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URSCI award recipients announced

URSCI reciptent, Josh Johnsons oil painting. Credit: Josh Johnson

By: Samantha Sanchez, Managing Editor

Dominican University’s Undergraduate Research, Scholarship and Creative Investigations Expo (URSCI) has taken place every spring semester since 2007. The expo consists of students from all disciplines presenting research projects, capstone papers and degree with distinction projects. URSCI also awards grants to winning applicants that range from $500 – $2000, the largest award being the Undergraduate Summer Scholar Program (USSP). This year’s winners are Joshua Johnson, John Pontikis and Kaydene DeSilva.

Each applicant is allotted $2,000 to fund the project that he or she will work on continuously through the summer. The summer scholars will present their finished work at next year’s expo. DeSilva, Johnson and Pontikis will each be working on vastly different projects, but are equally committed and excited to begin.

Pontikis, a chemistry major, has been studying diazeniumdiolates, a compound that can be used to treat heart disease and other ailments, with Dr. Daniela Andrei, assistant professor of chemistry. After he expressed an interest in working on a project with the research they had conducted, Andrei suggested he apply for the URSCI grant. This summer he plans to further investigate how the compound could be used for medicinal purposes.

“I’ll be taking chemical compounds I have synthesized with Dr. Andrei so far and performing further reactions to quantify the amount of nitroxyl released by each as they decompose,” Pontikis said. “Nitroxyl has been shown to have some potential in pharmacological treatments so compounds such as these could be used to treat heart disease or other ailments.”

Pontikis will also be using analytical research for the first time with the help of Kathleen Schmidt-Nebril, lecturer in chemistry. He hopes that this project will benefit him when he eventually applies to graduate schools for chemistry.

A studio art major, Joshua Johnson will be working on paintings that are influenced by the style of notable contemporary figurative painters. Johnson hopes to further develop his skills by focusing on anatomy, skin tone and the quality of both paint and brush strokes. This summer will primarily serve as a way to focus completely on his art. Under the guidance of painting professors Elena Peteva and Jeffery Cote de Luna, he will create a body of work around this figurative theme.

“I think that, especially as an art student, a grant like this really allows me to focus on creating a body of work that is cohesive, something that is rare in an undergraduate experience,” Johnson said. “Plus, the chance to continue to work intensively on my craft into the summer is something I am really looking forward to.”

Kaydene DeSilvia will be working within the social sciences this summer. The psychology major will be researching the topic of interracial dating among college students, including what leads them to begin an interracial relationship and their experiences as a result of having one. With the help of her mentor, Assistant Professor of Psychology Tina Taylor-Ritzler, DeSilvia hopes to reach a better understand of interracial relationships and what they can tell us about American culture.

She is grateful to Taylor-Ritzler for helping her through the long application process that has awarded her this opportunity and hopes other students take advantage of the URSCI program.

“The program is here to help students transform their ideas and dreams on scientific and creative topics into reality,” DeSilvia said. “It gives students the chance to do independent work under the mentorship of a qualified professor, develop a better understanding of a certain topic, and gain valuable experience while carrying out the project.”

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