Monthly Archives: September 2021

Accepting MAYS and RPG Applications!

If you are looking to support your undergraduate research project between 11/30/2021-6/4/2022, we encourage you to apply for a MAYS grant! MAYS (Major Academic Year Support) covers research expenses for projects carried out during the academic year.

If you have previously completed a research project and you plan to present your research at a conference, apply for a Research Presentation Grant! An RPG can cover costs to help you travel to conferences in order to present your research at a local, regional, national, or international conference between 1/15/2022-4/30/2022.

Applications for both grants are due October 29, 2021 by 11:59pm. More information can be found on our website.

Student Spotlight: Jenny Sella

This week we caught up with Jennifer Sella, an Exercise Science Senior minoring in Psychology! Jenny and her mentor, Dr. Morgan Hughey, received a SURF 2021 Grant to explore the energy expenditure differences between bicycles and electric-assist bicycles for Charleston’s bike share program.

Jenny shared with us, “Bike share programs are a growing trend in cities around the world, where users can rent, ride, and return bicycles at several stations designed to offer alternative and more physically active transportation. Many bike share companies are further innovating by offering electric bicycles (e-bikes) which use a battery and motor to offer a boost while the user is pedaling. The goal of our study was to quantify the differences in energy needed to use a regular bike share bicycle compared to an e-bike and to examine differences in individual perceptions of difficulty between the two bike types. Compared to regular bikes, we hypothesized that e-bike rides would use about 25% less energy, yet individuals would report greater enjoyment on the e-bike. Essentially, e-bikes may not offer as much physical activity as a regular bicycle, we predicted that they would be more enjoyable to users and still raise one’s heart rate enough to offer substantial activity “points,” making them all around more favorable to a city’s population.”

We asked Jenny what her favorite memory from her project was, ” truly, every participant’s initial reaction to riding the e-bike. We would have participants start riding the bike in the parking lot at Hampton park before entering the bike lane on the road. This allowed participants to get a good “feel” for how the bike works, and adjust the seat as needed. Hilariously, as one started pedaling and the e-bike motor kicked in, without fail, every participant exclaimed “WOAH!” It was very funny for me to hear over and over again, and every single participant said it.”

“I gained a lot from this project including hands-on experience, new knowledge, and skill development. I applied skills and knowledge I had originally learned in the classroom to a more involved, hands-on project. From practical applications of how the body works and responds to exercise, to drafting the methods section for our manuscript, I could apply the concepts learned in my Exercise Science classes to a more “real world” experience. While I am still deciding what I want to do after graduation specifically, this project has emphasized my desire to work with people and in a healthcare profession. Beyond the busy work and time spent on all other aspects of this project, I most appreciated the time I had engaging directly with participants. I am certain I will take the skills from both the classroom and this specific hands-on experience into my career in the healthcare field.” Jenny told us.

“I hope readers understand the importance of incorporating physical activity in their daily lives, even in ways that may seem unconventional or “easy.” Replacing commute travel with a bike, or e-bike, is a great way to increase activity and, if whole communities integrated more usage of bike share programs, then whole communities health and fitness would improve.” Jenny shared.


Attached are some photos from Jenny’s project. Thank you to Jenny for sharing your SURF 2021 experience!

Student Spotlight: Sam Andritsch

This week we caught up with Public Health major and Geoinformatics minor, Sam Andritsch! Sam and her mentor, Dr. Brian Bossak, received a SURF 2021 grant to explore the spatial correlation between COVID-19 mortality and fine particulate matter concentrations in the United States. “Using Excel maps we were able to determine clusters of counties with respectively high COVID-19 mortality rates and high fine particulate matter concentrations. This finding will lead to further investigation into the Social Determinant of Health and/or geographical features that contribute to this positive association between the variables” Sam told us.

“From the results of the project specifically, I want people to understand the close relationship that exists between the environment and human health. It is not enough to just focus on human health, we need to take an interdisciplinary approach if we ever want to stop and prevent health crises like COVID-19.” Sam hopes readers will understand the importance of intersectionality when discussing environmental health.

