2015 Holster Scholars

holster scholars 2015

Rebecca M. Hill, from Middlebury, CT, is excelling as an ACES major in a myriad of subjects, from literature to psychology to economics, history and cultural studies.  A committed feminist, she is particularly interested in exploring gendered assumptions about depression in American culture.  While in high school, she won first place in both state and regional National History Day competitions for her website, “Turn on Your Televisions: The Daisy Ad Reconfigures Politics.”   She also served as the President of her high school’s Science National Honor Society chapter and Captain of both the cross country and tennis teams. She has been a regular classroom aid at the B’nai Israel Religious School, a volunteer at Waterbury Hospital and a judge at the state level of the National History Day Competition.  At UConn, she is a Reform Service Leader for Hillel, a PATH Mentee and, to punctuate her versatility, a member of the Women’s Club Ultimate Frisbee team.

Project: “The Depressed Male Protagonist in Post-9/11 Literature”

Faculty Mentor: Kathryn Knapp, PhD, Assistant Professor, Department of English; Director, Litchfield County Writers Project

Peer Mentor: Andrew Harnedy

Elizabeth Lamonte, from Stamford, CT, is a nutritional sciences major with a minor in nutrition for exercise and sport.  Not surprisingly, she is passionate about good food and fitness!  Last summer, in addition to her regular job as a lifeguard, she was a counselor at Laurelton Hall, a sports and cooking camp for kids.  The summer before, she was an intern for a dietitian at ShopRite.  These experiences and her ability to transform her own family’s diet was the inspiration for her proposed project, which seeks to find a dynamic connection between nutrition education for kids and improved eating patterns among their parents.  In high school, Beth was a serious field hockey club player and Captain of her high school team as well as a tennis player.  In addition, she has been a dedicated Girl Scout, receiving the Silver Award in 2012, and has volunteered on numerous occasions for the New Covenant House Soup Kitchen, at Bible camp and to raise money for Special Olympics. A member of the Nutrition Club at UConn, she has also gotten involved with nutrition education for preschoolers through Husky Reads and recently became a peer educator for Shape at UConn to raise awareness about eating disorders and healthy body image.

Project: “Planting Seeds for the Future: A Childhood Gardening Study”

Faculty Mentor: Heather Peracchio, MS, RDN, CD-N, Assistant Extension Educator, UConn Fairfield County Extension Center

Peer Mentor: Marissa Piccolo

Matthew Lin is a Nutmeg STEM Scholar and biological sciences major from East Lyme, CT. He spent last summer as a student researcher at the Yale Cancer Center and is planning to conduct his Holster research with the support of Dr. Marcy Balunas and her lab.  An aspiring physician scientist, Matt is eager to contribute to emerging treatment options for cancer through the study of gene regulation and cell signaling.  He has witnessed first-hand the suffering of children with congenital disorders and illness in Peru, which has inspired him to pursue a medical research career.  A church pianist and accomplished cellist, Matt has performed as a volunteer at the Bridebrook Health and Rehabilitation Center.  A varsity soccer and tennis player in high school, he is also a fan of trivia and can be found googling topics that range from “the origin of pink sand” to “melatonin suppression from digital screens.”  His wide range of knowledge may account for the numerous awards he has received, from the Burton O. Cowgill Award for Four Years of Highest Achievement at the New England Music Festival to the Bausch & Lomb Honorary Science Award, among others. At UConn, Matt is a member of the Medical Humanitarian Society, Cru, and KUBE (Kids & UConn Bridging Education).

Project: “Biotinylated Probing of Santacruzamate A to Isolate Target Molecules and Determine Its Histone Deacetylase Inhibitory Pathway”

Faculty Mentor: Marcy Balunas, PhD, Assistant Professor, Medicinal Chemistry

Peer Mentors: Brian Liang, John Ovian

Bridget M. Oei, a Stamps and Nutmeg STEM Scholar from Hebron, CT, is currently an environmental science major, but comes to UConn with a diverse background in science and engineering.  She has won a plethora of awards, including top honors at the International Sustainable World Project Olympiad for projects such as “The Application of Faraday’s Law of Induction to Harness Ocean Wave Energy,” and 2nd place (twice) at the Intel International Science and Engineering Fair.  One of her projects featured at that competition earned her a place in the National Gallery for America’s Young Inventors and has led to her Holster project, which explores the viability of polyvinylidene fluoride, a low-density fluoropolymer, to conduct piezoelectricity in the body to power biomedical devices.  This research was inspired by the problem of limited battery life in pacemakers, which results in multiple major surgeries for most patients.  Bridget has also served as a Research Associate in the Department of Epidemiology and Public Health at Yale University and was Student Body President of her high school.  When she is not inventing things, she is dancing or playing music.  She has placed as high as 6th place at the Irish Dancing World Championships and is trained in classical ballet.  She plays the fiddle, violin and piano and enjoys surfing.

