Record 83 undergraduates receive 2017 Erickson Discovery Grants

Students will use funds to immerse themselves in research
2017 Erickson Discovery Grants
Credit: Penn State

UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. — At Penn State, an increasing amount of students are forgoing their usual summer routines and participating in research in the field, lab, or studio. For some, this means staying close to campus while others travel thousands of miles away to research topics in the sciences, engineering, social sciences, humanities and arts fields.

Among the 219 students who applied, 83 from across Penn State’s campuses will each be awarded a $3,500 Erickson Discovery Grant for summer 2017 through the Office of Undergraduate Education. This is a record number of both applicants and awardees. The students will use the funds to immerse themselves in original research, scholarship, and creative work under the direct supervision of a faculty member. 

“The Erickson Discovery Grant program allows students to fully engage with a research question over the summer and direct their own hands-on discovery process in a subject that interests them,” said Alan Rieck, assistant vice president and assistant dean for Undergraduate Education, who administers the program. “This type of inquiry is extremely beneficial to students, allowing them to develop critical-thinking skills, explore career choices, and be a part of the process of discovery."

Rieck also noted that the grant provides a tremendous service by removing the financial barrier that would keep many students from pursuing original research. “Students will use the grants for project costs including supplies, materials, books, specialized software, travel for the purpose of data collection, and living expenses,” said Rieck.

Rieck looks forward to the beginning of fall semester when he will begin to hear from students on the progress they made over the summer. “Some may not have found complete answers to questions they formulated, but all will have gained experience and insights that will better prepare them for classroom and career success,” he said. 

The 2017 Erickson Discovery Grant recipients are:

— Mason Albright, College of Engineering, "Application of the Hybrid Monte Carlo Algorithm in Nuclear Physics"

— Divyashree Avnoor, Eberly College of Science, "3D Printing Connections with Woven Light: Design of a Solar Fiber Tension Structure Shade Prototype Using Fiber Optic Strands"

— Alec Baker, Penn State DuBois, "Timing and Impact of Habitat Type on Black Bear (Ursus Americanus) Corn Crop Damage "

— Benjamin Black, College of the Liberal Arts, "Conflict Incidents in the South China Sea"

— Josef Blaszkiewicz, Eberly College of Science, "Investigation of the Metabolic Role of an NAD+ Biosynthesis Pathway in the Embryonic Development of Multicellular Organisms"

— Eva Bonta, College of Earth and Mineral Sciences, "Gastronomic Tourism in Mezcala, Mexico"

— Gregory Busey, Eberly College of Science, "A Model for Voltage Sensor Modulation of Elk1 Potassium Channels"

— Sean Clees, College of Engineering, "Characterization of Vortex Breakdown in Swirling Jets"

— Abigail Cosgrove, College of the Liberal Arts, "Do Monolingual Children in Central Pennsylvania Show Similar or Different Patterns of Foreign-accented Speech Comprehension as Adult Monolinguals Living in This Area?"

— Brandon Davis, College of Engineering. "Aptamer-functionalized Nanoparticle/Hydrogel Composites for Protein Delivery"

— Patrick Dolan, College of Agricultural Sciences, "Cacao Cultivar Impact on Lipid Content and Composition"

— Cadie Dunlap, Penn State Berks, "Effects of Ethanol and its Response on MCF-7 Cells in Relation to Estrogenic Effects"

— Austin Fruin, Penn State Berks, "The Role of Chmp1 in Polyamine Transport and Metabolism"

— Nick Garner, Penn State Behrend, "A Study on the Fffect of Heat-treated Sections of Mild Steel Tube During High Speed Uniaxial Dynamic Crash Testing"

— Julia Gray, College of the Liberal Arts, "Artistic Expression and Feminist Resistance in Brazil"

— Alex Grigas, Eberly College of Science, College of the Liberal Arts, "Bilayer Formation on Protocells"

— Rebecca Guth, Eberly College of Science, "Non-enzymatic RNA Polymerization in Coacervates"

— Tice Harkins, Eberly College of Science, "Investigating Thrombosis In Vitro using Micro-PIV"

— Carissa Heine, College of Health and Human Development, "Finding Positive Deviants for Vitamin and Mineral Status in Reproductive-Age Ghanaian Women Living in a Low-Income Setting"

— Jennifer Heppner, College of Agriculture Sciences, "Effects of Maternal Stress in Offspring Performance Speed in the Eastern Fence Lizard (Sceloporus undulatus)"

— Morgan Herold, College of Agricultural Sciences, "The Effects of Selenoproteins on Gut Epithelial Barrier Integrity"

