Mentor Sites 2021

Please see the mentorship sites that will be offered during the 2021 program below.

Click on the department tabs below to see the available sites!

The YSSS team attempts to place as many scholars as possible at their most preferred mentorship site. Once site placements have been finalized,  changes will not be made without extenuating circumstances beyond scholars’ control. 



Title: What Mom Eats Matters!

Mentor: Dr. Sarah Reed, Associate Professor, Animal Science

Description: Should mom eat for two when she’s pregnant? Or eat a lot of veggies? Or fruits? Or satisfy those pregnancy cravings for pickle, peanut butter, and potato chip sandwiches every night?  The goal of our lab is to understand how what a mom eats when she’s pregnant affects how the baby develops during gestation, and importantly, how that impacts their growth and health after they’re born.  We know that over- or under-eating when you’re pregnant isn’t ideal, and that the offspring of moms with poor diets during gestation have a greater risk for more fat mass and less muscle, which can lead to metabolic diseases in adulthood.  We are interested in understanding what happens in the muscle of the offspring of moms with poor diets that leads to these changes.  Scholars in our lab will learn about the field of maternal programming, specifically related to nutrient intake, and will work closely with Dr. Reed to learn how to analyze a proteomics data set to identify protein networks that may be responsible for the changes. This work will use web-based tools and applications to assist with data analysis and visualization.  Scholars may also assist with data collection and analysis on other ongoing projects. This site is ideal for scholars interested in One Health (the intersection of human, animal, and environmental health). 



Title: Entrepreneurship and Innovation: An Exploration into Emerging Technologies and Analytics

Mentors: Jonathan Moore, MIS Academic Director, Operations and Information Management and graduate students in the lab

Description: Are you interested in pursuing your own research question around emerging technology and Analytics? OPIM Innovate is an initiative started by the Operations and Information Management (OPIM) Department in the UConn School of Business.  The goal of this initiative is to give scholars hands on experience with emerging technologies in business. OPIM Innovate is a great opportunity for scholars to learn from graduate students about how they can use new technology to solve complex problems. 

Scholars who join our site will engage in a number of virtual activities accompanied by various equipment in the “lab in a box” which will be sent to the residence of each scholar assigned to our site. You will use the techkits below as a framework for your exploration and discovery of your own research question 

  • XReality (virtual reality, augmented reality, 360 video) 
  • 3D Tech (scanning, modeling) 
  • Smart Tech (internet of things (iot), Voice Tech (nlp), artificial intelligence (ai) 
  • Circuitry (microcontrollers) 
  • Data Visualization (Tableau, Splunk, Google Analytics) 
  • Predictive Analytics (SAS JMP, R) 

Participation in this site requires self-guided research projects utilizing the equipment and technology in your “lab in a box” Projects will be supported by site mentor and graduate students. 

Note: Minimum of 5 scholars; maximum of 10 scholars.




Title: Sustainable Approach to Carbon Dioxide Reduction

Mentors: Dr. John Nganga, Postdoctoral Research Associate, Mr. Murphy Jennings, Student, and Dr. Alfredo Angeles-Boza, Associate Professor, Inorganic Chemistry

Description: The increasing emission of greenhouse gases, in particular carbon dioxide, has received considerable attention due to its serious environmental consequences. An obvious solution is the capture and storage of the CO2 produced in the industrial processes. A more attractive approach is to combine the capture of CO2 with its conversion to a useful resource. For example, CO2 can be converted to fuels. With this objective in mind, our lab designs catalysts that can be used in the transformation of CO2 to methane and other hydrocarbons. YSSS scholars working on this project will design heterocyclic ligands and metal complexes that can be used for this purposeThe scholar will direct the syntheses of these molecules and analyze the data obtained by a lab partner. 

For additional information about the research at the Angeles-Boza lab, please visit the website at: 


Title: Functional Stimuli Responsive Adaptive Polymer Materials Research in the Kasi Group

Mentor: Dr. Rajeswari Kasi, Associate Professor, Chemistry and Polymer Program at the Institute of Materials Science

Description: Liquid crystals (LC) are states of matter with properties between those of conventional liquids and conventional crystalline solids. These small molecules have flow properties like liquids but are arranged with some molecular order like crystalline solids. These molecules show "phase" and "temperature-dependent" properties which yields optical materials. Furthermore, LCs respond to electrical and magnetic fields that are important for technological developments including optoelectronic devices, liquid crystal displays and lasers.  Liquid crystals are essential in biology including formation of the all-important lipid layers which hold cells together. 

