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Amazing Adventures in Undergrad Research

USC Dornsife students win top prizes at the 15th Annual Undergraduate Symposium for Scholarly and Creative Work. In humanities, Vellore Adithi placed first for research.

By Michelle Salzman
May 15, 2013

Vellore Adithi won first place in the humanities category at the 2013 Undergraduate Symposium for Scholarly and Creative Work. Adithi's research (shown on computer screen) looked at Jewish-American citizenship and ethnic expression in 20th century America in the work of comic book artist Will Eisner. Photo by Michelle Salzman.

Vellore Adithi won first place in the humanities category at the 2013 Undergraduate Symposium for Scholarly and Creative Work. Adithi's research (shown on computer screen) looked at Jewish-American citizenship and ethnic expression in 20th century America in the work of comic book artist Will Eisner. Photo by Michelle Salzman.

Vellore Adithi loves comic books. Growing up, the Missouri native remembers travelling to India during the summer to visit her family and voraciously reading Archie, Tin Tin, Asterix and Batman.  

Adithi, a USC Dornsife senior majoring in anthropology and linguistics with a minor in gender studies, read Michael Chabon’s novel The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier & Clay the summer after her freshman year. The story about a young, Jewish artist who escapes 1930s Nazi-occupied Prague for Brooklyn, N.Y., where he creates comic books with his cousin struck a chord in her.

“I have always loved the expressiveness of the comic book medium,” Adithi said. “After reading Michael Chabon’s The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier & Clay, I became extremely interested in the relationship between Jewish-American authorship and the birth of the American comic book industry.”

With a grant from USC Dornsife’s Summer Undergraduate Research Fund (SURF), Adithi embarked on a research project advised by Lanita Jacobs, associate professor of anthropology and American studies and ethnicity.

Her work on the project earned her first place in the humanities category at the 2013 Undergraduate Symposium for Scholarly and Creative Work.

Sponsored by the USC Office of the Provost and coordinated by the USC Office of Undergraduate Programs, the symposium is designed to provide USC undergraduates with the unique opportunity to exhibit and share their significant research and creative work with the university community. The event is modeled on a professional conference with students presenting their work through posters, art exhibits and electronic media. First place winners receive $1,000 and second place winners receive $500.

The number of entries this year broke all records. This year’s symposium contest received 160 submissions from 229 students and 187 faculty sponsors. In the symposium’s first year in 1999, there were 60 entries.

In Adithi’s winning research, she analyzed the complexities of racial and ethnic representations in the works of comic book artist Will Eisner — whom, in part, Chabon’s book The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier & Clay is based on. She studied Eisner’s superhero comic The Spirit (1940) and his graphic novel A Contract With God (1978), looking at themes of Jewish-American citizenship and ethnic expression in 20th century America.

“Eisner was a dynamic and compelling storyteller whose work reflects the tensions and complications of becoming and being American, especially as an immigrant or a person of color,” Adithi said.

Adithi and other entrants presented their work May 1 in the Ronald Tutor Campus Center. A reception and awards ceremony took place in the evening at Town and Gown. Kevin Starr, University Professor and professor of history, and policy, planning and development, presented the keynote address.

USC Vice Provost for Undergraduate Programs Gene Bickers presided over the ceremony, presenting the symposium winners with their awards.

“I know you’ve worked hard over the past semester and in some cases over several years,” said Bickers, professor of physics and astronomy. “Your hard worked really showed today — the quality and diversity of projects on display was amazing.”

 Ariana Stobaugh, a USC Dornsife senior with a double major in political science and sociology, won first place in the social sciences II category (the number of entries in the social sciences category was so large, it had to be broken into two subcategories). Stobaugh’s research looked at college students' perceptions of sexual assault on college campuses.

 


Ariana Stobaugh, a USC Dornsife senior with a double major in political science and sociology, won first place in the social sciences II  category. Her research examined college students' perceptions of sexual assault on university campuses. Photo by Katie Calvert.

She found that college students have a distorted perception of what constitutes acquaintance rape and sexual assault. While most college students are more likely to define “rape” as sexual assault by a stranger, the majority of instances actually occur by known persons, sometimes referred to as date rape. Stobaugh also found that there are distinct gender differences that exist in the perception of those assaults. Males were more likely to have an inaccurate perception of what constitutes acquaintance or date rape. 

“My results highlighted two key themes,” Stobaugh said. “Students tend to derogate the characteristics of the victim or mislabel the woman’s causal role, and students tend to cite alcohol as a justification to negate the label of rape or sexual assault.”

Double major in human development and aging, and biological sciences in USC Dornsife, Jung-Gi Min won top spot in the life sciences category with his research partner Brandon Glousman, a human development and aging major in the USC Davis School of Gerontology.

