Category: URSCO

Alumnus Joshua Malloy holding a llama skull.

Ritual use of animals in the Wari empire

We interviewed Joshua Malloy, a recent graduate who majored in anthropology and religious studies, with a minor in German. Along with research mentors Dr. Donna Nash and Dr. Charles Egeland, Joshua examined the ritual use of animals in the Wari empire. Interview conducted in May 2021.

Building on the past

My mentor Dr. Donna Nash has been doing excavations and archaeological research at a site called Cerro Baúl in southern Peru since 1994, and she’s currently focusing on the palace complex. In this palace there were pit features which are intentionally dug holes in the ground – which broke the floor at the time of the palace’s abandonment – for ritualistic offerings and other stuff. There were animal bones, stone tools, jewelry, and other things like that in these pit features. For my project, I specifically focused on the faunal remains, which are the bones and other parts left behind when an animal dies.

What I was trying to find was how the Wari were using animal parts to perpetuate power, and I found that a couple of researchers are talking about that, but it’s not a massive thing. I didn’t know how little the ritual use of animals had been documented. It was fun to research a niche topic.

Wading through the data

A zooarchaeologist named Susan deFrance, a professor at the University of Florida, analyzed the animal bones previously and determined all the taxa and species found, all the butchery marks on the bones, and all that data was put into a massive spreadsheet. My job was to go through that data, look for patterns from the 23 or so pit features, and group them together in a more organized way.

We wanted to see if the animal remains from an area of the palace open to visiting guests differed from the remains found in a more secluded room further into the palace that was reserved for elite palace residents and their close allies.

There is a massive data set that exists for this site, even with just the animal bones, from many years of research and multiple excavations. Twenty years later it takes some work to extract the data you are looking for and organize it.

The analysis was the fun part. What does this material culture, this thing, mean? That was what came most naturally to me – trying to find the patterns and analyze how it changed. I specifically focused on what the animal bones mean, and the symbolic elements emerged over time as I was like “Why are there so many bones that don’t have high food utility in the pits?”

To eat or not to eat

One of the things I was looking at was the food utility of the animal bones – a measurement of how valuable the meat from the bones would be. A lot of the bones that were found were llama or alpaca bones. There were some others, too, like bird bones. I was using the food utility index to determine if the bones were in the pits because of their high food value or if they had low food value and might have been offered because they had some sort of symbolic value that we don’t know about yet.

Most of the communal gathering spaces had more highly valued bones on the food utility index, particularly camelid (e.g., llama and alpaca) bones.

More of the lower quality, non-food bones, the symbolic bones – including bird bones, which may have been used for their feathers, and toad bones from a toad with hallucinogenic properties – were found in the more secluded rooms, which indicates that more elite status people would be in contact with or offering these more symbolic things.

The event that caused all these offerings here was likely a feasting event because there was a human burial that was found there.

So what’s assumed here is that at this palace, they had a big feast in honor of the dead person, and these offerings were made in the pit features for this dead person, or to the ancestors, or the gods. We don’t know who. But there was some sort of connection between human burial, this feasting event, and then the palace was ritualistically sealed.

They had this huge party and then they broke a bunch of ceramic vessels and stuff. They filled in the doorways with rocks and left the building with all their offerings inside.

The spread of empire

The presence of high food utility bones in the main entrance court and open feasting area supports the idea that Wari elites utilized conspicuous consumption of choice cuts of meat to claim and display wealth and status to those in attendance of the feast, and to demonstrate and consolidate power and authority over the community surrounding Cerro Baúl.

Basically, the Wari elites were spreading the empire by going into new towns and instead of bringing war and forcing people to join the empire, they showed these small communities that they had valuable objects and status and good food, and they had symbolic rituals they could perform to reiterate their power. So they were sweeping through Peru, showing their power through expensive food and symbolic animal parts.

I think that’s a really cool thing about archaeology: you can find some animal bones in the dirt and from there you can kind of figure out what this empire was doing 1000 years ago.

The value of conducting research (even if you don’t want to be a researcher)

I’m not planning to pursue a career in research, but it was cool to see that process and see what practical research looks like. It was that experience of looking at some data, asking a question, and then going to the literature to try to find the answer.

Academic success tips

The best advice I have to give is to make time to rest. I’ve never been more productive than when I scheduled time to rest. I know it sounds weird, but if you intentionally put in the effort to not put in effort, you know, it can really help.

The URSCO blog helps UNCG’s undergraduate scholars share their work and impact with the world. Interested in sharing your work? Contact URSCO Director Lee Phillips at or Office of Research and Engagement Media and Communication Manager Sangeetha Shivaji at

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Alumna Aran Garnett-Deakin

From undergraduate researcher to PhD student

Repost from UNCG News

UNC Greensboro stands out for its commitment to undergraduate research.

Students build close relationships with faculty and work alongside them in their labs, in the field, or in archives.

It’s a transformative experience that opens up countless opportunities. Just ask Aran Garnett-Deakin.

A 2020 human development and family studies graduate, Garnett-Deakin worked on multiple research projects in several labs throughout her undergraduate career. After her graduation last May, she was hired to work as a research assistant on some of the most important research projects taking place on campus. And now, she’s gearing up for a PhD in human development at Virginia Tech.

