Tag Archives: Center for Undergraduate Research and Scholarship

GRU alumna takes a look at Southern living in her first novel

[Click here to read this story on Jagwire.]

Anna Schaeffer, Honors Program alumna and former CURS Summer Scholar, will join us to talk about turning her Honors thesis into her first published novel on Tuesday, Oct. 6 from noon to 1 p.m. in the Quad Wall Building on the Summerville campus.

Schaeffer holds a degree in English from GRU and was a finalist in the WestBow Press New Look Writing Contest.

Her first novel, titled “All of This,” follows the story of Sadie Franklin, a young woman making the (rather difficult) transition from living in Seattle to living in rural Georgia. Schaeffer describes Franklin as being “all about independence,” a trait that makes her forced adjustment to life in fictional Pecan Creek, Georgia, all the more troubling.

“All of This” is currently available for purchase from Amazon and Barnes & Noble.

Copies will also be available for purchase at the event.

Attendees are also invited to the “All of This” book release party on Saturday, Oct. 10 from 1-3 p.m. at the Book Tavern. The release party will feature a reading and signing, along with giveaways and a Q&A with the author herself.

Upcoming CURS Brown Bag Seminars

The mission of the Center for Undergraduate Research and Scholarship (CURS) is to promote and support research, scholarship and creative activity at the undergraduate level. From the very beginning, CURS has made great strides to see that members of our undergraduate population are afforded multiple opportunities to advance themselves in both a creative and scholarly fashion.

CursBrownBagOne way they’ve accomplished this is through the hosting of Brown Bag Research Seminars for undergraduate research.

These seminars, hosted on select Fridays throughout the semester, give students a chance to flex their research muscles and show off their hard.

Each session will be held at 1 p.m. in the JSAC Ballroom. Free pizza will be provided for every event, but guests are also welcome to bring their own lunches.

For more information about CURS Brown Bag Research Seminars, call the Center for Undergraduate Research at 706-729-2094 or visit gru.edu/curs.

To view a listing of upcoming Brown Bag Seminars, click the flyer above.

Into the Minds of Heroes: GRU undergrad studies the psyches of superheroes

As an Honors Criminal Justice and Psychology double-major, one exceptional Georgia Regents University student has dedicated himself to a strain of research that is as intriguing as it is unbelievable.

You see, Austin Hendricks studies the minds of superheroes.

“I’ve always had an interest in the concept of superheroes,” said Hendricks. “While the majority of my interest focuses on specific mediums, I’ve read many of the comics that have been collected into graphic novels.”

For the purpose of this particular study, Austin limited his study to only the movie portrayals of certain famous comic characters. More specifically, he focused on the Christopher Nolan Batman trilogy as well as Marvel’s Iron Man and Avengers films.

And, like many successful research ventures, Hendricks’ ideas began in the classroom.

“The idea originated with a paper I wrote for my Abnormal Psychology class,” he said. “I discussed the portrayal of psychology as a discipline and the portrayal of individuals with psychological disorders in the first Iron Man film.”

Once he’d finished that first paper, Hendricks decided he wanted to explore how psychological disorders were portrayed in other superhero films as well. Topics covered in his research include the reasons why heroes resort to alter-egos and vigilantism to cope with their disorders, and how society’s view of “deviant” behavior is shifting in response to the actions of individuals perceived as heroes.

Though finalizing this kind of research is never an easy task, Hendricks said the hardest part was finishing it in one semester.

“It ended up becoming so big that I had to cut some of my ideas to improve the flow,” he said. “Some of the theories I’m using are complex, and it was difficult to explain them in ways that would make sense to readers.”

It was crucial for Hendricks to finish when he did because in addition to its standing as an exceptional piece of research, Hendricks’ study also serves as his Honors thesis.

What’s unique about said thesis, though, is that he’s researching outside of his major to complete it.

Dr. Jared Hegwood, a professor in the Department of English and Foreign Languages, currently serves as Hendricks’ faculty mentor.

“Austin is the third Honors Prospectus I’ve been lucky to have, and the second that focused on super-hero narratives,” said Hegwood. “The Honors Prospectus candidates work with a small committee made up of a faculty adviser and an in-field reader. Over the course of a year, the candidate produces meaningful research in his or her field, spending the first semester on a prospectus and the following on the thesis itself.”

