Five students selected for 2022-23 Undergraduate Research Scholar Awards – News at Rider

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Monday, Jun 13, 2022
Recipients conducting research about film and television, culture, literature, science and theatre
by Katie Nicholas
Five Rider undergraduate students have each been selected for a $5,000 Undergraduate Research Scholar Award (URSA) to pursue a research project in an area of interest under the guidance of Rider faculty advisers.
This year’s awardees are Lindsey Co, senior popular music studies major with a minor in film and media studies; Shamiya Ford, senior English major; Evelyn McNelis, senior behavioral neuroscience major; Emily Porter Siegel, sophomore English and acting for film, television and theatre double major; and Emma Zinser, junior health science major. 
Dr. Kerrie Sendall, faculty adviser to the URSA program, says the URSA Committee selects the five awardees each year based off their strong written proposals. 
“In particular, these five proposals showcased original and innovative ideas,” she says. “Having the ability to kick start the career of any young researcher is one of my favorite parts of my job.”
Co will examine the representation of Asian Americans in 21st-century film and television and its impact on Asian American identity. She will be working with Rider faculty members Dr. Cynthia Lucia, director of the film and media studies program, and lecturer Richard Zdan.
Co will try to reconcile the growing popularity of Asian American film and television projects with the persistence of anti-Asian sentiment in society.
“Asian Americans’ identity affects not only our social interactions, but also our treatment within institutions,” she says. “I hope, by understanding the conditions that contribute to Asian Americans’ unprecedented success in film and TV, to determine what must be done to achieve representation that fosters equity.”
Ford is going to focus her research on slave narratives, looking into themes of patriarchy, power and religious coercion. Her adviser will be Dr. Kelly Ross, associate professor of English.
Ford, who plans to study English literature in graduate school after graduating from Rider, is excited to take an interdisciplinary approach to her research, through the lens of literature and religion.
“Religion is one of the most influential and important aspects of Black life,” Ford says. “With recent studies showing that members of the Black community exhibit symptoms of generational trauma from the centuries our ancestors spent in slavery, I decided to take a deeper look into the real accounts of those who have experienced this trauma firsthand through analyzing autobiographical slave narratives.”
McNelis will study the potential anti-inflammatory actions of baicalin derivatives on behavior. She will work with Rider faculty advisers Dr. Jonathan Karp, professor in the Department of Biology, Behavioral Neuroscience and Health Sciences, and Dr. Danielle Jacobs, associate professor of chemistry. 
McNelis has worked previously with Karp and Jacobs, and she’s looking forward to continuing her research with them through the URSA program.
“I would like to continue to grow as a student and enhance my understanding of conducting research,” McNelis says. “I wanted to combine my passion for chemistry with my love of biology in order to conduct research in an interdisciplinary approach.”
Siegel will research modern adaptations of Ovid’s Metamorphoses. Their adviser will be Dr. Laurel Harris, assistant professor of English.
For Siegel, this has been a research topic years in the making. “I found my passion for it in elementary school when I would spend hours committing different myths to memory, reading through collections of them whenever I could,” they say. “When the URSA program was brought to my attention, I knew I had to apply because the chance to be awarded for doing something I already love sounded like a dream come true.”
Zinser will research physarum polycephalum, a slime mold commonly known as “the blob.” Dr. Julie Drawbridge, professor in the Department of Biology, Behavioral Neuroscience and Health Sciences, will serve as her adviser.
“Physarum polycephalum are so understudied and so unknown to so many people,” says Zinser. “I have truly enjoyed working with these organisms and have gained a great appreciation for the way that these organisms navigate their environment, and I want to share that with other people.”
The Undergraduate Research Scholar Awards program was established nearly 20 years ago to encourage and award excellence in independent student research and scholarship, to enhance collaborative work between students and faculty, and to heighten the intellectual atmosphere on campus.
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