Research Gets Underway for Spring 2016 Collaborative Inquiry Grant Recipients

Sixteen UST undergraduates are carrying out faculty-mentored research during spring semester 2016 as part of the Collaborative Inquiry Grant program. This spring's awardees include:

mentored by: Dr. Jason Sawin
Cody’s research digs deeper into whether a predictive model can be created to estimate the amount of time required to charge a device that is running an application in the background

mentored by: Dr.  Ande Nesmith
Stephanie’s research is helping a local social service agency determine whether they are reaching their long-term goal to provide former foster youth with skills to achieve social and emotional well-being.

mentored by: Dr. Jennifer McGuire
Cassie’s research is focused on screening crude oil-polluted waters to determine whether that contaminated water creates hormone-like activity in humans and animals.

mentored by: Dr. Bridget Duoos and Dr. Lesley Scibora
Participants in Maya’s study have Celiac disease, and will help her research whether age at diagnosis has an impact on bone density and bone remodeling activity.  

mentored by: Dr. Jennifer Cruise
Nina is carrying out research that builds upon the work she did as a Young Scholars grant recipient--this time, she is working to determine which proteins in breast cancer cell lines bind to a particular gene.

mentored by: Dr. Lisa Prevette
Chad’s research is investigating where G-wires travel in a cervical cancer cell line, and determining cellular growth alterations after the G-wires are internalized.  

mentored by: Dr. Marites Guino-o
Theresa’s research seeks to determine how effective 1,3-bis(picolyl)benzimidazolium bromide is as an energy absorption molecule for lanthanide(III) ion luminescence.

mentored by: Dr. Jennifer Cruise and Dr. Simon Emms
Jordyn‘s research is looking at “DNA fingerprints” in fish genetics, and how the use of different numbers of genetic markers could affect the accuracy of these fingerprints in one Minnesota fish species.

mentored by: Dr. Justin Donato
Michael is studying a protein called Lpl-σ in order to better understand the biochemical mechanisms of its function.

mentored by: Dr. Marites Guino-o
Lanthanides are rare-earth metal elements, and Sydney is studying lanthanide luminescence. Her goal is to create a ligand that will attach to a lanthanide and help it luminesce.

mentored by: Dr. Ande Nesmith
In Emily’s research, she is interviewing professionals and volunteers who work with refugees in Minnesota to gain understanding about refugee challenges, and what helps make the transition easier.

mentored by: Dr. Emily James
Megan’s research focuses on poet Sylvia Plath, and explores how Plath’s candor and intimacy advances our understanding of women and mental illness.

mentored by: Dr. Greg Robinson-Riegler
Kayla is looking at gender stereotypes and how deeply engrained they are in the brain. She is also looking at whether or not these stereotypes can be influenced by a simple physical experience.

mentored by: Dr. Kristine Wammer
Danielle is examining the importance of dissolved organic matter (DOM) in aquatic ecosystems, and specifically how those DOMs affect the degradation of pesticides and pharmaceuticals.

mentored by: Dr. Sarah Heimovics
Georgianne is studying the effect of developmental exposure to methylmercury on neurogenesis-related gene expression in nestling tree swallows.

Highlights from November 2015 Conference Travel Grant Recipients

GRO Conference Travel Grant recipients in a variety of disciplines shared their work at conferences and meetings in November. Here are a few highlights:

‌‌‌November UPdatesBiology students Abbie Lukowicz, Jane Feely, Cassie Clark - plus past Young Scholars Grant recipient Nick Cipoletti '15 - traveled to Salt Lake City, Utah for the 36th annual meeting of the Society of Environmental Toxicology and Chemistry. Clark won third place in the "Best Undergraduate Poster" category, and Cipoletti won first place in the "Best Undergraduate Platform" category.

Clark's presentation, "Screening Crude Oil-Polluted Water for Endocrine Activity," was co-authored by UST student Abigail Lukowicz (UST, Biology 2016), and Drs. McGuire and Martinovic-Weigelt (UST) and Dr. Isabelle Cozarelli (U.S. Geological Survey).

Cipoletti's presentation, "Spatial and Temporal Occurrence of Estrogenic Activity in Urban Effluent-Dominated Systems," was conducted under Dr. Martinovic-Weigelt's (UST-Biology) and Dr. Curran's (UST-Computer & Information Sciences) leadership and co-authored by UST alumni (Jascha S. Marchuk, Matt J. Pazderka, Eric A. Smith, Rachel L. Goldenstein, Christine L. Miresse, Thomas J. Matlon), Drs. Schoenfuss (St. Cloud State University), Tom Minarik (Metropolitan Water Reclamation District of Greater Chicago) and late Dr. Melissa Schultz (College of Wooster).

