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Six Rochester students headed abroad through research, language grants

June 25, 2014

This summer, six University of Rochester students will travel abroad through two nationally competitive scholarships, the Critical Language Scholarship and the DAAD-RISE Scholarship program. Both provide students with the opportunity to engage in a cultural exchange through a study or research experience in a foreign country.

Daniel Webb’s ’14 educational aspirations include rounding out an undergraduate career studying language with an experience that will immerse him in the culture and language of Russia through the Critical Language Scholarship, sponsored by the U.S. Department of State, Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs.  With the addition of this year’s winner, 15 students from the University of Rochester have participated in the CLS Program since it launched in 2006. As a scholar, Webb will spend two months in Kazan, Russia, engaging in group-based intensive language instruction and structured cultural enrichment experiences abroad.

Webb, who majored in Russian and Spanish at Rochester, heads to Russia with two previous study abroad experiences under his belt. He traveled to St. Petersburg, Russia during the summer of 2012, and studied abroad in Quito, Ecuador in spring 2013. He hopes this second trip to Russia will increase his mastery of the language. “The Russian courses here have given me a very solid foundation of grammar, but in Kazan I will have to speak Russian in real-life situations, which are hard to produce in the classroom,” he says.

In addition to his studies, Webb plays guitarrón in Mariachi Meliora. A native of Lexington, Ky., he plans to apply to graduate schools after his CLS experience.

Undergraduates Corey Garyn ’15, Austin Mottola ’15, Seth L. Schober ’16, Natalie Y. Tjota ’16, and Steven B. Torrisi ’16 will spend their summers conducting research in German laboratories through the German Academic Exchange Service-Research Internships in Science & Engineering Scholarship (DAAD-RISE) program.

Sponsored by the German Academic Exchange Service (DAAD), RISE is an internship program for undergraduate students from the United States, Canada, and the United Kingdom to conduct research in the fields of biology, chemistry, physics, earth sciences, and engineering. RISE students conduct research at universities and research institutions across Germany for up to three months during the summer. They are matched with advanced doctoral students who serve as their mentors, and they receive a stipend from DAAD to assist with living expenses, while partner universities and research institutes provide housing assistance. In the past seven years, 40 Rochester students have been chosen as DAAD-RISE scholars.

South Brunswick, N.J., native Corey Garyn ’15 will travel two hours west of Berlin to conduct research at the University of Göttingen. A cell and developmental biology and philosophy double major, he will work on a project to develop gene modification techniques in a nonhuman primate model and will research techniques that can be used to induce gene knockouts and insertions at known target sites within a genome. He hopes the three months at the German university will familiarize him with the process of designing his own experiments and guiding his own projects through to completion.

Garyn brings to the Göttingen lab two years of research experience at Rochester, first as an independent researcher in Dr. Xin Bi’s lab studying the role of the protein Fun30 in yeast.  Currently, he is researching lineage-specific traits of spiralians in Dr. David Lambert’s lab and will continue to do so after his summer in Germany.  While Garyn is enthusiastic about learning new genetic engineering techniques from researchers in the German lab, he is especially eager to experience a new culture. “I am most looking forward to the experience of living in another country for almost three months,” he explains. “I have little knowledge of much outside of the Northeastern United States and exposure to a new culture and way of life will hopefully widen my perspective a bit.”

For self-described European history buff Austin Mottola ’15, DAAD-RISE is the perfect study abroad program. It provides the biochemistry major and chemistry minor with the opportunity to conduct research at the Technical University of Dresden (TUD) in Dresden, while affording him the chance to travel to historic cities including Prague and Heidelberg.

Mottola, who intends to pursue advanced degrees in biochemistry or chemical biology, has worked for a year at the Phizicky Lab at Rochester’s Medical Center, conducting a pair of research projects. As a scientist-in-training, he looks forward to learning new techniques in biological research, specifically in the field of molecular biology. At TUD, the Somers, N.Y. native will attempt to identify the physical orientation of membrane proteins found in the inner and outer membranes of the mitochondria of yeast. “Though I am a biochemistry major, no field, especially those within biology, exists within a vacuum and it will be good for me to explore new fields of research,” he says.

Electrical and computer engineering major Seth L. Schober ’16 will spend his DAAD-RISE time at the University of Kaiserslautern, conducting research in the field of electrical engineering. Specifically, he will look into the effect of subjecting various metamaterials to radiation in the terahertz range in order to create optically tunable metamaterials.

He spent the last year working in Rochester’s electrical and computer engineering department on a project that looks to implement color versions of 2D barcodes that already exist, and in turn, increase the amount of data that could be stored in the barcode. He hopes the DAAD-RISE experience will broaden his knowledge of the different job functions for electrical engineers. “For me, the most academically valuable portion of the experience is a chance to gain familiarity with research as a profession,” he says. “I’m far from certain about my post-graduation plans, so I’m looking to gain a variety of experiences that might help make this decision easier when the time comes around.”

Outside of the classroom, Schober, who is a native of Palmer, Alaska, serves as a volunteer physics tutor through the Society of Physics and is a member of the University’s Debate Union.

During her DAAD-RISE trip, Natalie Y. Tjota ’16 will assist on a project geared towards studying cellular responses to long-term exposure to stressful environments in Muenster, Germany. A biomedical engineering major at Rochester, Tjota will build on a one-year research experience as an assistant in Dr. Sellix’s lab at the Medical Center, where she studies the role of BPA in circadian rhythms that regulate gene expression. “DAAD-RISE will allow me to further practice research techniques and expand my knowledge about the circadian clock mechanism in other organisms,” she says. “I also will be able to learn about other research projects during the program’s research symposium.”

Tjota, who also majors in East Asian studies at Rochester, is a member of the Society of Women Engineers and Students Helping Honduras. A native of Federal Way, Wash., she is an oboist in Rochester’s Symphony Orchestra and a Gamelan performer at the Eastman School of Music.

The DAAD-RISE program will take Steven Torrisi ’16 to Northeast Germany, to conduct research at the Max Planck Institute for Plasma Physics. While there, the Red Hook, N.Y. native will work to develop computational models, which will assist in the design of the Wendelstein 7-X stellarator fusion reactor. “I am most looking forward to getting immersed in German culture and working at the Institute for Plasma Physics, which is a unique leader in the kind of nuclear fusion which it focuses on,” he says, noting that to him, nuclear fusion represents the most promising and exciting future form of energy. “I currently plan to research plasma physics, and aspire to be a leader in the next generation of fusion technology research. This project represents a way to engage with fundamental research surrounding magnetic confinement fusion, to meet experts in the field, and to play a part in the future of fusion.”

Torrisi has worked under the tutelage of Dr. Christian Stoeckl, a senior scientist at the Laboratory for Laser Energetics, on computational simulations of particle scattering in nuclear fusion reactions. This fall, he plans to join the laboratory of Professor Nicholas Vamivakas, who conducts quantum physics and quantum optics research. In addition to his studies, Torrisi is a varsity debater for the debate team, sits on Rochester Center for Community Leadership’s Committee for Political Engagement, and plays tenor saxophone in the Wind Symphony. He also is a member of the Society of Physics Students, and is the scholarship chairman for Phi Kappa Tau fraternity.

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Category: Student Life