The 2012-13 Undergraduate Research Scholars Awards recipients discussed their proposed projects and what they expect to discover over the next year on May 2.
Meaghan Haugh
From L-R: Dr. Brooke Hunter, Naomi Vernon, Tom Vajtay, Jessica Canose, Allison Ingram, Michael Zubert and Dr. Don Steven

From L-R: Dr. Brooke Hunter, Naomi Vernon, Tom Vajtay, Jessica Canose, Allison Ingram, Michael Zubert and Dr. Don Steven

The Independent Scholarship and Creative Activity Presentations Day showcased the outstanding academic and creative work of 56 undergraduate students on May 2. The day also 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 2012-13 URSA recipients discussed their proposed projects and what they expect to discover. URSA Scholars from the 2011-12 academic year also presented their findings.

The URSA recipients who will spend the 2012-13 academic year working on their research are:

Jessica Canose ’13, a Spanish major with minors in Latin American & Caribbean Area Studies and Sustainability Studies

Entangled in a Web of Hollywood Dreams: Unearthing the Subtext of Homosexuality in the Works of Manuel Puig

For Jessica Canose’s Spanish senior thesis, under the advisement of Dr. Hernán Fontanet, associate professor of Spanish, she will explore how homosexual individuals are silenced during times of oppression, as portrayed in Manuel Puig’s iconic film, El beso de la mujer araña (Kiss of the Spiderwoman). She will examine the portrayal and psyche of the repressed homosexual individual in Latin America by investigating the psychological methods of coping with social boundaries. Her primarily focus is upon Puig’s escape strategy, wherein protagonists use Hollywood movies as their escape to fantasy, as they live vicariously through female movie stars. Canose is a Baccaulareate Honors Program scholar. This project is a continuation of an Honor’s contract, which she recently presented at Rider’s Gender & Sexuality Studies Colloquium.

Allison Ingram ’13, an Environmental Studies major and French minor

Factors controlling growth rates of oaks, tulip poplars and beech, across George Washington’s Mount Vernon plantation in Virginia 

Allison Ingram’s study applies the latest technology to a classic question in forest ecology. Using tree-ring measurements and GIS maps in Dr. Daniel Druckenbrod’s lab, she will examine relationships between growth rates and basal areas, and topographic wetness index (TWI) and aspect for oaks, poplars and beech across the property on George Washington’s Mount Vernon plantation. The objectives are to determine whether growth rates and basal areas across the site are influenced by TWI and aspect, and if these species respond equally to a moisture gradient. Ingram will make an important contribution to the field as few scholars have linked tree growth to TWI. This project expands on research conducted since her freshman year at Rider, including several trips to Mount Vernon to do field work with Druckenbrod. This past February, she presented a poster at the annual meeting of the Association of American Geographers.

Thomas Vajtay ’13, a Biology major and Economics minor

Strain Specific Variation in the Innervation and Integration of the Optic Nerve in the Suprachiasmatic Nuclei of Mice

Thomas Vajtay’s project in Dr. Todd Weber’s lab promises to help us better understand jetlag through an investigation of how the suprachiasmatic nuclei (SCN) in mammals act as a “clock” that organizes physiology and behavior into circadian (i.e. daily) rhythms. The SCN are synchronized to daily light-dark cycles through direct input from the optic nerves, keeping animals active at appropriate times of the day. He will observe innervation of the SCN in mice that do not show “jetlag” using histochemical techniques as well as examining light-induced gene expression in the SCN in order to better understand how the information from the eyes is integrated in the “clock.” Vajtay has participated in ISCAP Day several times and this May will present his work at a conference on Biological Rhythms in Florida.

Naomi Vernon ’13, a Musical Theater major and Arts Administration minor

The Frozen Curtain: Expanding Arts Business in the Former Easter Bloc

Naomi Vernon’s research on reviving the arts in Post-Cold War Eastern Europe is a student-faculty collaborative project connected to Professor Todd Dellinger’s current scholarship. This summer, she will travel with Dellinger to Germany, the Czech Republic and Hungary to assess political, social and economic transitions in the arts. Her study focuses specifically on the challenges faced by theatre and performing arts institutions and finding solutions based on successful practices in arts business. The research is intended to be a foundation for a Fulbright Scholarship application.

Michael Zubert ’12, a Music Education major

Using Digital Audio Workstations to Enhance Learning in High School Music Education Classrooms

Under the advisement of Professor Janet Cape, Michael Zubert’s research confronts the problem of resistance to technology among music educators. He will study the use of GarageBand and Mixcraft software in high school music education classrooms to enhance the way in which music educators convey musical content to their students. He will develop a series of lessons using GarageBand and Mixcraft software to improve curricular content and will pilot the lessons in a six-week afterschool program for high school students. Revised lesson plans will be integrated into an online resource for teachers. He is pursuing a Master of Arts in Teaching at Rider.

URSA Scholars from the 2011-2012 academic year also presented their findings. The 2011-2012 scholars were:

Aubrey Maks ’12, a Music Education and Music Composition, History and Theory dual major, The Significance of Maori Culture in the World of Popular Music. Maks will pursue a master’s degree in ethnomusicology at Memorial University of Newfoundland in St. John’s. She plans to continue her research of the Maori culture in graduate school.

Brian Blanda ’12, an Economics major, The Effects of United States Deficit and Debt on the Country’s GDP.

Jennifer Sorensen ’12, a Secondary Education and History dual major, New Currents of Fascism: Neo-Nazism in the Russian Federation. This fall, Sorensen will enter the Ph.D. program in history at George Washington University.

 Nicole Singer ’13, a Secondary Education and English dual major with minors in Fine Arts and American Studies, The Impact of Leadership Training on Pre-service Teachers: A One Year Study of Teacher Leadership.

Amanda Walker ’12, a Behavioral Neuroscience major, The Relationship of Intestinal Microbiota Composition to Immune Function in Wild-type and Immune Molecule Knockout Mouse Strains. Walker will start a Ph.D. program in physical therapy at the Newark campus of the University of Medicine and Dentistry of New Jersey.