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Undergraduate Research Stories at Virginia Tech

Ample opportunity and support for undergraduate research sets Virginia Tech apart as an educational institution, and provides our students with the means to set themselves apart as experienced and competitive scholars.

The student researchers featured on this site have distinguished themselves by their active involvement in research at the undergraduate level. In these interviews, student researchers talk about how they got started doing research, discuss their specific projects, and reflect on their experiences in the field and lab.

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Fralin summer fellowship transforms students into research scientists

Two Virginia Tech students assisted with a coyote ecology research project as part of the Fralin Life Science Institute's Summer Undergraduate Research Fellowship program.

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Residence hall serves as 'lab' for study on Virginia Tech student diversity

Business student Amber Eanes took her research work "home" with her as she studied diversity among the women living in her residence hall.

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Underwater robot squad gains hands-on experience while working toward "hands-off" operation

ECE student Brian Keller is part of Virginia Tech's Autonomous Underwater Vehicles team, studying and building robots that can move underwater and operate without human contact.

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Student helping in fight against obesity

Rachel Cornett, a human nutrition, foods and exercise major, has developed a new passion for research, and is using that passion to help others prevent weight gain during the winter holidays.

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Artificial muscle man

Hayden Shea, a mechanical engineer and honors student, researched substances used to create artificial muscles. His advice to fellow students: "Figure out what you want to do, and make it happen."

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Students explore malaria parasite

Mallory Brangan, a senior in biochemistry and studio art, has dedicated over a year of her life to research. Her inspiration: the knowledge that every year, one to two million people will die from the malaria parasite, while millions of others suffer from severe infection.

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Post-9/11, honors student hopes to increase a building's life under the stress of fire and heat exposure

Paul Zheng, a senior honors student majoring in civil engineering, balances his honors and major classes with his undergraduate research project on structural performance under realistic fire loading. His research was inspired by the real-life horror of the collapse of the World Trade Center towers.

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Leaky pipes create a research opportunity for an undergrad

Kara Dodson, a sophomore from Lynchburg, Va., has always liked to get her feet wet. She started out playing in creeks as a child and she continued to "play" in water through the end of her freshman year at Virginia Tech. The difference is that she is now researching pitting in copper pipes.

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Virginia Tech student researcher seeks to understand Russia

A passion for Russian history and culture led honors student Aimee Fausser of Springfield, Virginia, to three years of invaluable undergraduate experience. Her topic: the Russian Gulag camps.

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It takes a village to research children's emotions

Honors students Heidi Dull, Kelly Blend, and Jackie Congress have been working on a collaborative research project studying the emotional behavior of children. They look forward to the results, but will have to wait for years until the project is finished before they even find out what they were looking for.

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Research on parasites plaguing Virginia otters uncovers a mystery

Virginia Tech senior honors student Morgan Agnew, a biology and animal science double major, began her undergraduate research on parasites in the Virginian otter population as a sophomore and has taught other undergraduates how to do the work.

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Developing novel vaccines to battle viruses

Senior biological sciences honor student Megan Wicks of Colonial Heights, Virginia, has begun to create a novel vaccine for porcine reproductive and respiratory syndrome virus (PRRSV).

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Collegiate Football: Inspiration for Research

College football is of interest to many people at Virginia Tech, but, for senior honors student John Cassara of Centerville, Virginia, it served as an inspiration for undergraduate research

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Beverage — Not Soda?

Junior Kelly Wilson took up the task of researching beverage consumption patterns in middle-aged and older adults, a segment of the population particularly prone to weight gain.

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Increasing Virginia Tech-Malian Relations to Save Lives

Mosquito infections such as dengue and yellow fever are a dangerous issue. Virginia Tech senior Christine George is working to fight it.

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More than Just a Bug Bite

Sam Faith combined his interest in biology and his love of the French language by becoming an intern at the Pasteur Institute in France, where he worked in the malaria research lab.

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Million Dollar Car

Jesse Hurdus and Shawn Kimmel turned their volunteer work on the autonomous vehicle team into a research project with support from a national car manufacturer to build a full-scale computer controlled vehicle.

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Rule the Road: Prevention, Intervention, Abstention

Within his first two weeks as a freshman, Ryan Smith was on his way to discovering which activities reduce high-risk behavior on high school prom night.

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Student studies impact of mercury-based compound on cells

Angela Barker spent two semesters examining the effects of the mercury-based compound, thimerosal, on developmental signaling in human cells.

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Canine brain tumors a possible model for human cancers

Jessica Kross has dedicated the last two years to studying the development of astrocytic brain tumors in canines.

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Exploring reasons behind marijuana use

After volunteering to be a research assistant as a freshman, Kristin McCants completed two field studies and a literature review by her junior year.

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Honey Bee Survival

Kat Connors scored a research gig after hitting it off with Dr. Rick Fell, one of the two professors on a study abroad trip to South Africa.

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Accent Preference in Infants

Krisztina Varga learned about an opening in Virginia Tech's Infant Perception Lab from a friend who worked there. She applied, and was accepted.

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Chemistry of Biodegradable Sutures

Dan Crowther, a senior biology major, decided he would give a chemistry internship a try. Dan applied and received a 12-week internship through the chemistry department.

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Spider Embryology

Sophia Bous’ opportunity came when she was discussing a lecture with one of her professors. Her intelligence and interest won her an invitation to participate in the research he was doing.

Undergraduate Research Web Site

Undergraduate Research

The Undergraduate Research web site highlights opportunities and provides resources related to undergraduate research.

“Undergraduates gain research experience through the Virginia Water Resources Research Center”

“Student researchers: Breaking the mold in pursuit of knowledge”

Other News

University receives $1.4 million science education award from Howard Hughes Medical Institute to support innovate undergraduate science education

About this Site

This site's founding by undergraduate student Sarah Hawes was made possible by the Pamplin Scholars program.

Questions/ Comments? Would you like to write an article? Please e-mail Susan Trulove.