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UW Research Program Names Inaugural Class of Student Scholars

November 9, 2015

Twenty University of Wyoming students have been named to the inaugural class of student researchers in the Wyoming Research Scholars Program (WRSP).

The WRSP, a UW Science Initiative-supported program, pairs undergraduate students with faculty mentors who can model the scholarship, teaching, service and outreach activities of a professional scientist. Starting as early as their freshman year, science students can participate in significant research experiences.

“Our goals are to recruit top high school graduates and community college students into the sciences at UW, and to retain current UW science students by providing hands-on, cutting-edge research opportunities that are not often available to undergrads at other institutions,” says Jamie Crait, WRSP director.

Students who take part in undergraduate research are more competitive for jobs and graduate programs following graduation because they alread have gained many of the important tools necessary to be practicing scientists, he says.

Research scholars must be science majors, and they are selected based on research proposals, academic records and letters of recommendation. Once fully implemented, the program will support 25 students in each year of school for a total of 100 students at one time.

WRSP students must participate in a one-credit seminar class each year to learn about the scientific process, ethics, public speaking and writing. Additionally, students will gain experience in communicating science to public audiences through outreach activities, such as discussing their research with K-12 students.

The WRSP funds students’ salaries for their work on research projects, covers the costs of some lab supplies and provides funding for students to present their work at professional conferences. Funding also is available for summer research. A student continues to be eligible for funding if he or she maintains a 3.3 GPA and makes consistent progress as a full-time student toward a degree.

Matthew Lehmitz, a senior in computer science, who is pursuing a second bachelor’s degree, says that being selected for the program means that he can build the scientific career that he wants.

"I can finally do something more than learn about the sciences and the amazing things that are always being discovered and achieved therein,” Lehmitz says. “I now can have a hand in it, and that lends a deep sense of achievement and purpose that can be lacking in labs and other less frontier-driven education.”

Research scholars, listed by hometowns, years in school, majors and titles of projects, are:

Bangalore, India -- Vivek Jain, senior, physics, “Growth of EuO/Si and EuO/CaF2 via pulsed laser deposition and investigating its magnetic nature.”

Buffalo -- Rex Yeigh, junior, physics, “Transit photometry of exoplanets using a robotized telescope.”

Cheyenne -- Isabella Buongiorno, senior, agroecology, and environment and natural resources, “Metal concentrations on reclaimed natural gas well pads in southeastern Wyoming”; Kenny Madsen, junior, chemistry and mathematics, “Synthesis and properties of carbide buckypaper”; and Rachael Winden, senior, chemistry and molecular biology, “C-H bond oxidation by modification of the secondary coordination sphere of a high-valent iron-oxo complex.”

Cody -- Ina Goodman, junior, biology, and environment and natural resources, “Evaluating the influence of sun incidence angle on mapping water bodies in Landsat images”; and Brittany Nordberg, junior, wildlife and fisheries biology and management, “The evolutionary history of Lake Tanganyika’s Nile perch species.”

Flers, France -- Thomas Rochais, senior, astronomy and astrophysics, mathematics and physics, “Data reduction and star clusters in Galaxy NGC 2655.”

Fort Collins, Colo. -- Marisa Moret, junior, physiology, “Behavioral tests on mice to investigate neurological developmental and learning diseases such as schizophrenia, bipolar disorder, autism, and epilepsy”; and Kasey Trotter, sophomore, chemistry, “Synthesis and characterization of Ruthenium (II) complexes for perchlorate remediation.”

Janesville, Wis. -- Rachel Schambow, senior, physiology, “The role and interaction of NKB, vasopressin, and vasopressin-1 alpha receptor in kisspeptin regulation.”

Laramie -- Delta Burchi, freshman, physiology, project title not yet known; Matthew Lehmitz, senior (second bachelor’s degree), computer science, “Using unmanned aerial vehicles to examine epiphytes”; and Richard Yang, senior, computer science and computer engineering, “Improving our understanding of how brains work by better visualizing computational brain models.”

Marietta, Ga. -- Jordan Turner, senior, astronomy and astrophysics, “Characterizing young stellar populations in a sample of nearby dwarf galaxies.”

Rawlins -- Jazlynn Hall, senior, geography and anthropology, “Effect of hillslope and forest age on tree water use in the Panama Canal watershed.”

Rock Springs -- Aaron Strom, junior, chemistry and physics, “Acetylene reactions in solid molecular hydrogen and helium recovery.”

Scotland, S.D. -- Rhiannon Jakopak, senior, wildlife and fisheries biology and management, and religious studies, “Assessing a critical assumption and providing context to remotely sensed data for ecological studies.”

Stevensville, Md. -- Annie Krueger, senior, zoology, “Detecting sublethal effects of imidacloprid on bumblebees (Bombus impatiens).”

Wray, Colo. -- Jordan Brophy, junior, chemistry, “Synthesis of nitrogenated holey two-dimensional structures.”


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