Research in the Kasi group is focused on synthesis of small molecule LC and liquid crystalline polymers (LCP), wherein the liquid crystal is covalently attached within a polymer matrix.  These new materials also respond to electrical and magnetic fields and show an optical response. We use this "responsive" feature in the creation of new adaptive materials including soft actuators, soft robotic materials, drug delivery devices and sensors. 

In collaboration with graduate students and Professor Kasi, YSSS scholars participating in this site will be trained through virtual platforms in the field of liquid crystalline polymers as well as other responsive polymers with focus on thermochromic (color change with temperature) and piezochromic (color change with pressure) features. Using these studies as the background, the scholars(s) will be supplied with polymers and they develop a simple sensing platform to produce a visible readout. 



Title: Multi-Agent Reinforcement Learning for Connected and Autonomous Vehicles

Mentors: Dr. Fei Miao, Assistant Professor, Computer Science & Engineering, and PhD students in the lab 

Please note: Background experience in or knowledge of basic python programming is required for this site. 

Description: The development of the Dedicated Short-Range Communication (DSRC) and 5G technologies enable Vehicle-to-Vehicle (V2V) and Vehicle-to-Infrastructure (V2I) communications, to provide extra information for connected and autonomous vehicles (CAV). Besides basic safety message, they can also share future plan and computer vision related information with each other. This project will focus on designing novel behavior planning methodologies for CAVs to decide whether to change lane or keep lane based on the information received from neighbors and a policy learned by reinforcement learning. The behavior planning method should increase traffic flow and driving comfort compared with traditional model-based control method. If you select this mentorship site, you will join a team of UConn doctoral and undergraduate students researching how AI technology will change future connected and autonomous vehicles. You will learn basic knowledge of machine learning, especially reinforcement learning algorithms, and how to run simulators of autonomous vehicles to demonstrate CAV related research results. Participants will also be encouraged to ask questions and sit in on any ongoing research, regardless of the specific project they will be working on. We are currently conducting simulations and experiments, running simulations to collect data, and designing learning algorithms and theorems based on data and state-of-the art autonomous vehicle dynamic model. This is an ideal experience for those interested in careers in Computer Science and Engineering, Electrical & Computer Engineering, machine learning, artificial intelligence, or control of autonomous systems.



Title: Creating Through Imaginative Writing

Mentors: Victoria Nordlund, Creative Writing Educator and published poet; and Barbara P. Greenbaum, Creative Writing Educator, published author

Description: Every moment of our waking day we are surrounded by words, by stories and the drama of narrative. We watch, we talk, we participate, and we imagine. Words, stories shape our world and how we come of think of it. Poetry fashions our connection to that world through feelings hopes and desires. Drama plays out in every aspect of our lives, real and fictional. Fictional narratives deliver all the possibilities of imaginings. All forms shape how we as a human community connect with one another. 

In this mentorship site, you will work with two stellar teaching artists who will guide you through writing projects of your choosing. Always wanted to try poetry? Or fiction? Or dramatic writing? This is your opportunity to work with professional writers who teach. You will be encouraged to write, read, share and expand. This experience is ideal for those interested in creative writing, or how language shapes thinking and communication. 



Title: Bringing Digital Archives to Life: Designing, Building, and Releasing a Multimedia Project

Mentors: Brooke Gemmell, Greenhouse Studios Design Technologist and Graduate Student; Wes Hamrick, Mellon Fellow; Tom Lee, Greenhouse Studios Design Technologist; Garrett McComas, Greenhouse Studios Fellow, Sara Sikes, Associate Director, Greenhouse Studios, and Carly Wanner-Hyde, Design Technologist

Description: Greenhouse Studios is a humanities research lab that explores creative new ways to design and deliver research, with a focus on digital media. Some of our current projects include: a 3D multi-media experience of a twentieth-century philosopher’s visions of the future, an interactive map-based project showing how Puerto Ricans, African Americans, and West Indians made Hartford home, and a digital game for learning Early Modern Irish. Depending on their individual interests and skills, participants will work together to produce their own multi-media project based in part on research conducted in digital archive collections. Participants will gain experience in graphic and web design, archival research, motion graphics, audio-video editing, and/or other areas of digital media production.



