Summer Research Excellence Fellows Building Strong Foundation for Graduate Students

Posted on: June 11, 2013

Researcher with laptopCAS graduate students enjoy both the opportunity to work with a highly accomplished and internationally recognized team of researchers, as well as gain hands-on research experience and mentoring for their research pursuits. One of the innovative ways we make that possible at CAS is through our Summer Research Excellence Fellowships (SREF).

Both graduate and Ph.D. students can apply for the Research Excellence Fellowships with doctoral awards of up to $6,000 and master's level awards of up to $3,500. Thirty-four graduate and Ph.D. students are benefiting this year from these fellowships with $110,000 awarded for their summer research projects.

Modeling best practices in seeking research grants, the SREF application process emphasizes criteria -- innovation, study design and long-term strategy -- that aspiring researchers need to consider as they pursue larger-scale, more competitive research funding in the future.

Innovation: To encourage innovation, the students must explain how their research will contribute something new or innovative to the field, how it will address a compelling question or issue, and how it will advance theory and knowledge.

Study Design: To emphasize the importance of a well-designed study, this category takes into consideration whether the proposal clearly communicates the goals of the project, the appropriateness of the timeline, whether the subjects and selection procedures have been clearly identified, and if the data collection and analysis strategies are explained and appropriate for the study.

Long-Term Strategy: To ensure that the students are focusing on developing their long-term research interest, proposals must clearly explain how the study purpose is consistent with the individual researcher's progress to date, if it will help the student move toward his or her long-term goals, how the results will be disseminated, and why the student merits recognition through the fellowship.

These are all critical questions that successful researchers must become adept at communicating clearly and persuasively if they are going to thrive in the highly competitive world of academic research.

Over the summer months, the CAS News will feature our Summer Research Excellence Fellows and their projects in more depth, but I would like to share with you a sampling of some of the innovative work our fellows have underway.

Elizabeth Wieland is pursuing her Ph.D. in Communicative Sciences and Disorders. She is researching "neural correlates of rhythm processing in stuttering speakers." Research on how brain areas interact to support rhythm processing have emerged as helpful in determining connections between areas of the brain that support movement timing, which may be deficient in people who stutter.

Ashley Hanna is working toward her Ph.D. in Communication. This summer she is researching the "dimensions and goals of social support seeking messages." Depending on how the support seeker expresses need for support, directly or indirectly, may impact whether or not support is received and the quality of that support.

Syed Ali Hussain is a Health and Risk Communication master's student. He is studying the use of mobile phone-based videos to educate parents on child health issues that a typical family confronts during a natural disaster, such as floods and earthquakes.

Kanni Huang is pursuing a Ph.D. in Media and Information Studies in the School of Journalism. Her research is examining climate change reporting in the Great Lakes region, comparing connections made by journalists to news sources and how that might account for how news media create a different discourse than the science discourse.

Jennifer Cornacchione is working toward her Ph.D. in Communication. Her summer research fellowship focuses on factors that influence why people choose whether or not to engage in persuasive communication, specifically when it involves engaging a family member in a healthy behavior such as exercising.

As you can see, the range of research under way just in this sampling exemplifies the meaningful work of our graduate students.

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