Normally, students producing exceptional research are encouraged to submit their work at Center for Undergraduate Research (CURS) Research Seminars – a terrific venue for high-caliber student research. But Hegwood said he saw something more in Hendricks’ work.

The Comics and Popular Arts Convention is an annual academic conference held in conjunction with Dragon Con, one of the largest multigenre conventions in North America. Hosted yearly in Atlanta, Dragon Con drew in an attendance of more than 50,000 con-goers in 2012, and boasted dozens of celebrity guests from around the globe.

Hendricks will present his thesis at CPAC over Labor Day weekend. In a way, it’s fitting, especially for someone under Hegwood’s guidance. He, too, presented at CPAC not too long ago and said it was a fun opportunity, though he stresses that the much more formal, much more academic CPAC is a far cry from the rowdy fun of DragonCon.

An old hand at working with Honors Prospectuses, he said the experience of working with Honors students is always rewarding, though, whether it involves conventions or not.

“I really enjoy working with thesis students,” said Hegwood. “They’re passionate about the research and it’s always rewarding to be reminded of what first got you excited about your own work.”

He said Honors students are that much more willing to push, to see what works and what doesn’t in their given fields. That same determination often leads to success, and occasionally, camaraderie.

“For me, it’s like having an intense conversation with someone that loves the work as much as I do, a conversation that lasts a year,” said Hegwood. “That it just happens to produce a body of high quality research is a happy accident of my profession.”

CURS grant proposals due Sept. 9

Every semester, the Georgia Regents University Center for Undergraduate Research & Scholarship (CURS) offers several forms of funding to support faculty-led undergraduate student research, scholarship and creative activity.

Currently, there are three forms of funding available. Faculty in all academic disciplines are encouraged to submit proposals.

The three types of available funding are listed below:

Supplies and materials funding – This funding is available to faculty members working with undergraduates, either in a class setting or as individuals, who need supplies in order to complete their research or scholarly activity. Items covered by a supplies and materials funding grant include specialized books, materials, film, chemicals, equipment and more.

Faculty travel funding This funding is intended to support faculty traveling with students to engage in or present research. In order to apply for this type of funding, faculty mentors should accurately explain the activity or conference for which travel is required, how many students will be accompanying and whether or not the faculty member will also be presenting, researching or working and in what capacity.

Faculty development related to undergraduate research and scholarship This funding is used to aid faculty in developing an undergraduate research curriculum – either by attending conferences, workshops or other forums – in order to learn how to improve their ability to engage students in research, scholarship and creative activity. This funding can also be used to purchase books or materials on the topic of undergraduate research in specific disciplines.

Generally, CURS grants are not awarded to support class assignments or class projects. CURS grants are intended to encourage faculty-student work that extends beyond the normal classroom.

Previously funded projects include the making of “The Marshal of Summerville,” a 2015 documentary about George Heckle, a Summerville marshal from the late 1800s and early 1900s, and attendance to the International Writing Center Association/National Conference on Peer Tutoring in Writing’s 2014 Conference Presentations.

All proposals for CURS grants are due on Friday, Sept. 9, 2015.

Applications will only be accepted through the online form located here. Please note you will need to download the budget PDF and upload it with your submission. The budget form can be found here.

For more information about submitting a CURS grant proposal, please contact Abigail Drescher at adrescher@gru.edu.

Baylor Blog: A Fond Farewell

Hello from Baylor University for week eight of my REU program in chemistry. This will be my last blog post of the summer as I approach the final week and a half of my program. With that said, I will try to tell you all about my progress in the past week and where I plan to take my experiment in the final week.