Title: Advanced nanotechnology to design self-assembly nanoparticles for drug delivery

Mentors: Ibtihal Alahmadi, Graduate Student;  Behrad Kangarlou, Graduate Student; and Dr. Mu-Ping Nieh, Professor of Chemical and Biomolecular Engineering

Description: The self-assembled functional nanomaterials lab (SAFN) will offer an experimental site for scholars to remotely conduct research which focuses on designing drug delivery nanometer-scale (nanometer, nm = 10-9 m) particles. These nanoparticles have the following features: high loading capacity of drug molecules for treating diseases (like cancers, AIDS, etc.), low response to the immune system, low toxicity to normal tissue and high targeting efficiency for disease cells. We will demonstrate the design strategy of the drug delivery nanoparticles using a remoting teaching platform. The students who select this site will learn the hydrophobic-hydrophilic interaction, the formation of liposome (lipid “water balloon”), and basic principle of targeting capability of nanoparticles. Scholars at this site will engage in research analogues of drug-loading into carriers and targeting tumors embedded in extra cellular matrix through hands-on experimental approaches at their homes.   


Title: Sustainable Polymers for a More Sustainable World 

Mentors: Luyi Sun, Professor, Chemical and Biomolecular Engineering, and Ms. Anna Marie LaChance, doctoral student

Description: Modern life relies on polymers, which are widely used from daily items to high tech components. While most polymers help improve the quality of our life (for example, polymer membranes for water purification, masks for protection, etc.), their existence after usage has led to serious environmental concerns. Therefore, we must develop innovative solutions to address the negative issues of polymers to make them more sustainable. We aim to work with YSSS scholars to explore options from different aspects to make polymers more sustainable, including (but not limiting to): 

  1. Polymers from bio-resources 
  2. Degradable/compostable polymers  
  3. Polymer recycling and upcycling (via both engineering and synthetic approaches) 
  4. Isolate and removal of microplastics 

We will work together to draft a report based on the literature as well as new innovative ideas from the YSSS scholars. 



Title: Electronics: Sensors and Optical Audio Links 

Mentor: Dr. Ali Gokirmak, Associate Professor, and Dr. Helena Silva, Associate Professor, Nanoelectronics Laboratory, Department of Electrical and Computer Engineering (PIs); Hasan Talukder (Graduate student Mentor) 

Description: Electronics are everywhere—from lighting to energy generation, distribution, and storage, to transportation, communications, medical devices, and computing. It is difficult to imagine our lives today without electronics. In this laboratory you will: design and build sensor circuits and an optical audio link, as well as fun electronic systems that sense and transmit audio signals through optical signals. At this site you will learn about acoustic, optical, and electrical signals. You will gain experience in different aspects of electronics including an electrical circuit, a semiconductor laser, a photodetector, and a speaker.  



Title: Up in Smoke: The History, Memory, and Erasure of Connecticut’s Tobacco Workers

Mentor: Dr. Jason Oliver Chang, Associate Professor of History and Asian American Studies

Description: Connecticut has a long history of growing tobacco. Tracing this history will bring you behind the myth of a romantic pastoral New England agriculture to see the lives of the workers who make these fields productive. Since Connecticut tobacco growers have focused on a specific variety of tobacco, the demands for agricultural work are seasonal. For this reason, growers have relied upon imported labor from regional and international sources. When growers depend upon disposable labor, they justify the political and cultural erasure of the hundreds of thousands of workers who have come to plant and pick this crop. These workers hailed from the Hartford youth to the African Americans in the U.S. South as well as from Puerto Rico and the Dominican Republic to Lithuania and Italy to Mexico and Jamaica. If you choose this site, you will work with faculty and staff to research primary source material, documenting the lives of these workers; you will virtually visit tobacco fields and see this agricultural landscape up close; you will work with the Connecticut Historical Society to think about historical work as a vital public service; and you will virtually visit the Connecticut Valley Tobacco Museum to see the importance of historical research in shaping the stories we tell about the place in which we live. Don’t let this past go up in smoke, be a part of recovering the history of Connecticut’s invisible workers.



Title: Anti-racism in action: Recognizing, reflecting on, and responding to bullying and discrimination. 

Mentors: Dr. Alaina Brenick, Associate Professor, Human Development and Family Sciences; Rui Wu, visiting Research Associate;  Minjung Choi, Masters Student, Human Development and Family Sciences & Educational Psychology

Description: Have you or your friends ever been bullied or treated unfairly because of who you are? How did it make you feel? Maybe you wondered why it was happening or wished that you knew how you could make it stop for good. These are the kinds of questions we research in our lab. 

  We scientifically analyze individuals’ experiences of being bullied, discriminated against, or excluded because they are different. Working in our lab, you’ll learn skills like searching for scholarly literature, helping prepare conference presentations, and analyzing data. Over the summer, you’ll be a part of our exciting research projects exploring: 

  1. The ways immigrant and minority youth experience bullying and how others perceive bullying that targets immigrant and minority students in their schools; 
  2.  Effective ways to reduce prejudice and discrimination among youth growing up in political conflict (e.g., the Middle East); and 
  3. The range of negative experiences that LGBT youth face in schools and how communities can work to reduce LGBT victimization. 

