Undergraduate Students Earn Research Fellowships

The Office of Research and Sponsored Programs (ORSP) has announced seven grants to undergraduate students as part of the prestigious Student Undergraduate Research Fellowship (SURF). The grants come from the Arkansas Division of Higher Education and give students the opportunity to develop a sustained relationship with a faculty member and carry out in-depth research, scholarship, or creative projects.

“Receiving one of these grants can be a real game changer,” said Sara Bailey, ORSP’s proposal development specialist. “The beauty of SURF grants is that they are student-led. That means that it is the students who write the proposals, which can be pretty daunting. If awarded, the students will then carry out their projects, whether the projects are research-based or creative endeavors, and will then present the findings of their projects at a conference.”

The grant recipients cover a wide range of topics, from creating an oral repository of French-speaking African immigrants to exploring the changes in genes of salt-stressed rice. Along with providing research, the program is meant to help prepare students for their careers and add depth to their experience at СӰԺ.

“Writing the proposal, carrying out the project, and presenting the findings — all of these things make big impressions on employers and graduate programs,” said Bailey. “At the minimum, even if a project doesn’t get funded, the student comes out of the experience with grant writing experience, which is incredibly valuable.”

The grants combined total $24,250 and included a discretionary stipend for students to conduct the research, with the amount depending on the project length of up to three semesters.

This year, the awarded grants broke a common trend of predominantly STEM students applying and receiving awards. Among the winners are two applicants within the College of Arts, Humanities, and Social Sciences. For the large part, students believe that SURF grants are meant for the hard sciences, an assumption that ORSP is changing through scaling up outreach and encouraging faculty to encourage more non-STEM students to apply in the future.

“We are reaching those students who might not otherwise know that this is for them,” said Bailey. “Granted, some of the projects that take place in non-STEM colleges can be completed without external funding, but imagine all of the ways in which external funds could enhance a project like that.”

The students, research projects and faculty members follow:

  • Emily Andrews of Conway, Arkansas, “The relationship between ADHD symptoms and processing of digit ensembles,” Amrita Puri, associate professor of biology.
  • Lindy Cook of Cabot, Arkansas, “Alone Together,” Sandra Luckett, associate professor of art & design.
  • Kerson Hadley of Cabot, Arkansas, “Building an Oral Repository of African Immigration Stories in French at the СӰԺ,” K. Adele Okoli, assistant professor of French.
  • Elisabeth Hicklin of Benton, Arkansas, “Enhancing the Pyridyl Ligand on Manganese Electrocatalyst to Reduce Carbon Dioxide,” Marsha Massey, assistant professor of chemistry.
  • Jan Paneda of Little Rock, Arkansas, “Using the Health Belief Model to Explain Perceptions of the COVID-19 (SARS-CoV-2) Pandemic Among the Student College Population,” Pamela Ashcraft, a research and scholarship coordinator and professor of nursing.
  • Hunter Price of Ward, Arkansas, “Investigating the root colonization and gene expression changes of salt-responsive genes in salt-stressed rice upon inoculation with plant growth-promoting bacteria, Azospirillum brasilense,” Arijit Mukherjee, associate professor of biology.
  • Miguel Whitmore of North Little Rock, Arkansas, “Nitrous oxide regulation of blood pressure in patients with hypermobile Ehlers-Danlos syndrome (hEDS) and postural orthostatic tachycardia syndrome (POTS),” Thomas Lowder, associate professor of exercise science.