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Drumming Up Winners

USC Dornsife students win top prizes in 13th annual USC Undergraduate Symposium for Scholarly and Creative Work.

By Ambrosia Viramontes-Brody
April 29, 2011

USC Dornsife undergraduate Jordan Vieira earned first prize in the social sciences category during the 13th annual USC Undergraduate Symposium for Scholarly and Creative Work. Photo by Heather Cartagena.

USC Dornsife undergraduate Jordan Vieira earned first prize in the social sciences category during the 13th annual USC Undergraduate Symposium for Scholarly and Creative Work. Photo by Heather Cartagena.

It was the sound of women’s hands pounding on makeshift drums — pum-pum-pum-pum — from overturned washing basins that first caught Jordan Vieira’s attention. Back home in California he began exploring the symbolism of their performance.

The trip organized by USC RAYSE: The Rise of African Youth through Self-Empowerment allowed Vieira to spend the summer of 2010 helping at a youth facility in Uganda. For months, the USC Dornsife undergraduate worked on an ethnography that examined how women in Uganda made a space for themselves in their country. One example is women partaking in an activity they once had no part in: drumming.

His project — “Performance, Sex and Politics: The Quest for Identity in Southern Uganda” — earned him first prize in the social sciences category during the 13th annual USC Undergraduate Symposium for Scholarly and Creative Work. Vieira worked with Tok Thompson, assistant professor of teaching in USC Dornsife’s Department of Anthropology. The author has published in the fields of folklore, popular culture, translation studies and heritage studies in the U.S., Europe and East Africa, primarily in Ethiopia.

Vieira was among nearly 600 undergrads university-wide who competed in the symposium, which for the third year included an Undergraduate Writer’s Conference and Webfest.

“Uganda just kind of found me,” said Vieira, a sophomore in political science and anthropology in USC Dornsife. “My overall goal was to add to the discussion of Africa."

The aspiring professor intends to expand on his research with a return trip to Uganda this summer.

For the past 13 years students have placed their work on display to be judged by USC professors. This year entrants presented their high-quality projects April 13 in the Ronald Tutor Campus Center. 

Sponsored by the USC Office of the Provost and coordinated by the USC Office of Undergraduate Programs, participation in the symposium has continued to grow, said Gene Bickers, vice provost for undergraduate programs.

“These students are taking four to five courses a semester and yet on the side they’re spending sometimes between 10 to 20 hours a week on research,” he said. “A tremendous amount of work goes into these projects, and it is always impressive to see them all displayed together.”

As a high school freshman, Cara Bickers took a biology class and was captivated by the study of genetics. She decided then to forge a path for herself in biological sciences.

The Los Angeles native’s interest in science on a more detailed level fueled her passion to immerse herself in research. By the end of her freshman year at USC Dornsife, the versatile Trojan began work on a project that earned her a top prize at this year’s symposium.

 


Cara Bickers, a senior in USC Dornsife took home first prize in the life sciences category during the 13th annual USC Undergraduate Symposium for Scholarly and Creative Work. Photo by Heather Cartagena.

Her rigorous lab work for the past 3 1/2 years placed first in the life sciences category.

Bickers’ research with Susan Forsburg, professor of biological sciences in USC Dornsife, could potentially lead to new discoveries of genes, a new function of a known gene or a new type of mutation of a new gene, she explained. She plans to continue working on genetic screening throughout the summer.

“I hope to be doing research that will be somewhat translational to medicine,” said Bickers, a biological sciences major with a minor in classics. In the Forsburg lab, researchers study DNA damage and mutation that in humans may lead to cancer. Their research will be an essential part of the foundation used to seek cures for cancer and improve treatment.

“I think I may want to do stem cell research when I go to graduate school or cancer stem cells research,” said Bickers, a graduating senior who will pursue a Ph.D. in biomedical sciences at the University of California, San Diego.

This year’s Undergraduate Symposium for Scholarly and Creative Work received 138 submissions from 172 students and 158 faculty sponsors.

Students were commended for their exceptional work during the awards ceremony and banquet in Town and Gown. Elizabeth Garrett, provost and senior vice president for academic affairs, was the keynote speaker.

