor’s Choice Awards, and the Visual Art in Undergraduate Research awards.


“It was a great experience being able to learn about the work of my peers in very different fields, as well as being able to showcase my own work for the intellectual community at the University,” says Lucian McMahon ’13, whose research focused on the transformation of how masculinity was conceptualized from Paganism to Christianity in the Eastern Mediterranean. McMahon and fellow senior Gabrielle Cornish were given the President’s Award for their research in the Humanities Discipline.


The following Rochester students were awarded the President’s Prize, given to the top four presentations from the four disciplinary areas of the Symposium:


  • David George ’13, Chemistry major, Catalysys & Synthesis: New Method towards Catalytic Cyclization & its Role in Synthesis. Natural Sciences.


  • Ian Marozas ’13, Biomedical Engineering major, Development of a Targeted Drug Delivery System for the Treatment of Osteoporosis. Engineering.


  • Sandra Rodgin ’13, Psychology major, From Contemplation to Action: Self-Regulation’s Effect on Decision Making and Interpersonal Impressions. Social Sciences.


  • Gabrielle Cornish ’13, Russian and Music double major, The Impassioned Symphonist: Unity, “Russianness,” And Self Expression in Tchaikovsky’s Sixth Symphony. Humanities.


  • Lucian McMahon ’13, German and Classics double major, Transformations of Masculinity in Late Antiquity. Humanities.


The following students were presented with the Deans’ Choice Award:


  • Leah Conant ’13, Pre-Med, Cancer Anxiety & Patient Selection of Mastectomy over Breast Conservation Therapy.  Natural Sciences.


  • Michael David ’13, Biomedical Engineering major, Effect of High Fat Diet-Induced Obesity and Type 2 Diabetes on Tendon Repair. Natural Sciences.


  • Maritza Gomez ’14, Psychology and Linguistics double major, Role of Parental Labeling in Language Acquisition. Social Sciences.


  • Kuhu Parasrampuria ’13, Economics and Business Strategies major, Effects of the 2008 Financial Crisis on Developing vs. Industrialized Countries. Social Sciences


  • Prishanya Pillai ’14 and Priyanka Pillai ’14, Microbiology and Public Health majors, Social Ecological Approach to HIV/AIDS in South Africa and the Power of Hope in Community Recovery. Social Sciences.


  • Ruobing Qian ’14, Biomedical Engineering major, Interferometric Measurement of Organelle-Sized objects. Engineering.


  • Laurel Raymond ’13 English and Brain & Cognitive Sciences double major, Literature and the Field between: A Study of Discourse. Humanities.


The following students were presented with the Professors’ Choice Awards:


  • Scott Lucchini ’13, Physics and Astronomy major, Jazz Dance and the Integration of America.  Humanities.


  • Marius Kothor ’13, African and African-American Studies, Cross-Cultural Perceptions of Female Genital Cutting in Togo. Social Sciences.


  • Morgan Preziosi ’13, Biochemistry and Physics double major, Erbb3 Is Important for Melanoma Metastasis. Natural Sciences.


  • Ka Lai Tsang ’13, Biomedical Engineering major, Determination of Effective Masses and Parametric Study of the Organ of Corti. Engineering.


The following students were presented with the Visual Arts in Undergraduate Research Award:


  • Josh Geiger ’13, Chemistry and Biochemistry major, Epigenetic Maintenance & Regulation of the Antioxidant Response by the Nrf2 Dimerization Partner Maf-S. Natural Sciences.


  • Scott Lucchini ’13, Physics and Astronomy major, Jazz Dance and the Integration of America. Humanities.


Undergrad Research Recognized at National Conference

By Dan Wang ’14
Univ. Communications

In the last week of January, four Rochester undergraduates traveled to Harvard University to give a presentation at the National College Research Conference. The four participants created posters of their research and presented to panels of judges. Student Anaise Williams ’13 took home an Award of Excellence, the second place prize awarded to five out of 250 student presenters and is the top prize for the social sciences.

“I examined how rural low-income pregnant women in Northeastern Thailand negotiate traditional beliefs of prenatal precaution and biomedical prenatal recommendation. I really wanted to figure out how pregnancy is culturally scripted. How do people decide between listening to their moms and doctors?” says Williams, winner of the Award of Excellence.