Originally from Blacksburg, Virginia, Garnett-Deakin participated in research as a high school student, given her proximity to Virginia Tech’s campus. She landed at UNCG because of the reputation of the Department of Human Development and Family Studies, as well as the focus on undergraduate research and the access to faculty.

As a sophomore, she began working with Dr. Esther Leerkes on the Noise, Emotion, and Thinking (NET) Study, in which she helped examine the impact of infant cries on college women’s functioning. She prepped study materials, fitted participants with electroencephalogram caps and heart rate monitors, and assisted with data collection.

Garnett-Deakin later worked with Leerkes on the Infant Growth and Development Study (iGrow), a project funded by the National Institutes of Health. iGrow follows approximately 300 pregnant women and their children for two years in an effort to identify the earliest predictors of risk for childhood obesity. Since graduation, she has served as a part-time research assistant for the project, helping to continue operations during the pandemic.

“I do a lot of data collection and coding,” she said “I have a lot of face time with the participants – the moms and their babies. I also mentor undergraduates, which is really awesome.”

“Aran has been an amazing asset to this study,” said Leerkes. “I’ve seen her grow in confidence, clarity of her interests, and in leadership, from being an undergraduate on our project to helping lead undergraduates the following year. I am certain she will thrive in graduate school and go on to be a successful researcher, teacher, and change agent.”

Garnett-Deakin also works alongside Dr. Jocelyn Smith Lee in the Centering Black Voices Lab, which explores the unequal burdens of trauma and grief in the lives of young Black men. She began work in the lab as a junior, and wrote her undergraduate thesis, “‘All I Want Out of Life is a Family’: Examining How Violence and Masculinity Informs Fathering for Young Black Men,” under the supervision of Smith Lee.

Now, Garnett-Deakin is assisting Smith Lee with her new Gates Foundation-funded research project, “Disrupting Dehumanizing Narratives of Black Men in Poverty.” The research team is working to equip young Black men in Baltimore with skills in ethnography and photography so they can create and share a more complete and nuanced narrative about their lives.

“Undergraduate researchers are an instrumental part of our Centering Black Voices research team, and Aran has played an essential role from the beginning,” said Smith Lee. “Aran does not shy away from challenges. She is a brilliant thinker who is humble, teachable, and welcomes the opportunity to learn and to lead. She is a joy to mentor. Virginia Tech is gaining a treasure.”

Working on both projects has been perfect preparation for the PhD program. As a doctoral student, Garnett-Deakin will focus on telling the stories of Black families – and specifically Black fathers – in Appalachia and other rural areas.

“There’s this huge history of Black Appalachian families that is barely tapped into. I would like to start looking at family structures and find people who are willing to share about their family histories,” she says.

Garnett-Deakin’s ultimate goal is to work as a university professor, engaging in both teaching and research.

Her advice for fellow Spartans interested in undergraduate research?

“Email as many faculty as possible. Professors are really excited about their research. They want to give undergrads access to these experiences, and they want to help you develop skills for graduate school,” she said. “It’s OK to ask people for things and advocate for what you want. Everyone here really wants the best for you.”

To learn more about undergraduate research opportunities at UNCG, visit

Repost from UNCG News

Story by Alyssa Bedrosian, University Communications
Photography by Martin W. Kane, University Communications

The URSCO blog helps UNCG’s undergraduate scholars share their work and impact with the world. Interested in sharing your work? Contact URSCO Director Lee Phillips at or Office of Research and Engagement Media and Communication Manager Sangeetha Shivaji at

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Alumna Laci Gray

Memory and Emotions

We interviewed Laci Gray, a graduating senior who majored in psychology with minors in Spanish and creative writing. Along with her research mentors Dr. Rosemery Nelson-Gray and Dr. Peter Delaney, Laci examined the cognitive symptoms believed to be associated with borderline personality disorder. Interview conducted in May 2021.

Borderline personality disorder and memory

The title of my project is “Memory and Emotions.” Basically, I was trying to address clinical psychology questions using cognitive psychology techniques. I wanted to get at the cognitive symptoms of borderline personality disorder (BPD) because we don’t know a whole lot about that. The research is very scarce. I wanted to know if people with borderline personality disorder remembered or forgot information differently than someone without the disorder.

Usually people with this disorder will perceive themselves or other people or the world around them in a negative light. So I thought that maybe they would also remember things in a negative light. More specifically, I hypothesized that if I presented them with information that was relevant to their disorder, like the word “abandon” or the word “rejection” – because those are symptoms of the disorder, to fear rejection or abandonment – I predicted that they would have a difficult time forgetting those words. As a control, I also included general negative words, not specific to borderline personality disorder. And that would tell us more about the cognitive symptoms of the disorder.

Not what she thought

My research was actually a replication study, meaning that there were two previous studies that tried to do what I was also trying to do, and they found conflicting results. One found that people with BPD had difficulties forgetting salient words, while the other found that they didn’t have trouble forgetting but did experience enhanced remembering of salient words. I did my study, and what I found was that borderline personality disorder basically had no effect on how people remembered or forgot these words that were relevant to the disorder, and that was directly contradicting the previous studies. So that was a pretty big finding for us, because either I’m wrong – and I don’t think that I was, I think my methods were very clear cut – or the other possibility is that they were wrong. I think that my results point toward the previous studies not using the cleanest methodologies that they could, and so they got skewed results.

