OUR Ambassadors

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The OUR Ambassadors are a group of undergraduate 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.

If you are an undergraduate with research experience, consider serving as an OUR Ambassador. The application period opens early in the spring semester; watch for more information in Spring 2016.

Lauren Askew

Major: Biology
Minor: Spanish for the Medical Professions
Year: Senior

As a freshman, I came to Carolina with the desire to pursue my interests in Biology beyond the classroom. I worked as a lab assistant in the Duncan lab in the Biology Department throughout the school year, and began my research career the following summer under Dr. Duncan’s mentorship. During the following summer and my sophomore year in the Dohlman Lab, I investigated cell starvation in the absence of glucose. My research included extracting proteins from cells and monitoring enzymatic activity. During a stroke or heart attack, neurons and myocytes are starved for glucose for a prolonged time period. By better understanding our cells’ survival mechanism, we can improve therapies to keep these cells alive until nutrients can reach them again. As a rising junior, I am spending the summer doing research at Johns Hopkins Medical School. During my junior year, I will resume exploring cell starvation and how selective autophagy of lipid droplets is induced. These research and other scholarly experiences have enriched and influenced my aspirations significantly. I plan to pursue an M.D-Ph.D. degree and become a medical researcher.

Jordan Bishop

Bishop 2015 Profilejwbishop@live.unc.edu
Major: Chemistry
Minor: Mathematics
Year: Senior

Welcome to Carolina! My experience with research started last year, when I started working with Dr. Larry Benninger, in the Geological Sciences Department, looking at potential rare earth element deposits in Lee and Moore counties. Then, last summer, I looked at the effect of gold nanoparticles on multiexciton emissions from CdSe quantum dots. Now, I’m conducting seismology research with Dr. Jonathan Lees. As part of this research, I traveled to Chile for two weeks, where I helped deploy and manage seismic equipment on the Llaima volcano. This trip underlies my current project, a moment tensor inversion, which looks at how the earth’s initial movements during an earthquake can describe its subsurface. Whether you get to travel, or not, research is an adventure, and I have learned more from my undergraduate research experiences than many of my classes. However, you never know what the right fit is until you try it. Chase what interests you! The other ambassadors and I are here if you have any questions, especially my favorite, “How do I get started?”

Yasemin Cole

Major: Biology
Minor: Medical Anthropology, Cognitive Science
Year: Senior

My research at UNC began in Dr. Sancar’s Lab within the Biochemistry and Biophysics Department in the UNC School of Medicine during the fall semester of my junior year. My project focused on the circadian rhythms of mice with human xenograft colorectal cancer and its application to cancer chemotherapy. After finding my passion for protein interaction research, I began working in Dr. Cook’s Lab within the Biochemistry and Biophysics Department in the UNC School of Medicine. My research focuses on the phosphorylation regulation of Cdt1, a cell cycle protein, and its subsequent effects on Cdt1’s function in the cell cycle. This research will help to elucidate how mutational alterations of this protein contribute to human diseases, such as cancer, where proteins tend to be overactive and unregulated. This exciting experience has allowed me to develop fundamental laboratory skills, scientific writing skills, and critical analysis. I began conducting research when I was a freshman in high school and have had experience in many labs outside of UNC including the Cell Biology Group at the National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences. Conducting undergraduate research has been an integral part of experience at Carolina. I encourage you to contact me or any of the OUR ambassadors if you have any questions!

Blake Hauser

Major: Environmental Health Sciences and Biology
Minor: Chemistry
Year: Senior

My research at UNC began the summer after my first year. I spent two months at UNC Project – Malawi, which is a collaboration between UNC and the Malawian Ministry of Health that seeks to improve Malawian healthcare through research and training. In addition to serving the local community, I worked with an epidemiologist to investigate the efficacy of HIV counseling and testing in terms of its capacity to reduce HIV incidence. Upon returning to Chapel Hill in the fall, I began working in the Swanstrom Lab, which investigates various aspects of HIV pathogenesis. As a double major in Environmental Health Sciences through the Gillings School of Global Public Health and Biology, my research interests encompass both fields. I plan to return to Malawi to continue my epidemiology research and to continue working in the Swanstrom Lab in an effort to complete honors theses in both disciplines.