With only 11 days left in the program, I feel the pressure to get all of the experiments done that I want to complete before leaving Waco and Baylor. This week I spent more time in the lab trying to conduct as many experiments as possible so I can have more data for my presentation in the final week of the program. If you recall from previous weeks, I am trying to create six mutation in E.coli’s DnaB helicase using the CRISPR/Cas9 system. Last week I talked about how I was able to get my positive control to work for one colony on one plate from a transformation. These results were good, but the paper that we referred to has the mutation rate at 65 percent, which does not correspond with the small percentage I was able to achieve. To try to correct this discrepancy, I tried the experiment using more than four different strains of E.coli that were developed for recombineering. My idea was that I could find a better strain than the one I was using. Interestingly enough, the three other strains I tested (I also re-tested the strain I was using, HME63), turned out to be horrible at recombineering with CRISPR/Cas9. I was not able to get a single positive colony from those strains. However, HME63 yielded 100 percent genome editing in this second trial. This leads me to believe that my glycerol stock of HME63 with my Cas9 plasmid from the first experiment was bad and that the protein wasn’t functioning properly. This week I will retry all of my other mutations, and I expect that I’ll be able to obtain some of the correct mutations!

At the same time, a freshman in our lab, Benji Son, was able to create two other mutations in the EcDnaB helicase via an in vitro Quickchange procedure. Since Benji is still working on making other mutations as well, I was put in charge of purifying his mutant EcDnaB helicases. This is an awesome experience for me because I am able to use our fast protein liquid chromatography (FPLC) system. This is an advanced instrument used to separate proteins based on their affinity for a stationary phase in differing columns. Over the weekend I was able to run this machine six times and my proteins are nearing purification. I will run a gel filtration column today and hopefully the two mutants will be purified and ready for use in kinetic assays. This is an amazing experience for me because it gives me more skills that I can take forward into graduate school. Likewise, Dr. Trakselis has been away at conferences this week so any problems I encounter, I must solve with limited assistance. This is helping develop me into a better researcher and getting me one step closer to being completely autonomous in the lab setting.

In all, the REU program at Baylor has taught me a lot of helpful techniques that will help me both when I return as an undergraduate researcher at Georgia Regents University and when I apply to graduate programs in biochemistry. There are REU programs across the country and they can easily be found by doing a simple Google search, speaking with your faculty mentor or by talking to Abigail Drescher in the Center for Undergraduate Research and Scholarship. I encourage all faculty and students to get their lab members to apply for next summer’s programs.

Thanks to everyone who kept up with my research this summer. I look forward to presenting my research when I get back to GRU!

Baylor Blog: Success and Future Possibilities

Hello again from Baylor University!

I just finished week seven of the 10-week REU program in chemistry and would like to share with you what I’ve experienced.

Last week I mentioned that I would be spending a lot of time in the lab trying to get a positive control to work for our experiment. If we could get a positive control to work, then we know that it is likely that our other trials will work too.

I tried and re-tried a lot of experiments this week, and on Sunday, I was able to verify that I got the positive control to work properly. As I mentioned before, I am trying to make mutations in E.coli’s DnaB helicase using a recently discovered method of genome editing in bacteria. My positive control consisted of making a silent mutation that would not change the amino acid sequence but would insert a restriction enzyme site so I could screen my colonies to see if I correctly created the mutation. Sunday, I screened the colonies and the restriction enzyme did cut one of my colonies’ genome so I am sure that the mutation was made and that this method of genome editing is viable but that the percentage of recombination reported in the literature may be wrong.

This week, I will be working on creating the mutant strains again. I will be using different strains of E.coli to test whether the recombineering genes in the strain I was using were bad (we are only using recombineering strains). We have also been working on creating these same mutations in a plasmid and have succeeded in making some of the mutations and thus this week I will start protein purification on that mutation while I continue to try to make the other mutations using the CRISPR/Cas system. We also get to present our research at a symposium in two weeks, so I’ll be spending extra time this week working on the poster for the symposium. I feel I’ve learned a lot about being a graduate-level researcher over the course of this program, and I look forward to sharing my results with others and hearing about what everyone else did over the summer.

Outside of the lab, I have enjoyed seeing more of the campus by walking along the Baylor Bear Trail. I met with Dr. Karla Leeper at GRU before leaving Augusta (her previous position was at Baylor) and received tips on where to eat in Waco. Since then, I’ve been trying to visit all of the places she mentioned. I’ve also continued to visit the student life center in my free time to try to enjoy all of the things the campus has to offer.

So far, the REU program has helped ensure that I want to pursue graduate school and more years of research. I have been challenged to solve problems, create new ideas, and produce results. I think that a full summer of research is a must for anyone applying to graduate school and that it will really advance your skills as a researcher.

Until next time!


-Preston Jones

Baylor Blog: Learning from Failure

Hello again from Baylor University!