The root of the problem

The fact that my study failed to replicate the previous studies is very important. We were previously kind of going in a direction that wasn’t super accurate with borderline personality disorder. We thought there were cognitive symptoms that I think don’t exist now that I have done my study. So I think now we can, as scientists in the field of borderline personality disorder, we can focus more of our time and energy doing research on the emotional symptoms.

At first I was not very excited to do a replication study. I think that’s sort of the root of the problem. Like, for me personally, I wanted to create something no one’s ever done before. And I wanted it to be original and exciting. But there is a need for replication studies for that exact reason, because if we don’t replicate them, then we can just do whatever we want, and no one will question it because it’s science. But science can be flawed. So yeah, I think I’ve realized the importance of replication studies by doing this study.

Presenting the data

I actually did a previous study that was like a pilot. It was my first go at researching the same question. I did it for the McNair Scholar Program here at UNCG, so I presented those results at the McNair Expo at the end of the summer of 2020. I presented these latest results at the Southeastern Psychological Association, at Carolina’s Psychology Conference, and then, of course, at the recent Thomas Undergraduate Research and Creativity Expo at UNCG. We plan on publishing what I found also.

I would also like to give a huge shout out to the McNair Program. Without them, I would not be where I am now. They gave me so many tools to further my research, to further my knowledge about research, and the Honors College furthered my knowledge. And my faculty advisors, of course. Without all of those people, without that support system, I would not even be doing research, and the answers that I found wouldn’t exist. And I think those answers are important.

Research in the time of COVID

I think the biggest difficulty was probably learning how to use the software, not just for analyzing the data but doing everything online because of COVID. So, creating the study online using Qualtrics – I’d never used Qualtrics before, it’s a survey website – and then analyzing the data was hard. I had to learn how to use SPSS, the data analysis software that we use in the Psychology Department. That was very difficult, and I struggled all the way up until the end, but my faculty advisors helped me along the way.

Doing a study online presented other problems. We showed participants a set of words on a screen and we asked them to remember some of the words and to forget some of the words. With a memory task, I feel like a lot of people want to do well so they would take pictures, they would write words down, when they were only supposed to use their memory of the words.. It was only a minority of my participants that did that, but it grants them the freedom to do that when they’re sitting in their room rather than sitting in the lab. Doing a study online is always risky because people can cheat, people can just not pay attention, and then you have data that isn’t really useful to you because it’s not very accurate. So that was a bit difficult, but we overcame, and we got the results.

Clinical questions, cognitive tools

I think the most interesting thing to me was the cognitive aspect, because I was interested in clinical psychology when I came into college. I’m in a clinical psychology lab working with borderline personality disorder. So just being able to feel around in the cognitive psychology world with the memory task and all that was really interesting to me, because a lot of the people in my lab and in the clinical labs, they don’t really do that. We mainly give people questionnaires and sometimes in the BPD lab we will try to manipulate their current mood with some sort of frustrating task, and although that is important and necessary, that’s pretty much it. But the memory task was experimental in my study, which was pretty cool.

To anyone who’s thinking of doing research, I would recommend thinking outside of the box. You don’t have to do what other people in your lab are doing or even what your faculty mentor is doing. I sort of forced Dr. Nelson-Gray and Dr. Delaney to come together because I wanted to do this. And, honestly, they were both equally important to this project, because of the cognitive and the clinical aspects, it was like 50/50. The clinical is Dr. Nelson-Gray’s expertise, the cognitive is Dr. Delaney’s expertise.

Seeing herself as a scientist

I was very surprised that the previous studies failed to replicate. That was partly because I guess in my eyes, those researchers were professionals and adults, and I was just a little undergraduate doing my honors thesis. I don’t want to say I expected them to do it the right way because I don’t know if there’s a right way to do science, but I expected them to do it in a way that would produce results that were accurate. So then when I didn’t find their results, I found pretty much the opposite of their results – that borderline had nothing to do with the memory task we were using – that was very surprising.

It also made me feel important, like I’m putting something into the world that matters. It kind of made me feel like a scientist, which is really weird to say. I never would have imagined myself to be a scientist when I was in high school, applying to colleges, so that was kind of surprising. I expected to just do my research to get the honors requirement for my degree, but I ended up being very proud of what I was doing and being very proud of myself for doing all the hard work that it took.

Preparing for the future

I think doing research as an undergraduate has been wildly beneficial to me, honestly. I didn’t come into college thinking that I would do research. I didn’t even know that was a possibility for me. Now that I’ve sort of dipped my toes in research, number one, I feel like I’ve built up my CV so much to apply to graduate schools, to get a job in the field of psychology. Research is super important for that as an undergraduate. Also, I’ve learned a lot, like I’ve learned how to be patient. Research takes so much time. I’ve learned perseverance. It’s very hard, and it’s very defeating sometimes if you don’t get the results you want or if you have to throw out a certain number of participants. It can feel kind of disappointing, but overcoming those obstacles and just persevering, it’s very rewarding in the end. And also I just feel like I’m putting something into the world that is of value, and that’s a really good feeling.

Advice for undergraduate researchers

I would definitely say just keep going. It’s very hard if you’re doing research, but don’t let it intimidate you. Just recognize that you’re going to be doing a lot of hard work, but it is all worth it in the end, and don’t let the obstacle stop you from making it to the finish line. Also, just ask questions. If research already exists but you find that there’s a question that you have that hasn’t been addressed, ask those questions and keep going until you find the answers. If research was easy, we would know everything in the world and we wouldn’t have to keep doing it, but there are so many things that we don’t know. And no matter how insignificant you feel that your question is, someone else might have the same question, and they need to be answered to advance science.

