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UD’s Winter Fellows program doubles in 2024
After a successful pilot program during Winter Session 2023 (when this photo was taken), the University of Delaware’s Undergraduate Research Program had more than twice as many Winter Research Fellows this year. Students will share details of their projects from noon to 3 p.m. Tuesday, Feb. 13 in Perkins Student Center.

UD’s Winter Fellows program doubles in 2024

Photo by Christopher Ginn

Students use five-week Winter Session to expand their research

It was a test balloon — a pilot project — in 2023. Would University of Delaware undergraduate students see the five-week Winter Session as a good time to do research?

Why, yes. Yes, they would. In fact, participation doubled. The Winter Research Fellows program, which offers competitive funding for research, drew 103 students this year, up from 48 in 2023.

This isn’t shocking by any means. Undergraduate research has had a strong foothold at UD since the 1980s and interest continues to grow as faculty and research partners make opportunities possible.

This year, 76 faculty mentors were part of the program.

“One of UD's greatest assets is the high-caliber research conducted by faculty across all our colleges,” said Rosalie Rolón Dow, faculty director of UD’s Undergraduate Research and McNair Scholars Programs and associate professor in the College of Education and Human Development. “Providing opportunities for undergraduate students to participate in that research builds on this asset and enhances the UD experience of students.”

UD’s Winter Session offers unique opportunities, she said.

“It’s long enough to engage deeply with a project, but it's a shorter and less-intimidating time commitment for a student looking to try a new activity or extend their prior research endeavors,” Rolón Dow said.

Students will present details of their studies between noon and 3 p.m. Tuesday, Feb. 13, when the Winter Showcase of Undergraduate Research, Scholarly and Creative Works is held at Perkins Student Center.

Margaret Armstrong, a junior honors English major from Clarks Summit, Pennsylvania, will be among them. She has been studying the history of creative writing with Siobhan Carroll, associate professor of English, using “Writer’s Digest” magazine to look at writing trends throughout history. The magazine, which is designed for new and established writers, has been published since 1920.

“We originally sought out trends relating to plot structure, character agency and action,” she said. “Other topics of interest have since come up, too, such as formulas for genre fiction in pulp magazines as well as censorship of certain topics in these magazines.”

Students explored a fascinating array of other projects, including such things as:

  • Health equity

  • Character animation and storytelling methods

  • Regional analysis of brain mechanical properties

  • Avian malaria parasites

  • Bio-inspired unmanned underwater vehicles

  • Hydrodynamics and sediment transport along cape shores

  • Stress reduction training for relationship and personal well-being

  • Women, migration, driving and independence

  • Printmaking processes

  • Brace root development in maize mutants

  • Promoting inclusive fitness for adults with intellectual disabilities’

  • A coffee crisis

  • Carolina wren behavior

  • Plasma-treated plastic for improved degradation

  • Female deities in Hinduism

Armstrong said the Winter Session offered a great opportunity to extend her research. She said she is fascinated with the history of creative writing, especially how historical periods affect writers.

“For example, during the Great Depression, contributors to Writer's Digest recommended following formulas to ensure new writers' success since everyone was looking to make extra money,” she said. “I found a series of articles from the Office of War Information in the 1940s that advised writers on what to say about the war and, generally, steps people can take to help in the war effort. Dr. Carroll and I expected that WWII would affect the magazine in some way, so this was a very interesting find.”

Armstrong said she will present more about the relationship between the time period and writing advice at the showcase. And she aims to continue her work.

“The Winter Fellows program has let me continue this research project, which has let me study writing in a new context outside of my classes,” she said. “I will be continuing this project with Dr. Carroll to research our most significant findings further and write up articles about them.”

The program adds value to students' academic experience, Rolón Dow said, by facilitating participation in research projects and allowing them to gain important content knowledge and skills that they may use in their future careers or in graduate education.

“Also, research participation is a high-impact practice that can foster students' sense of belonging, nourish connections with faculty members and enhance academic engagement,” she said.

With the Winter Fellows Program in full swing, students now have the potential to extend their research throughout the academic year, Rolón Dow said.

“Students can begin a project in the Winter and then apply to our Summer Scholars or Summer Fellows Programs,” she said. “Work-study eligible students who participate in research through our UDRAW program in the Fall or Spring semester can do more intensive research activities in the Winter Session, too.”

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