  This is your opportunity to be a part of a research team that addresses social inequalities and helps make schools and communities safer and more welcoming for youth of all backgrounds! 



Title: Research and Action in Human Rights at the Dodd Center 

Mentors: Dr. Glenn Mitoma, Director of Dodd Human Rights Impact and Assistant Professor of Human Rights and Education; Nana Amos, Program Manager, Dodd Human Rights Impact; and Dodd Impact, Human Rights Institute and Archives and Special Collections Staff  

 Description: Dodd Impact Scholars in the Young Scholars Senior Summit Program will identify a human rights issue of concern to them, research the topic and design an outreach strategy to address, or educate/bring awareness to the problem.  The mentorship site is designed into three modules with the first serving as an introduction to human rights. Broad topics include Foundations & Key Concepts to International Human Rights, International Human Rights Institutions and Mechanisms, Civil and Political Rights, Economic, Social and Cultural Rights and Vulnerable Populations.   

Using online archival materials available from the Dodd Center during the second module (e.g., Nuremberg papers, Romano collection, Children’s book collection, Central America) scholars will be trained on ways to use historical documents for their research, as they begin to develop/hone a research topic of choice.    

During the third module, using various mediums (e.g., visual, written, spoken, a website, PowerPoint/workshop presentation) scholars will construct an outreach strategy to educate/address said human rights issue, to realize or build a culture of human rights in general, but specifically for primary or secondary schools.   

We will use HuskyCT to deliver asynchronous content to the students and zoom to conduct synchronous meetings/trainings/workshops.  Once students identify a subject matter for their focus, we may recommend additional books/readings to support their learning.  Otherwise, all materials will be made available via HuskyCT and/or online through library resources. 

For more information on Dodd Impact, please visit 



Title: Korey Stringer Institute

Mentors Douglas Casa, PhD, ATC, Professor, Kinesiology, Korey Stringer Institute; Rebecca Stearns, PhD, ATC, Chief Operating Officer, Korey Stringer Institute; Robert Huggins, PhD, ATC, Assistant Research Professor, Department of Kinesiology, Vice President of Research, Korey Stringer Institute

Please note: This site requires the ability to operate a computer and other basic research equipment (e.g. timer, weight scales, etc.) and excellent communication skills. 

Description: This position is devoted to providing students exposure to high-level research, advocacy and education initiatives related to the mission of the Korey Stringer Institute (KSI). The mission of the Korey Stringer Institute is to provide research, education, advocacy and consultation to maximize performance, optimize safety and prevent sudden death for the athlete, warfighter and laborer. Individuals will be provided full immersion into the daily operations of an active research lab; assisting with field studies, epidemiological investigations, surveys and laboratory protocols focused on preventing sudden death in sport and enhancing sport safety. A scholar in this position will assist faculty in research efforts within the laboratory or other research-specific environment.

Research activities may include:

  • Attend training sessions (CITI, bloodborne pathogens training, CPR/AED etc)
  • Assist collection of biological samples (e.g. urine, sweat, saliva, blood)
  • Prepare and maintain research materials and environment
  • Operate and maintain basic lab equipment
  • Take accurate measurements
  • Code/plot and analyze data within guidelines
  • Keep detailed records
  • Organize, analyze, and communicate data
  • Perform miscellaneous duties as directed



Title: Real-life Superheroes: How Do Animals Become Resilient to Stress  

Mentors: Dr. Elaine C. Lee and senior students

Description: In the world of Marvel and DC Comics, there are hundreds of different superheroes with the power to withstand great stress, live forever, and survive exposure to toxins. Athletes are real-life super heroes and they adapt to stress of exercise training and competition, but we are still curious about how we can help them recover faster and perform better. In our lab, one way we study this is to study how animals that are unusually resistant to stressors like heat, toxins, and oxidative stress possess these unique abilities. At our mentorship site, you will work with our super-stress-resilient strains of Caenorhabditis elegans to figure out genetically and molecularly, how these animals are able to survive stress so well. Participants will be exposed to experiments on our microscopic worms and using advanced techniques in gene knockout to see what genes control stress responses. We will also have a short experience during which you can view sport performance of human subjects and introduce you to how our animal and human work are directly related. This experience is ideal for anyone interested in molecular/cell biology, genetics and genomics, stress physiology, and sport performance.