The URSCO blog helps UNCG’s undergraduate scholars share their work and impact with the world. Interested in sharing your work? Contact URSCO Director Lee Phillips at or Office of Research and Engagement Media and Communication Manager Sangeetha Shivaji at

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Biology student Melika Osareh looking at image date on a lab computer.

Growing plants in space

Melika Osareh is a junior majoring in biology and minoring in chemistry. Along with her research mentor Dr. John Z. Kiss and project collaborators Dr. Tatsiana Shymanovich, Alena Jones, Alex Settle, Noah McMurry, and Kelsey Taylor, Melika is investigating how plants might grow in space. Learn more about her project below.

My project.

Growing plants in space, on the Moon, or Mars, could enable prolonged space exploration by providing astronauts with fresh food, oxygen, and psychological benefits. However, growing plants in altered gravity conditions can be challenging because plants may respond differently than on Earth. On Earth, plant roots grow down, towards gravity and shoots grow up against gravity. However, when grown in an environment where there is little to no gravity, plant growth rates are usually negatively affected due to this “stress” factor.

2D clinostat

Our research studies the effects of gravitational stress on plants. In our lab we are trying to determine what genotypes of a common model plant called Arabidopsis thaliana (a small plant in the mustard family) may have gravitational stress-resistance, or in other words, may be able to grow just as well under simulated gravitational stress as its vertically-grown counterparts. We are using a device called a 2D-clinostat – a simple wheel-like device that continually spins. It randomizes the gravity vector on plants as it spins continually for 7-days, or in other words, it confuses the plant as to which direction is “up” or “down.” We’re also now testing out a more sophisticated 3D clinostat, which is basically the same except it also rotates the plant around two axes.

Afterwards we compare the results from our clinostat-treated group with the vertically-grown controls to see if any genotype shows no difference or better growth. The next step will be to find genes responsible for gravitational stress-resistance, various crop-plants can be checked or modified for growing in space.

How I got involved.

During my first semester at UNCG, I came across a local magazine article while I was volunteering at the STEM for Girl’s event held annually at the Joint School of Nanoscience and Nanoengineering. There, I learned about this research going on in the Biology department. I found it fascinating how space research was being conducted here on Earth, and right here at my university. Being an astronomy and space-exploration enthusiast since junior-high, I decided to ask to meet with the professor conducting the research, Dr. John Z. Kiss, and personally ask if I could partake in it. Upon being accepted into the team, I started gaining experience in the lab, running tests and analyzing data. As I analyzed each plant genotype (or strain), I found it remarkable to see how differently plants reacted in the absence of a stable gravitational vector and I grew eager to discover what genotypes would show signs of possible gravitational resistance.


Out of the 53 genotypes we’ve analyzed so far, I was lucky to come across two genotypes that showed no difference in growth and even better growth in some parameters when under clinorotation. These genotypes or strains will be prime candidates for future spaceflight experiments with plants. However, more tests will be needed to find other genotypes showing vigorous growth during clinorotation. In the long term, experiments in true microgravity during spaceflight need to be performed to prove or disprove our predictions based on clinorotation treatment.

The most surprising discovery for me was seeing how much information could be retained from a 3cm long seedling!

I’ve already had several opportunities to disseminate the results of my research.

  • UNC-Greensboro Lloyd International Honors College Symposium, UNCG, NC. February 2020
  • State of NC Undergraduate Research and Creativity Symposium, Duke University, NC. November 2019
  • Triad Tech Savvy – Find your STEM Conference, JSNN, Greensboro, NC. 2019 & 2020
  • UNC-Greensboro Undergraduate Research and Creativity Expo, UNCG, NC. April 2020
  • North Carolina Space Grant Undergraduate Research Award Research Report Submission to NASA, August 2019


Our project posed the most challenges in data analysis and experimental design. The seedlings analyzed in our lab are only about 3-5 cm tall and require high magnification for accurate analysis. For this, we use a high-resolution EPSON scanner to scan the seedlings grown during the experiment and use image-analysis software called FIJI to analyze the different growth parameters of seedlings in minute detail. Another difficulty was entering data manually from FIJI into our data sheets. For this, I developed a technique to record measurements from FIJI in multiples rather than one at a time as was done before. Additionally, our graphing process for visualizing data was very time-consuming. To save time, I came up with an adjustment to our method that allowed automatically graphing those portions that were previously entered manually for each genotype.

Another difficulty we would sometimes encounter was the seedling plates becoming contaminated or not having enough germination and so we had to rerun some experiments – sometimes up to 4 times – to get what we needed.

Undergraduate research experiences.

Participating in this project has opened many doors for me as an undergrad. It not only has helped me develop great lab skills such as lab safety, report writing, and data presentation, but it has also exposed me to the professional scientific world through symposiums and other events. In the future, I hope to work as a biomedical engineer at NASA, helping to provide medical necessities for astronauts, and I believe this project will be beneficial in helping me towards that goal.

Advice for undergraduate scholars.