Their research examined the possibility of thwarting the proliferation of cancer cells by targeting cellular metabolism, as well as the potential role of mitochondria — a cell’s power source — as a significant communicator in the progression of cancer.

Research Symposium Winners:

Arts

1st Prize
Devon Mott
Project Title: “Uniform without Uniformity: An Architectural Inquiry of Craft”
Faculty Sponsor: Lee Olvera of USC School of Architecture

2nd Prize
Eve White
Project Title: “Chaotic Focus”
Faculty Sponsor:Ron Rizk of USC Roski School of Fine Arts

Honorable Mention
Osama (Sam) Iqab
Project Title: “Rising with Rubble”
Faculty Sponsor: Lauren Matchison of USC School of Architecture

Honorable Mention
Lori Chen
Project Title: “A Modular Solution to Skid Row Housing”
Faculty Sponsor: Valery Augustin of USC School of Architecture

Interdisciplinary Award
Caleb Barnes
Project Title: “Lingua Musica”
Faculty Sponsor: Veronika Krausas of USC Thornton School of Music

Humanities

1st Prize
Vellore Adithi
Project Title: “American-Born: An Analysis of Race Representation, Claims to Whiteness, and Ethnic Citizenship in Will Eisner’s The Spirit and A Contract with God
Faculty Sponsor: Lanita Jacobs of anthropology in USC Dornsife

2nd Prize
Grant Dixon
Project Title: “What Is a King To Do: An Investigation of Images of Kingship”
Faculty Sponsor: Lynn Swartz Dodd of religion in USC Dornsife

Honorable Mention
Charnan Williams
Project Title: “Lost in the City of Angels: A Comparative Analysis of Central Avenue and Leimert Park as Black Cultural Spaces”
Faculty Sponsors: Francille Rusan Wilson and George Sanchez of American studies and ethnicity in USC Dornsife

Honorable Mention
Parin Patel
Project Title: “Remember What Siddhārtha Said Under the Banyan Tree?: Safeguarding Material Culture in Modern-Day Anti-Buddhist Gandhara”
Faculty Sponsor: James McHugh of religion in USC Dornsife

Interdisciplinary Award
Rikiesha Pierce
Project Title: “Gangsta Feminism?: A Pilot Study Investigating the Feminist Potential of Big Rik Locc”
Faculty Sponsors: Sharon Hays and Amon Emeka of sociology, and Lanita Jacobs of anthropology and American studies and ethnicity in USC Dornsife

Life Sciences

1st Prize
Brandon Glousman, Jung-Gi Min
Project Title: “Targeting Cancer Metabolism: The Effects of a Novel Mitochondrial Derived Peptide on Breast Cancer Progression”
Faculty Sponsor: Changhan Lee of USC Davis School of Gerontology

2nd Prize
Divya Nair
Project Title: “Re-Engineering Mosaics of Cone Photoreceptors in Retinas Affected by Retinitis Pigmentosa”
Faculty Sponsor: Eun Jin Lee of USC Viterbi School of Engineering

2nd Prize
Vivek Shah
Project Title: “Experience-Dependent Neuroplasticity in Dopamine-Linked Models of Chronic Anabolic Androgenic Steroid Use and Huntington’s Disease”
Faculty Sponsors:Mike Jakowec, Giselle Petzinger and Daniel Stefanko of neurology; and Ruth I. Wood of cell and neurobiology in USC Dornsife

Honorable Mention
Wendiann Yamasaki
Project Title: “Exercise Ameliorates Depression-Like Behavior Observed in a Mouse Model of Huntington’s Disease Prior to Motor Symptom Onset”
Faculty Sponsors: Mike Jakowec and Giselle Petzinger of neurology in USC Dornsife

Honorable Mention
Pavitra Krishnamani
Project Title: “Developing Ultra-Sensitive Ethanol Receptors (USERs) to Define the Molecular Mechanism of Alcoholism”
Faculty Sponsors: Ronald Alkana, Daryl Davies and Anna Naito of USC School of Pharmacy

Interdisciplinary Award
Megan Bernstein, Stephan Genyk, Rachel Kohan
Project Title:E. Musici: facilitating communication between researcher and bacteria through song”
Faculty Sponsors:Sean Curran of USC Davis School of Gerontology, USC Dornsife and Keck School of Medicine of USC

Physical Sciences & Engineering

1st Prize
Peter Grasso, Kirsten Rice
Project Title: “Microbial Fuel Cell Technologies for Remediation of Hexavalent Chromium in Groundwater and the Effects of Natural Organic Matter”
Faculty Sponsors: Massoud Pirbazari and Ryan Thacher of USC Viterbi School of Engineering