Week six in the REU program has been a real test. This week, I faced some more frustrating lab results and have had to put my best problem-solving skills to work. Outside the lab, I have enjoyed the Baylor student life center and have started studying for the GRE so I can apply to graduate school in the fall!

The largest part of my week was spent in the lab working on getting my positive control to work properly. Since we were unsure about our previous attempt at creating mutations in the EcDnaB helicase, we decided to go back and restart the process from the beginning with a positive control I designed last week. The goal in this was to get the positive control to work properly so we could trust our results with the other mutations. I spent all week repeating all the previous procedures. On Saturday, I came in to check the results, and I saw we were not able to get good results from the positive. Because of that, I spent the rest of the weekend reading the literature to come up with a way to circumvent my mistakes and get the procedure to work.

In week seven, I will be trying to implement some of the things I came up with over the weekend in order to get the positive control to work. I will also focus on getting the negative control to work as well so I can move forward with the project and get the desired mutations. I think this is an important part of the research, as I can learn to grow as a biochemist from experiencing failures and challenging myself with tough problems. Although it is always nice when experiments work, there is also a lot to learn from the mistakes as well.

Outside of lab, I have spent a lot of time enjoying the student life center here at Baylor. I am trying to enjoy more things on campus while I am here, and the SLC is a wonderful place to spend time. I have played basketball, gone to the gym, and enjoyed the facilities. I look forward to seeing what else there is to offer and fully enjoying my time on campus here at Baylor.

Next week, I plan to spend a lot of time in the lab working on my problems as well as enjoying the SLC more and seeing more of Baylor’s campus. The school has a bear exhibit where the mascot is housed, and I plan to make a trip to see the bears this week as well. Once again, the program has been an amazing learning experience thus far, and I look forward to all that might happen this next week!

Baylor Blog: Setbacks and Successes

Hello again from Baylor University!

It’s hard to believe it’s already week five of the REU program in chemistry! We just completed half of the program, and this week was filled with lots of research successes, setbacks, and other fun things outside the lab.

First off, this week was filled with many more hours in the lab. Last week, I mentioned I had performed my transformation and got bacteria colonies, so I was hoping that I had successfully made some mutations in the DnaB helicase of E.colli. This week was spent screening the colonies that grew for possible successes. We started by doing a genomic prep to purify the genomic DNA from each of the colonies we wanted to screen (I screened about six colonies from each of the six mutations] for a total of 36 colonies screened this week). We then amplified the EcDnaB gene in each of those genomes and finally digested the PCR product with restriction enzymes that should only cut the DNA if we had a successful mutation.

Although we were able to successfully amplify EcDnaB in all of the colonies, we were not able to get any restriction enzyme activity with any of the colonies. We aren’t really sure why this is happening since the literature quotes a 65 percent success rate in this procedure, so I’ll be spending week six working on an explanation. I plan to work mostly with our positive control this week. If I can get the positive control to work properly, then there should be no reason for my other mutations not to work. If that’s the case, I’ll simply repeat the procedure and screen more colonies. It could be the literature value isn’t correct and the mutation rate is much lower than 65 percent. If that’s the case, a larger population should help me get the desired mutations.

Outside the lab this week, we attended a Fourth of July celebration that the city of Waco and Baylor put on. This took place on Baylor’s campus, and thus we were able to walk over and enjoy the food trucks and watch the fireworks. We also spent Sunday cheering on the U.S. women’s national soccer team as they defeated Japan in a 5-2 victory in the FIFA World Cup. Although the focus of the REU is on research and developing future graduate students, it’s nice that we’re also afforded the opportunity to enjoy the Baylor campus and events put on by the city of Waco.

I look forward to week six and furthering my research. I will also spend this week working on a presentation that we all will give on our research at the conclusion of our time here. With the help of my PI, Dr. Trakselis, I am learning how to use new software to create interesting graphics that will serve as great visual aids on posters and presentations to come!

Baylor Blog: A Change of Scenery

Hello from Baylor University!

I just completed week four of what has already been an amazing research experience at the Baylor University REU program in chemistry. This week was filled with cool research and a few extra things to spice up the experience.