Search, ask, and connect. Opportunities are not always going to come to you, sometimes you really have to do your own research and ask around to get what you want. In addition, don’t be afraid to ask! Just because you think you’re not qualified for a position, scholarship, etc. doesn’t mean you actually aren’t. Try it out and you may be surprised. Lastly, try, in every possible way during your college years, to form connections with faculty, mentors, and other successful upperclassmen in your field. These are people who will help you big time in the short-term and long-term.

The URSCO blog helps UNCG’s undergraduate scholars share their work and impact with the world. Interested in sharing your work? Contact URSCO Director Lee Phillips at or Office of Research and Engagement Media and Communication Manager Sangeetha Shivaji at

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Designing costumes for Pippin

Jacquelyn Whiteside is a senior majoring in drama, minoring in musical and technical theatre. Along with her research mentor Deborah Bell from the Department of Theatre, Jacquelyn designed the costumes for the UNCG mainstage theatre production of Pippin.

My project.

The goal of this project was designing costumes for the UNCG mainstage theatre production of Pippin, a musical with an emphasis on an arduous dance style created by the renowned choreographer and director, Bob Fosse. The original Broadway production was notable for Fosse’s choreography and direction and praised for its nuanced approach to the search for acquiring wisdom and purpose.

This project required careful organization and visualization of character groupings, husbandry of resources and budgets, mastery of a range of technical skills involving costume construction, and an abundance of research.

With the incorporation of Bob Fosse’s distinct dance style, it was imperative to design the costumes to allow proper flexibility for the actors. Extensive research on Bob Fosse was needed to communicate his distinctive silhouette and style effectively. During the production period, close collaboration with the director, design team, and costume studio was just as critical to the development and proper realization of costumes. The costumes’ extensive organization was achieved by pulling from stock, purchasing from online resources, and building designated builds – pieces that the costume studio has decided to create from scratch, rather than using an item of clothing that’s already been made.

One specific method that comes to mind is how we created the armor pieces the script required. Near the beginning of the musical, Pippin undergoes a war with his father and fellow soldiers. Since this musical needed heavy dancing, we had to create a realistic looking armor that was also flexible enough for the dancers to execute their numbers properly. We utilized Fosshape, a flexible material that feels and looks very similar to synthetic felt, but when heat is applied, the material can be shaped and molded into your desired look. Cording and EVA foam helped add dimension and detail to the Fosshape armor pieces. Two to three layers of Sculpt or Coat, paired with wet paper towel strips, were applied to the pieces to smooth the shape and prepare the surface for paint. This step is very similar to Papier-mâché. We painted each armor piece in various shades of silver, gold, and bronze to achieve a realistic metal appearance. The theatre students in the costume crafts armor class made these fantastic pieces come to life, and I’m so grateful for the diligence and creativity they put into fabricating these pieces.

The design process is a never-ending cycle of learning and discovery. I read the script over a hundred times, and each time I would find something new and intriguing that I hadn’t seen in the previous readthrough.

During the rehearsal process, the results of my work began to take shape. For months we had design and production meetings while collecting and building costumes, which led its way up to the anticipated opening night. The first dress rehearsal displayed the first significant result of everything coming together. Seeing all of the costumes on the stage working their magic in real time allowed me to see if the work and research I had done for the past six months worked not just in theory, but also in practice. Thankfully, everything ran smoothly with very few issues, and opening night was a success. As I recall, box office sales were also a success with multiple sold-out performances.

How I got involved.

About a year before designing for Pippin, I took an introductory costume design course, which I followed with a costume rendering styles course in the spring semester of my junior year. I took these courses to see if I would enjoy costume design as a potential career path for myself – I originally wanted to pursue acting in musical theatre. Shortly after that, I received an email from my mentor, offering me the position of costume designer for Pippin. The thought of designing for any UNCG production had never crossed my mind, partially because I didn’t think I’d be qualified for the project. That being said, it was overwhelming but also extremely humbling.

During the production process, I received tremendous support from my mentor, the costume studio supervisor, and my design assistant, who was also a professor in the department at the time. These three ladies were my rock and are such gems to have here at UNCG. They were so encouraging, inspiring, and I couldn’t have done this without them. I am so grateful to have been given this wonderful opportunity, and I thank my design mentor, who recognized something in me that I couldn’t see in myself at the time.


This project expanded my knowledge of the costume design process, historical aspects of musical theatre, different sewing techniques, and organizational skills. The most significant impact for myself was being able to put costume design theories learned in class into practice on a real-world scale.

Laying out ideas and rules in theory is a task in and of itself, but having the ability to fully execute those theories is another. I also learned how to effectively communicate ideas to an entire design team. I’ve learned that attentive collaboration, extensive communication, and a bit of compromise are crucial aspects in designing.

The substantial amount I have learned during my time on this project will stay rooted in me as I move on to future projects in my career. I am currently designing for a short film and can certainly say all that I learned from the Pippin production process has influenced how I’ve approached this next project.

Before COVID-19 shut the world down this year, I was fortunate enough to travel to Louisville, Kentucky, alongside some fantastic theatre artists, to compete in the Southeastern Theatre Conference (SETC) design competition. Every year theatre artists within this district travel and partake in various workshops, career fairs, and the design competition at this conference. It is a fantastic way to meet and connect with colleagues in the industry.

As for the design competition, hundreds of designers and technicians in each field (i.e., lighting, scenery, costumes, props) display their work on production within the past year for adjudication from reputable theatre artists. I was fortunate enough to present my designs and final production photos of the fully realized costumes for Pippin in the design competition. I received outstanding and helpful feedback, which ultimately has allowed me to grow as a designer. I also exhibited my work and research at the USITT Design Expo in September 2019 and virtually at the Thomas Undergraduate Research and Creativity Expo in late April 2020.