‌‌‌Meanwhile, a group of psychology students traveled along with Dr. Jean Giebenhein to Viterbo University in LaCrosse, Wisconsin to share their work at the Seven Rivers Undergraduate Research Symposium.

Two of these psychology students, Elizabeth Dorrow and Ellie Musser, were voted Best Poster in the Social Sciences by the conference attendees for their poster, "Psychology and Parenting Advice: Child Discipline Over the Years."‌

‌Later in the month, philosophy major Elliot Polsky traveled to Salamanca, Spain to present his work at the World Conference on Metaphysics. Polsky is studying abroad in Rome, Italy during fall semester 2015.

The work Polsky shared on the topic of "Thomistic Special Relativity" (how Einstein's theory of special relativity looks through the lens of the work of St. Thomas Aquinas) was based on research he carried out as a Young Scholars Grant recipient in summer 2015. His faculty mentor over the summer was Dr. Thomas Feeney.‌

Conference Travel Grants are available to support undergraduate researchers who would like to present their work at academic conferences. Learn more about our Conference Travel Grant Program here.






Workshop: Intro to NSF Grants

An "Introduction to NSF Grants" workshop is scheduled for Friday, January 29 from 9 am to noon in Murray-Herrick (MHC) Room 205. This workshop, co-sponsored by the Grants and Research Office and Center for Faculty Development, is intended for faculty who plan to apply for a National Science Foundation (NSF) grant in the future and would like an introduction to the grant process. Facilitated by Drs. David Steele and Mary Reichardt, the workshop will provide an overview of such topics as finding funding/types of funds, navigating the NSF website, using Fastlane, preparing budgets, institutional review and approval, proposal development, and writing help.

The workshop will feature a panel of three faculty who have been awarded NSF grants in the recent past. Panel members will discuss their experiences and give advice and tips for a successful proposal. Click this link to register for this workshop.

November News & Information

View our Grants and Research Office Newsletter for November 2015 for more information about government grant opportunities, as well as updates from the Institutional Review Board, the Excel! Research Scholars Program, and our undergraduate research grant programs. 






UST Research Featured on MPR News

MPR News LogoMPR News recently featured research carried out by Young Scholar (2014) Abigail Lukowicz and her faculty mentor Dr. Dalma Martinovic-Weigelt, as well as undergraduate Jane Feely and biology faculty member Dr. Kerri Carlson.

The article discussed research that is being done to determine the risk of the low levels of chemicals, such as insect repellents and antidepressants, that are present in Minnesota lakes.

To read the article, visit the MPR News site.

October News & Information

What do you need to know from GRO in the month of October 2015? Read our newsletter to find out! Read the Grants and Research Office Newsletter for October 2015 here.







Next "Inquiry at UST" poster session is October 6

Fall 2015 Inquiry at UST info

Students, faculty and staff are invited to come and learn more about recent collaborative research carried out by undergraduates at UST during the 26th Inquiry at UST Poster Session.

The fall poster session will be held on Tuesday, October 6, 2015 from 11:45 am to 1:15 pm in Woulfe Alumni Hall, ASC.

Each of the presenters at this event will display a poster with more information about his or her research, and will be available to discuss the project in detail with those who are interested in learning more. Abstracts of each student’s work will also be available in a printed copy, as well as online. Previous abstracts are available here; the upcoming session’s volume will be added as soon as it is available.

For more information about opportunities to present undergraduate research, including grants that are available to cover conference travel expenses, visit

2015 Cohort of Excel Research ScholarsJoin Us at the Excel! Research Scholars Summer Symposium on Thursday, July 30

‌The new cohort of Excel! Research Scholars has been hard at work this summer, and will be presenting their faculty-mentored research at the Excel! Research Scholars Summer Symposium on Thursday, July 30. Faculty, staff and students are invited to attend this event, which will begin at 10 am in 100 McNeely Hall.

