UAB student’s research selected for presentation on Capitol Hill

A College of Arts and Sciences student selected for the prestigious Posters on the Hill event will have her research showcased to lawmakers in Washington, D.C.
Written by: Karen Templeton
Media Contact: Yvonne Taunton

fleming.1A College of Arts and Sciences student selected for the prestigious Posters on the Hill event will have her research showcased to lawmakers in Washington, D.C.University of Alabama at Birmingham College of Arts and Sciences biology undergraduate student Ryleigh Fleming is one of 60 college students from across the country selected to participate in the Council on Undergraduate Research’s Posters on the Hill.

Posters on the Hill amplifies voices of undergraduate researchers and their mentors to legislators on Capitol Hill — demonstrating the importance of undergraduate research at the federal level. Fleming’s poster chosen for this event is titled “Breaking the Barriers of Traditional Service Learning in a Pandemic with E-Service-learning: Impacts of a COVID-19 Module in a Non-Majors Biology Course.” This work was conducted under the mentorship of Samiksha Raut, Ph.D., associate professor in the Department of Biology.  

Fleming, a Chattanooga native and also a student in the UAB Honors College, began working with Raut after taking her Introductory Biology and peer learning assistant courses. Fleming expressed an interest in gaining mentorship from Raut on projects related to assessing how students learn in structured learning environments. They worked together on several research projects, some published and others in the process of becoming published. Fleming and Raut also collaborated on a project that was selected for seed funding by the Clinton Global Initiative University COVID-19 Student Action Fund

Fleming is particularly interested in how the COVID-19 pandemic has affected students’ learning experiences and also communicating with the public on matters related to science and public health.

“Working with Ryleigh is such a gratifying experience,” Raut said. “She has unique perspectives, and her drive to learn is remarkable. As a matter of fact, she was accepted into two summer research experiences in STEM education last year — Rochester Institute of Technology and Washington State University. She declined the latter to accept the offer at RIT.”

Fleming credits her interest to Raut for introducing her to undergraduate research and noted that the close mentorship helped make her success possible.

“A little over a year and a half ago, I had no research experience, and I did not even know where to begin,” Fleming said. “Dr. Raut took me under her wing and has continuously opened my eyes to experiences I did not even know were available. I hope my selection inspires other undergraduates at UAB to be patient because their time is coming, and it will be worth the wait. I am both honored and humbled to get the chance to represent UAB and the state of Alabama at the Posters on the Hill research conference.” 

Gareth Jones, assistant director of UAB’s Service Learning and Undergraduate Research, works with faculty and students across campus to promote applying to competitive undergraduate research events including Posters on the Hill.  

“UAB is an active member of Council of Undergraduate Research, and we have now had students accepted for three straight years,” Jones said. “Ryleigh’s acceptance this year is a huge honor as only 60 students were selected from the several hundred who apply. Posters on the Hill is one of the most prestigious opportunities because they meet with elected representatives from their states. It gives students direct access to promote their work and the work of the institution.”  

Jones explained that these experiences can have an impact on funding for research, such as from federal sources like the National Institutes of Health and the National Science Foundation.

Director of Service Learning and Undergraduate Research Amy Chatham added that these research experiences are made possible due to the strong faculty and student collaboration.

“We have been so pleased by the initiative of both students and faculty to continue to utilize the high-impact practices of service learning and undergraduate research during the pandemic,” Chatham said. “We know that they support student outcomes and foster and support relationships with our community.”

Due to travel restrictions and safety measures related to the COVID-19 pandemic, Posters on the Hill is virtual this year. Fleming will participate in virtual calls with legislators and present her research to them April 28. She looks forward to sharing her learning related to her research and promoting service learning as it applies to science education.

“This project taught me the power of teaching science and enabling students to apply the knowledge to their everyday lives through service learning,” she said. “In particular, it made me realize that including a service-learning component to science classes would help not only to engage students but allow them the chance to reinforce this knowledge, by making a difference in their community with the knowledge they gained from a classroom instruction.” 

For more information on UAB’s undergraduate research opportunities, visit