Students will research human trafficking, biochemistry and musicology, among other topics
By
Robert Leitner ’17
05/05/2017
Five Rider seniors have been selected to receive the 2017-2018 Undergraduate Research Scholar Awards (URSA), which come with $5,000 to assist them in their research. The topics cover human trafficking, biology and biochemistry, as well as musicology and business. 
 
“Selecting the five URSA scholars is always a difficult task,” says Gabriela Smalley, URSA chair and associate professor in the Department of Geological, Environmental, and Marine Sciences. “The applications are of high quality, and the students clearly have invested a lot of time and are very passionate about their project ideas.”
 
Senior Gianluca D’Elia of the College of Liberal Arts and Sciences will study “Slavery in our State: Investigating New Jersey’s Role in Cross-Country Human Trafficking.” He plans on taking an investigative reporting approach to uncover New Jersey’s role in one of the country’s most dehumanizing black markets by showing the interdisciplinary reach of human trafficking throughout social work, health and law enforcement. Jackie Incollingo of the Department of Communication and Journalism is D’Elia’s faculty advisor. 
 
Senior Samantha Ottavi of the College of Liberal Arts and Sciences will study “The synthesis and antibacterial effects of N-(2-(pyridin-2-yl) sulfonamide derivatives.” Pyridine and sulfonamide are functional groups that are widely used by the pharmaceutical industry. Ottavi plans to study how combining these two functional groups on the same molecule can inhibit growth and survival of certain bacteria. Danielle Jacobs, a professor of chemistry, and Kelly Bidle, a professor of biology, are Ottavi’s faculty advisors for her research. 
 
Senior Alexandra Santora of the College Liberal Arts and Sciences will study “The Effects of Temperature on Haloferax volcanii.” She will be examining the single-celled, salt-loving Haloferax volcanii, which thrives in environments like the Dead Sea, in relation to how the high-temperature environments enhance the activity of enzymes that function to catalyze programmed cell-death in multicellular organisms. Santora’s faculty advisor is Kelly Bidle, a professor of biology. 
 
Senior Micaela Bottari of Westminster Choir College will study “La Chanson d’Eve: Two Old Men, une femme, and a Semblance of Paradise.”  With a focus on Gabriel Fauré’s work that was written after he lost most of his hearing, she hopes to expand the existing narrative on Fauré’s writing and show how more recent approaches to such work can provide a fresh perspective. Bottari’s faculty advisor is Eric Hung of the Department of Music Composition, History and Theory. 
 
Senior Eric Monticello of the College of Business Administration will study “Small Business Institute (SBI) Program Analysis.” He will be analyzing the client outcomes from implementing student team consulting recommendations. From this research, he can demonstrate the effectiveness of such recommendations and show other businesses how the SBI program can help start, grow and maintain economic success in a competitive environment.  Monticello’s faculty advisor is Ronald Cook, a professor of management. 
 
Established in the 2003-04 academic year, the URSA program encourages and awards excellence in independent student research and scholarship. It also enhances collaborative work between students and faculty, and heightens the intellectual atmosphere on campus. 
 
“In their own unique and discipline-specific ways, the chosen projects tie together the student’s passion, thorough scholarship, and benefits to society,” says Smalley. “Because the URSAs are awarded for projects that span an entire academic year, URSA recipients are able to immerse themselves into their projects, think critically and creatively about every aspect of their research or scholarship, and come away with a deep understanding of their topic in particular and what it takes to do research in general.”
 
On May 3, Independent Scholarship and Creative Activities Presentations day, the new recipients of the URSAs were announced and the previous recipients were able to showcase their hard work in their end-of-the-year presentations.