With funding from DU, students take on research challenges

Daniel Linseman wants to spread the word: The University of Denver believes so strongly in the value of inquiry and discovery that it funds undergraduate research projects. Students need apply.

Linseman is director of DU’s Undergraduate Research Center (URC), which provides resources and funding to help students develop research skills. The URC supports students from all majors and departments, from engineering, biology and business to history, music and math.

“It’s a great thing for undergraduates. I think it’s something that truly differentiates DU from a lot of other institutions … the huge support for undergraduate research,” Linseman says.

Students can apply for Partners in Scholarship (PinS) grants for fall and winter quarters. This is an opportunity for students to collaborate with a faculty member on a project during an academic quarter. They work with a faculty partner to develop a detailed project plan and can use the $1,500 grant on supplies or anything related to the project. Summer research grants, meanwhile, include the $1,500 award for supplies but also allow for a $2,000 stipend for living expenses. 

“I always tell students, you have to get to know some of your faculty members a little bit better than just a classroom lecture, because all of us need support to move on in our academic careers,” Linseman says. “This gives them that opportunity to build that sort of mentor-mentee relationship.”

Senior Arlo Simmerman put his research grant to work studying the evolution of multicellularity in freshwater sponges.

Arlo Simmerman is a senior biological sciences major who hopes to start a PhD program next fall. “Lab experience is paramount to a successful career in science,” he says.

Simmerman received a summer research grant to study the evolution of multicellularity using freshwater sponges as a model organism. The funds covered his living expenses over the summer, while a National Science Foundation grant obtained by his principal investigator and faculty partner, associate professor Scott Nichols, paid for his lab experiments.

Simmerman was hoping to discover that sponges have functional cadherins that localize at cell-cell boundaries. Although his research didn’t yield the results he had sought, he accepts that things don’t always work out as planned. “I did, however, learn a ton of valuable techniques, and I had fun doing it,” he adds.

Peter Vo used his PinS grant to purchase a high-quality camera to create videos and photos for his project documenting the experiences of his Vietnamese-American family, pre- and post-migration to the U.S.

“Post-Vietnam war, hundreds of thousands of Vietnamese people migrated to the United States in order to escape political persecution and/or pursue the American dream,” says Vo, a junior journalism studies major. His project will portray Vietnamese culture and migration as an American story, not an international one.

Vo has teamed with professor Roddy MacInnes in the School of Art and Art History on his project.

“At the end of this, I hope to curate a body of work that represents what I’m passionate about and the community that raised me,” he says.

DU awards as many as 60 summer research grants each year, plus 15 to 20 PinS grants during fall and winter quarters, Linseman says. Students present their work in poster form or in oral presentation to the DU community at the Research and Scholarship Showcase in June. 

Simmerman embraces undergraduate research, both as a student and as editor in chief of the DU Undergraduate Research Journal. 

“I think the work we do is really important in giving undergrads a chance to get their research published and experience the peer-review process that is the backbone of any academic research,” he says.

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