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Congrats to our SURE Award Winners!

Congratulations to the winners of the UHP SURE Award for spring 2019! Students who win the Sigelman Undergraduate Research Enhancement Award use the funds to further their own research under faculty supervision.

These UHPers will be sharing more about their research experiences soon, so keep an eye out to learn more about their work! Snaps for Kelsie Ehalt, Claire Houchen, Mark McKibbin, and Rachel Orey from everyone at the UHP!


Kelsie will investigate how class affected the ritual practices of exorcism and look into archaeological records for more concrete information about Iron Age social structures. She also hopes to create a connection between the ancient Mesopotamian conception of exorcism and later practices, from early Jewish tradition, to Medieval demonology, to the modern portrayals in films.

Since summer 2017, Claire has been working in the lab of Dr. Colin Young at the GW School of Medicine and Health Sciences, studying obesity and metabolic syndrome, with a brain-centric approach. Dr. Young’s lab has shown that “stressing” a certain region of the brain causes fatty liver disease in non-obese mice. This suggests that fatty liver disease may originate not in the liver but in the brain. This led to her current project, which focuses on female mice and fatty liver disease. The working hypothesis is that pre-menopausal female mice (and humans) are protected from fatty liver disease due to the role of estrogen in fat digestion (estrogen is primarily produced in the ovaries). Claire will use her SURE Award funds to present her work at the April 2019 Experimental Biology Conference in Orlando, Florida.

Mark’s research project looks at whether individuals are more likely to vote in elections when they believe their vote “matters.” A key part of political science is figuring out why people decide to vote, and what motivates people to vote. To date, research showing increased turnout associated with the idea that one’s vote “matters” has mainly focused on how the closeness of the race increases turnout. He’ll explore whether people are more likely to vote when they believe the person they vote for will actually be able to make an impact on political decisions that affect their lives. 

Rachel’s research will focus on identifying the key factors that ameliorated the success of select smart cities in India, particularly focusing on how some city governments were able to overcome the barriers posed by weak institutions. Additionally, she will analyze cities that have been less successful in implementing the Smart Cities Mission to develop a more detailed understanding of what specific factors (beyond mere institutional weakness) inhibit comprehensive urban reform.