2nd Prize
Brendan Plecque, Awadi Rathugamage, Aditya Vaidyanathan
Project Title: “Aerodynamic Performance of Stepped Airfoils at Low Reynolds Numbers”
Faculty Sponsor: Geoffrey Spedding of USC Viterbi School of Engineering

Honorable Mention
Diya Dwarakanath
Project Title: “Optimization of Fabrication and Experimental Methodologies for MEMS Drug Delivery Devices and Neural Probes”
Faculty Sponsors: Heidi Gensler, Ellis Meng and Jonathan Kuo of USC Viterbi School of Engineering

Honorable Mention
Lesley Chan
Project Title: “Enhanced Performance of Printed Monocrystalline Silicon Solar Microcells with Conformal, Graded Index Surface Nanostructures”
Faculty Sponsor: Jongseung Yoon of USC Viterbi School of Engineering

Social Sciences

1st Prize
Jui Pai (Angie) Chen
Project Title: “Housing Matters: How Redevelopment Strategies Affect the New Shanghai(nese)”
Faculty Sponsor: Andrew Liang of USC School of Architecture

2nd Prize
Uriel Kim
Project Title: “A study of communities surrounding the University of Southern California and food desertification”
Faculty Sponsor: Hortensia Amaro of USC School of Social Work

Honorable Mention
Moemoe Chaee, Matthew Prusak
Project Title: “The Macroeconomic Trajectory of Myanmar”
Faculty Sponsor: Jonathan Aronson of USC Dornsife and USC Annenberg School for Communication & Journalism

Honorable Mention
Julia Mangione
Project Title: “An Exploratory Study of the Experience of the Arctic Council’s Permanent Participants: Opportunities, Constraints, and the Future of Permanent Participation”
Faculty Sponsors: Robert English and Steven Lamy of international relations in USC Dornsife

Honorable Mention
Meghan Heneghan, Kaitlin Mogentale, Caroline Smith
Project Title: “The Future of Transportation in the U.S.: Alternative Fuel Vehicles”
Faculty Sponsor: Juliana Wang of environmental studies in USC Dornsife

Interdisciplinary Award
Marissa Roy
Project Title: “The UN's 8 Millennium Development Goals and the Unpopularity of Global Distributive Justice”
Faculty Sponsor: Alison Renteln of political science in USC Dornsife

Social Sciences II

1st Prize
Ariana Stobaugh
Project Title: “Misperceptions and Gender Differences in the Understanding of Acquaintance Rape and Sexual Assault”
Faculty Sponsors: Amon Emeka of sociology and Michael Messner of sociology and gender studies in USC Dornsife

2nd Prize
Angela Ross
Project Title: “Undocu-Queer: Queer Identity Development Among Undocumented Queer Youth”
Faculty Sponsor: Veronica Terriquez of sociology in USC Dornsife

Honorable Mention
Kassandra Rosales
Project Title: “The greatest band in the history of the universe: A look inside the emotions and behaviors of highly identified active sports fans”
Faculty Sponsors: Jonas Kaplan and Ryan Essex of the USC Brain and Creativity Institute in USC Dornsife

Honorable Mention
Ryan Lee
Project Title: “The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly: Quantifying Presumption of Innocence In Relation to Criminal Stereotypes and Types of Crimes”
Faculty Sponsor: Richard John of psychology in USC Dornsife

Interdisciplinary Award
Robert Rosencrans
Project Title: “Cognitive and Behavioral Responses to Disaster Narratives”
Faculty Sponsor: Viviane Seyranian of psychology in USC Dornsife

Most Innovative, USC Stevens Center

1st Prize
Jay Todd (JT) Max, Avril (Viveka) Pitter
Project Title: “Water Treatment Design and Implementation for Rural Regions of Developing Nations”
Faculty Sponsor:Massoud Pirbazari of USC Viterbi School of Engineering

2nd Prize
Jennifer Ko, Kathleen Roche
Project Title: “Using Ivermectin Analogue-Based Drug Discovery for Alcohol Use Disorders”
Faculty Sponsors: Daryl Davies and Megan Yardley of USC School of Pharmacy

Special Award, USC Schwarzenegger Institute

1st Prize
Nicholas Farmer
Project Title: “Virtual Sprouts”
Faculty Sponsors: Marientina Gotsis, Yasaman Hashemian and David Turpin of USC School of Cinematic Arts

2nd Prize
Jay Todd (JT) Max, Avril (Viveka) Pitter
Project Title: “Water Treatment Design and Implementation for Rural Regions of Developing Nations”
Faculty Sponsor: Massoud Pirbazari of USC Viterbi School of Engineering