April 11, 2011

Testing their wings

PURA grants in hand, 57 JHU undergrads embark on research

Seasoned researchers know to follow the spark of an idea wherever it may lead. At Johns Hopkins, even the youngest investigators are encouraged to do the same, thanks to the Provost’s Undergraduate Research Awards.

Since 1993, PURAs have been helping students’ ideas take flight, whether the journey takes them across campus to a wet lab or across a continent to an island rain forest.

Grants of up to $2,500 funded 57 original research projects proposed and carried out during summer and fall 2010 by students in each of the university’s four schools with full-time undergraduates: the Krieger School of Arts and Sciences, the Whiting School of Engineering, the Peabody Conservatory and the School of Nursing.

Mentored by faculty from across the university, the students pursued a variety of research activities, comparing the genetic variations in neighboring butterfly populations, searching for causes of a dangerous prenatal malady, studying how children with cochlear implants process and perceive music, and thwarting computer security threats, among many others.

Through donations from the Hodson Trust, PURA has supported 809 student endeavors over the past 18 years. The awards are an important part of the university’s mission and its commitment to research opportunities for undergraduates. In total, the Hodson Trust has contributed more than $3.5 million in both operating and endowment support to the PURA program.

On Tuesday, April 12, Lloyd Minor, provost and senior vice president for academic affairs, will host the annual PURA ceremony to honor the achievements of the student researchers. The 2010 program funded 17 more projects than in the previous year, an increase attributed to the high quality of undergraduate researchers and to the willingness of faculty to mentor them, Scott Zeger, vice provost for research, said.

“Building skills and excitement for research is at the core of the Johns Hopkins undergraduate educational experience,” Zeger said. “We are delighted at the breadth and depth of our student research projects.”

The ceremony will be held in the Glass Pavilion at Homewood. The entire Johns Hopkins community is invited to the event, which begins at 3 p.m. with an informal poster session allowing students to display and talk about their projects. A recognition ceremony hosted by Provost Minor will begin at 4:30 p.m. and will include student performances.

On these pages, a few of the students and their faculty sponsors discuss their PURA experiences. Click to read full list of recipients.