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Twenty-five University of Alabama at Birmingham honors students conducted innovative research as participants in the 2023 Honors College Presidential Honors Fellowship (PHF) program. 2023 Honors College Presidential Honors Fellowship participants2023 Honors College Presidential Honors Fellowship participants

Every summer, the Presidential Honors Fellowship program allows students from different majors and disciplines to engage in research or creative activity focused on their majors or academic interests. Participants are awarded a stipend of $2,500 to conduct their projects with guidance from faculty mentors across UAB.

“Presidential Honors Fellows have the opportunity to identify a research question or problem that interests them and then conduct their own exploration and analysis to determine causes or possible solutions,” said Shannon L. Blanton, Ph.D., dean of the UAB Honors College. “The program enables students to spend concentrated time in the summer engaged in scholarly activity with the guidance of outstanding faculty mentors. After the conclusion of the program, students are often intrigued by their findings and outcomes, and choose to continue their research and creative activity on their own.”

Over the course of 12 weeks, students dedicated at least 20 hours a week from May to July. Eight workshops were offered to educate them about the research process along with life skills in preparation of their burgeoning career aspirations. Led by UAB faculty, these workshops included Good Stress, Bad Stress, and How to Manage Both; You Should Absolutely Apply for Nationally Competitive Awards!; Self-Care Isn't Selfish: It's Neurobiological; Breaking Down Your Project! You're Studying What?; Interview Skills: Telling Your Story; Study Strategies; Posters! How to Actually Make Them!; and Money Management for Students.

“The Honors College PHF had academic and social meaning for me,” said, Juan Pablo Carcamo Dal Zotto, a junior majoring in neuroscience and World Languages & Literatures. “On the academic side, I learned about research in the aging field and how our diet can have effects on longevity. More importantly, I experienced the scientific process firsthand. I now know how to put a research project together and how to properly present my work. On the social side, I was able to build invaluable relationships with other students and my mentor. Overall, the PHF gave me skills and opportunities which strengthened my passion for my desired career path.”

Presidential Honors Fellowship awardees participated in the UAB Summer Expo as one of the requirements of the program. Six participants placed as winners in their respective categories, reflecting the excellence of their scholarly work.

2023 Honors College Presidential Summer Fellowships recipients:

  • Harshita Challa “Impact of a-synuclein pathology on corticostriatal synpases in Parkinson's Disease”
    Mentor — Laura Volpicelli-Daley, Ph.D.; Heersink School of Medicine, Department of Neurology
  • Juan Carcamo Dal Zotto “Mechanism of methionine restriction on life- and health-span in Drosophila melanogaster”
    Mentor – Steven N. Austad, Ph.D.; College of Arts and Sciences, Department of Biology
  • Saidharshana Dhantu “The role of Cry1 in Glucagon-receptor (GCGR) signaling and GCGRmediated hepatic glucose”
    Mentor – Kirk M. Habegger, Ph.D.; Heersink School of Medicine, Division of Endocrinology, Diabetes and Metabolism
  • Branden Duyvestyn “Investigating the roll of Rab27a in a-synuclein endocytosis”
    Mentor – Talene Yacoubian, M.D., Ph.D.; Heersink School of Medicine, Department of Neurology
  • Mihit Garlanka “Characterizing binding affinities of heparin sulfate and prior protein”
    Mentor – Patricia Aguilar Calvo, D.V.M., Ph.D.; Heersink School of Medicine, Department of Neurology
  • Navya Gullapalli “C1q13's role in regulating glucose homeostasis in the presence and absence of the pancreatic beta-cell BAI3 receptor”
    Mentor – Sushant Bhatnagar, Ph.D.; Heersink School of Medicine, Division of Endocrinology, Diabetes and Metabolism
  • Julia Marcelle Hall “The mediation effect of mindfulness on the relation between adolescents’ inhibition and working memory”
    Mentor – David C. Schwebel, Ph.D.; College of Arts and Sciences, Department of Psychology
  • Lillian Hodges “The role of stress in modulating gut function and development”
    Mentor – Colin Martin, M.D.; Heersink School of Medicine, Department of Surgery
  • Jessica Jacob* “Investigating the relationship between neural interconnectivity, brain anatomy, and cerebral atrophy (in progress)”
    Mentor – Andrew McDonald, M.D.; Heersink School of Medicine, Department of Radiation Oncology
  • Tapasya Katta “Yeast genetic screen to identify regulators of numtogenesis”
    Mentor – John L. Hartman, M.D.; Heersink School of Medicine, Department of Genetics
  • Animesh Kumar “Effectiveness of population and individual AIFs in preclinical brain dynamic PET modeling”
    Mentor – Anna Sorace, Ph.D.; School of Engineering, Department of Biomedical Engineering
  • Emma Rose Lewis* “The effects of pollution on childhood development”
    Mentor – Cassandra Newsom, Psy.D.; Heersink School of Medicine, Department of Neurobiology