Sam told us that “One of my favorite memories of this project was right after I ran some of the first correlation analyses in SPSS. This was the first time I saw that there was a significant positive correlation between COVID-19 mortality and fine particulate matter concentrations. It was so validating to see our hypothesis supported with analysis from our own work. I gained a wealth of knowledge from this experience. The technical Excel and statistical analysis skills have already set me apart from my peers in classes this semester. However, the most valuable skill set I acquired were the skills needed to prepare and propose a manuscript. This is something I fully anticipate to continue doing throughout my career, and this initial experience with Dr. Bossak as my mentor has been invaluable.”

Attached are some results from Sam’s project. Thank you to Sam for sharing your SURF 2021 experience!

Average Daily PM2.5 by County

COVID-19 Mortality by County


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Student Spotlight: Grace Bader

This week we caught up with Grace Bader, a junior majoring in Molecular Biology & minoring in Neuroscience and Chemistry. Grace and her mentor, Dr. Jenn Wilhelm, received a SURF 2021 Grant to explore peripheral nerve injuries.

Grace told us, “My project focused on peripheral nerve injury and how the absence/addition of estrogen combined with exercise can facilitate synaptic changes after injury. My favorite memory with Dr. Wilhelm from the summer was towards the end of the project. Dr. Wilhelm and I were analyzing samples under the microscope and finally got some definitive results for my summer project. I gained a lot of lab experience from this that will be useful to me when I pursue medical school or MD/PhD programs.”

Grace added, “Don’t be afraid of the research process. Freshman year I was overwhelmed at the thought of starting research, but Dr. Wilhelm has made it a smooth process and I have learned a lot from her. If you are able to find a mentor/PI who you work well with and is understanding then the research can be a very fun and rewarding experience!”

Attached are photos provided by Grace of the research process. Thank you to Grace for sharing your SURF 2021 experience!

Student researched Grace Bader looking into the lens of a microscope

Grace Bader looking through the lens of a microscope.

Photo taken from microscope of neurons found

Neurons that Grace and Dr. Wilhelm found on a slide.

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Student Spotlight: Sammy Stocking

Meet Psychology Senior, Sammy Stocking!

Sammy and her mentor, Dr. Michael Ruscio received a 2021 SURF grant to explore invertebrate research. Sammy told us, “Dr. Ruscio and I examined the process of neurogenesis in adult snapping shrimp. Neurogenesis when new neurons are formed in the brain, and we chose to look into snapping shrimp because they go through seasonal changes in overall body growth, as well as overall nervous system changes. Our main goal was to compare rates of neurogenesis with seasonal changes (breeding and not-breeding seasons) in female and male shrimp; we compared these rates using brain staining techniques and florescent microscopy. The results of our summer research are very promising, and Dr. Ruscio and I will continue this research project into the 2021-2022 school year as my Bachelor’s Essay.”

We asked Sammy, “Why is this research important?” Sammy told us, “Invertebrate research is so important! Anything we learn about invertebrate neurons are true of vertebrate neurons. Invertebrate research teaches us so much about our brains and other vertebrate brains.” Sammy continued, “My favorite memory of this summer definitely has to be going out to the Grice Marine Lab to catch shrimp. It was surprisingly easy and super fun. We went out on the shore and turned over rocks until we found shrimp. I gained a lot of valuable laboratory experience. I didn’t have a lot of hands on experience before this summer, but I was able to catch on quick. I learned how to slice and stain the shrimp samples, as well as how to use the florescent microscope.”

Attached are photos Dr. Ruscio and Sammy took on the fluorescent microscope. They used immunocytochemistry to stain the shrimp brain, and these are the results. They believe that the first photo contains one of the deutocerebral chemosensory lobe (DCL), which is where the shrimp processes smelling, feeling, tasting, etc. The second photo shows the protocerebrum, which is associated with the eyes and vision, and the deutocerebrum, which is associated with other sensory information. Thank you to Sammy for sharing her SURF 2021 experience!

Photo taken under fluorescent microscope of a shrimp brain by Sammy Stocking and Dr. Michael Ruscio

The deutocerebral chemosensory lobe (DCL), which is where the shrimp processes smelling, feeling, tasting, etc.

Photo taken under fluorescent microscope of a shrimp brain by Sammy Stocking and Dr. Michael Ruscio

The protocerebrum (which is associated with the eyes and vision) and the deutocerebrum (which is associated with other sensory information).


-The URCA team

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