The most memorable difficulty would have to be the one costume we had to completely rebuild and recreate in less than a day. I had chosen a knit fabric to build a dress for one of the characters, and throughout the production process, we had many struggles figuring out how to make it work. This specific fabric stretched beyond measure no matter what we did and consistently gave us hardship in construction, but it was built in time for the first dress rehearsal. At the end of the dress rehearsal, the director insisted on cutting the dress and finding an alternate option because the actor’s mobility was hindered due to its floppiness, and it didn’t seem to fit in with the look of everyone else’s costumes. That being said, the following day my wonderful costume design assistant and incredible costume studio supervisor rebuilt the entire dress out of an existing dress from our costume storage stock. The actress was able to wear it that night at the second dress rehearsal. This was definitely a learning experience for everyone in the process, and I will think twice before choosing another knit fabric.

The project did change over the course of the design process. The original research focused on medieval motifs influenced by Grotowski’s methods and theories – he was most notably known for the idea of “poor man’s theatre.” As the design process evolved and ideas changed, research became more focused on Bob Fosse’s dance style and the director’s vision to pay homage to his legacy through the production.

Undergraduate research experiences.

This has been one of the most hands-on, educational experiences I have had here at UNCG. Though I’ve just started in the world of costume design, the amount I learned through the entire production process at the undergraduate level is remarkable. This project is a steppingstone to a fantastic career path and has definitely benefited me as an individual and as a professional.

From the individual side, I have learned that making mistakes is not the end of the world; rather, it is where learning can come in. I think allowing myself to accept that has made me a better scholar and person. For the professional side, I am currently designing for a short film and have implemented the organization and communication techniques I learned from this project.

The most surprising thing about this experience is the amount of positive feedback received and how this project seems to still somehow remain part of my life. I have been blessed with an abundance of opportunities to exhibit this project, and I never thought a year later I would writing a blog feature about Pippin, yet here we are. It is so humbling, and I am always surprised by this project’s longevity.

The other surprising thing is how much I had to trust and rely on the crew. I am the type of person who will do everything on my own, not because I don’t trust people to help, but only because it’s how I have always functioned. Having an entire costume crew helping with the workload was something I had never experienced before. Oftentimes my costume studio supervisor would have to remind me that I could give a task to someone else rather than doing everything on my own. It took some adjusting, and even now I am still adjusting.

Advice for undergraduate scholars.

Don’t be afraid to get yourself out there, try new things that excite you, and don’t be afraid to fail. If you don’t fail, how will you learn? Keep your mind open to different things within your field, learn as much as you can from your professors, and show kindness in the face of adversity.

Photography by Jason Speer

The URSCO blog helps UNCG’s undergraduate scholars share their work and impact with the world. Interested in sharing your work? Contact URSCO Director Lee Phillips at or Office of Research and Engagement Media and Communication Manager Sangeetha Shivaji at

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Abigail Knight


Repost from UNCG News

COVID-19 is not the first pandemic our campus has faced. In early 1918, influenza made its way to North Carolina and hit what was then called State Normal and Industrial College. Of the 1,164 students enrolled for the 1918-1919 academic year, about 200 students contracted the flu. Remarkably, no students died.

Sophomore Honors College student Abigail Knight began researching the flu pandemic’s effects on State Normal and Industrial College, North Carolina State University, and UNC Chapel Hill in University Archivist Erin Lawrimore’s “Interrogating UNCG’s History” Honors College seminar last fall. As a nursing major with a minor in anthropology, this subject married two of Knight’s interests, and Lawrimore urged her to further pursue this research in the spring semester to present at the Undergraduate Research Expo.

Neither Knight nor Lawrimore could have predicted that this research would become so relevant.

“Abigail’s research demonstrates the continued relevance of history,” says Lawrimore. “When she first selected this research topic, we had no idea just how relevant it would be. But we can examine the past, learn from successes and mistakes, and think critically about how we can apply that knowledge to our situation today.”

Knight and faculty mentor Erin Lawrimore (Photo taken in February 2020)

Learn more about Knight’s research in the Q&A below:

How did State Normal and Industrial College handle the flu pandemic?

We followed the directives of the state and modeled what other universities were doing. This was also during the time of WWI, and because we were an all-female school, we didn’t have army training camps on campus, so State Normal responded by shutting everything down. Their version of quarantine was that no one was allowed to leave campus, and no one was allowed to come onto campus.

Students and faculty also had to practice social distancing, much like we’re doing today. They limited the number of students that could be in one place at one time. This all proved to be pretty effective because most students at State Normal didn’t contract the flu. This is pretty remarkable because the other colleges I looked at, NC State and UNC Chapel Hill, were not so lucky.

It was also interesting that the school’s resident physician, Dr. Anna Gove, was in France during this time supporting the war effort abroad. This meant that campus had a different physician, Dr. Anna Kleegman. During the pandemic, Foust and Kleegman worked together daily to manage the situation on campus. Pleased with how Dr. Kleegman handled the pandemic, and Foust sent her flowers and a letter telling her thank you for all she had done as he was certain she had helped save many student lives.