Juan Pablo Carcamo Dal ZottoJuan Pablo Carcamo Dal Zotto at the 2023 UAB Summer Expo - “Mechanism of methionine restriction on life- and health-span in Drosophila melanogaster”

  • Sreekiran Nataraj* “Developing an NO and everolimus releasing pro-healing nanomatrix stent”
    Mentor – Ho-Wook Jun, Ph.D.; School of Engineering, Department of Biomedical Engineering
  • Ishaan Patel “Development of a MAPK8IP3 reporter Zebrafish line Using CRISPR/Cas9 gene editing”
    Mentor – Camerron Crowder, Ph.D.; Heersink School of Medicine, Department of Neurobiology
  • Aman Gupta Pokal “Developing a loss-of-function Trimethyllysine Hydroxylase (TMLHE) Zebrafish model to screen drug therapeutics for clinical trial”
    Mentor – Camerron Crowder, Ph.D.; Heersink School of Medicine, Department of Neurobiology
  • Hadley Rosengrant “Characterizing the role of Jagunal homolog 1 in mammalian cells and D.rerio”
    Mentor – Elizabeth Sztul, Ph.D.; Heersink School of Medicine, Department of Cell, Developmental and Integrative Biology
  • Ria Sethi* “Molecular recognition of neuroinflammation in stroke”
    Mentor – Peter King, M.D.; Heersink School of Medicine, Department of Neurology

 

  • Rohan Sethi “The project aims to study the Nf-kβmediated crosstalk between cardiac fibroblasts (FB) and myeloid cells (monocytes and macrophages).”
    Mentor – Hind Lal, Ph.D.; Heersink School of Medicine, Comprehensive Cardiovascular Center
  • Thanushri Srikantha “Changes in hippocampal neurite length and branching in Parkinson’s mice models”
    Mentor – Talene Yacoubian, M.D., Ph.D.; Heersink School of Medicine, Department of Neurology
  • Zoey Swalley “Evaluating obesity-associated hyperglycemia as an outcome modifier in renal cancer”
    Mentor – Lyse Norian, Ph.D.; School of Health Professions, Department of Nutrition Sciences
  • Sydney Taylor “Immunofluorescence analysis of inflammation in rat models of Parkinson's Disease”
    Mentor – Matthew Goldberg, Ph.D.; Heersink School of Medicine, Department of Neurology
  • Ananya Theneti “Early life stressors & their impact on development and neuronal maturation in C. elegans”
    Mentor – HaoSheng Sun, Ph.D.; Heersink School of Medicine, Department of Cell, Developmental and Integrative Biology
  • Dhrithi Tummala “The role of C1Ql3 recombinant protein in regulating whole body glucose homeostasis”
    Mentor – Sushant Bhatnagar, Ph.D.; Heersink School of Medicine, Division of Endocrinology, Diabetes and Metabolism
  • Liberty Wigen* “What are parents' obligations in securing their child education?”
    Mentor – Brynn Welch, Ph.D.; College of Arts and Sciences, Department of Philosophy
  • Sarah Wilson* “The role of autophagy and calpain inhibition in heavy metal-induced dopaminergic neuronal damage”
    Mentor – Briana De Miranda, Ph.D.; Heersink School of Medicine, Department of Neurology

"I gained more confidence in my research abilities by leading a research project with the support from my mentor Dr. Schwebel,” said Julia Marcelle Wenkang Hall (Marci Hall), a senior majoring in psychology. “Hearing from Marci HallJulia Marcelle Hall at the 2023 Summer Expo - "The mediation effect of mindfulness on the relation between adolescents’ inhibition and working memory” UAB faculty encouraged me and my fellow Honors College students to set our sights high since we are equally qualified and competitive to earn notable achievements."

A celebratory breakfast was held in honor of the students and their mentors at the conclusion of the fellowship. The program included remarks from Honors College Dean leadership and Pam Benoit, Ph.D., senior vice president of Academic Affairs and provost. Students also provided presentations of their summer work and accomplishments.

“It was a pleasure to oversee the Honors College Presidential Honors Fellowship Program this past summer, and support our talented students engaged in both scholarly work with mentors, and professional development through our workshops,” said Mark Bevensee, Ph.D., assistant dean of the UAB Honors College. “Our students were dedicated and committed to this experiential learning opportunity, and their presentations at our Celebratory Breakfast and UAB Expo were inspirational. This program does a wonderful job nurturing that creative fire in our students, advancing research/creative projects, and accelerating student success.”

* denotes PHF student winners who placed in the 2023 UAB Summer Expo


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