Title: Language Learning: Let's Talk About It

Mentors: Jeannie Slayton, Associate Director of UCAELI; Harry van der Hulst, Professor of Linguistics; and Stacy Kluczwski, UCAELI Teacher

Description: Have you considered a career in teaching English as a Second Language? Are you fascinated by the language-learning process both in first language acquisition by children and second languages learning by adults? Do you think you would enjoy working with people from other countries and cultures?  

UConn’s American English Language Institute (UCAELI) offers intensive English classes to undergraduate and graduate students from all over the world. The international students coming to the University of Connecticut will be participating from their homes in other parts of the world. As a participant in this site, you will assist an instructor in live online classes like Listening & Speaking and Reading & Writing. Your time spent in conversation with Dr. van der Hulst, along with your engagement in readings from linguistics will provide you with a linguistic background to unlock some of the keys to language learning and teaching. Take on a creative and informed approach to teaching English while you become part of a “global family” as you get to know people from China, Turkey, and many other countries around the globe. Learn how to develop innovative activities and assist students in conversation, listening skills, reading, and writing. You will also have an opportunity to become a “Conversation Partner,” which is an important part of the learning experience at UCAELI. Conversation partner time, which is built into UCAELI classes, encourages the sharing of languages and cultures among students and conversation volunteers from the UConn community. It is a time where everyone learns from one another.  Learning more about English as a Second Language can open the door to careers as bilingual teachers, ESL teachers in the U.S. and abroad, interpreters, and translators!  

Note: Scholars at this site will be expected to participate in English classes that may begin as early as 8:00 AM EST.




Title: Visualization of the behavior of Padé approximants and continued fractions

Mentors:  Rachel Bailey, graduate student; Dr. Maxim Derevyagin, Assistant Professor in Residence; Anastasiia Minenkova, graduate student 

Description: A mathematical model is a description of a system using mathematical concepts and language. Most of mathematical models deal with functions in one way or another and, to make some predictions for the system, it is necessary to understand the behavior of those functions. As a rule, the functions that come from modeling are extremely complicated or it is only possible to get some partial information about them. To overcome this obstacle, an efficient approximation method needs to be picked and this helps to see the properties of the functions based on the partial information that comes from an experiment or an observation. The chosen approximation method depends on many things. For instance, it could be that the precision is of extreme importance. Or, it could be the fact that an experiment gives an enormous amount of data and a clever way to deal with that has to be found. Choosing the appropriate approximation method is crucial and could drastically simplify the model.   

One of the interests of this mentorship site is the study of a specific approximation scheme in relation to a few models that are concerned with extraction information from highly noisy data. Such models appear in gravitational wave detection, nuclear magnetic resonance spectroscopy as applied to nuclear waste, brain/breast cancer detection, oil detection and other similar areas of application. The approximation scheme in question is called Padé approximation and its essence is that it approximates complicated functions by rational functions, which are easier to deal with.  

 If you join this mentorship site, we’ll teach you some basics of computing environments such as Maple and Mathematica. Then, you’ll be helping us to visualize the behavior of Padé approximants for some specific functions. It’s worth noting here that some of Padé approximants are convergents to continued fractions. 



Title: Comparative Genomics of Microbes and Viruses 

Mentor: J. Peter Gogarten, Distinguished Professor of Molecular & Cell Biology,  Sean Gosselin, PhD student, and the Research Team 

Please note: Background experience or coursework in biology and computer programming is recommended for participation in this site.

Description: Our understanding of microbial evolution and microbial communities currently undergoes a major revision. Genomes are no longer seen as slowly changing information repositories but have been revealed to be changing rapidly through gene duplications, deletions, rearrangements, and the acquisition of genes from unrelated organisms. Even within species and populations, genome content varies to a surprising degree.  

These lessons apply to viral genomes just as much as microbial genomes. Viruses are an important part of these microbial communities, including those that live in and on multicellular organisms. Analyses of community genomes, evolutionary histories of individual genes and the patterns of mutations that these genes experienced provide information on the size of the population these genes evolved within and on the selection pressures that these genes experienced In some instances, one can even use these patterns to predict future evolution; for example, which members of a present-day virus population are likely ancestors of future outbreaks.  Participants in this site will learn how to compare and analyze genes, genomes, and metagenomes to detect and analyze transferred genes and selfish genetic elements. This work will involve analyzing genomes and gene families using analytical tools that are already established and available as web-based applications, along with simple scripts and programs. For more information on the Gogarten-Lab see 


