The OUR Ambassadors are a group of undergrad researchers at UNC who work with the Office for Undergraduate Research to promote a culture of research on this campus. They’re also here to help you! Feel free to contact the OUR Ambassadors at the email address listed.
Major: Health Policy and Management and Economics
My research at Carolina has grown into a passion that lies at the intersection of health, public policy, and business strategy. As a first-year student, I worked in a neuropharmacology lab studying the role of stress in relapse to alcoholism. In my second year, I transitioned to a behavioral neuroscience lab where I studied decision-making in the context of addiction, and analyzed cognitive data to predict the efficacy of a drug used to manage alcohol and opioid dependence. My independent research expands on my interest in substance abuse to examine how public policy affects marijuana use in adolescents. In my last two years, I hope to study the financing of mental and behavioral health services as a Carolina Summer Research Fellow and hope to complete an honors thesis on the role of the private sector in improving coordination and quality in the U.S. health care system.
Minor: Chemistry & Biology
As a rising Sophomore I began my research in the Howard Hughes Medical Institute’s Future Scientists and Clinicians (HHMI-FSC) program studying condition-dependent mate choice in Dr. Karin S. Pfennig’s lab in the Biology Department here at UNC. Specifically, I investigated whether an individual’s behavior is affected by diet and body condition during early development. I tracked the emergence of adult behavior from the early juvenile stage onward and found that different diets significantly affect the expression of behavior as individuals grow from juveniles to young adults. Such studies are important for understanding how adult behavior is affected by environmental effects during critical periods of early development. I will continue my work in Dr. Pfennig’s lab by further exploring the physiological mechanisms underlying this behavior in juveniles.
Keia V. Faison
I started my research journey with OUR in the summer before my freshman year in 2010 through the Duke Energy Biosciences Scholar (DEBS) Program. I spent at least 20 hours per week over the course of 8 weeks shadowing and participating in research under my undergraduate SMART mentor Michelle Ajumobi, my graduate mentor Alice Pilo, and my Principal Investigator Dr. Gary Glish. We focused on the CID of Sodiated Peptides using Tandem Mass Spectrometry. The next summer I, myself, became a Science and Math Achievement and Resourcefulness Track (SMART) scholar/mentor. SMART provides opportunities for undergraduate and graduate students in the STEM disciplines. I was able to work a lot more independently in the Chemistry Department under the direction of my graduate mentor Michael Tycon, and my faculty advisor Dr. Christopher J. Fecko. Our lab explores the physical properties of biological systems using microscopy techniques. Overall, we wish to develop a greater understanding of the impact of the cellular environment. In addition to my independent project investigating the effects of fluorescent YOYO-1 dye on DNA under single-molecule conditions, I was able to mentor another DEBS student.
Minor: Chemistry and Music
Chris started his research as a rising sophomore in Dr. Baldwin’s lab in the Lineberger Comprehensive Cancer Center. The lab’s main focus revolves around a transcription factor known as NF-kB while Chris’s focus is mainly on STAT6, a protein that regulates cell differentiation and growth. Also, he is writing a literature review with Dr. Miranda van Tilburg on irritable bowel syndrome in adolescents.
Major: Applied Mathematics
I research the fluid dynamics of tubular hearts similar to hearts found in embryos. I work with a species called sea squirts who have similar heart structures.
Major: Biology and Economics
My research at Carolina focuses on molecular diagnosis of dental eruption disorders. Under Dr. Frazier-Bowers in the UNC School of Dentistry, I have been looking at possible genetic markers for Primary Failure of Eruption (PFE) in the Parathyroid Hormone 1 Receptor (PTH1R). As a genomics study, the project utilizes bioinformatics to process DNA data extracted from affected individuals. With the SURF grant, I will be looking at additional patients and analyzing the association between alterations in PTH1R and PFE. In the past, I have also worked in an immunology lab at Duke University Medical Center, analyzing therapeutic effects of hematopoietic stem cells in topical irradiation injuries.
Mallory Anne Melton
Majors: Archaeology and American Studies (American Indian Studies Concentration)
Minor: Information Systems
My research focuses on the functions, forms, and trade patterns of tobacco pipes in southeastern North America during the Mississippian and Early Colonial periods. My current project, made possible by a SURF grant, involves the study of two sandstone formations potentially utilized for the manufacture of effigy pipes during the Mississippian period. Through comparative analysis of collected samples and recovered effigy pipes, I hope to discover if these formations were utilized as prehistoric sandstone sources and what impacts that may have on understandings of Mississippian trade patterns.
Major: Religious Studies
My research focuses on the duality between how religion has been used as a tool for the American government and society to colonize African-Americans, historically, and how religion has been used as a tool for African-Americans to achieve social liberation.
Major: Global Studies
Layla became involved in undergraduate research her first-year through enrolling in a BorderWork(s) course at Duke University and designing a research project around sectarianism in Iraq after the US Invasion. This research project gave her the opportunity to interview Iraqis living in Baghdad (through Skype) and Iraqi refugees living in the US. She was then awarded a SURF to begin a documentary and research the impact and role of the Arts in Palestine, and interviewed nearly 50 Palestinian artists (musicians, dancers, actors, poets, etc.) in 10 major Palestinian cities. She will be traveling to Turkey in the Summer of 2013 in order to research how the Kurds distinguish themselves (as the largest stateless population in the world) amongst a majority Turkish population, and what nonviolent resistance practices they use to express their ethnicity. She hopes to complete an honors thesis in ethnic identity and nationalism, and is excited to give back to the Office of Undergraduate Research for believing in her research and giving her the resources to question and explore.
Major: Applied Mathematics and Quantitative Biology
I began my undergraduate research experience at UNC working on a collaborative project between the Forest Group in Applied Math and the Bloom Lab in Biology on a mathematical model of the yeast mitotic spindle. Since then, I have worked on a wide variety of different research projects, most of them at the intersection of math and biology. Early in the summer of 2011, I worked with a small team of undergraduates to complete a survey project and impact evaluation for a microfinance organization in Peru. For the remainder of the summer, I worked as a Public Health Intern for WarmHeart Thailand creating an emergency medicine training curriculum and performing eye and ear screenings in local elementary schools. In the summer of 2012, I joined the Cook Lab at Oxford University. My work focused on gene-gene network structure under different cellular environments. I have continued this gene-gene network research under Dr. Mucha in the Math department at UNC through an independent study. As a member of the DeSimone Lab, I have worked closely with an MD-PhD student and on the treatment of autoimmune diseases via nanoparticle delivery of therapeutics. I am incredibly interested in personalized medicine and the impact of clinical genome sequencing on healthcare. Undergraduate research at UNC has undoubtedly been one of my most formative and rewarding experiences and has contributed tremendously to my career interests.
I am a Nutrition major in the Gillings School of Global Public Health. I conduct research in Dr. Coleman’s lab in the Nutritional Biochemistry department. The lab focuses on understanding lipid metabolism and the enzymes that regulate it. I work with ACSL, an enzyme that activates fatty acids for shuttling to different pathways.
Major: Biostatistics and Quantitative Biology
I am studying the RNA regulation of asymmetric cell divisions during embryogenesis of the nematode model organism C. elegans in the Lieb lab. In a broad sense, I am interested in how the distribution of specific RNA molecules controls the divisions of a single-celled zygote to generate the body pattern and cellular diversity of an adult organism. I am fortunate to have the support of a university with the latest technology in genomics and microscopy. I began my research experience early in my first year at Carolina, so I understand the thrills and challenges of getting started in undergraduate research. I am very eager to hear your research interests and help you take those first steps.