What are some of the biggest similarities and differences between State Normal and Industrial College’s situation with the flu pandemic and our current situation with the COVID-19 pandemic?

Social distancing is one of the biggest similarities. Students weren’t allowed to go places or gather in groups, and just like today, their everyday social lives were disrupted. Not only did the campus shut down, but everywhere else pretty much did as well. They weren’t going to church or shopping like they normally would. They even canceled Founder’s Day, a tradition we still celebrate today.

One of the things that surprised me during my research is that it was really hard to find letters of students who lost hope during the pandemic, even though the flu was targeting the young and healthy individuals who wouldn’t normally get sick. I’m sure some were, but it didn’t really stop students from doing what they needed to do. People were still carrying on with their lives as much as they could, just like we are today. For example, we are continuing education online, and back then, they continued classes as well as they could. We know this because President Foust sent a letter to faculty giving them a list of distance students who were in Greensboro, but not on campus, and he made sure faculty members were staying in contact with those students to continue their education.

One of the biggest differences was the fact that students stayed on campus and rode out the pandemic. Another difference was how President Foust handled most of what the university went through. Most of my research has been reading his letters from the time of the pandemic, and he fielded a lot of questions. For example, there was an infirmary on campus with a high number of students sick. For every student and every day she was in the infirmary, President Foust would send each student’s family a letter updating them on her condition. That was a personal touch I wouldn’t have expected, and it was fascinating to read those letters.

What do you think we as a university community can take away from this research and this historical event?

I think one of the biggest things we can take away is that all will eventually get better if people are willing to do what needs to be done. I’m sure that even in 1918, no one wanted to self-quarantine anymore than anyone does today, but they did for a long time, and it eventually paid off. The flu peaked at State Normal in mid-October in 1918, and by the time Christmas break rolled around, students were finally allowed to leave campus and come back for the spring semester. In the spring semester of 1919, when fear of the flu began to subside, students came out to celebrate their release from being trapped on campus. The restrictions that had been imposed during quarantine no longer dangled over their heads, and the fact that none of their classmates had been lost to the disease that seemed to be taking so many left great cause for celebration.

On the evening of February 3, 1919, as students celebrated the end of quarantine, the “most elaborate entertainments in [the] history of the college” took place in in the dining hall. The event was recounted in the Greensboro Daily News where some 700 students dressed in costumes and went before a panel of faculty judges for a variety of awards.

What was one of the most interesting things to come out of your research?

I feel like I became close to President Foust in a way as I read almost all the letters he wrote in 1918. An account that stands out to me is that he and President Graham of UNC Chapel Hill were pretty close acquaintances, and they would write letters back and forth. When President Graham died from the flu, President Foust wrote a letter to his sister calling his death the greatest and most severe loss that North Carolina has seen in the past several years.

What is the importance of this research as it relates to our current situation?

It’s important to look back at the past. With every new disease, we learn a little bit more. Back in 1918, they were trying to come up with ways to keep people healthy and safe, and a lot of the measures that they were taking then, we can see reflected in today. So, looking at the past and seeing what has worked and what hasn’t can help shape what we do in the future when we face a pandemic.

It’s really interesting to go back and see that 100 years ago, the people that were going through this had the same fears and emotions as we do today, and they were able to get through it. It is encouraging to consider how resilient State Normal and Industrial College was. Records of students and accounts of faculty members hardly dwell on the difficult times. No matter how many class scrapbooks and personal manuscripts one might look through, one would be hard-pressed to find accounts of how the quarantine impacted the lives of students. Instead, they were writing about the bonds and friendships that they had with one another.

Learn more by watching Knight’s virtual Undergraduate Research Expo presentation.

Repost from UNCG News

Story by Alexandra McQueen, University Communications
Photography by Martin W. Kane, University Communications
Scanned materials courtesy of University Libraries

The URSCO blog helps UNCG’s undergraduate scholars share their work and impact with the world. Interested in sharing your work? Contact URSCO Director Lee Phillips at or Office of Research and Engagement Media and Communication Manager Sangeetha Shivaji at

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Reconstructing the Reed

Alex Stewart is a junior majoring in music performance with a concentration in woodwinds; his instrument is the oboe. Along with his collaborator EJ Jones and faculty mentor Dr. Ashley Barret, Alex has been working to manufacture a functional reed for the bombarde, a Celtic wind instrument.

Describe your project.

The bombarde is a Celtic instrument from Brittany, France and is commonly used to accompany the bagpipe. The reeds for this instrument are made by only a handful of people in Brittany and are nearly impossible to get in the U.S. They cannot be mass produced; they must be made by hand to function well with the instrument.

Through EJ Jones, a professional bagpiper in NC, I have access to many reeds that I have been able to deconstruct and measure.

Getting started.

I became interested in the project because I love Breton music and have several musical friends that play the bombarde and struggle to have reeds. As an oboist, I am familiar with reed making. Dr. Barret, my oboe professor, encouraged me to make my own.


It is possible to make a functional Bombarde reed. The finishing process needs to be developed for consistency purposes, but we are close. We have collected the measurements from a variety of existing reeds and have a template for a good starting point.

I presented my findings at the SoCon Undergraduate Research Forum held in Spartanburg, SC in November.


Due to the exclusive nature of the reeds, not many people have access to them in the US. Many of the bombarde players here use the same few reeds for their entire performing career. If we were to perfect the reed making process, we could supply good reeds to musicians here in the US. This would circumvent one major barrier for traditional Breton music.