Crystal Johnson

Major: History and Peace, War, and Defense
Minor: Geography
Year: Senior

When I began my research experience at Carolina in 2013 I had no idea what I was doing. As someone who is majoring in the humanities, I had no idea what humanities research looked like or who to reach out to and, if I’m being honest, I was terrified that I wouldn’t be successful. I had no idea that this program existed at this time and, if I had, my journey into undergraduate research would have been easier. I eventually found my way with the help of the McNair Scholars Program, which pointed me to the OUR program, and my senior thesis advisor. I am so excited to be an OUR Ambassador so that I can be a resource for my fellow students who are just as interested in research as I am but are confused as to how to go about beginning or want to know more about research at UNC or just general need some guidance. My research interests are primarily focused on the social aspect of military history though I am also interested in US history in general. For my History 398 seminar, I researched gay veterans in the United States military during the 1940s and 1950s and their activism after the end of their military service. Currently I am working on preliminary research in preparation for both the summer portion of the McNair Scholar Program and my senior thesis in PWAD. Throughout the next year, I will be researching and analyzing the relationship between Marine Corps Base Camp Lejeune and Jacksonville, North Carolina. Post-graduation, I will be attending graduate school to pursue a Ph.D. in history with the ultimate goal of becoming a history professor. Research is a really unique experience as it allows you a deeper insight into certain topics and you can customize your research question to fit anything that interests you. The other ambassadors and I are here as a resource if you have any questions about research or just want to talk about your own interests, so don’t be afraid to reach out to us! I look forward to hearing from you!

David Joyner

Major: Political Science and English
Minor: Public Policy
Year: Senior

In the fall of 2013 I began to research the role of suicide in the plays of William Shakespeare as an assignment for Dr. Daniel Anderson’s seminar on the digital humanities. In particular I focused on the suicidal characters from plays set outside of the British Isles. I studied and contextualized the cultural references to taking one’s own life during the Elizabethan and Jacobean eras and questioned how audiences would react to such deaths onstage. My work with Dr. Anderson continues with one of the English department’s undergraduate journals, and I hope to learn more about how some of Shakespeare’s most popular characters were his suicidal ones when he wrote for an audience that condemned the action.


Amanda Kubic

Major: Comparative Literature and Classics
Minor: Social and Economic Justice
Year: Senior

My research at UNC has all been in the humanities—specifically in the fields of Comparative Literature, Classics, and Philosophy. I have undertaken three substantial research projects during my time at UNC. One of these is a paper I wrote entitled “Mansfield Park and Metropolitan: Austen’s Morality in Whit Stillman’s Modern World,” which explores the way the moral and ethical questions of Jane Austen’s Mansfield Park are echoed and re-worked in Whit Stillman’s 1990 film “Metropolitan.” With the help of Dr. Inger Brodey in the department of Comparative Literature, I was able to publish this essay in the winter 2013 edition of the Jane Austen Society of North America journal Persuasions On-Line. Another project I am currently working concerns Mary Shelley’s novel Frankenstein and a Danish film made in 2003 by Anders Thomas Jensen called The Green Butchers. In this essay, which is currently titled “Meat Eating, Masculinity, and Monstrosity: Jensen’s The Green Butchers as a New Frankenstein,” I examine how both works criticize western male gender norms through their examinations of meat-eating and monstrosity and their portrayals of male vegetarian protagonists. I also wrote a paper in the spring of 2014 on the commonalities between the ethical philosophies of Jane Austen and Aristotle, entitled “Aristotelian Ethical Ideas in the Novels of Jane Austen.” This essay has been accepted by Persuasions for publication this year. I got involved in research at UNC because I was excited by the opportunity to really work through and analyze questions in literature that no one had asked before. If you are interested in doing research in the humanities please feel free to contact me. I would love to help you discover what it is that gets you excited about research!

Willis Lu

Major: Business Administration, Mathematical Decision Sciences
Minor: Geological Sciences
Year: Sophomore

As a business major, I never expected to get involved with undergraduate research. But on a whim, I chose to take the first year seminar Geology 72H and spent a week in the Sierra Nevada studying how fire affects soil’s ability to absorb water. For the Summer 2015, I will be working in a GIS lab where I will be using statistical modeling and mapping to study city planning. As a business major, I hope to extend my research into business and researching investment banking and hedge funds.
I’ve started doing research early so that I can work on a variety of projects. As a recent freshman, I know how it feels to have no idea where to get started in research. Don’t hesitate to ask me because I’m totally chill and am willing to help anyone get involved in doing research at UNC.