ThealamoFirst and foremost, the emphasis on conducting meaningful research has been high, and thus I have spent the majority of my time in the lab working on my project. This week was incredibly successful for me. Last week, I got my ligation to work, and this week, I screened those colonies to discover that about 90 percent of my E.coli colonies contained the correct plasmid, which meant I could move forward with my research. As I stated in week one, I am working with a new technique in molecular biology called the CRISPR/Cas9 genetic editing system.

I just completed creating the CRISPR part of the system. And we already have the Cas9 part, so this week, I was able to do some transformations to attempt to edit the E.coli genome. After spending the rest of the week working on prepping cells for these transformations, I finally got the transformations done and came in Saturday to find I had cells growing on all of my transformation plates.

This means there is a 65 percent chance (from literature) I’ve created the mutation in E. coli’s DnaB helicase I desired. This week will be spent amplifying the gene and using restriction enzymes to test if I created the change I believe I did. After that, I will move forward with expressing and purifying the protein for kinetic assays later this summer.

Outside of research, the rest of the week was also interesting. As usual, we had our weekly research talk. Dr. Bill Hockaday talked to us about his work with wildfire charcoals and how he uses the charcoal deposits to understand fire-climate interactions. However, what really made this week unique was that my PI, Dr. Trakselis, hosted a chemistry department volleyball tournament on Friday. Eight labs brought six players (per lab) to the student life center to play in a double elimination tournament. This was an awesome way to give everyone a break from being in the lab and to have fun. Our lab came in third.

Another fun change added to the week is that I decided to take the weekend away from research and take advantage of my proximity to some of the larger cities in Texas. My girlfriend, Emily Menendez, spends her summers in San Antonio with her parents, and so I drove to San Antonio and was able to see all that the city has to offer. I enjoyed great food and saw the Alamo, in a relaxing weekend away from the lab.

Week five is this week, and I look forward to doing some awesome research and learning a lot more about my field of interest. Hopefully next week, I can confirm I have positive mutations and can move forward with protein purification! Until then, have a great week!

-Preston Jones

Baylor Blog: Research and Exploration

Hello from Waco, Texas, and Baylor University! I just finished week 3 of 10 in the summer REU program in chemistry and have learned a lot of new things.

1434457434802Last week, we finished attending our advanced instrumentation workshops, so this was the first week where almost every day was 100 percent dedicated to research without interruption. We were able to experience more of what it’s like to be in graduate school and beyond by working in the lab for hours each day. During that time, research was our only goal.

We did get to take a break on Tuesday when a lunch was provided for us. We listened to one of the faculty, Dr. Caleb Martin, talk about his research on “Anti-Aromatic Boron Heterocycles.” I think it’s nice that the program decided to leave in these research talks each week because it challenges us to think outside of our field in chemistry and explore the projects and interest of other researchers at the university. This is worth doing because you might learn something from someone else’s research that could become useful in your own, or vice-versa.

However, even though we were able to take a break to enjoy Dr. Martin’s talk, the focus for the rest of the week was on conducting more research, and that’s exactly what I did. If you remember from last week’s post, I was struggling with a tough plasmid-insert ligation and transformation. This week my PI, Dr. Trakselis, was out of town on business, so it was up to me to get the ligation to work (hopefully before he returned). I spent the beginning of the week testing out all my reagents to ensure that they were all working. Once I discovered that they were all working well, I went to the literature and began reading the different things people have tried to get tough ligations to work. After taking notes on all that I read, I tweaked a few things in the protocol and, sure enough, I came in Saturday morning to successful transformations. That means this week will be spent screening all the colonies to be sure that at least one of them is truly a success.

When I wasn’t doing research, I spent the week exploring the campus. The science building is near one of the campus boundaries and thus I haven’t really seen much of the opposite side of campus. I started my exploration by heading to the bookstore where I picked up some Baylor University apparel. I explored further later Friday night when I went for a run around the perimeter to see how the campus looks with all the lights on. Baylor has an extremely gorgeous campus, and I was able to appreciate all the fine things they’ve done with it.

All in all, this week has been successful both in that my research has taken steps forward and that I have been able to explore some of the campus.

Next week will be similar to this week in that there will be a large focus on the research. However, I’m sure there will be other exciting things, and I look forward to experiencing and sharing them with everyone!

-Preston Jones