The following research topics will be shared at this year’s symposium:

  • “The Power of Self-Talk: How it Affects Racial Biases.” Presented by Ashley Demaio, a health science and humanities major from UST (mentored by Dr. Sarah Hankerson of UST)
  • “Effectiveness of laptop and handwritten note-taking: The relationship between working memory capacity and technology habits.” Presented by Thao Do, a neuroscience major from UST (mentored by Dr. Greg Robinson-Riegler of UST)
  • "Distance, Quality of Care, and Maternal Health in Kenya and Haiti: A Comparative GIS Study" Presented by Xing Gao, an urban geography major from Macalester College (mentored by Dr. David Kelly of UST)
  • “Visitor Effect on Individual Gorillas in a Bachelor Troop.” Presented by Stephanie Garcia, a biology major from UST (mentored by Dr. Sarah Hankerson of UST)
  • "A case-study on community-based participatory research methods among Vietnamese Americans to increase knowledge about chronic Hepatitis B infection." Presented by Trinh Ha, an epidemiology major from St. Catherine University (mentored by Dr. Ruby Nguyen of the University of Minnesota)
  • "The Breakdown of Thriving African American Communities: A Comparative Analysis of the Socialization of the Historic Rondo Community and Implications for the Future." Presented by Maya Johnson, a social work/law major from St. Catherine University (mentored by Dr. Artika Tyner of UST)
  • "Green Engineering in Beam Production Using Honeycomb Structure" Presented by Roumany Phan, a mechanical engineering major from UST (mentored by Dr. Katherine Acton of UST)

 For more information about the Excel! Research Scholars program, please visit

Two UST Faculty Receive Fulbright Awards

Two UST faculty members—Dr. Candace Chou of the College of Education, Leadership and Counseling, and Dr. Heather Shirey of the College of Arts and Sciences—will be traveling to Taiwan and China during the 2015-2016 academic year as part of the Fulbright Scholar Program.

Dr. Candace ChouDr. Chou, associate professor of organization learning and development in UST’s College of Education, Leadership and Counseling, will be the first of the two professors to depart. Chou will travel to Taiwan for ten months beginning in August 2015.

While in Taiwan, Chou will carry out research on efforts by the Taiwanese government to bridge the digital divide—such as establishing “digital opportunity centers” in rural areas and creating online tutoring centers for students.

“I’ll be looking at the impact of these digital equity initiatives in education and in society as a whole,” Chou said. “We’ll do focus groups and interview people who are either implementers or recipients of these initiatives. And then my plan is to summarize this data and make recommendations [to the government or nonprofit running each initiative].”

Previously, Chou worked with the Minneapolis Public Schools to create professional development opportunities designed to train teachers using iPads in the classroom. “When I was working in the Minneapolis Public Schools, I found a lot of misconceptions,” she said. “People think the machine itself will help [bridge the digital divide], but there is more than that.”

As part of her research, Chou will explore whether similar misconceptions exist in Taiwan. “I want to find out if there is a vast difference in different countries—or is it the same?” she said. “Do people think ‘digital equity initiatives’ are simply putting machines into a room? What can we do to make it better?”

Dr. Heather ShireyDr. Shirey, associate professor and director of graduate studies in art history at UST’s College of Arts and Sciences, will travel to China to teach American Art through 1980 during spring semester 2016.  Tsinghua University in Beijing will serve as Dr. Shirey’s host institution.

One of the things that may have set Shirey apart in her Fulbright application is her area of expertise. “I teach African and African American art, so I often don’t think of myself purely as an Americanist art historian,” Shirey said.

“For years, I’ve been thinking about the idea that African American art should be central to the discussions that we have about American art,” Shirey continued. “I think it is essential to look at ideas about race and ethnicity as part of the broader American experience.”

Shirey is excited that she will be able to teach about how race and ethnicity relate to American art history in a different cultural context. “In the United States our national dialogue about race and ethnicity is very complex,” Shirey said. “I think it will be a good challenge for me to teach in a new context, where students will have different perspectives when it comes to discussing everything from the Emancipation Proclamation to contemporary race relations.”

Shirey also thinks that upon her return, it will enhance her ability to teach international students or students who don’t speak English as their native language. “All of my teaching [in Beijing] will be in English, and the students are well-equipped to do their research and writing in English,” Shirey said. “I’m excited about having the experience of teaching students who choose to take a class in another language in order to work on their language skills—it will be fun.”

For more information about the Fulbright Scholar program, visit this overview from the Grants and Research Office, or the official Fulbright Scholar Program site.

The GRO Welcomes the Newest Cohort of Excel! Research Scholars!

Photo of the 2015-2016 Excel! Research Scholars

The Excel! Research Scholars Program helps first-generation college students and/or students who are underrepresented by race in graduate schools by preparing them for graduate school admission while also becoming competitive for funding.

Seven students recently joined the ranks of Excel! Research Scholars at UST, and all are currently participating in the program's Summer Research Insitutute. One element of this program is a faculty-mentored research project, which these students are currently carrying out. They will present their work at a Summer Research Symposium on Thursday, July 30, 2015.