Andrea Stewart

Major: Environmental Science
Minor: Computer Science and Geography
Year: Senior

My research focuses on natural resources and hydrology, and several different experiences have guided my path. I first began research in the summer after my sophomore year as a National Science Foundation Research Experience for Undergraduates (REU) Fellow at the Virginia Tech StREAM Lab, where I studied a bacterial genetic marker that can track human-specific fecal contamination in water to help identify sewage leaks. In the fall of my junior year, I went to the Highlands, NC Field Site with the UNC Institute for the Environment, where I researched how logging affects long-term vegetation dynamics in the southern Appalachian mountains at Coweeta Hydrologic Lab. Currently, I am working on an honors thesis in Dr. Larry Band’s lab, where I am modelling hydrology under different land-use and climatic scenarios in North Carolina as part of a larger project about water scarcity. Whether you’re a new student with a potential interest in research or a senior who is considering starting now, I would be happy to talk with you and guide you through the research process! Regardless of your major, class year, prior experience, or future career plans, research can be an illuminating journey that I would be glad to help you with.

Kaitlyn Tsai

Major: Chemistry – Biochemistry Track
Year: Senior

My first exposure to research was in a research-intensive analytical chemistry course I took my freshmen year. However, sophomore year I fell in love with organic chemistry and became even more excited about research after stumbling upon a presentation given by Dr. Waters about her bioorganic chemistry projects. It was refreshing to see concepts we had learned in class being applied to the forefront of chemical and pharmaceutical research. I obtained a research position in Dr. Waters’ bioorganic chemistry lab soon after that. The research project I primarily work on involves the chemical interaction between proteins that are critical for a cell’s epigenetic regulation. Mistakes in epigenetic regulation can cause cancer, and the end goal of this project is to discover the chemical nuances of binding to eventually guide pharmaceutical drug development. Undergraduate research has truly defined my experience at Carolina. Not only have I gained incredible mentors, who have been a continual source of encouragement, but I have also had the privilege of being amidst some of the greatest minds in chemistry who are aiming to find answers to questions that possibly no one else in the world has thought about. After graduation, I intend to pursue my Ph.D. in chemistry and would like to stay in academia since it would give me the opportunity to teach and mentor. I highly recommend pursing an undergraduate research experience, so feel free to ask me or other OUR Ambassadors any questions you may have!

Young Jun Yun

Major: Biochemistry
Minor: Studio Art
Year: Senior

I have been involved in Dr. Miller’s quantitative biology lab since my beginning of freshmen year in Fall 2013. My personal goal for this project is to determine what aerodynamic role bristles play in the wing-wing interactions of tiny insects (less than 1mm in size). These insects fly at lower Reynolds number (Re<10), which means viscous forces play a significant role in their fluid dynamics. Since they are so small and beat their wings at very high speeds, there is no detailed kinematics available for tiny insects. This laboratory experience has been very valuable to my research experience as an undergraduate because I saw this project built up from nothing; I was part of the planning, researching, data collecting, and authoring process, and we are currently working to have our work published. I also have an experience working with Dr. Amy Maddox’s lab since Fall 2014, with the goal to understand how myosin levels have a non-linear affect on maximum speed of cytokinesis. Using NMY-2 in C. elegans which is identified to be the most similar to non-muscle myosin type II isoform B in mammals, we are collecting experimental data in hopes of writing an elegant mathematical model that describes the relationship between the sliding, cross-linking, meshwork formation, and possibly other activities of myosin. My research experiences were all meaningful, but I could truly discern what I would want to do in research: something that combines medicine and chemistry. Starting Fall 2015, I will be working with Dr. James Jorgensen in the chemistry department to use capillary liquid chromatography to analyze metabolites. Being able to accurately analyze metabolites in a protein sample effectively would have an immense impact in the field of medicine.

Jay Zhang

Major: Biostatistics and Quantitative Biology
Minor: Chemistry
Year: Senior

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.


Ambassadors Clark Cunningham and Rizul Naithani have created materials for an Undergraduate Research bulletin board display, which you can download here: OUR Bulletin Board Materials Package.