Title: Exploring Genome Space

Mentor: PI: Dr. Rachel O'Neill, Professor, Molecular & Cell Biology, Lead Mentors: Michelle Neitzey, Graduate Student, Patrick Grady, Graduate Student, and Gabrielle Hartley, Graduate Student

Description: Ever wonder how much information is really sitting in each of your cell’s DNA? Or how scientists can actually tap into that information and mine it for markers for diseases or even simple phenotypes, such as hair color? Modern genomics has been growing over the last twenty years into a field that now spans more than just classical genetics into linking disciplines like biology, genetics, computer science, chemistry, physics, data management, and even digital visualization. In this project, you will use exciting and exotic model systems paired with genome-scale sequencing and bioinformatics to study genome space. In our lab, we use genomics techniques to unravel the information coded in the genomes of humans and species across the globe: from the gibbons native to East Asia, kangaroos and wallabies in Australia, and even corals that thrive in the deep sea. Participants in this mentorship site will explore different genomes and techniques in genome assembly using all of these species as models. You will learn advanced methods in the field of genomics including: innovative high throughput, genome-scale sequencing technologies, crucial bioinformatic tools, and the techniques and computational methods to study genome space using exciting and exotic model systems.  



Title: Why is having a healthy liver important for sustaining life? 

Mentor: José E. Manautou, Professor and School of Pharmacy Department Head of Pharmaceutical Sciences

Description: The liver is interesting in comparison to other organs. You can damage the liver, and if the damage is not overwhelming, with time it repairs itself and it appears normal. Our laboratory is trying to study how the interaction of chemicals alters the functioning of the human liver, with an emphasis on how a damaged liver can repair itself. Our research work has been built over the years studying the drug acetaminophen, known commercially as Tylenol, which is safe when taken in recommended doses, but can produce toxic byproducts in the liver when consumed in higher quantities. Abuse of the drug can occur when patients take the suggested dosage and then use another over-the-counter medication that also includes acetaminophen, unknowingly raising the potential for toxicity.  

The use of acetaminophen at doses above therapeutic values can lead to the development of tolerance against acetaminophen poisoning. To better understand the factors that drive this adaptive response, we have employed genomics approaches, allowing us to identify and characterize genes associated with this adaptation acetaminophen toxicity. We have also started investigating the relationship between the function specialized proteins in the liver known as drug transporters and the development of a fatty liver disease. 

This line of research is ideal for students interested in pharmacy, toxicology, medicine, organ physiology and pathology. 



Title: Risky Business: How Pharmacy Practice Research is Addressing Urgent Public Health Epidemics

Mentors: Dr. Nate Rickles, Associate Professor, Pharmacy Practice, and pharmacy students working in Dr. Rickles’ research group. 


  • How do we address the nationwide opioid crisis and the misuse of prescription drugs? How do we identify individuals at risk for opioid misuse? 
  • How do we help low-income women get the health care services they need? 
  • How could a pharmacist help you if you were forgetting or refusing to take life-saving medication? 
  • How do we train pharmacists to help patients and themselves through a mental health crisis? 

In the Rickles lab, researchers seek to answer these critical questions through projects related to improving medication safety and public health. Scholars will have the opportunity to assist with one or more of the research projects while joining a multi-disciplinary team including health professionals, researchers, and other stakeholders.  Scholars will attend lab meetings and may contribute to a range of collaborative research activities, including assisting with the initiation of projects, data collection, data entry, analysis, and some professional writing. This experience is ideal for those interested in a career in pharmacy, public health, or medicine. 



Title: Ovulation and Contraceptive Research with the Help of Fruit Flies

Mentor: Jianjun Sun, Associate Professor, Physiology & Neurobiology; Andrew Beard, Graduate Student; Rebecca Oramas, Graduate Student

Please note: A computer with ImageJ (or Fiji) software is required. The software can be downloaded here: The tutorial for the software is here: 

Description: Research in the laboratory focuses on reproductive physiology. Our lab is interested in understanding the mechanisms regulating ovulation, mostly because when this process dysfunctions it can result in a range of problems from female infertility to ovarian cancer. In addition, understand the mechanism of ovulation will allow us to develop novel non-hormonal contraceptives that have less side effects. Instead of using mammals to research our questions concerning ovulation we turn to a simpler model system: the fruit fly. Our lab has shown that fruit flies surprisingly have a fairly similar process of ovulation to mammals, yet they are much easier and quicker to manipulate genetically. For more information about our exciting research, please visit our  lab’s website at 



Title: Designing Antiracist Policies to Address Public Problems

Mentor: Mohamad Alkadry, Professor of Public Policy & Affiliate of Women & Gender Studies 

Please note: A high school or college level US government course is recommended but not required.

