Clark Scholars Showcase Summer Research Projects on Campus
Sept. 9, 2014
Kimberly Fiock, a neuroscience freshman, hopes her summer research project will one day lead to better therapeutic techniques for people with chronic pain.
A group of 17 UT Dallas undergraduates — most of them incoming freshmen — spent the summer getting a jump on research projects and campus life by participating in the 2014 Anson L. Clark Summer Research Program.
The students delved into a wide variety of topics with faculty mentors in the School of Natural Sciences and Mathematics, the School of Behavioral and Brain Sciences, and the Erik Jonsson School of Engineering and Computer Science.
Kimberly Fiock, a neuroscience freshman, worked in Dr. Theodore Price’s laboratory in the School of Behavioral and Brain Sciences, to gain insights into chronic pain. One of the ultimate goals of the work is to develop better therapeutic techniques for people who experience chronic pain.
“This research might tell us how people with chronic pain react to situations where they are physically uncomfortable,” Fiock said at a recent event where the Clark Scholars presented posters detailing their projects. “It was a fun project to work on.”
Ethan Honeycutt, a computer science sophomore, returned for his second summer as a Clark Research Scholar. His project focused on streamlining a system for voice mail and email retrieval.
Maireigh Nicholas, a first-year student in neuroscience, worked with Dr. Sven Kroener, an assistant professor in BBS. She studied alcohol addiction by examining the brain’s prefrontal cortex and its relation to attention and inhibition.
“It was great that I got into this lab; this is just what I wanted to do,” Nicholas said. “Ultimately, I would love to be a medical researcher.”
The Clark Summer Research Program is coordinated by Courtney Brecheen, assistant dean in the Office of Undergraduate Education, program coordinator Hillary Campbell and faculty advisor Dr. Paul Pantano, associate professor of chemistry. The program administrators ensure that the students get more out of the experience than just an immersion in research.
“This program is more holistic than many people realize,” Brecheen said. “The students don’t just spend 40 hours a week in the lab. They hang out socially. Seeing the way this particular group of students came together, I think the experience helped many of them prepare for the college environment by providing a foundation of a social network as they begin their first semester at UT Dallas.”
2014 Clark Scholars
Brecheen also said that the students learned professional skills, such as how to interact with faculty members and graduate students in the workplace, the importance of dressing professionally for the poster presentation, and how to communicate the importance of their research clearly in a 30-second “elevator speech.”
Computer engineering major Kiley Holbert worked with Dr. Ravi Prakash in the Department of Computer Science on a project called Backpack Planner. Her elevator speech was crystal clear:
“This is an academic advisory system that recommends classes for students, their whole four-year plan, based on university requirements and degree requirements,” Holbert said. “It takes into account historical student data to give you the most efficient way to get in the classes you need.”
The computerized system would be used in conjunction with academic advisors. “People still like face-to-face contact,” she said.
The Clark Summer Research Program is open primarily to incoming freshmen who are awarded an Academic Excellence Scholarship. It is funded by an endowment from the Clark Foundation in recognition of the interests of Dr. Anson L. Clark.
The foundation’s philanthropic activities have supported scholarly endeavors at a number of Texas colleges and universities, including the Anson L. Clark Memorial Lecture, the Clark Summer Research Program and the Clark Presidential Scholarship, all at UT Dallas.