Scholarships awarded to students for unique projects

How can Benito Mussolini’s secret war with Italy’s organized crime, the ways graphic novels can be used as teaching tools in the classroom and telling the difference between species of alligators  come together?

Three more student research projects joined these and more than two dozen other past projects funded by Murray State’s Office of Undergraduate Research and Scholarly Activity  Saturday.

David Crittendon, senior from Murray, Lauren Hamm, senior from O’Fallon, Ill., and Bradley Hartman, senior from Grand Junction, Colo., were this year’s recipients of URSA’s Research Scholar Fellowships. Each recipient received a $1,000 stipend as well as $500 for supplies to help them conduct research over the course of the year.

Hamm, a pre-veterinary medicine major, said she was ecstatic when she received the news of her award. Her research concerns the effectiveness of the drugs Ivermectin and Moxidectin, which are used by Murray State to rid its horses of internal parasites, such as worms.

Hartman, an aquatic/fisheries biology major, is evaluating the role of the paedomorphic mole salamander in its habitat and said he was surprised and excited when he discovered he would receive a scholarship.

Crittendon, a psychology major, is studying the effects of priming on patriotism and nationalism. Participants in his study will be exposed to either positive or negative political quotes concerning the U.S. and then have their attitudes concerning the U.S. measured.

“As a military veteran I have always been fascinated by the concept of patriotism and nationalism,” he said. “I have been interested in research for the last two years and I am so thankful and excited that I will be able to proceed with the help of this scholarship.” 

The Research Scholarship Fellowships are URSA’s highest paying scholarships. The office also offers several grants during the year, which can total up to $400, and multiple Travel Support Grants of up to $200.

Applicants had from April to September to craft a research proposal for submission. These proposals were evaluated by two faculty members from their academic college as well as a third from outside the department. Proposals were graded on four criteria: the project’s methodology, its likelihood successful conclusion and publication or presentation, its impact on the student and the role of the faculty mentor aiding and supervising the research project.

Jody Cofer Randall, URSA Program Coordinator, said of funding opportunities URSA offers, the Research Scholar Fellowship is the most competitive. The difference between getting the award or not, he said, sometimes comes down to one-tenth of a point difference in a project proposals’ grading.

“I could easily have seen a fourth or fifth (scholarship) awarded this year,” he said. “But we just don’t have the resources for it. The last couple of years we have run our budget right to the bottom.”

Crittendon, Hartman and Hamm competed with 11 other finalists for their awards. Of those not chosen, all were awarded grants.

Cofer Randall said due to the demand for financial aid for research, URSA usually runs out of money for grants between February and March. He said typically the office turns away 10 proposals a year because there is no money left in its budget.

Since URSA started offering the Research Scholar Fellowships in 2006, the office offered stipends of $2,000 as well as the $500 for supplies and typically offered four instead of three awards. As its budget has gotten smaller, Cofer Randall said it offers fewer Research Scholar Fellowships in favor of providing more URSA grants.

“We could always use more money,” he said. “In our proposed budget we submit for approval every year we always recommend an increase. Some years we get it and some years we don’t.”

URSA’s budget for this year included $4,500 for the Research Scholarship Fellowships, $4,000 for grants and $1,200 for Travel Support Grants.

Recently, however, the Office of the Provost has awarded $3,000 to URSA for Travel Support Grants, used in aiding students in purchasing transportation to events such as conferences and national presentations.   

Recipients of the Research Scholarship Fellowships are required to complete 300 hours of research, although they all have started. Periodically, over the course of the next year, those awarded will submit documentation of their research hours to URSA, so they’ll be awarded part of their stipend money.

Story by Ben Manhanke, Staff writer