“An event like today’s banquet is one way for us to acknowledge the singular role that undergraduate  research and creative work plays in the life of  this university and to salute those of you who have made particularly significant contributions over the past year,” Garrett said.

“I honor all of you tonight for your achievements and I hope and expect that you will go on to achieve even greater things in your chosen fields in the years to come.”

First prize awards of $1,000 and second prize awards of $500 were awarded to the winners in the categories of arts; humanities; life sciences; social sciences; physical sciences, mathematics and engineering. USC Stevens Institute for Innovation sponsored the Most Innovative award.

 

View winners in the following categories:

 

 

Research Symposium Winners:

 

Arts

1st Prize
Bernice Ngo
Project Title: Housing and Medical Facility in Floating Village of Tonle Sap Lake
Faculty Adviser: Erik Mar, USC School of Architecture

2nd Prize
Tiffany Pereira
Project Title: Nothing is Black and White: Depicting an Environmental Case Study through Scientific Illustration
Faculty Adviser: Xavier Fumat, USC Roski School of Fine Arts

Interdisciplinary Award
Nicholas Brice, Jonathan Carmel, Katelyn Endow, Daniel Lum, Andrew Ogden, Blade Olson, Raunak Roy, Lawrence Sequino, Patrick Shay, David Sommer.
Project Title: Dance Pad – Social iPad game
Faculty Advisers: Chris Swain, Interactive Media Department, USC Cinematic Arts; Michael Zyda, GamePipe Laboratory, USC Viterbi

Honorable Mention
Simon Fink
Project Title: Out of Hand
Faculty Adviser: David Maquiling, USC School of Cinematic Arts

Honorable Mention
Michelle Khazaryan
Project Title: The Sweetest of Pomegranates
Faculty Adviser: Trisha Tucker, Thematic Option, USC’s honors general education program based in USC Dornsife
Khazaryan is an English and international relations major in USC Dornsife.

 

Humanities

1st Prize
Jacob Bongers
Project Title: Landscapes of Death: GIS-based Analyses of Chullpas in the Western Lake Titicaca Basin
Faculty Advisers: Elizabeth Arkush, University of Pittsburgh; Ran Boytner, USC/UCLA; Michael Harrower, John Hopkins University
Bongers is an interdisciplinary archaeology major in Dornsife.

2nd Prize
Parin Patel
Project Title: Archeology and the Literary Narrative: Using Written Language to Understand Material Culture in the Buddhist World
Faculty Adviser: Lynn Swartz Dodd, religion in USC Dornsife

Honorable Mention
Sarah Butler, Renee Duncan-Mestel, Bradford Jackson
Project Title: The Front Lines of Empire: Metal Arrowheads and Projectile Points as Indicators of Social and Political Transformation in the ancient Near East
Faculty Adviser: Lynn Swartz Dodd, religion in USC Dornsife

Honorable Mention
Grant Dixon
Project Title: What is a King to Do? An Investigation of Images of Kingship
Faculty Adviser: Lynn Swartz Dodd, religion in USC Dornsife

Honorable Mention
Katelyn Endow
Project Title: Katelyn Goes to Japan – Spring 2010
Endow did not have a formal faculty adviser because her project was created for the USC Global Scholars Program based in USC Dornsife. But Erica Lovano McCann, assistant director of the Office of Undergraduate Programs, helped her through the process.

 

Life Sciences

1st Prize
Cara Bickers
Project Title: Novel Mutants Link DNA Replication and Centromere Function in the Fission Yeast, Schizosaccharomyces pombe
Faculty Adviser: Susan Forsburg, biological sciences in USC Dornsife.