The 2015-2016 cohort includes (pictured above from left to right):

  • Stephanie Garcia, a biology major from UST (mentored by Dr. Sarah Hankerson of UST)
  • Trinh Ha, an epidemiology major from St. Catherine University (mentored by Dr. Ruby Nguyen of the University of Minnesota)
  • Maya Johnson, a social work/law major from St. Catherine University (mentored by Dr. Artika Tyner of UST)
  • Roumany Phan, a mechanical engineering major from UST (mentored by Dr. Katherine Acton of UST)
  • Ashley Demaio, a health science and humanities major from UST (mentored by Dr. Sarah Hankerson of UST)
  • Thao Do, a neuroscience major from UST (mentored by Dr. Greg Robinson-Riegler of UST)
  • Xing Gao, an urban geography major from Macalester College (mentored by Dr. David Kelly of UST)

Dr. Jean E. Giebenhain Receives the 2015 “Undergraduate Research Award for Faculty”

Psychology professor Dr. Jean Giebenhain was awarded the 2015 Undergraduate Research Award for Faculty on May 15 at the Annual Celebration of Undergraduate Research, which is hosted by UST’s Grants and Research Office.

This award is given annually to a faculty member who has demonstrated outstanding commitment to supporting undergraduate research and faculty/student scholarly collaboration. UST faculty are nominated by their peers each spring, and nominees who agree to be considered for the award submit a statement indicating how they have contributed to undergraduate scholarship. References submit additional materials, and these documents—together with the original letter of nomination—are reviewed by the undergraduate research board, which then selects one person for special recognition.

Giebenhain was excited to receive the award, and shared the following words with the Grants and Research Office after she was informed of the research board’s decision:

I am proud to have been a member of the Psychology department since 1983. I have been impressed by, and deeply committed to our students. I enjoy working with students on research projects that are guided by their own interests as well as my own. Students have presented their work at local, regional, national, and even international conferences.

Students have investigated the portrayal of mental illness in popular culture through children’s literature, Batman comics, Naruto graphic novels, as well as the depiction of self-injury in teen fiction and online communities.  

Life experiences also often direct research topics.  I am an adoptive parent.  My three daughters, biological siblings, came from India when they were 12, 10, and 7.  This fueled my interest to learn more from families like mine.  Students worked with me on projects related to adoption that resulted in papers and workshops presented in Manila, California, and New Orleans.

More recently, a fruitful collaboration initiated by Dr. Sarah Schmalenberger (UST Music Department), investigating female-musician breast cancer survivors, resulted in numerous papers with students on topics related to our participants’ experiences with breast cancer, including: pain, culture, identity, social support, post-traumatic growth and depreciation, gratitude, “mattering” within the health-care system, terror-management, pro-social behavior, and optimism.   One of these projects resulted in a book chapter with a student as first author.

Finally, I have been impressed by the wonderful projects that have come from research teams in my sections of our capstone course: The History of Psychology in Social Context.  Over the last several years, all students from my classes have presented research posters at the Seven Rivers Undergraduate Research Symposium at Viterbo University, the Minnesota Undergraduate Psychology Conference, or the Midwestern Psychological Association annual meeting in Chicago.

I am grateful and proud to be part of an institution that values student research and supports it financially.   Colleagues from other institutions are envious!  It is wonderful to be part of watching all of these budding young professionals BLOOM!

Institutional Review Board to Hold Training Workshop on
Tuesday, May 26

Responsibility for managing the Institutional Review Board (IRB) has been transferred to the Grants and Research Office. Sarah Muenster-Blakley, M.A. ’12 has been named the new director of the board, which is primarily responsible for ensuring the ethical treatment of human subjects involved in research conducted by faculty, students, and staff at the University of St. Thomas. 

In an effort to help summer research students get a good start on their projects, Sarah will hold a special IRB training workshop on Tuesday, May 26 from 9:00 am to 11:00 am in ASC 238 on the St. Paul campus. The workshop will focus on the concepts that inform the protection of human subjects and include an overview of IRBNet and specific instructions on how to develop and submit a research protocol to the IRB. All summer students and researchers who are working with human subjects are encouraged to attend. Please send her an email by Friday, May 22 to register for the workshop. Faculty are also welcome.

The Institutional Review Board office encourages researchers to submit an IRB application early if you are planning to conduct research that engages human subjects so that the IRB can support your efforts in the most effective way possible. In most cases, the IRB can complete an initial review of a submitted protocol within one to eight calendar days.