Project: “Polyvinylidene Fluoride (PVDF) Piezoelectric Generator: A Novel Approach to Harnessing Vibrations from Human Respiration to Power Biological Implant Devices”

Faculty Mentor: Ki Chon, PhD, Professor and Department Head, Biomedical Engineering

Peer Mentor: Sarah Mosure

Klara Reisch, from Westerly, RI, is a STEM Scholar majoring in Molecular and Cell Biology with a minor in Chemistry.  She aspires to become a Professor of Biology and is well on her way, having found a place in the lab of Dr. Papke where she is developing her skills in preparation for her Holster project, which involves gene knockouts responsible for glycosylation in the microorganism Haloferax Volcanii to determine effects on reproduction. Originally from Germany, she is fluent in German and a member of UConn’s Deutschklub.  In 2013, she volunteered at English schools and coffee plantations in Costa Rica.  Since coming to UConn, she has also been active in service: helping to organize Red Cross blood drives, participating in the HASB New Orleans Alternative Spring Break, fundraising for UConn Empower, and dancing at HuskyThon.  She is the Honors Council Alumni Coordinator and a member of the Honors Academic Committee and the Pre-Medical Society.  Back home, she has worked for the Chorus of Westerly Twelfth Night Stage Management Team and was Skipper and Captain of her high school sailing team.

Project, “Effect of Glycosylation on Mating Efficiencies in Haloferax Volcanii

Faculty Mentor: R. Thane Papke, PhD, Associate Professor, Molecular and Cell Biology

Peer Mentor: Isabel Nip

Nicholas Russo writes that he has an “innate desire to lead people into the woods.” A resident of N. Scituate, RI, Nick came to UConn as a STEM Scholar with a background rich in environmental science and education, having volunteered in several capacities for the Audubon Society of Rhode Island. In 2012, he was awarded 1st Grant at the RI State Science and Engineering Fair for a project determining that ascorbic acid content of white pine needles correlates to soil pH.  As an Ecology and Evolutionary Biology major, he has been working since October in the lab of Dr. Mark Urban, sorting and recording zooplankton samples and is secretary of the Genetic Engineering Team.  In high school, Nick was active in the National Energy Education Development (NEED) Project, an organization responsible for public outreach on sustainability education.  He was also a Scout Troop leader, a mentor at a local elementary school, a junior staff member of the Hugh O’Brian Youth Leadership (HOBY) Program, and a lifeguard and swim instructor at the Smithfield YMCA.  Here at UConn, he participated in the HASB New Orleans Alternative Spring Break and is a member of the Kayaking Club.

Project: “Avian Dispersal of the Hemlock Woolly Adelgid”

Faculty Mentor: Morgan Tingley, PhD, Assistant Professor, Ecology and Evolutionary Biology

Peer Mentor: Joseph DeSisto

Dylan M. Smith is a STEM Scholar, Mathematics major, magician and budding comedian from Glen Head, NY.  Having recreated every episode of The Office for his seventh grade class, he is currently is a producer for UCTV and a member of the Agents of Improv group.  His Holster project, inspired by his love of comedy, will study the mechanics of humor in live comedy to establish “a heuristic method for determining how to make any joke funnier.” In high school, Dylan was a four-time Gold Medal winner at the Long Island Math Fair and President of his school’s National Honor Society chapter. He also won the Senior Award for Excellence in Humanities, demonstrating his versatility, and was captain of the cross-country team.  He’s been a regular volunteer for “Lemonade for Leukemia,” and is currently a KUBE (Kids & UConn Bridge Education) mentor. He is also an accomplished musician and has volunteered to mentor young players through the Tri-M Music Honor Society.  Dylan’s paper, “An exploration of the ratio of radii of sets of pairwise tangent circles in isosceles triangles,” appears as a model in R. Gerver’s Write on! Math: Taking better notes in math class.

Project: “Manipulating Components of Joke Construction and Social Contexts and Its Effect on Funniness”

Faculty Mentor: Regina Barreca, PhD, Professor, English

Peer Mentors: Patrick Adams, Adam Kuegler