2nd Prize
John Choi
Project Title: The Effects of Oxidative Damage on Competitive Fitness in Aging E. coli
Faculty Adviser: Steve Finkel, biological sciences in USC Dornsife

2nd Prize
Marissa Srour
Project Title: Rib Regeneration in a Mammalian Model
Faculty Adviser: Francesca Mariani, Eli and Edythe Broad Center for Regenerative Medicine and Stem Cell Research, Keck School of Medicine of USC

Honorable Mention
Meghan Brown
Project Title: Independent and Interactive Effects of Estrogen and Progesterone on Neuroprotection in an Animal Model of Neurodegeneration
Faculty Adviser: Christian Pike, USC School of Gerontology

Honorable Mention
Mathew Schur
Project Title: An Inhibitory Role for PID1 in ATRT Cells
Faculty Advisers: Anat Erdreich-Epstein, Keck School of Medicine of USC; and Hong Zhou and Xiuhai Ren, both of Children’s Hospital Los Angeles

Honorable Mention
Lindsay (LJ) Agostinelli
Project Title: Distribution of Neurons Expressing Nitric Oxide Synthase, Acetylcholinesterase, and Hypocretin/Orexin in the Rat Hypothalamus: Relation to Basal and Stimulated Levels of Fos and Phospho-ERK
Faculty Adviser: Arshad Khan, biological sciences in USC Dornsife

 

Social Sciences

1st Prize
Jordan Vieira
Project Title: Performance, Sex, and Politics: The Quest for Identify in Southern Uganda
Faculty Adviser: Tok Thompson, anthropology in USC Dornsife

2nd Prize
Shelly McArdle
Project Title: National Responses to September 11 Over Time: Analyzing Changes in Emotions, Beliefs, and Behaviors
Faculty Advisers: Richard John, psychology in USC Dornsife; Heather Rosoff, USC CREATE in USC Viterbi

2nd Prize
Daniel Paris
Project Title: Conceptual and Empirical Definitions of Group Membership: Measuring Street Gang Affiliation
Faculty Advisers: Jo Ann Farver and Karen Hennigan, both of psychology in USC Dornsife

Honorable Mention
Dana Jebreel
Project Title: Young Children’s Ability to Generate False Statements as a Precursor to False Belief Understanding
Faculty Adviser: Thoman Lyon, USC Gould School of Law

Honorable Mention
Joshua Real
Project Title: Linking Blink Rate to Motivational Systems and its Neural Substrates
Faculty Advisers: Brian Baucom and Gayla Margolin, both of psychology in USC Dornsife

Interdisciplinary Award
Sarah (Katie) Camarda
Project Title: When Material and Digital Culture Collide: Ethnographic Expressions of “The Contemporary”
Faculty Advisers: Dorinne Kondo, anthropology and American studies and ethnicity in USC Dornsife; Andreas Kratky, USC School of Cinematic Arts, Institute for Multimedia Literacy

 

Physical Sciences, Mathematics and Engineering

1st Prize
Szeyan (Charlotte) Chan, Hannah Gray, Avril Pitter, Kristen Sharer, Lillian Ware
Project Title: Investigating the Mechanisms of Arsenic Removal by Microbial Layer in a Bio-Sand Filter Used for Drinking Water Purification in Developing Countries
Faculty Advisers: Massoud Pirbazari and Varadarjan Ravindran, both of USC Viterbi’s Sonny Astani Department of Civil Environmental Engineering

2nd Prize
Tisa Thomas
Project Title: One-pot Synthesis of N-(Fluoroethyl)amines by MCR Strategy Using Fluroalkyl Sulfones as Efficient Fluromethyl-Transfer Motifs
Faculty Adviser: Surya Prakash, chemistry in USC Dornsife

Honorable Mention
Niral Patel
Project Title: Symmetry-Breaking Intramolecular Charge Transfer in meso-Linked BODIPY Dyads
Faculty Advisers: Mark Thompson and Matthew Whited, both of chemistry in USC Dornsife

 

Most Innovative

1st Prize
Laura Corrales-Diaz Pomatto
Project Title: The Oxygen Conundrum
Faculty Advisers: Kelvin Davies and Aaron Hagedorn, both of  the USC School of Gerontology

2nd Prize
Bernice Ngo
Project Title: Housing and Medical Facility in Floating Village of Tonle Sap Lake
Faculty Adviser: Erik Mar, USC School of Architecture

Honorable Mention
Brian Rose
Project Title: Silica Dol-Gel Synthesis for Integrated Photonics
Faculty Advisers: Andrea Armani and Heather Hunt, both of USC Viterbi