This is a natural topic for someone who majors in anthropology with a focus on public health and has an interest in Asian culture. Williams conducted her research as she studied abroad in Thailand last spring. By taking part in the CIEE Development and Globalization Program arranged through Rochester’s Center for Study Abroad and Interdepartmental Programs, Williams conducted interviews with Thai women to determine how they reconciled traditional and modern views of pregnancy.

“This is an interesting way to investigate how global forms of information are understood at the local level,” Williams explains. “The project adds to the anthropological discussion of how to make biomedical globalization more culturally conscious.” She concludes that the women have a Western and traditional hybrid view of pregnancy in which they have autonomy over their bodies and incorporate traditional Thai views of pregnancy. Her extensive fieldwork interviewing pregnant women through translators gave her a nuanced view of the topic.

Alisa-Johnson-'14-and-URMC-Research-Mentor-Dr.-S-VijayakumarAlong with fellow undergraduates Alisa Johnson ‘14, Siddhi Shah ‘14, and Shilpa Topudurti ‘14, Williams attended the three-day conference with 250 students from around the country. Through funding from the Office of Undergraduate Research and various academic departments, the students were able to present their research to peers and students. They also were able to listen to professors discuss their own work; lecturers this year included development economist Jeffrey Sachs and psychologist and linguist Steven Pinker.

“I learned a lot from the keynote speakers and was exposed to a variety of topics from fellow presenters from all over the country,” says Alisa Johnson. “It was a great opportunity to connect and network with other students who share a similar interest in research at the undergraduate level.”

Johnson, Shah, and Topudurti are biology majors who presented on topics ranging from kidney disease to melanoma progression.

Shilpa-Topudurti-'14These four participants condensed their findings into 15-minute presentations and a poster board. Each gave a presentation to panels of judges that included professors and their fellow peers. A second, more formal presentation determined the prizes.

The Award of Excellence prize comes as a capstone for an already accomplished academic career. Outside of her major in anthropology Williams is president of the Undergraduate Anthropology Council; a coordinator at GlobeMed; and a tutor for 5th grade students at School 29, an elementary school in the 19th Ward. And she sees her project going still further; Williams is working on fellowships that will allow her to study maternal health in Asia next year.


In the Photos: First: Anaise Williams ’13 and Siddhi Shah ’14 at the National College Research Conference.  Second: Alisa Johnson ’14 and URMC Research Mentor Dr. S. Vijayakumar discuss Johnson’s research with conference participants. Third: Shilpa Topudurti ’14 presents her research during the conference. Fourth: Held at Harvard, nearly 250 students from around the country attended the National College Research Conference.  All photos courtesy of Alisa Johnson.

Research Grant Sends Undergrad to Kenya

Office of Undergraduate Research – University of Rochester student Theresa Kurtz ’12, spent the first month of her summer vacation traveling abroad to Kenya, Africa through funding provided by a Research and Innovation Grant, awarded to her upon admission to the University.

For four weeks, Kurtz lived with a host family in an apartment outside of one of the largest slums in Africa, Kibera. In Kibera, she delivered food to sick families and taught science at a small school. She also teamed up with a few Canadian students to help a local chief and pastor to find families in need. With assistance from local guides, the group was able to go into the homes of people and learn how these families live and support themselves in Kibera. “The families were eager to share their stories and enormously grateful for our aid,” Kurtz said.

When she wasn’t trudging through the alleys of Kibera, Kurtz taught science to grades 3, 5, and 6 at Damside School. “At first the students were ambivalent towards me and my unfamiliar teaching style,” she said, “But–with the help of candies and educational games–they started seeking me out in the schoolyard and begging me to come teach them science.”

Kurtz, who is a double major in math and neuroscience, said that she will never forget the talented students that she met in Kibera and is hoping to support Damside School in the near future.  “Though I study math and neuroscience at UR, the grant gave me the chance to research the educational system and lifestyle of citizens in Kenya from an anthropologic perspective,” she explained. “I am thankful for the insight I’ve received from my excursion, and I hope to make a bigger impact in this society now that I have been exposed to the problems and wonders of Kibera.”

For more news on undergraduate research, visit

Article and photos courtesy of Theresa Kurtz

Rochester Student Named Astronaut Scholar

Univ. Communications – Skylab astronaut and University of Rochester alumnus Ed Gibson ’59 will present Halley Orshan ’12 (known to the University community as Darcey Riley), a Rochester undergraduate, with a $10,000 scholarship from the Astronaut Scholarship Foundation (ASF) during a public presentation and ceremony at 7 p.m. on Thursday, Sept. 15, in Hoyt Auditorium.