Description: Public policy can be credited with many positive things in our society. It is also credited with addressing market failures. Transportation policy, education policy, health policy, housing policy and other policy areas have all been used as vehicles to improve lives and add value to communities. At the same time, policies have been blamed for exacerbating social and economic disparities in society. This site will focus on policies that have historically resulted in unjust outcomes for communities of color and less affluent communities. At this mentorship site, scholars will identify a specific societal problem that has resulted from a policy action. Then, they will follow a specific outline to design a public policy solution to that problem. Participating scholars will also choose from a list of several problems and provide guidance to design an appropriate policy to address the problems.  


Title: Social Policy and the Political Lives of American Teenagers

Mentor: Edith Barrett, Associate Dean and Professor of Public Policy and Urban and Community Studies

Description: At this mentorship site, we will be researching the connection between social policy and the attitudes and everyday experiences of teenagers. We will begin with a dive into the meaning of social policy, examining the power structures that promote or deny certain policies as well as the underlying theories, logics, and social contexts that guide particular social policies. We will also address the impacts of racism and misogyny on the structure of social policy. In the social sciences, the world is our laboratory, and thus we will be conducting our research in the field. With a basic understanding of social policy, those who select this mentorship will work as a team to develop a research project to discover the attitudes of teenagers toward a specific policy area (for example, public education, hunger and food insecurity,  crime prevention and policing, poverty reduction). We will collect and analyze the data and together prepare a short research report with policy recommendations. In the policy world, this is what we call a White Paper. The findings from this project will also contribute to a larger on-going research project of the same name.



Title: Ethics and Money: Judging the Legitimacy of State Courts

Mentor: Virginia Hettinger, Ph.D., Associate Professor of Political Science

Description: Professor Hettinger is working on two different projects that examine judges in the state courts. 

The first project examines state judges who have been charged with committing ethics violations.  The project involves examining media coverage of those judges. Which cases do the media cover? Which cases get ignored? The student researcher will collect newspaper accounts of the cases using on-line databases, read the accounts, create a dataset that captures key elements of each article, and use content analysis software to explore how the media portrays these judges.   

The second project examines elections for state supreme court justices. Outside groups spend an ever increasing amount of money on these elections. What messages do they try to send? Have these messages changed over time? Student researchers will help expand a database of televised ads and extend the database to include other forms of media. This could include websites and social media. 

 Both projects would allow participating scholars to learn about data collection, data documentation, using online databases, and performing content analysis. Each scholar will have a set of data that will be ready for analysis and presentation at the end of the program. 



Title: Exploring the Mechanisms and Impacts of Anxiety 

Mentors: Pamela Colón Grigas, Graduate Student, Psychology; Dr. Kimberli Treadwell, Associate Professor, Psychology (Clinical Psychology); and senior students in the lab

Description:Anxiety is one of the most complex feelings humans experience—it can manifest physically or mentally, be normative or debilitating, and is a symptom of numerous mental disorders, including social anxiety, obsessive compulsive disorder, and PTSD. Anxiety is also extremely common—in fact, anxiety disorders are the most common mental disorders in the United States and affect 30% of adults at some point in their lifetime. In our laboratory, we study this common and complex emotion in a number of ways; our ongoing studies include analyses of anxiety contagion between friends and conversational interchanges in college students, factors that contribute to vaccination hesitation, and attention allocation in PTSD. If you join us in our efforts to understand anxiety, you will become part of a team of dedicated UConn doctoral and undergraduate students and learn about research ethics and anxiety literature, consenting participants, running study protocols, and collecting, entering, and statistically analyzing data. Participants will be encouraged to get involved in one ongoing project (though not limited to just one!) and take an active role in their learning by asking questions, thinking critically, and contributing meaningfully to discussions. This is an ideal experience for those interested in careers in psychology and medicine.



Title: Speech and Brain Lab

Mentors: Emily Myers, Ph.D., Associate Professor; Cristal Giorio-Jackson, Lab Manager; Hannah Mechtenberg, Graduate Student; Anne Marie Crinnion, Graduate Student

Description: Have you ever wondered how people understand each other when they talk? Listeners interact with many speakers who produce certain sounds in different ways (different languages and accents), in many different environments (i.e., in a noisy coffee shop vs. in a quiet room). How listeners process speech sounds varies between talkers and across diverse settings. Despite this variability, all listeners engage in a common goal: figuring out how to derive meaning from speech. Research in our lab focuses on how people map the sounds of language to meaning, using a variety of behavioral and brain imaging methods. Our lab will give you the opportunity to be involved with projects that help us understand how we process the sounds of language, from designing studies to analyzing data. There are also opportunities to learn about how the brain processes language using software to analyze neural signals. If you’re curious about how we understand meaning when people talk, then our lab would be a great fit for you! 


