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PBK Undergraduate Research Day

2019 Awards

The Phi Beta Kappa Awards for Excellence in the Liberal Arts are made possible by an endowment presented to the University of Wyoming Phi Beta Kappa chapter by Harald V. Johnson of Bensenville, Illinois. This endowment, in honor of Louise A. Lee Johnson is now used to support undergraduate students whose scholarship and research display excellence in the liberal arts. Mrs. Johnson participated in the University of Wyoming Phi Beta Kappa Chartering in its inaugural year of 1940. Today, the University of Wyoming is one of only 290 colleges and universities in America to meet the rigorous qualifications for hosting a chapter. This year, the members of the University of Wyoming Chapter are honored to be able to recognize undergraduate researchers who expertly weave together physical, intellectual, ethical and social issues in their research.


On April 27th, 2019, a team of Phi Beta Kappa Scholars judged a series of undergraduate research presentations in order to recognize intellectual merit. Award winners are selected in two categories. The first category honors a project that demonstrates excellence in the liberal arts. The second award is given to projects that integrate an understanding of science and the human condition.

Over four hundred and fifty students presented their research. From these students the Phi Beta Kappa committee selected two winning projects:

Excellence in the Liberal Arts: Kathyrn McVicker

 The winner of the best liberal arts project was Kathryn McVicker, a political science major from Cheyenne. Her project, titled “Ethical Understandings and Approaches to Autonomous Vehicles,” was a nuanced study that considered questions of what aspects of autonomous vehicles governments should be allowed to regulate and what programmers should be allowed to program into autonomous vehicles, such as the ability to speed or run a red light.

Integration of Science and the Humanities: Geology and Geophysics classmates

Students in GEOL 2220: Communicating Earth Sciences won the award for integration of science and the humanities with their project, “A Geologic Companion to John McPhee’s Rising from the Plains.” Their interactive web-based story map was recognized for its skillful exploration of Wyoming’s geologic heritage and development of connections between geology and human experience.

The class project built upon a well-known extended essay by John McPhee set in Wyoming. The travelogue Rising from the Plains (1986) blends the stories of a young schoolteacher who arrived in rural Wyoming in 1905 and of her son, geologist David Love (1913-2002), together with evocative prose describing the visual impact and scientific significance of Wyoming geology.

Participants in the project included geology majors Logan Fox, Henry Hoes, Jiwei Kang, Lou Mallon, Patrick Megown, and Blaire Voss. Graduate student Alex Sivitskis shared his expertise in ESRI story maps and botanist Hollis Marriott contributed expertise in writing for the general public. The class was taught by Professor Carol Frost. Each student chose a locality or geologic feature described in McPhee’s book and composed a story illustrated with maps, historical and modern photographs, figures, and graphs. Viewers choose from these sites and use the web-based application to unfold the story and dive into a greater understanding of Wyoming’s geoheritage.

The story map may be found here:

students that participated in Geology 2220


Spring 2019 GEOL 2220 Communicating Earth Science class, authors of “A Geologic Companion to John McPhee’s Rising from the Plains.” Back row: Prof. Carol Frost, Lou Mallon, Blaire Voss, Patrick Megown, Henry Hoes. Front row: Logan Fox, Hollis Marriott, Jiwei Kang, and Alex Sivitskis.


View Past Undergraduate Research Day Award winners:




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Merica Hall room 10

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