While there, Gibson will share his experiences of spending over 84 days living and working in space on the Skylab 4 mission, in addition to presenting the award. The lecture is free and open to the public.

“Darcey is a clear leader in computer science, mathematics, and linguistics at the University of Rochester,” said Gibson. “She is a prime example of everything an Astronaut Scholar is supposed to be: intelligent, perseverant and destined for greatness. As a Yellowjacket, I am especially proud to have the opportunity to present this award to such a worthy UR student.”

Riley, who is the first Rochester student to be selected as an Astronaut Scholar, is a senior triple-majoring in computer science, mathematics, and linguistics. She is a teaching assistant and workshop leader at Rochester. Her goal is to attend graduate school for statistical natural language processing and then ultimately to pursue an academic career. Riley, who is a resident of Millington, N.J., uses her rare free time to write poetry and fiction as well as improve her photography skills.

“Darcey is very deserving of this honor,” said Steven Manly, a physics professor and the director of the Office of Undergraduate Research, which promotes research programs, including the ASF scholarship, Research and Innovation Grants, the Barth-Crapsey Undergraduate Research Awards, and other opportunities. “But, Darcey is the first of who we hope will be many UR students to win this award through the years. Speaking personally and for the University, we are very excited to be part of this prestigious scholarship program.”

The Astronaut Scholarship is the largest monetary award given in the United States to science and engineering undergraduate students based solely on merit. Last March, Rochester was selected to be one of the Foundation’s educational partners, allowing the University to nominate two students each year for one of the scholarships. Twenty-six of these prestigious awards were dispersed this year through the ASF to outstanding college students majoring in science, technology, engineering or math. More than $3 million has been awarded in scholarships to date.

Gibson was selected by NASA in its first group of scientist-astronauts in June 1965. He orbited the Earth as the Science Pilot for 84 days during Skylab 4, the final manned flight of the Skylab space station. Gibson, Commander Gerald Carr and Command Module Pilot William Pogue were launched in their Apollo capsule on November 16, 1973. Gibson’s duties concentrated on pointing six camera telescopes at the sun, stars and comet Kohoutek, whose sweep around the sun at that time was a scientific bonus for the mission. Daily medical experiments took the most time, but Gibson was able to make three spacewalks, spending a total of 15 hours 17 minutes outside the lab. The crew circled the globe 1,214 times, traveled 34.5 million miles and collected 1,718 pounds of film, data and biomedical specimens for scientific study during their stay on Skylab. Gibson was inducted into the U.S. Astronaut Hall of Fame on October 4, 1997.

The Astronaut Scholarship Foundation is a 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization. Its mission is to aid the United States in retaining its world leadership in science and technology by providing scholarships for college students who exhibit motivation, imagination and exceptional performance in these fields. ASF has awarded over $3 million to deserving students nationwide. Today, more than 80 astronauts from the Mercury, Gemini, Apollo, Skylab, Space Shuttle and Space Station programs have joined in this effort. For more information about the ASF, call 321.455.7013 or log on to For information about the Sept. 15 event, call Melissa Greco Lopes at 585.276.3693.

35 Rochester Undergrads Present Research at National Conference

Univ. Communications – Thirty-five University of Rochester students have been selected to present their research at the National Conference of Undergraduate Research (NCUR). The annual conference will take place at Ithaca College from March 31 through April 2.

Founded in 1987, NCUR provides undergraduates from across the country the opportunity to share their independent, unique research with their peers and professors through presentations and poster sessions. This year, NCUR saw the most applications submitted for review in the conference’s history, with the total number reaching more than 3,500. About 83 percent of applicants were selected to present their research.

“NCUR is an exciting opportunity for our students to show off their research, network, and learn about work going on elsewhere,” says Steve Manly, a physics professor and the director of the Office of Undergraduate Research, which works with Rochester students applying for inclusion in the conference. “It’s fun for me to accompany them, in part, because Rochester students make a great showing with quality research and presentations.”

