Undergraduates earn research awards totaling nearly $50K

Thirty-two East Carolina University students have received Spring 2020 Undergraduate Research and Creativity Awards totaling more than $50,000, the university’s Office of Undergraduate Research has announced.

The awards provide support for faculty-mentored research and creative projects led by undergraduates in the biomedical sciences, STEM, social sciences, and the arts and humanities fields. This year, STEM project received 13 awards; seven to the social sciences and six to the biomedical sciences — while six went to arts and humanities.

Award selection for this semester was affected by COVID-19. Winners were selected if only they could complete their projects off campus due to sheltering and social distancing guidelines put in place by the UNC System and ECU.

ECU presents the awards during the fall and spring semesters. Students apply with a defined project narrative and budget justification summary they’ve developed in collaboration with a faculty member.

Awards range from $625 to $2,500, depending on the project’s budget. Honors College recipients can receive up to $2,500 with additional support from the college. During the 2019-20 academic year, URCA awards funded more than $120,000 in undergraduate research projects.

The award may go toward project materials and cost, a stipend for the student or travel to conduct field or archival research. Recipients must present their findings at venues including Undergraduate Day during ECU’s Research and Creative Achievement Week and the annual State of North Carolina Undergraduate Research and Creativity Symposium.

“The fact that so many of our students were able to complete their research unencumbered by current social-distancing restrictions is a testament to the expansive research interests of our ECU faculty mentors,” said Lynnsay Marsan, vice chancellor fellow for undergraduate research.

This spring’s URCA award recipients are as follows:

  • Sarah Akers, biology, “Genetics of blue egg coloration in bluebirds”
  • Sneha Amaresh, health education and promotion, “Formative assessment for the development of an undergraduate research experience for college students from farmworker families”
  • Olivia Brandon, psychology, “Mental health stigma and toxic masculinity trends among African-American men”
  • Nicole Cavaliere, dental medicine, “Effects of geraniol against Candida spp.”
  • Elizabeth Chan, physiology and East Carolina Diabetes and Obesity Institute, “Effect of metformin on the lifespan of Drosophila”
  • Schuyler Chernauskas, foreign languages and literatures, “Strong women in leadership: The impact of Catherine the Great on 18thcentury Russia”
  • Melany Contreras, Center for Sustainable Energy and Environmental Engineering, “Extraction of gas hydrates using ocean wave energy”
  • Spencer Crawford, social work, “Finding socioeconomic and geographic factors associated with breast cancer screening behavior in Korean immigrant women”
  • Amiya Cunningham, chemistry, “Quantitating lead and cadmium in teeth: The ECU tooth fairy project”
  • Remington Eakes, chemistry, “Combating antibiotic resistance with siderophores”
  • Ben Estorge, nutrition science, “LIFT OFF”
  • Damani Fitzgerald, physiology, “Environment programs Drosophila offspring phenotype”
  • Merlyn Guevara, engineering, “Virtual reality balance assessment”
  • Aaron Johnson, physiology, “Environment programs Drosophila offspring phenotype”
  • Michael Kardos, mathematics, “Using collisions to calculate Pi in Base 2”
  • Ashton Knudsen, health education and promotion, “Exploring EMS provider bias in the administration of naloxone in opioid overdose patients: A qualitative analysis”
  • Amy Lewis, nutrition science, “Finding water: Creative use of digital storytelling”
  • Lauren McKee, theatre and dance, “Tracking biometrics in dancers using wearable technology”
  • Samantha Taylor Mills, physics, “Novel magnetic therapy to treat breast cancer”
  • Sarah Nolte, health and human performance, “Obesity prevalence among veterans by race and ethnicity”
  • Caleb Paul, Center for Sustainable Energy and Environmental Engineering, “Computational fluid analysis of 3D hydrofoils”
  • Elliot Paul, engineering, “Two- and three-dimensional subject-specific computer modeling of tibial stresses based on MRI and gait analysis”
  • Casey Pursifull, engineering, “Impact of e-textile waste and heavy metal recovery”
  • Elisabeth Reed, engineering, “Discourse analysis of writing from women in STEM”
  • Autumn Stowers, theatre and dance, “Femme fatal”
  • Godgive Umozurike, bioethics and interdisciplinary studies, “In the shadow of Ebola”
  • Owen VanRiper, engineering, “Forecasting substitution of traditional waste for electronic waste in industry 4.0”
  • Michelle Voyles, engineering, “Biodiesel production from waste cooking oils”
  • Mary Warren, kinesiology, “Optimization of lower-extremity injury prevention”
  • Mackenzie Wheeler, engineering, “Mechanical failure of human fetal membrane tissues in premature birth”
  • Shelby Wiggins, engineering, “Growth analysis and environmental impact of e-Waste”
  • Ethan Wolf, theatre and dance, “WONDER: An evening of poetry”

Learn more about ECU’s URCA awards online. More information on individual projects is at the spring 2020 URCA webpage.


-by Matt Smith, University Communications