University gives undergraduates research grants for first time

Three undergraduate students received $10,000 research grants from the University for the academic year, the first time GW has awarded undergraduates funding to implement research projects, the Office of the Vice President for Research announced over the summer.

Undergraduate students Sally Nuamah, Lisa Hartland and Justin Shafa will each conduct a research project over the upcoming year using University funding. The grant covers research-related expenditures such as travel and living expenses as well as equipment and supplies.

The research fellowships were open to students looking to conduct research in a variety of academic areas as long as the proposal answered a research question. Twenty-five proposals were submitted for award consideration.

Hartland, a senior, will study the petroleum industry’s social responsibility in Ecuador, an idea that came from her study abroad experiences last year. She said she hopes to gain a richer knowledge of conducting research in a foreign context.

“It’s so important to have someone supporting and investing in your idea” Hartland said. “It allows students to feel like they are appreciated at the University.”

Nuamah, also a senior, is creating a documentary about the determinants of female educational success in secondary institutions in Ghana.

After studying abroad in Ghana last fall and conducting interviews with female students, Nuamah was so impressed by the responses that she decided to create a documentary that uses their voices to inform future policies.

Nuamah said the grant will allow her to explore her passions more deeply, unlike internships she has had in the past.

“Providing opportunities for undergraduates is very critical to allowing students to explore their interests and passions,” she said. “Without these kind of opportunities at their disposal, it takes longer for people to find their goals.”

Shafa, who is in his second year of the combined seven-year bachelor’s and medical degree program, will study the biological basis of autism, a project inspired by a dean’s seminar he took last year on autism.

“I am looking forward to examining brain tissues in the lab and gaining research experience at this stage of my education,” Shafa said. “Opportunities like these are important to allow undergraduates to develop their interests.”

Three faculty mentors will aid the students in their research projects. Cynthia McClintock, professor of political science and international affairs; Steven Balla, associate professor of political science, public policy and public administration, and international affairs; and Valerie Hu, professor of biochemistry and molecular biology, will guide the students using their own personal research experience.

Balla said the projects will help students learn to find answers to research questions, a benefit for students looking to do research in the future.

“Historically, there has been little connection between undergraduates and their professors who are engaged in research,” Balla said. “GW is trying to facilitate that connection with these incentives.”

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