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UW Students Receive PBK Awards at Undergraduate Research Day

July 19, 2017
pictures of Anne Chenchar, Jasper Hunt and Sydney Stein

Three University of Wyoming students were honored for demonstrating excellence in research during the 2017 Wyoming Undergraduate Research Day at UW.

Anne Chenchar, of Cheyenne, and Sydney Stein, from Laramie, were co-recipients of the Phi Beta Kappa (PBK) Award for Excellence in the Liberal Arts. The award recognizes projects within the liberal arts that showcase excellence in nonvocational, nonprofessional or nontechnical studies. Chenchar and Stein received $500 prizes as part of the award.

Jasper Hunt, of Laramie, won the PBK Award for Integrative Excellence in the Liberal Arts, along with a $1,000 prize. Award-winning projects in this category must articulate the interfaces between science and the human condition in a nuanced way that shows understanding and not simply consideration.

“Phi Beta Kappa is an honorary that recognizes scholarly attainment of the liberal arts and the sciences,” says Rachel Watson, a UW Department of Molecular Biology associate academic professional lecturer and PBK member. “Our award categories very much embody this.”

The awards are made possible by an endowment in honor of Louise A. Lee Johnson, who participated in the chartering of UW’s chapter in 1940.

Chenchar, a senior majoring in microbiology and physiology, presented “Magic Use in Roman Sexual Performance.” She worked with her faculty mentor, Laura DeLozier, a senior lecturer in the UW Department of Modern and Classical Languages, to focus her research on the use of magical practices to treat infertility in ancient Roman society. Chenchar also examined magical use through spells and potions, as well as the social aspects of magical use to increase sexual performance.

Stein, a recent UW graduate who majored in communication, with minors in gender and women’s studies, and the Honors Program, investigated the intertwining origin stories in the television show “How I Met Your Mother.” Her research project, titled “The Blue French Horn: Intertwining Origin Stories in ‘How I Met Your Mother,’” shows that two origin stories can occur at the same time without compromising the integrity of another. Stein collaborated with Leah LeFebvre, an assistant professor in the UW Department of Communication and Journalism.

Hunt, a junior majoring in psychology, with minors in philosophy and disability studies, examined the relationship between personality and writing. He and his faculty mentor, Robin Barry, an assistant professor in the UW Department of Psychology, studied personality questionnaires and short writing samples (fewer than 50 words in many cases) from 86 cohabiting couples. Even though the writing samples were brief, Hunt and Barry found weak-to-moderate correlations between personality and writing style.

Hunt says his research project, titled “How Telling is Author Voice? Further Associations Between Personality and Writing,” demonstrates that writing analysis can be remarkably accurate in determining things about a person -- things that the person wasn’t even writing about.

Watson, who headed the awards selection committee, says 250 students submitted brief videos of their work to be considered for the awards. The committee members selected nine finalists from the video submissions. After attending the finalists’ presentations during Undergraduate Research Day, the committee members chose this year’s award recipients.

“Anne’s display was a bold example of the liberal arts, and Sydney’s was a very in-depth analysis,” Watson says. “Quite honestly, Jasper won the integrated category in a landslide victory. His project was a nuanced intertwining of analysis and a beautiful statement on the human condition.”

This year, 491 UW and Wyoming community college students presented their research projects at Undergraduate Research Day. The event recognizes and celebrates the accomplishments of undergraduate student researchers.

Chenchar says her undergraduate research experience at UW has been varied, ranging from the sciences to the liberal arts. She experienced a new way of researching in preparing her Undergraduate Research Day project.

“I learned how to use translated, ancient primary sources and scholarly works written on a similar topic to aid in my findings,” Chenchar says. “I believe that this experience with liberal arts research has made me a more competent researcher, by allowing me to learn new avenues to research and find material outside of the sciences.”

Stein describes her research experience as “absolutely fabulous.” She credits her faculty mentor for guiding her through the research process and not only helping her produce a professional paper, but also submit and present the paper at the Rocky Mountain Communication Association 2017 Conference.

“The one-on-one research experience with Dr. LeFebvre helped shape my education and show me what it’s like to work in an academic setting,” Stein says.

Hunt cites his research experience with helping him to grow academically and personally.

“I truly cannot recommend undergraduate research highly enough,” Hunt says. “To anyone who shares the burning hunger for knowledge that I feel, take that first step. Ask a professor if you can work in their lab. You will not regret it.”

For more information about PBK at UW, visit www.uwyo.edu/pbk.


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Chad Baldwin

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