Undergraduate Research Center honors students and mentors
LAWRENCE — In early May, the University of Kansas Center for Undergraduate Research honored recipients of the Courtwright Award for Undergraduate Research Excellence and the Undergraduate Research Mentor Awards.
Courtwright Award for Excellence in Undergraduate Research
Yanzhe (Jenny) Zhang, a senior from Beijing, China, received the Courtwright Award for Undergraduate Research Excellence. Zhang majors in physics and astronomy and is mentored by Ian Lewis, associate professor of physics and astronomy.
Zhang’s undergraduate research project focuses on particle physics and the search for new physics to explain how the universe works. In her project, she performs particle collision simulations using Python, a computer programming language, and MadGraph5, a particle collision simulation software. Zhang’s work on this project began after taking the introductory quantum mechanics course with Lewis. Zhang has presented her research at several conferences, including Particle Physics on the Plains, the American Physical Society (APS) Prairie Section, and the APS Conference of Undergraduate Women in Physics, with plans to publish her research in a scientific journal. . See Zhang’s research presentation at 25and Annual Undergraduate Research Symposium website.
The Courtwright Award for Undergraduate Research Excellence was established at KU Endowment in 2020 with contributions from David (c’74) and Chris Courtwright (c’83, j’83). The Courtwright Prize is intended to recognize undergraduate students majoring in the College of Liberal Arts and Sciences whose research and creative work are likely to make significant contributions to their fields of study. Chris Courtwright attended the May 4 celebration with Kade Townsend, the winner of the fall 2021 award. Zhang will receive $500 in addition to the previously issued $1,000 undergraduate research grant.
Courtwright Award finalists are selected from undergraduate research scholarship applications each semester. Along with Zhang, the other Courtwright Award finalists for the Spring Semester 2022 were:
- Logan Honeycutt, “First Principles Calculations of Multivalent Ions in Vanadium Oxide for High-Performance Battery Cathodes,” tutored by Hartwin Peelaers, Assistant Professor of Physics and Astronomy
- Lauren Prehn, “A Comparison of Social Communication Ratings to Parents in School-Aged Children with ASD,” mentored by Meghan Davidson, Assistant Professor of Speech-Language Pathology
- Margaret Lockwood, “Illuminating the Unseen: Microbial Exploration Through Mixed Media Expression”, mentored by Ben Sikes, Associate Professor of Ecology and Evolutionary Biology
- Sophia Danielle Perniciaro, “Can we affect demand for cigarettes using enhanced graphic warning labels that include oral health?”, mentored by Derek Reed, Professor of Applied Behavioral Science
The Center for Undergraduate Research also announced the winners of two annual awards given to recognize undergraduate research mentors who make a difference in the lives of their students at KU.
Lena Hileman, professor and chair of the Department of Ecology and Evolutionary Biology, is the recipient of the 2022 K. Barbara Schowen Undergraduate Research Mentorship Award. This faculty award is named for the professor emeritus of chemistry whose efforts to promote undergraduate research at KU led to the development of the Undergraduate Research Symposium. Hileman will receive $1,000 for the prize.
Hileman’s research focuses on the evolution of plant development. She has worked with many undergraduate students in her lab on projects that include flower color genetics, fruit development, and microscopy and imaging techniques. She has also worked with undergraduate students in the McNair Scholars and Emerging Scholars programs. His students noted that Hileman provided exceptional mentorship throughout the research process and beyond.
Srishti BaidPhD student in molecular biosciences, and Pietro Longo Hollanda De Mello, a doctoral candidate in ecology and evolutionary biology, are the recipients of the 2022 Undergraduate Research Mentorship Award. This award was launched in 2014 at the request of undergraduate students who wanted to recognize the important role undergraduate students play. seniors, postdoctoral researchers, and academic staff in mentoring undergraduate scholars at KU. Baid and De Mello will also receive $1,000.
Baid studies the infectious bacterium Chlamydia trachomatis. She has mentored several students and taught them many useful laboratory skills, including performing cell cultures, microscopy imaging, protein-protein interaction techniques, cloning, and other fundamental molecular biology techniques. His undergraduate mentees expressed how valuable his investment in their success and growth as scientists was to them.
From Mello studies the evolution of tropical reptiles and amphibians. He has mentored students in projects on lizard color patterns, morphology, and coding, and has a strong track record of integrating diversity, equity, and inclusion efforts into his mentorship. His mentees noted how welcoming and inclusive he was.
KU Endowment is the independent, non-profit organization serving as the official fundraising and fund management organization for KU. Founded in 1891, KU Endowment was the first such foundation at an American public university.
Photo top right: Yanzhe (Jenny) Zhang (left), Spring 2022 recipient of the Courtwright Award for Undergraduate Research Excellence, pictured with Chris Courwright (middle), KU alumnus and donor, and Kade Townsend (right), recipient of the fall 2021.
Bottom right photo: Mentor award recipients Pietro Longo Hollanda De Mello (left), Lena Hileman (middle) and Srishti Baid (right).