The University awarded Harrison Undergraduate Research Awards to 35 students this year, studying topics as diverse as investigating shipwrecks off the Carolina coast to researching edible rain gardens.
The awards provide grants to support independent study projects during the coming summer. Students receive up to $3,000 to fund their projects, with their faculty mentors awarded a separate $1,000 reward.
This year’s group of scholars first submitted detailed plans to the Faculty Senate for approval. From there, the Senate cut nearly half of the number of hopefuls, awarding 35 grants from 62 applicants. Additionally, two students were given grants underwritten by donors outside of the University.
Students were chosen based on a variety of variety of factors, said Lucy Russell, director of the Center for Undergraduate Excellence. These factors included how well the applicant defined their research questions, the proposed methodologies and whether the student appropriately prepared to conduct the research effectively, she said.
She added that the Senate receives a variety of proposals each year, which is what allows for such a wide spectrum of final projects.
“We do a great deal of advertising to different students, ensuring variety in the proposals,” said Pamela Norris, chair of the Faculty Senate’s Research and Scholarship Committee. “Applicants are funded from nearly every major and every year.”
Third-year College student Michelle Rehme, an environmental thought and practice major, is using the grant to explore agricultural economics through the lens of Charlottesville’s own Morven Farm. “My project is studying what makes an American medium-sized farm economically viable in today’s world, looking specifically at our region in Virginia,” Rehme said.
In 1796, Thomas Jefferson bought the acreage now encompassing Morven Farm, and Rehme is answering many of the same questions that the founder of the University once did.