The following Rochester students were selected to present research:

  • Sarah Ackroyd ’11, a biochemistry and statistics major, will present her research paper titled pH regulation of ER Ca2+ release by recombinant InsP3 receptors in DT40-3KO cells
  • Ellie Adair ’11, English and philosophy major, The affective power of Edgar Allan Poe; Moving beyond sincerity and jest
  • Jacy Bulaon ’11, biomedical engineering major, Optimization of quantitative second harmonic generation imaging
  • Xiaowei Cai ’12, optics major, Analysis of the myopic shift from 4 to 12 weeks post descemet-stripping with automated endothelial keratoplasty (DSAEK)
  • Isthier Chaudhury ’11, chemical engineering and Chinese studies major, Study of AgPt alloy nanoparticle loading on carbon supports
  • Gaoxiang Chen ’11, neuroscience and psychology major, Analysis of the propensity of neural epilepsy in a dynamic system
  • Rachel DeAngelis ’11, psychology major, Behind the computer screen: A study of cyber-antisocial behavior
  • Paul Del Prato ’12, brain and cognitive science major, The cumulative semantic cost occurs pre-lexically
  • Josh Geller ’11, physics and mathematics major, Search for an entanglement measure for three- and four-orbit states via phase symmetry
  • Serene Habayeb ’11, brain and cognitive science major, An investigation of mental state attribution and social impairment in children with autism
  • Alexander G. Hajduczok ’11, biochemistry major, Mapping antagonist contact points on the Ste2 G-protein coupled receptor in saccharomyces cereviseae
  • Julian E. Herwitz ’13, computer science major, Transactional memory applications of Delaunay’s triangulation algorithm
  • Woong Hwang ’11, neuroscience major, Spindle check point targeted therapy for glioblastoma
  • Huan “Colin” Jiang ’12, financial economics, computer science, and mathematics/statistics major, Operations research based on the performance-management strategy
  • Angela D. Ketterer ’12, biomedical engineering major, Design and implementation of a behavioral apparatus for auditory research in birds
  • Joel Kim ’13, microbiology major, Investigating the effects of class II ribonucleotide reductase on adenovirus replication
  • Sharese King ’12, linguistics major, On the interplay of syntax and pragmatics: Evidence from representational NPs and ellipsis
  • Nate Lindsey ’11, alternate energy and sustainable engineering major, Continental rifting above a mantle superplume: Diffuse vs. localized plate deformation in eastern Africa
  • Seri Link ’12, English literature and mathematics major, Modeling respiratory cilia movement
  • Zachery Lynch ’11, ecology and evolutionary biology major, Interactions between bacterial endosymbionts in Drosophila Neotestacea
  • Gerad Markham ’13, psychology and philosophy major, Examining the buffering hypothesis: The moderation of stress and distress by the perception of available support in postnatal low-income women
  • Victoria Masse ’11, anthropology and African and African-American studies major, Cultural trauma and genetics: The “new” African American in our midst
  • Tim McCrossen ’11, mechanical engineering, Structural analysis of an unreinforced Roman concrete vault: The frigidarium of the Baths of Caracalla
  • Kyle Murray ’12, computer science major, FlashDOM: Enabling blind people to browse more of the web
  • Christine Pittman ’11, archaeology, technology, and historical structures major, Case study of cobblestone masonry in Orleans County, New York
  • Yang Ran ’12, pre-med major, Analysis of microRNA expression in recurrent hepatocellular carcinoma after liver transplantation
  • Sneha Rath ’12, molecular genetics major, Characterization of a novel gene, CG3313 – as a potential E3 ubiquitin ligase complex binding protein – that regulates growth and apoptosis through the insulin signaling pathway and Exploring the influence of endocytosis on aging in C. elegans
  • Jennifer Roach ’11, economics and international relations major, Unemployment in Spain: A comparative analysis
  • Sean Rodrigues ’12, chemical engineering major, Cationic substitution of hydroxyapatite for hydrogen fuel cell application
  • Lauren Schleider ’12, studio art and anthropology major, Social control and sanction: A bodily exploration
  • Amelia Stone ’11, mathematics major, The Cayley Knot
  • Stephen Supoyo ’11, molecular genetics major, Lifespan extension by preserving somatic stem cell function and tissue homeostasis in the Drosophila intestine
  • Evan Wormsbecher ’11, classics and psychology major, The gospel according to Juvencus: How a 4th century poet created a “new” epic paradigm
  • Aaron Zakrzewski ’11, mechanical engineering major, Natural frequencies of bubbles within rigid and compliant tubes
  • Ting “Johnny” Zheng ’12, biomedical engineering major, Modeling of inflammation of cerebral vasculature caused by methamphetamine and HIV