GRO Welcomes New Institutional Review Board Director Sarah Muenster-Blakley

The Grants and Research Office is pleased to announce the addition of a new staff member, Sarah Muenster-Blakley. Sarah will serve as director of UST's Institutional Review Board. She has been at the University of St. Thomas since fall 2010. She was a graduate assistant in the Grants and Research Office while she worked toward her Master of Arts in Art History degree, which she received in December 2012.  Sarah has been an adjunct art history instructor for the university since spring 2013. She is very excited to begin her new role and to be back in the Grants and Research Office. Rewriting the IRB application forms is at the top of her to-do list, and she is thrilled to work with students, faculty, and staff as they complete the IRB process.

Summer Research Grant Application Deadlines are coming soon

Young Scholars, Community-Based Research and Summer Housing Grant application deadlines are approaching! Undergraduate students from all academic disciplines are encouraged to apply. This is a great opportunity to get paid to carry out faculty-mentored research on a full-time basis over the summer. Learn more here.

Ask Reviewers What They Look for in a Young Scholars/CBR Application! Information Sessions Held on February 5.

Interested in applying for a Young Scholar or Community-Based Research Grant? Don’t know where to get started?
The Grants and Research Office will be hosting informational sessions on how to prepare an application for these programs! Hear from board members in charge of reading and scoring applications and bring them your questions!

If you are a student in the Humanities or Social Sciences, a session just for you is being held on Thursday, February 5, 2015 at 3:00 p.m. in ASC 202.
If you are a student in the STEM disciplines, your session is being held on Thursday, February 5, 2015 at 3:00 p.m. in ASC 238.

Come with your questions and be prepared to walk through the application process!

Deadline for applying for these grants is February 20, 2015.

Anisa Abdulkadir will present at the ABRCMS conference in November.Excel! Research Scholar Anisa Abdulkadir to Present at ABRCMS

The Grants & Research Office would like to congratulate Anisa Abdulkadir on being accepted to present at the Annual Biomedical Research Conference for Minority Students (ABRCMS) in San Antonio, TX this November.

This prestigious event is one of the largest professional conferences for underrepresented minority students and students with disabilities who are interested in pursuing advanced training in the fields of science, technology, engineering and mathematics. During this four-day conference, undergraduates come from over 350 colleges and universities nationwide to present their work, as well as to hear about graduate school and summer internship opportunities, funding sources, professional networks, and more.

Anisa will be one of the students presenting at this event, and will share the research that she did under the mentorship of Dr. Dalma Martinović-Weigelt in UST’s Biology department. Her research studied monoamine oxidase inhibitor activity in metropolitan wastewater effluent; she previously shared some of the findings from this research with the UST community at the Excel! Research Scholars Symposium in July.

Previous participants in ABRCMS from UST have included McNair Scholar Sally Mahmoud ’12, who went on to receive partial funding to purse her M.D. at Johns Hopkins University, and McNair Scholar Mondraya Howard ‘12, who went on to receive full funding in order to pursue her Ph.D. in pharmacology at the University of Pittsburgh.

For more information about the conference where Anisa will be presenting her work, visit Congratulations, Anisa!

Next “Inquiry at UST” Poster Session is Sept. 25

Poster Session - Inquiry at UST

Students who have been doing collaborative research with a faculty member will be presenting their work through a poster session on Thursday, September 25 from 11:45 am to 1:15 pm in Woulfe Alumni Hall. This is an excellent opportunity to see the breadth of undergraduate research being carried out on campus, in all areas of study—from the sciences to the humanities. Click here to view abstracts from the upcoming event: Fall 2014 Inquiry Abstracts.

“Inquiry at UST” is open to the community; students, faculty and staff are invited to attend. In addition to being a great opportunity to see the types of research projects being carried out, it’s also an excellent time to ask questions about undergraduate research grants that are available to students. Attendees will be able to speak with Grants & Research Office staff, as well as recent undergraduate grant recipients, at this event. We hope to see you there!

Excel! Summer Research Symposium

On July 31, 2014, the Excel! research scholars presented their faculty-mentored research at their symposium in Wolfe Alumni Hall. The slideshow above showcases several highlights and successes from the symposium.

More from the Grants and Research Office:

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Location information for the Grants and Research Office.

Office Location
Aquinas Hall, Third Floor

Office Hours
8:00 am to 4:30 pm, M-F

Mailing Address
2115 Summit Avenue
Mail AQU 319
Saint Paul, MN 55105

Visit About Us to contact a specific member of the Grants and Research Office.