Summer research grants give College of Charleston students deeper academic experiences  

June 9, 2021

While the Undergraduate Research and Creative Activities (URCA) Program funds projects year-round, its marquee event is its Summer Undergraduate Research with Faculty (SURF) grants, which seeks to reward cutting-edge, well-designed projects.

“The process is very competitive,” says Charlie Calvert, director of URCA and associate professor of scenic design in the Department of Theatre and Dance. “Only about half the applicants are awarded a grant. It’s a great opportunity for students to practice writing a grant as it is a process some will be doing the rest of their lives.”

Together with a faculty mentor, students apply for grants of up to $6,500. A committee comprised of faculty representing all College of Charleston schools and who are familiar with the grant process review the applications and select the recipients.

Calvert, who’s in his first year as URCA director, knows firsthand the benefits of the SURF program, having served as a faculty mentor for a number of years.

“SURF really is a special program for students,” he says. “For some faculty, mentoring is a big part of our life so our SURF role is second nature. Still, having the summer to work with a student without the distractions of a regular semester allows for an in-depth experience for both the student and the faculty member.”

This year, 59 students applied for SURF grants. A total of 30 were awarded. Here’s a look at nine rising seniors who are working on SURF projects this summer.

Is Estrogen Signaling Responsible for the Effects of Exercise on Synaptic Reorganization in the Spinal Cord After Peripheral Nerve Injury?

Biology major Grace Bader, under the mentorship of psychology professor Jennifer Wilhelm, is studying if treatment with estrogen signaling may be employed during treadmill exercise to mitigate the synaptic changes that occur after an accident causes loss of connections within the spinal cord. If the treatment helps alleviate the synaptic changes, the findings may be able to lead to new pharmacological solutions.

Integration of Video Projections into Scenic and Lighting Design

Theatre major Mary Hope Ballou, under the guidance of Jason Lyons, visiting instructor of lighting design for the Department of Theatre and Dance, is exploring the integration of video and projection into scene and lighting design. To do so, Ballou is shadowing and assisting Lyons, who is the lead designer for the rock musical, Rock of Ages, for Theatre Under the Stars in Houston.

Magnetic Nanoparticles for the Removal of Heavy Metals from Water

With support from Katherine Mullaugh, assistant professor of chemistry and biochemistry, Hussain Bhagat, a biochemistry major, is studying environmentally friendly water purification techniques, specifically the effectiveness of magnetic nanoparticles in removing toxic heavy metals from water. They are also investigating how magnetic nanoparticles can be cleaned and recycled for repeated use.

Uncovering Orellana: Guatemalan Vanguardist

Laura Maria Diaz Coronado, a music and computer information systems double-major, alongside Michael O’Brien, music department chair and associate professor of ethnomusicology, and Yuriy Bekker, adjunct music faculty and director of the College of Charleston Orchestra, is examining a little studied period of the work of experimental Guatemalan composer, instrument creator and violinist Joaquin Orellana. The trio’s research is drawing on ethnomusicology (ethnographic interviews and performance study), musicology (analysis of scores and instruments) and music performance to study Orellana’s work between the 1960s and 1980s.

Investigating Stability of Rogue Waves in Nonlinear Schrödinger Models of Deep-Water Waves

In collaboration with a team at the University of Central Florida, Chapman Lane Ellisor, a mathematics major, and math Professor Annalisa Calini are exploring mathematical models of rogue wave formation (waves that appear suddenly and then disappear without a trace) in the deep ocean, their solutions and the robustness of such solutions to small changes in the initial state and/or in the models themselves.

Addition of Alkylboronic Esters to Electrophiles

Ellie Kraichely, a chemistry major, together with Tim Barker, chemistry and biochemistry associate professor, are exploring how new nucleophile molecules react to various electrophile molecules. The goal is to develop a reaction that may be beneficial in the synthesis of biologically relevant molecules.

An Evaluation and Comparison of Leave-on Personal Care Product Use Among College of Charleston and The Citadel Students

Endocrine disrupting chemicals (EDCs), which are commonly added to personal care products (PCP), have been associated with cancer, reduced fertility and impaired growth and development. Mary Lightsey, a public health major, is working with Leslie Hart, associate professor of public health, to study “leave-on” PCP use and co-use among students attending two universities – one public and one military. The goal is to enhance the understanding of EDC-exposing behaviors and identify pathways for intervention.

Experiences and Expressions in Irish Women’s Reproduction Histories

History major Anna Walter and history Professor Cara Delay are examining criminal (illegal) abortions in Ireland in the 20th century (c. 1900-1967). They hope to place women’s experiences, emotions and words at the center of the analysis of Irish women’s sexual and reproductive experiences during that time.

Passion and Terror: Victorian Monsters and the Gothic Sublime

English and philosophy double-major Patrick Wohlscheid is investigating 18th and 19th century philosophical treatises on the sublime, 19th century Gothic literature and contemporary literary criticism. With mentorship from English Professor Tim Carens, Wohlscheid aims to show that the “mindscape” of Gothic monsters holds the same kind of mesmerizing terror associated with natural landscape.