Scholarships aid Rider student research in biology, musicology, psychology and chemistry

Four students actively working on research project, supported by the Undergraduate Research Scholar Awards worth $5,000

Throughout the fall semester, four Rider students have been busy pursuing research projects supported through a one-year, $5,000 scholarship. First announced in May, the recipients of the Undergraduate Research Scholar Awards are working directly with faculty on projects that go beyond ordinary coursework.

Senior Shanoy Thompson, a psychology major and social work minor, is looking into riddles that have been manipulated by the stereotypes of Asian and African-American minorities, in an effort to determine its impact on solution accuracy. Working alongside her mentor, Associate Professor Dr. Michael Carlin, Thompson has already completed pilot tests that will help her to test her hypothesis that implicit activation of racial stereotypes can hinder riddle solution.

Thompson says her favorite part of the project is “the challenge of generating riddles through trial and error to effectively assess implicit bias. This award has given me the opportunity to expand my research skill-set and life perspective. I am sincerely appreciative of the experience.”

Senior musicology major Paul David Flood has been busy studying how the chronological shift in generational perceptions of the American Dream can be observed in two 21st century American operas. Flood is working with his faculty advisor, Dr. Sharon Mirchandani, a professor of music history and theory, and has already submitted the paper for publication while also receiving offers of admission to various graduate programs in musicology.

“The most beneficial and rewarding component of the URSA has been gaining the experience of working on a large-scale research project,” Flood says. “As a result, I feel prepared to tackle more ambitious musicological projects in the future, particularly as I look forward to beginning graduate school. Any student with a strong interest in pursuing research of any topic, within any discipline, should absolutely consider applying for the URSA.”

In the science labs, senior behavioral neuroscience major Harish Appiakannan has been busy completing his own manuscript looking at how a high-fat diet and stress impact the regulation of glucocorticoid responses. Reviews of that paper have helped to spark ideas for further research. Working with Dr. Todd Weber, Harish is beginning his new mice experiments now and will be collecting data all semester.

"The URSA award is wonderful because it allows me to continue my research studies with Dr. Weber,” Appiakannan says. “Our previous project was accepted for publication, and hopefully the results of this new and similar experiment, supported by URSA, can also be published some time in the future. From this experience of doing research, I hope to become even more adaptable to the obstacles that research presents, as well as gain characteristics such as resiliency and determination."

Jonnathan Marin, a senior chemistry major, has been busy in the lab of Dr. Jamie Ludwig, an assistant professor of chemistry, synthesizing small organic molecules that he can use as tracers in biocatalysis experiments. This work will hopefully lead to new reactions that can help build complex molecules.

“I’m excited my project has taught me lots of new skills and techniques that will be critical as I go on to graduate school,” he says. “I’ve learned a lot in the classes I’ve taken, but research is a whole new level of skill.”

Like many of Rider’s URSA scholars, Marin has also been accepted to graduate school for next fall.

The Undergraduate Research Scholar Awards program was established during the 2003-04 academic year to encourage and reward excellence in independent student research and scholarship, to enhance collaborative work between students and faculty, and to heighten the intellectual atmosphere on campus.

All of the current URSA scholars will present their work at ISCAP Day on May 8. The URSA presentations are held in Sweigart Hall from 10:15 a.m.-noon. ISCAP Day will continue with a career panel at noon, a poster session and lunch at 1 p.m. and panel presentations in the afternoon. All students are encouraged to share their scholarship endeavors in one of the many venues that day.

Students especially interested in applying for an URSA award for the 2019-20 school year should start planning as early as possible by discussing potential projects with a faculty sponsor or sponsors. Applications will be accepted until March 29 this year. More information on URSA is available at or you can contact Dr. Jamie Ludwig, [email protected] or any member of the URSA committee.