By Blair Hoover, Rebecca Stratton
(May 8, 2015) — Three University of Kentucky students have received the Undergraduate Research Abroad Scholarship (UGRAS), which will support their international independent research projects during the 2015 summer session.
Annie Griggs, a biology major in the College of Arts and Sciences, Faith VanMeter, a psychology major in the College of Arts and Sciences and Marcel Roman, a political science and international studies double major in the College of Arts and Sciences are the recipients of the scholarship — chosen because they demonstrate the ability to explore exceptional academic undergraduate research abroad with the support of UK faculty mentors. UGRAS is a result of funding from a collaboration between the UK Education Abroad Scholarship fund and the Office of Undergraduate Research. The Office of Undergraduate Research is a part of the Academy of Undergraduate Excellence within the Division of Undergraduate Education at UK. UGRAS awards each recipient $5,000.
“The UGRAS award is a special highlight for me as both a researcher and the director of undergraduate research at UK," said Diane Snow, who is also a professor of neuroscience. "It’s so exciting to be able to offer these students the opportunity to take their research inquiries to the next level and simultaneously experience research from a global perspective. The experiences they will have outside the U.S. will benefit not only them and their career goals, but the goals of their UK mentors and the overall UK research mission. We at the Office of Undergraduate Research, and Education Abroad, who jointly sponsor the UGRAS, are so very proud of our amazing students!”
Griggs will complete her project, "Temporal Predictability of Nectar: Does it differently influence aggression in cloud forest hummingbirds based on species and breeding season?" in Costa Rica. Her UK faculty mentor is David Westneat, professor in the Department of Biology and director of graduate studies.
"I am beyond thrilled to receive this scholarship. I love ecology and field work and to have this opportunity to do research in the cloud forest in Costa Rica is incredible," Griggs said. "Going abroad for this experience not only opens me up to the rich and unique biodiversity of Costa Rica, but also to different methods and ideas. I hope to go to graduate school and pursue a Ph.D. for ecology, so this experience fits perfectly into my future career and research interests. I am so grateful that I was chosen to receive this scholarship, and I cannot wait to get started!"
VanMeter will complete her project, "The Role of Emotional Support During Child Abuse Victim Interviews: Benefits for Disclosure and Evidence Gathering," in England. Her UK faculty mentor is Peggy Keller, member of the Developmental Psychology Program and faculty associate of the Center for Research on Violence Against Women.
"I am very honored to receive this scholarship," VanMeter said. "This experience will allow me to gain valuable research skills that I will be able to apply in graduate school. I hope to become a clinical psychologist, and this project will be very relevant to the population that I hope to work with as a clinician. Additionally, I have never been out of the country before, and this will allow me to become more cultured and gain a sense of independence. I am extremely excited about this upcoming adventure, and I know it will be very rewarding."
Roman will complete his project, "Land Rights and Ethnic Politics in Fiji," in Fiji. His UK faculty mentor is Emily Beaulieu, assistant professor in the Department of Political Science.
“As a policy debater and member of the UK Debate Team, I’ve been acquiring research skills on a variety of topics for seven years," said Roman. "This time, however, the UGRAS scholarship will help provide me with the tools and skills necessary to produce and develop my own research from the field instead of merely synthesizing information from the work of others.
“This opportunity afforded to me from UGRAS isn't just to simply analyze and further understand the socio-cultural processes of Fijian politics, it’s an opportunity to open myself up to vulnerability and to be self-reflexive in the gaps that my methods and research may produce vis-à-vis an environment and group of people that are dealing with a civil society that is fundamentally distinct from the American and Western experience.”
The institutional benefit of undergraduate research is only a part of why Anthony Ogden, director of Education Abroad at UK, deems the scholarships a smart investment.
"As a Research 1 institution, we are investing in ways to ensure students graduate with the essential knowledge and skills to engage with their discipline on the world stage. Conducting research abroad will help students learn firsthand the demands and rigor of their field in a real-world way.”
Ogden has observed that undergraduate students who participate in research abroad programs often go on to pursue graduate or professional degrees in their fields.
"These experiences not only foster knowledge and skills in a given research area, but they can also lay a foundation for a student’s professional network."