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University of Texas at Austin Undergraduates Receive Research Fellowships Totaling $113,000

One hundred thirty-two students in 11 academic units at The University of Texas at Austin received fall 2007 Undergraduate Research Fellowships totaling $113,237.

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One hundred thirty-two students in 11 academic units at The University of Texas at Austin received fall 2007 Undergraduate Research Fellowships totaling $113,237.

The average fellowship was nearly $860, and 70 percent of the 188 applicants received an award.

The Undergraduate Fellowships are awarded in the fall and spring semesters through the Office of the Vice President for Research. The University Co-operative Society as well as numerous colleges and schools and the Student Government fund the awards, providing nearly $1.5 million since the 1999-2000 academic year.

The fellowship projects cover a range of research as wide as the university’s overall research portfolio.

Some examples of the students, their majors and their project titles are:

  • Keeley Steenson, radio-television-film major, "Eggxelent: The Evolution of America’s Common Breakfast Item."
  • Zachary Bevis, biomedical engineering, "Spinal Cord Nerve Regeneration."
  • Divya Balakrishnan, biology and geological sciences, "The Oldest Fossil Box Turtle in the World? High Resolution Computer Tomography of New Fossil Specimens from West Texas."
  • Karla Resendiz, pharmacy, "Pharmacists’ Actions when Hispanic Patients use Complementary and Alternative Therapies with Medications in Texas-Mexico Border Cities."

Students majoring in biomedical engineering in the Cockrell School of Engineering and biology in the College of Natural Sciences each had the most awards with 22 fellowships each.

Biomedical Engineering encourages it students to seek the awards. It sends out an announcement about them to its undergrads via e-mail and posts a notice on its bulletin board, according to Cindy Zimmerman, an academic adviser in the department.

The department will hold an undergraduate research symposium at which its Undergraduate Research Fellowship recipients will display posters of their projects on Dec. 7, the last day of classes for the fall semester.

Dr. Christine Schmidt, a professor in the department, supervises seven of the biomedical engineering majors.

"Research is an effective way for students to learn in a much more open-ended environment," she said. "Students get involved with real biomedical issues and have to do a great deal of problem solving. They see the concepts they learn in our classes in practice. They also learn valuable technical lab skills and get more practice with technical communication."

The Undergraduate Research Fellowships help them take their work several steps further, she said.

"It’s a wonderful way for students to organize their thoughts and to learn more about planning their research," she said. "It gives them a sense of ownership-now they are in control of spending money for their own projects," she said.

Schmidt said that she encourages students to use some of the money to present their results at regional conferences and that earning a competitive award looks good on a resume.

The spring 2008 URF application deadline is Monday, Feb. 4, 2008. Information is available at Awards, Fellowships and Grants on the Research Web site.