The 2011-12 Undergraduate Research Scholars Awards recipients discussed their proposed projects and what they expect to discover on May 4.
Meaghan Haugh

From left to right: Dr. Danielle Jacobs, Amanda Walker, Brian Blanda, Jennifer Sorensen, Nicole Singer and Dr. Donald Steven

The Independent Scholarship and Creative Activity Presentations Day showcased the outstanding academic and creative work of more than 60 undergraduate students on May 4. The day featured the annual Undergraduate Research Scholars Awards (URSA), a poster session and panel presentations.

Each year, the URSA Committee presents $5,000 research scholarships to Rider students in the colleges of Business Administration; Liberal Arts, Education, and Sciences; Continuing Studies and the Westminster College of the Arts. During a morning session, the 2011-12 URSA recipients discussed their proposed projects and what they expect to discover. URSA Scholars from the 2010-11 academic year also presented their findings.

Research categories ranged from “Explorations in Ethnomusicology” and “Economic Challenges in the Americas” to “Current Advances in Cancer Research,” “Class, Culture and Conflict, and “Teaching for the 21st Century.”

The URSA recipients, who will spend the 2011-12 academic year working on their research, are:

Aubrey Maks, a senior Music Education and Music Composition, History and Theory dual major

The Significance of Maori Culture in the World of Popular Music

Faculty Advisor: Dr. Eric Hung, associate professor of Music History

Maks will examine popular Maori music and its relevance today. Her research will explore how Maori popular musicians use traditional Maori music, as well as how Maori popular music preserves its cultural history and identity.

Brian Blanda, a junior Economics major

The Effects of United States Deficit and Debt on the Country’s GDP

Faculty Advisor: Dr. Kelly Noonan, professor of Economics

Blanda seeks to understand the impact that the United States’ continuous federal deficit and debt have on the stability and growth of the nation’s Gross Domestic Product (GDP). His historical analyses of the US federal deficit and debt in relation to GDP, and examinations of current fiscal and monetary policies, should provide contemporary data that can be employed in future policies to correct the adverse effects of the US federal deficit and debt.

Amanda Walker, a senior Behavioral Neuroscience major

The Relationship of Intestinal Microbiota Composition to Immune Function in Wild-type and Immune Molecule Knockout Mouse Strains

Faculty Advisor: Dr. James Riggs, professor of Biology and Dr. Kelly Bidle, professor of Biology

Within the vertebrate gut lives a multitude of symbiotic bacteria that perform countless functions for their host in exchange for a stable environment to inhabit. Over the last several years, increasing data suggest that this gut microbiome plays a key role in immune function. Combining previous research with this new area of interest, Walker will examine the relationship between immune function and the vertebrate microbiome by investigating the characteristics of a normal microbiome as well as the effect of altered immune function on its composition.

Jennifer Sorensen, a junior Secondary Education and History dual major

New Currents of Fascism: Neo-Nazism in the Russian Federation

Faculty Advisor: Dr. Lucien Frary, associate professor of History

Sorenson will examine neo-Nazism in Russia since the fall of the Soviet Union in 1991. Although the subject of neo-fascism is generally ignored by scholars, in Russia the movement has seeped into the political sphere, creating an environment too dangerous to ignore. Sorenson seeks to explore the endurance of neo-Nazism in Russian politics and society, and illuminate how Russia has become home to half of the world’s active neo-fascist groups.

Nicole Singer, a junior Secondary Education and English dual major

The Impact of Leadership Training on Pre-service Teachers: A One Year Study of Teacher Leadership

Faculty Advisor: Dr. Carol Brown, professor of Teacher Education

Hypothesizing that leadership training is critical for pre-service teachers, Singer seeks to develop a leadership training module for the undergraduate student teaching seminar at Rider University for Fall 2011.  The results of a needs assessment of the School of Education graduates, Education professors, and school principals, will guide the development of the leadership module, and could directly impact the curriculum in the School of Education.

URSA Scholars from the 2010-2011 academic year also presented their findings. Those students included: Di Zhao, a senior Voice Performance major (Allure of the Unattainable: Themes of Lost or Unrequited Love in Early 20th Century German Lieder and Chinese Folk Songs); Heather Chojnacki, a senior Spanish and Global Multinational Studies dual major (Cultural Limits: Challenges to Microfinance in the Southern Cone); Ashley O’Brien, a senior Secondary Education and Biochemistry dual major (The Effects of VEGF on Suppression in the Tumor Microenvironment); Bonnie CochranPainter, a senior Liberal Studies major (Is Breastfeeding a Class Issue?); and Samantha Bennett, a senior Secondary Education and Psychology dual major, and Victoria Capozzalo, a senior Secondary Education and Integrated Sciences and Math dual major, Education & Mathematics (Effectively Teaching Mathematics in Suburban and Urban School Settings).