The Spit for Science Undergraduate Research Symposium is this Tuesday (4/30) at 4pm

spitThank you for your support of Spit for Science: The VCU Student Survey! We invite you to celebrate the close of another successful semester of the Spit for Science research project. Members of our undergraduate research team will present analyses based on Spit for Science data in a symposium open to the whole university on Tuesday, April 30th, 4:00-5:00 PM in the University Student Commons, Common Ground room. Presentation topics include the role of parents, peers, stress, religiosity, and engagement in student organizations on the use of alcohol and drugs during the first year of college.

The symposium will be followed by a Jimmy John’s reception in the Common Ground Room. Learn about the project, meet the research team and receive a free T-shirt and food.

About the project: The goal of Spit for Science: the VCU Student Survey ( is to understand how genetic and environmental factors come together to influence a variety of health-related outcomes in the VCU undergraduate population.  The project, launched in the fall of 2011, is following the 2011 VCU freshman class across is its college years, and will also enroll new VCU freshman classes over the next few years.

Annual Poster Symposium for Undergraduate Research and Creativity is Wed. April 24th at 11am!

Dear members of the VCU community, please join us this Wednesday, April 24th for our Annual Poster Symposium for Undergraduate Research and Creativity.  Undergraduate students will present their research endeavors to their academic peers, members of the VCU faculty, community members and friends and family.  Projects include research and scholarly work from a wide variety of academic disciplines including the College of Humanities & Sciences and the schools of Allied Health Professions, Arts, Business, Education, Engineering, Medicine, Nursing, Pharmacy, Social Work and Interdisciplinary Studies.

The symposium will take place from 11am-2pm in the Commonwealth Ballrooms and Richmond Salons on the second floor of the Student Commons building.  Remarks from VCU President Michael Rao, Provost Beverly Warren and Vice President for Research Frank Macrina will begin at 12:30pm.


UROP Summer Fellow Stephanie Roddy and her mentor Dr. Karen Kester track the gypsy moth!

roddyThis is a reprint of “Alien Invasion of the Trees”, written by Taylor Beck, VCU News Contributor

In the worst seasons, you can hear caterpillar droppings pouring from the naked trees.

“The rain of poop,” as entomologist Derek Johnson, Ph.D., describes it, is the most visceral sign of the gypsy moth, the invasive pest that has been Johnson’s specialty for ten years.

The mystery is this: while the moths have spread across much of the United States, destroying forest, they are dwindling on Virginia’s coastal plain east of Richmond. If scientists can understand what is hindering the moths in this area – be it food scarcity, parasites, predators or weather – they may be able to suppress the moth from stripping America’s woods.

It’s a mystery Stephanie Roddy, an enthusiastic undergraduate researcher at Virginia Commonwealth University, would like to solve. Roddy has joined her mentors, Johnson, an assistant professor of population and invasion biology at VCU, and entomologist Karen Kester, Ph.D., an associate professor of biology, in the search for answers.

Through a fellowship from the university’s Undergraduate Research Opportunities Program (UROP), Roddy has been studying gypsy moth pupae at six locations across Virginia. Roddy, together with Johnson, has tracked how the moths are affected by predators, parasites and weather factors, offering answers to the question of what is, and what is not, killing the moths.

Read Taylor Beck’s full article here:

VCU Student Research Week – April 19th -27th

Dear Students, Colleagues, and members of the VCU community,

Beginning this Friday, VCU hosts its third annual Student Research Week, a series of events that brings together undergraduates, graduate students and faculty from across disciplines to celebrate research and creative scholarly projects. Events will take place April 19th-27th.

A schedule of events and locations can be found at the website below. Projects span many academic disciplines, including work from Community Engagement, the College of Humanities and Sciences and the schools of Allied Health Professions, Arts, Business, Education, Engineering, Medicine, Nursing, Pharmacy, Social Work and Interdisciplinary Studies. Students will be available to demonstrate and discuss their projects in a variety of presentations.  I hope you will join us for this exciting series of events!

For more information, contact me at or visit

RW 2013

Student Research Organization Meeting Wed. April 17th, Positions Open for Executive Board


VCU Student Research Organization Meeting

Where: VCU Student Commons – Forum Room

When: Wednesday April 17th, 2013 at 5pm

The Student Research Organization (SRO) exists to raise awareness of undergraduate research through educational programs, workshops, and by providing avenues to become more involved in research.

The meeting will take place Wednesday April 17th, 2013 at 5pm in the Student Commons Forum Room. We will be recruiting to fill our leadership positions for next year, so if you are interested in serving on the executive board of the SRO make sure to come out and express your interest.  Email if you are interested in applying.

Relay for Life of VCU
April 20th, 11 am – 11 pm at the Cary Street Field
Consider joining our team and help us raise funds for this great cause! The day will be filled with fundraising, games, entertainment, food, the Survivor Lap to celebrate all cancer survivors, and the Luminaria Ceremony to remember those we have lost to cancer. It’ll be a fun and memorable day! If you can’t join us on the day of the event, you can still help spread the word about the cause and still be able to help us fundraise online.

UROP Summer Fellow, Joanna Kettlewell and her mentor Dr. Allison Johnson, fight viruses!

tetrameer-integrase_ResearchWeek_flat-smThis is a reprint of “Virus Fighters”, written by Taylor Beck, VCU News Contrubitor

If not for viruses, Joanna Kettlewell might still be folding towels in a nursing home. That’s what she was doing for a part-time job in the fall of 2010, when she stumbled on the class that changed the course of her college career and transformed her into a scientist.

Allison Johnson, Ph.D., the instructor of a class on phages, or bacterial viruses, at Virginia Commonwealth University, inspired Kettlewell, a sophomore at the time, to focus her undergraduate research on one virus. That virus, the focus of Johnson’s current work, represents one of the world’s greatest public health crises: human immunodeficiency virus (HIV), which kills about 2 million people per year.

Thanks to a summer fellowship through the VCU Undergraduate Research Opportunities Program (UROP), Kettlewell, a biology major and chemistry minor in the College of Humanities and Sciences,  has explored what it means to be a scientist by studying one of the enzymes that gives HIV its bite. Her efforts represent one of many student research success stories at VCU, which celebrates its Third Annual Research Week from April 19 to April 27. (A complete list of Research Week events can be found here.)

Kettlewell and her mentors, Johnson, assistant professor and assistant director of the Center for the Study of Biological Complexity in VCU Life Sciences, and Vamsi Yadavali, Ph.D., assistant professor of chemical and life sciences engineering in the VCU School of Engineering, hope their work ultimately may help scientists better understand how current HIV medications work so that they can design better drugs to fight the epidemic.

Read Taylor Beck’s full article “Virus Fighters” on the VCU News Center website.

UROP Poster Session on Wed. April 3rd


The Undergraduate Research Opportunities Program will be hosting its next poster session:

Thursday, April, at 3pm in room 430 of Hibbs Hall

The workshop will focus on the significance of a poster as a vehicle for research presentation while covering some of the technical aspects of poster creation from design to printing.

Completion of the workshop will assist in preparing undergrads to present their work, whether for the Poster Symposium for Undergraduate Research and Creativity taking place on campus April 24, 2013, or for any other national conferences related to undergraduate research.

In order to participate in the workshop, students must first register with Herb Hill at to ensure sufficient space.  If you would like to workshop your poster, but are unable to attend any of the announced sessions, please contact Herb Hill to schedule an alternate meeting time.