URSCI Undergraduate Summer Scholar Program

The Undergraduate Summer Scholar Program offers Dominican’s highest level of undergraduate research funding support. In the past two years, five Undergraduate Summer Scholars have received funding through the URSCI office or as Jared-Beach Summer Scholars, which are funded by Dr. Daniel Beach, professor in the Psychology department, and his wife Cynthia Jared.

The typical summer scholar student receives a $2,000 stipend and a tuition waiver for three academic credits of undergraduate research (e.g., PSYC 495). Any Dominican undergraduate student in good standing who has completed his or her sophomore or junior year can apply to be a Summer Scholar. Sponsoring faculty members must be full-time members of the undergraduate or graduate faculty at Dominican University.  Mentors receive a $500 stipend for their oversight of their student's project.

Scholar selection is based on the student’s academic merit and the quality of the proposed scholarly project. Scholarship recipients are required to present their independent scholarly and creative work at the annual URSCI Expo the following April.

Current Undergraduate Summer Scholars:

The Undergraduate Research, Scholarship, and Creative Investigations committee was pleased to select four students, out of a strong field of applicants, for 2017 Summer Scholarships. Each student will receive $2000 and three credits to work with a faculty mentor over the summer on a major project. We fund two awards every year, but were especially grateful this year to Janet McNicholas, PhD, '73, who funded an extra two awards in the sciences. The winners are:

Adriana Espinoza is working with Dr. Tina Taylor-Ritzler in Psychology. She will interview incoming first-generation Latina students at Dominican University to inquire if/how they use their bicultural identity as a motivating factor to pursue post-secondary education.

Theodore Menet will work with Dr. Tracy Caldwell, also in Psychology, to evaluate how stereotypes keep women from participating in science-related fields.

Danielle Jones will be working with Chris Anderson, in Biology, to study parasites in damsel flies collected in the DuPage County Forest Preserve. Jones’ award was funded by Dr. McNicholas.

Jose Rangel will be working with Joseph Sagerer, in Physics, to create a prototype of a multi-directional muon ray to scan through the walls of pyramids to find hidden chambers! The long term goal is to scan the pyramids of Chichen Itza, In Mexico. Rangel’s award was funded by Dr. McNicholas.

Past Undergraduate Summer Scholars:


Paulina Wojtach. Paulina has been awarded a Summer Scholar Fellowship for her project on the graduation rate of first-generation college students at Dominican University. Wojtach will investigate the factors that motivate such students to succeed, looking particularly at what motivates first-generation students of different ethnicities to do well in school. Her mentor is Dr. Tracy Caldwell, Psychology.

Margarita Angel. Margarita has been awarded a Summer Scholar Fellowship for her project on the role of women in the making of American foreign policy. Angel will be focusing on Susan Rice, Hillary Clinton, and Samantha Power, reading their careers through feminist theory and applying a method called "operational code" to examine their speeches and other documents. Her mentor is Dr. Patrick Homan, Political Science

Jency Patel. Jency is the winner of the 2015 Jared-Beach Fellowship. Patel will be working with Aplysia Californica (Sea Slugs) to study the "transcriptional changes" that occur in the brain after learning. Patel will be working with Dr. Robert Calin-Jageman and Dr. Irina Calin-Jageman, Neuroscience.


Joseph Biggs.  Joseph is a Chemistry major.  He is sponsored by Dr. Daniela Andrei.  Joseph will be studying a branch of chemical synthesis know as Ugi-Smiles MCRs, with the specific research question:  Under what circumstances are they most productive and what products do they yield?  Joseph will also seek to identify the structure of these product compounds via H NMR analysis, using facilities at Southern Illinois University, which has agreed to allow him to use their H NMR machine for his analysis of product compounds.  Joseph will present his findings at the 2015 Undergraduate Research, Scholarship and Creative Investigations Expo on April 7, 2015.

Catherine Conte.  Catherine is a double major in Psychology and Neuroscience.  She is the 2014 Jared-Beach Summer Scholar in Neuroscience.  She is jointly sponsored by Dr. Irina Calin-Jageman, Biology, and Dr. Bob Calin-Jageman, Psychology.  Catherine’s research will focus on how memories are stored within the brain.  She will use Aplysia Californica as the model organism because they have a simplified neurological system and lend themselves to sensitization training using electric shocks (she will use different sides of the organism as experimental and control groups).    Her ultimate goal is to determine if changes occur specifically in motor neurons that help produce Aplysia reflexes. Catherine will present her findings at the 2015 Undergraduate Research, Scholarship and Creative Investigations Expo on April 7, 2015, and also will submit a poster session for presentation at the 2014 Society for Neuroscience conference.


Geraldine Holmes. Geraldine, a double-major in Biology and Environmental Science, analyzed  transcriptional changes associated with the long-term habituation of sea slugs to better determine which genes change as an animal forms long-term memory. She presented her research at the National Society for Neuroscience meeting in San Diego in the fall as well as prepared a peer-reviewed paper for publication. She was sponsored by Dr. Bob Calin-Jageman, associate professor in the Psychology Department.

Joanna Sasara. Joanna, a major in Mathematics, used various mathematical models to study the theory of differential association as it can be applied to criminal behavior, suggesting that criminal behavior is “spread through direct contact between groups involved in a particular event.” She planned to use her research in a paper that will provide an approach to understanding the dynamics of crime as being similar to a mathematical biological model that looks at the spread or containment of disease. She was sponsored by Dr. Marion Weedermann, a professor in the Mathematics department.

Tyehimba Turner. Tyehimba, a major in Biology, conducted research to isolate environmental microbes that can utilize stevia to support metabolic functions, attempting to identify the gene systems responsible for this action. (Stevia is a South American plant currently used in artificial sweeteners.) Tyehimba hoped to use his research to develop a paper for publication. Tyehimba presented his research at the American Society of Microbiology’s 2013 General Meeting and at the National Conference for Undergraduate Research (NCUR), which took place April 11-13, 2013. Tyehimba was Dominican’s first student to be accepted to present at the highly competitive NCUR. He was sponsored by Dr. Margaret Jonah, a professor in the Biology department. 


Corey McClure. Corey, a photography student, used his award to travel around the Mid-Western U.S. in order to visit five National Parks or Forests, which he documented through photography and journalism. Corey drew on his experience and knowledge as a photography student to develop his skills in natural/landscape photography. The images and journals served the purpose of attempting to answer questions about nature, such as what is nature, how does it influence our lives, how is it separate from technological society, and why have we chosen to preserve it in nationally protected parks? Corey analyzed the work of Howard Kunstler, Peter Henry Emerson and Fox Talbot as resources for his work. Corey’s faculty mentor was Javier Carmona, who collaborated with Corey by critiquing his photographs.

Emmajane Thompson. Emmajane’s research investigated a specific teaching method, rival to that of the current teaching paradigm, that has been shown to positively influence student performance. The teaching model is called defensive pessimism, and is characterized as a strategy used by individuals to avoid failure. When introduced to a stressful situation, individuals can respond by adopting one of two strategies: achieve success or avoid failure. Defensive pessimism adopts the latter strategy, and is useful in that the individual sets their expectations solow, that they convince themselves they will fail, and as a result become highly motivated to avoid that failure. Working with Tracy Caldwell, Psychology, as her mentor, Emmajane presented her work at the URSCI Expo in April, 2013, and submitted her work for publication in a research journal.

View a complete list of previous USSP awards

USSP Application