Meaghan Haugh

It’s not very often that you can attend a forum where topics range from sustainability in higher education and Parkinson’s disease to social media, and operas and nocturnes. However, that’s exactly what happened on Rider University’s Lawrenceville campus when more than 60 Rider students shared their outstanding academic and creative works with the rest of the University community during the annual Independent Scholarship and Creative Activity Presentations on May 5. The day featured presentations and poster sessions, as well as the seventh annual Undergraduate Research Scholars Awards (URSA).

Each year, the URSA Committee presents $5,000 research scholarships to five rising seniors in the colleges of Business Administration; Liberal Arts, Education and Sciences; Continuing Studies and Westminster College of the Arts. The 2010-11 URSA recipients discussed their proposed projects and what they expect to discover in the upcoming year.

Dr. Shawn Kildea, who served as this year’s URSA committee chair, said there were more than 30 students who applied for the 2010-11 awards. He added that there was very “strong applicant pool from the sciences.”

“The quality of these research projects is tremendous,” said Kildea, assistant professor of Communication.

The URSA recipients, who will spend the 2010-11 academic year working on their research, are:

Di Zhao, Voice Performance major
 Allure of the Unattainable: Themes of Lost or Unrequited Love in Early 20th Century German Lieder and Chinese Folk Songs
Zhao will analyze contrasting and recurrent themes of unrequited and lost love in the first half of the 20th century within two genres of music: German Lieder and Chinese folk song. Topics to be discussed involve influences of traditional and contemporary culture upon the portrayal of courtship and the search for love and how this manifests itself in the text or composition of a song through symbolism and stylistic attributes.

Ashley O’Brien, Biochemistry major
The Effects of VEGF on suppression in Tumor Microenvironment
Many patients with cancer express high levels of VEGF. VEGF is a chemical-signaling protein that promotes the growth of new blood vessels in the body, a process called angiogenesis, which allows the tumor to grow. Because there is an abundance of VEGF in patients with cancer, its receptors VEGFR-1 and VEGFR-2 are good targets for anti-cancer drugs. It has been suggested that anti-angiogenic drugs alone or in combination with chemotherapy may reduce metastasis, inhibit tumor growth, prolong survival and improve the quality of life of the patient. O’Brien will explore the effects of VEGF on suppression in a tumor microenvironment.

Bonnie Cochran-Painter, Liberal Studies major
Is Breastfeeding a Class Issue?
Cochran-Painter will examine the extent to which the decision to either breastfeed or use infant formula is influenced by the social class of the mother. The role of the infant formula industry, public health organizations and the federal government will also be analyzed in order to determine their impact on the decisions of mothers in different social classes.

Heather Chojnacki, Spanish and Global Multinational Studies dual major
Cultural Limits: Challenges to Microfinance in the Southern Cone
Chojnacki will examine the challenges facing the microfinance industry in South America’s Southern Cone in Argentina. She will focus on cultural challenges such as stereotypes and gender hierarchy rather than financial or political challenges, and will explore the role that culture plays in discouraging clients from borrowing and in preventing microfinance institutions from investing in that particular geographical region. 

Samantha Bennett, Elementary Education and Mathematics dual major, and
Victoria Capozzalo, Elementary Education and Integrated Science and Mathematics dual major
Effectively Teaching Mathematics in Suburban and Urban School Settings
Bennett and Capozzalo will explore the teaching strategies utilized in third- and fifth-grade classrooms in both urban and suburban schools. Both students will be observing at least one third- and fifth-grade classroom that follows the traditional method of teaching mathematics, which is drill and practice. A second set of classrooms will focus on learning mathematics through inquiry-based strategies and discovery learning.

URSA Scholars from the 2009-2010 academic year also presented their findings. Those students included: Anthony Baron, a senior Piano and Voice Performance dual major (Bel Canto Ornamentation Exhibited by Chopin and Bellini); Danielle Becker, a senior Finance major (What’s Next for the Rating Agencies); Robert Fisher, a senior History major (Gentleman Johnny’s Germans: Hessian Prisoners of War in the Convention Army, 1777-1783); Zarif Islam, a senior Economics and Political Science major (Succeeding the Empire: A Historical Analysis of the Politics Economics of Ghana and Bangladesh); and Michelle Orlowski, a senior Biochemistry major (Does Erythropoientin Contribute to the Suppression of Immunity within the Tumor Microenvironment).