Faculty mentors were given awards and several students presented their various research projects at the Honors Undergraduate Research Opportunity Program Mentor Awards and Top Oral Abstracts presentation to an audience of nearly 30 students, faculty and staff Tuesday. 

In past years the Honors UROP presentation has been incorporated into the UROP symposium, which will take place next Tuesday. This year, it was separated because of an issue with space inside the Michigan Union, where the symposium is slated to take place.

Vice President of Research Jack Hu told attendee that when he talks with alumni from across the globe, they often cite the incredible opportunities they had through UROP.

“When graduates from Michigan come and talk with me, they don’t usually come and talk about football or coach Harbaugh,” he said. “One experience they discuss most often is their undergraduate research experience. Research is an opportunity to develop independent thinking and solve problems.”

Six Mentor Awards were given out during the event to research scholars, research students in their second years who work with undergraduate students through the UROP program from student nominations. 

The winners included Daniel Lucas-Alcaraz, assistant professor of cell and developmental biology; Mark Clague, associate professor of music; Elizabeth Duval, lecturer in psychiatry; Elizabeth Goodenough, lecturer in arts and ideas in the humanities program; William Carson, research professor of pathology; and Chithra Perumalswami, lecturer of internal medicine.

LSA sophomore Julia Kropa, one of the students who presented, discussed work on the Tel Kedesh Publication Project in which she is preparing a manuscript looking at the findings from the archaeological excavation of Tel Kedesh, Israel. The site featured more than 2,000 clay sealings, which were used by public officials to mark documents and featured artistic representations of different mythological figures or other symbols or animals.

Kropa’s work centered on organizing the images of the sealings online in a more accessible format. She said this process is key to aiding future researchers in better understanding her field.

“The information that it contains and that the manuscript will detail is really important to other archaeologists when they uncover other research on Hellenistic archives,” she said. “If these images are uploaded in a more accessible format it will widen the scope of the audience who will be able to access it and give other archeologists a better idea of how this information can be used.”

LSA sophomore Kathryn Zoller and LSA sophomore Emma Kinery also talked about their work, which focuses on the History of UM Museums and Collections project. Kinery is also a news editor for The Michigan Daily.

The research details the history of the University’s museum system from 1837 to 1900 and will be published in a book in 2017 as part of the bicentennial presentation, which funded their project. Zoller said recent contributions to the University’s museums demonstrate its continued prestige.

“The fact that we were given the Bristol mammoth — discovered by Jim Bristol this past year — is important because they still see us as a depository for important specimens,” she said. “These collections help improve the prestige of the University and the University is seen as important because of all of these collections.”

LSA sophomore Victoria Rai additionally discussed her research into the methods in transcriptional regulation of RNA, a step in the process cells use to make proteins in which DNA is copied to RNA. Rai has worked in with the Walter Lab in the Department of Chemistry since her freshman year. Her research aims to find ways to regulate the transcription process in order to combat diseases, which can occur due to errors in this stage.

She said her research is valuable for its ability to impact the lives of individuals suffering from genetic disorders.

“My research is important because there is a lot of genetic disorders — I have one myself — and it’s hard to deal with sometimes,” she said. “It shows that we are growing as a science community, and the ability to grow the technology and have these advances to impact people’s lives as a researcher is really valuable to me.”

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