From genes to public policy, Emory College researchers shine

By April Hunt | Emory Report | March 2, 2016

From chemistry to psychology, from history to neuroscience, 14 Emory College students recently discussed how their undergraduate research has already allowed them to do meaningful work in the world.

The students met Monday as part of the Scholarly Inquiry and Research at Emory (SIRE) grantees for the spring semester. Each student was awarded up to $1,500 for domestic research and up to $2,500 for international work on projects related to their areas of study and interest.

“It’s wonderful and exciting scholarship they are doing,” says Folashade Alao, co-director of the Undergraduate Research Programs with Gillian Hue in Emory College. “It has a profound impact on how they understand their field, so they not only see how a question is pursued but how an answer develops.”

Final reports on the projects are not due until April. But this week, during a Show and Tell, the students shared with each other the challenges and successes they’ve had so far on their work.

Among the projects underway:

  • Senior Takuya Maeda’s examination of civil rights projects completed, and alliances unmet, following the 1988 reparations for Japanese-Americans forced into internment camps during World War II.
  • Senior Meghan Hickey’s study of pupillary responses to images of clustered holes, a fear known as trypophobia, when compared to known fears of snakes and spiders and neutral images.
  • Senior Dalila Vazquez Herrera’s research into ways to expand medical coverage to indigenous Mexicans, especially Mixtec speakers who face language and cultural barriers when seeking care.

“It’s exciting to experience research full-time,” says junior Daniel Kikuchi, whose work exploring the role of the gene Poldip2 in cardiovascular health indicates it can both cause and mediate repair of those muscle cells. “You have to be kind of creative to see where the holes are in the knowledge and work to fill them.”

This event was designed to provide the students with a platform to share their workarounds and future plans. The interdisciplinary nature of the forum, which was held in collaboration with the Fox Center for Humanistic Inquiry, also fostered networking across fields.

Some of the student researchers had already presented their work at national conferences in their fields and at various symposiums. All of them will be part of an all-Emory research symposium later this spring, Alao says.

“These are students who may go on to grad school, to an MD or PhD, who have already had hands-on work in their field,” she says. “For those students interested in industry or non-profit careers, research experiences also have an equally profound impact, from building problem-solving skills to experience collaborating with others and designing a project.

“They are doing creative, innovative and profound work that should be seen by their peers as a model of the unique avenues of scholastic exploration possible at Emory and an example of the robust community of undergraduate researchers present in the College,” Alao says.

For more information on undergraduate research opportunities, contact Folashade Alao.

Full list of Spring 2016 SIRE independent grantees

  • Hannah Rose Blakeley (Interdisciplinary Studies)
  • Dalila Vasquez Herrera (Spanish and Biology)
  • Meghan Hickey (Psychology)
  • Abigail Holst (Chinese and Human Health)
  • Daniel Kikuchi (Biology)
  • Trinity Kronk ( Neuroscience and Dance and Movement Studies)
  • Timothy Justin Libecap (Neuroscience and Behavioral Biology)
  • Takuya Maeda (History)
  • Margaret Martinez (Neuroscience and Behavioral Biology)
  • Samoni Nag (Psychology)
  • Alexandra Nutaitis (Neuroscience and Behavioral Biology)
  • Grace Swaim (Biology)
  • Ansley Unterberger (Neuroscience and Behavioral Biology)
  • Stephanie Wahab (Neuroscience and Behavioral Biology)