— Nicole Hessler, Penn State Berks, "iMovie Literacy Study"

— Isabel Hunsberger, Eberly College of Science, "The Search for Resistant Mutants of KKL-896 in Bacteria"

— David Kauffman, College of Engineering, "Investigation of Polymer Microneedles in the Treatment of Autoimmune Disease"

— Wasi Khatri, Eberly College of Science, "Studying Differential Interactions between Pollen S-Locus F-Box Proteins and Pistil S-RNases Involved in Self/Non-Self Recognition"

— Jivtesh Khurana, College of Engineering, "Active-Z Printing, A New Way to Improve 3D Printed Part Strength"

— Amogh Kiran, Eberly College of Science, "The Effects of Breaking Spectrin Network via Tobacco Etch Virus Protease on Heart and Fight Muscle in Drosophila"

— Mark Klemencic, College of the Liberal Arts and Eberly College of Science, "Dig a Little Deeper: Primary Literature as a Potential Enhancer of Undergraduate Psychology Education"

— Caitlin Komm, Eberly College of Science, "Genomic Instability and DNA Damage in Transdifferentiated Neurons"

— Nicholas Kremp, Penn State Worthington Scranton, "22 Year Release from Deer Browsing in Forest Herbs and Trees"

— Rachel Lamb, Eberly College of Science, "The Effects of Competition on Defense of an Invasive Thistle Species"

— Jason Lehrer, Penn State Berks, "The Development of a Sustainable Technology for 3D Printing"

— William Lieb, Eberly College of Science, "Investigating Enhanced Cognitive Performance in Migratory Birds"

— Sarah Lorish, Penn State Berks, "Under Fire"

— Jenna Mandel, Eberly College of Science, "Investigation of Neuronal Survival after Simultaneous Dendrite and Axon Injury in Drosophila"

— Sanjana Marikunte, Eberly College of Science, "Investigating the Role of the Cytohesin-2/ARNO Coiled-Coil Domain in Epithelial Cell Migration"

— Mckayla Mawn, Eberly College of Science, "Understanding the Reciprocal Relationship Between Interpersonal Behaviors and Autonomic Nervous System Functioning in Patients with Borderline Personality Disorder"

— James Mckenna, Penn State Worthington Scranton, "Predicting Opiate Abstinence: The Role of Social Support and Mental Health in Opiate Addiction Recovery"

— Jonathan Mercier, Penn State Berks, "Examining Parathyroid Hormone Related Protein as a Negative Regulator of Alcohol’s Effects in the MCF-7 Cancer Cell Line"

— Carley Miller, Eberly College of Science, "Genetic and Age Contributions to Nicotine Sensitivity in Mice"

— Christian Morris, Eberly College of Science, "Determining Brain Regions Underlying an antidepressant-like Phenotype in Mice"

— Aleia Mouchref, Eberly College of Science, "Investigating Trait Diversity Among Vibrio fischeri Symbionts within the Squid Light Organ"

— Andrew Murtha, Eberly College of Science, "Communication Between Vibrio fischeri Populations within the Squid Light Organ"

— Jeremy Myslowski, College of Engineering, "Micro-Particle Image Velocimetry for Quantifying the Flow and Cellular Interactions Between Blood and Nanoparticle-Programmed Biomaterials"

— Alexandra Nader, Eberly College of Science, "Role of Selenium in the Enzymatic Pathways and Phagocytic Functions of Inflamed Macrophages"

— Sophia Najjar, College of Arts and Architecture / Earth and Mineral Sciences, "Chairs of Aleppo"

— Uyen Nguyen, Eberly College of Science, "Determining the Structure of HelD, a Novel Binding Partner of Bacillus Subtilis RNA Polymerase"

— Richard Novak, College of Agricultural Sciences, "A Comparison of Macro-Invertebrate Communities Among Vernal Pools with Different Fire Histories"

— Madeline Nyblade, College of Earth and Mineral Sciences, "Numerical Modeling of the Agricultural-Hydrologic System in Punjab, India"

— Kale Odhner, Penn State Berks, "Research and Design of a Class 3 Rocket"

— Andrew Oneglia, College of Health and Human Development, "The Impact of Estrogen vs Energy Status on Bone Balance and Bone Turnover Rate in Young Exercising Women"

— Colin Paulauskas, College of Engineering, "Ice Accretion Rates from Multi-Phase Icing Tunnel"

— Nicholas Pietra, College of Earth and Mineral Sciences, "Frustrated Lewis Pairs: A New Approach to Pollution Control"