Title: You Perceive What You Speak 

Mentors: Dr. Adrian Garcia-Sierra, Speech, Language and Hearing Sciences and students in Garcia-Sierra lab

Description: The balancing of two languages is a complex process that is not fully understood.  Bilinguals’ perceptual mechanisms and grammatical knowledge are in constant competition when perceiving and expressing linguistic information. You will be involved in research that investigates the factors that force bilinguals to “deploy” linguistic structure from the language not in use. A second project you will be involved in focuses on a perceptual shift that bilinguals show. Namely, bilinguals’ perception of stop consonants shifts depending on the language context in which it is presented. For example, the perception of an English /ga/ sound shifts to a /ka/ sound when presented in a Spanish language context; a perceptual shift not found in monolinguals. The understanding of the factors that activate these deployments (syntax and perceptual shift) offers an opportunity to better understand the workings of language, the mind, and the brain. You will use online methods to test specific sentences and speech sounds to understand how bilinguals deploy (access and apply) their linguistic knowledge.



Title: Single Cell Technology to Decipher Immune Cell Function in Cardiovascular Diseases

Mentor: Beiyan Zhou, Ph.D., Associate Professor of Immunology

Description: This mentorship site will introduce scholars to a key technology and its application to understanding immune cell actions in diseases. Training session will encompass two learning phases on this topic:   

  1. Why immune cells are important for cardiovascular diseases, such as atherosclerosis;  
  2. How to use a single-cell based analytic tool, flow cytometry, to track immune cell actions and extract information for future drug development.  

The project aims to introduce a crucial single-cell analytic technique to understand the emerging roles of immune cell function to cardiovascular disease, which is the leading cause of death in the United States and worldwide.  Students will have the opportunity to work with scientists in the immune/cardiovascular biology field to explore the current knowledge base of disease development and work on first-hand data analyses to reach a scientific conclusion.  

At the end of this program, participants are expected to understand the foundational knowledge about how immune cells contribute to cardiovascular disease, how to perform single-cell flow cytometry analyses, and how to extract meaningful experimental conclusion from data analyses. 


Title: Tissue Engineering: Growing Body Parts Using Materials, Cells and Bioactive Factors

Mentor: Sangamesh Kumbar, Ph.D., Associate Professor, Orthopedic Surgery, and  Rosalie Bordett, Graduate Student

Description: Scholars participating in this site will design 3D structures called scaffolds using biomaterials. The scaffold fabrication techniques will include traditional methods including solvent casting (2D), particle aggregation (micron scale), electrospinning (nanoscale) and 3D printing. This process will emphasize how scaffold structure properties present micron and nanoscale features to influence cell-material interaction as well as how cells interact with the scaffolds. This project will also review how tissue engineering scaffolds are created, and how they are tested with cell interactions and in live animal models. Scholars will compare these materials and scaffold designs to what is presented in current scientific literature in a mediated literature search.  Students will watch livestream experiments of the creation of these scaffolds, give input into their design, and learn about how they interact with cells to lead to faster tissue regeneration. They will also have the opportunity to interact with graduate students, postdoctoral fellows, clinicians, and researchers in the broad field of biomedical engineering. This mentorship site will allow scholars to experience the life of a scientist and prepare them for scientific careers and academic studies. 



Title: Advancing Health Equity

Mentor: Stacey L. Brown, Ph.D., Associate Professor, Public Health Sciences 

Description: This mentorship site will serve as an introduction to health disparities with a specific focus on eliminating disparities to achieve equity. Throughout the program we will examine theoretical models, causes, consequences, and solutions related to health and health care disparities in the United States. Students will engage in this work independently, collaboratively, and with community connections to gain a deeper understanding of the sociocultural, economic, geographic, environmental, political and individual factors that contribute to health disparities. We will explore structural, community, and individual level interventions to reduce the impact of inequity on health and health care utilization.  

Scholars at this site will participate in seminar style discussions involving lectures, review of assigned material, activities to promote deeper understanding, and guest speakers. Scholars will also learn independently through watching films, reading articles/reports, and completing assignments that involves talking with community partners. At the culmination of the program, participants will develop an intervention designed to address a health inequity within a specific population. Their intervention may be completely novel and/or expand an existing approach with new information/direction (e.g. specific integration of cultural competency and inclusion of the unique role of public health professionals).