— Evan Plumridge, College of Earth and Mineral Sciences, "Heavy Metals: Concentrations in Peru and Alaska"

— Gregory Reilly, Eberly College of Science, "Examination of Protein-Protein Interaction of GRASP and its Impact on Cell Motility"

— Katlyn Reynolds, Penn State Worthington Scranton, "Turning Points in Relationships between Chronically Ill Cancer Patients and Informal Caregivers"

— Joshua Riley, College of Engineering, "Impact of Shear Rate on von Willebrand Factor Unfolding"

— Elizabeth Roach, College of Engineering, "Using a Point of Care Biosensors to Determine the Pathogen Responsible for respective UTIs"

— Amelia Rogus, College of Agricultural Sciences, "NR5A2 to the Rescue? Examining the Roles and Regulation of NR5A2 in Corpus Luteum Rescue"

— Pratiti Roy, Eberly College of Science, "Mechanisms Underlying the Effects of Edible Mushrooms on Gastrointestinal Health"

— Taryn Ryan, Eberly College of Science, "ClpP Inhibition by 5-hydroxy-8-nitroquinoline"

— Gina Sarkawi, College of Earth and Mineral Sciences, "Effectiveness of a Handheld X-ray Fluorescence Analyzer on Tephra from Afar, Ethiopia"

— Kyle Sherbine, College of Earth and Mineral Sciences, "Microbial Metabolism and Composition of Proglacial Stream Supported by the Auseangate Glacier in the Peruvian Andes"

— Sophia Spivey, College of Arts and Architecture, "Peacock Pie: Preparation and Performance of a New Vocal Work"

— Kristen Sprayberry, College of Agricultural Sciences, "Determining Effects of Short-term and Evolutionary Stress on Cell-mediated Immune Function"

— William Su, College of Engineering, "Development of a New Class of Citrate-based Biomaterials and its 3D Printing Application in Tissue Engineering"

— Aubrey Tallon, College of Health and Human Development, "Pence and Sensuality: Use of Erotic Capital Among All Genders of Renaissance Faire Performers for Monetary and Promotional Gain"

— Mila Tamminga, Eberly College of Science, "Effects of Calcium on Microtubule Activity After Explosive Axon Injury in Drosophila"

— Ross Tedesco, Penn State Altoona, "The Conceptualization of Physics Theories Through Art Mediums"

— Wenxin Tong, College of Engineering, "Sensitivity and Uncertainty Analysis of Wearable Sensing Textiles"

— Trevor Tranchina, Penn State York, "Elucidation of the SHRM Protein Interactome Utilizing Yeast Two Hybrid Screening"

— Corrina Tucker, Penn State Behrend, "Penn State Behrend Hammermill Archive Encoding"

— Jacqueline Tucker, College of Engineering, "Sensory and Motor Performance in ADHD Participants"

— Ana Turosky, College of Agricultural Sciences, "Does Glyphosate Affect Beneficial Soil Microbes?"

— Mi Tzou, College of the Liberal Arts, "Fighting Against Dictatorship: Taiwanese International Students in the U.S. (1980)"

— Mark Van Horn, College of the Liberal Arts, "Investigation of the Phoenician Iron Industry of Tel Akko, Israel"

— Ziyuhan Wang, College of Engineering, "Moringa Oleifera Seed Modified Sand Filter for Pathogen Removal"

— Zachary Weagly, Penn State Berks, "Comparative Analysis of the Chemical Composition and Microbial Population in the Tulpehocken Creek"

— Cheyenne Wene, Penn State Harrisburg, The Capital College, "Role of MAPK on REDD1-Mediated Insulin Action"

— Anna Whitaker, College of Earth and Mineral Science, "The Ordovician Seas of Central Pennsylvania: Analyzing Environmental Affinities and Distribution of Fossil Taxa in the Taconic Foreland Basin"

— Aliza Winneg, College of the Liberal Arts, "Using Bilingualism as a Tool to Study Recognition Memory for Grammar and Meaning"

— Daniel Winstead, Eberly College of Science, "Host Specificity and Symbiont Interspecies Competition within the Symbiodinium – Cassiopea Mutualistic System"

— Zhenyuan Yuan, College of Engineering, Eberly College of Science, "Machine Learning-enabled Real-time Control of Autonomous Vehicles"

The Research Opportunities for Undergraduates program is part of Penn State Undergraduate Education, the academic administrative unit that provides leadership and coordination for University-wide programs and initiatives in support of undergraduate teaching and learning at Penn State. Learn more about Undergraduate Education at