Challenges and obstacles.

Reed making supplies are essential to this project. They include cane, reed knives, a micrometer, FF nylon thread, staples, and a bombarde. URSCO funding allowed me to acquire the materials I needed.

One major difficulty we faced was with the stability of the cane. The reeds that we made kept cracking as we tied them to the staple regardless of how long they soaked. We tried scoring the cane and soaking it in hot water. Nothing really helped. This is something we are still working on. Another issue we had was most of our reeds were too hard to play and were too low in pitch. After some adjustments we were able to resolve some of these issues.

Our project has stayed consistent throughout; the only adjustments have been to address specific issues in the process.

Dive into research.

Participating in undergraduate research has benefited me as a professional. It has led me to some opportunities to go abroad and study this topic further. I could also start a business after I graduate, making and selling these reeds.

The most surprising part of this experience is that we were able to make some reeds! People are showing interest in this project other than the musicians.

My advice to incoming students is always ask lots of questions.

Interview by Hope Voorhees

The URSCO blog helps UNCG’s undergraduate scholars share their work and impact with the world. Interested in sharing your work? Contact URSCO Director Lee Phillips at or Office of Research and Engagement Media and Communication Manager Sangeetha Shivaji at

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Risk-Taking Adolescents

Maura Bourne graduated in May 2019 with a BA in psychology and a minor in sociology. During her time as an undergraduate at UNCG, she conducted research under the guidance of Dr. Susan Keane, a professor in the Department of Psychology and the Director of Clinical Training. Her project was titled “The Effects of Sensation Seeking and Maternal Warmth on Adolescent Risky Behavior.”


I signed up for “PSY 433 – Research Experience” for the Fall 2017 semester and began working with Dr. Keane as a research assistant in the RIGHT Track laboratory. This gave me the opportunity to dive headfirst into the world of psychological research. I’ve helped with data entry and checking (heart rate data, puberty data, etc.), updating and organizing copies of publications, and organization of and participation in the VHS to DVD project. Spending time on these tasks assisted in the development of my own research interests, such as adolescent behaviors and parenting strategies.

During my second semester with RIGHT Track, Dr. Keane and the project coordinator, Brittany Armstrong, encouraged me to apply for an Undergraduate Research and Creativity Award, so I could develop my own research questions and become more acquainted with research. I jumped at this opportunity immediately and was excited to become more involved with research.


My project examined the relationship between sensation seeking, risk-taking behavior, and mother-adolescent conflict.

Existing research has shown a link between sensation seeking – the tendency to seek out excitement – and engagement in risk-taking behaviors among adolescents. We also know parental factors (e.g., authoritative parenting, parental monitoring) can influence risk-taking in sensation-seeking adolescents.

For this project, I explored another parental factor which may be of influence: mother-adolescent conflict. To do so, I utilized data from the RIGHT Track Project, a longitudinal study of development. My advisor, Dr. Keane, is an investigator on the project.


Our regression analysis revealed a significant main effect and a significant interaction. Mother-adolescent conflict strengthened the association between sensation seeking and risk-taking.

These results suggest that, among adolescents with greater mother-adolescent conflict, higher sensation seeking is associated with greater engagement in risky behavior. We did not see this effect for adolescents with low levels of mother-adolescent conflict.


In addition to learning more about the ins and outs of a research project and expanding my own understanding of the topics related to my project, my project can be used for real world situations. For example, my findings could inform interventions aiming to reduce mother-adolescent conflict, especially among sensation seeking youth.

I shared my findings through a poster presentation at the State of North Carolina Undergraduate Research and Creativity Symposium during the Fall 2018 semester. I also presented a poster at UNCG’s 13th annual Undergraduate Research and Creativity Expo in April.


My participation in undergraduate research and receiving an Undergraduate Research and Creativity Award helped me stand out among other graduate school applicants. I had a unique experience not attained by many undergraduate students. Additionally, I feel more confident when speaking about myself and my own research. I think this opportunity demonstrates a high level of commitment and professionalism, which will give me an advantage in graduate school and when going into the work force.


Initially I wanted to explore maternal warmth as a protective factor that may influence sensation seeking, instead of mother-adolescent conflict.

To do this, we needed to observe approximately 300 eight-minute video clips of a mother-adolescent lab task and systematically code the interactions among participants according to a coding system. I worked on this with two graduate students and learned it is very time-consuming.

I really enjoyed the process, but due to necessary changes to the coding system, we learned this data was not going to be ready in time for my project. Luckily, working with a longitudinal project gave me the possibility of looking at other factors through questionnaire data, which tends to be quicker to prepare for data analysis than observational coding.


I used SPSS to analyze data for my project. Specifically, I learned to run correlations and linear regressions. Without this opportunity, I likely wouldn’t have had the chance to use this software. Additionally, I learned the process of behavioral observation, such as learning and understanding the coding system and the process of becoming a reliable coder, where a team of coders are trained until all coder responses are closely related according to the definitions formulated in the coding manual.


The most surprising thing about engaging in scholarly activity was been realizing how attainable and interesting it can be. Previously, I viewed scholarly activity and research as something way out of my wheelhouse; I thought it was for professors and scientists, which I am not. However, I learned that anyone with a passion to acquire knowledge can engage in scholarly activity and do research of their own. The first step to engaging in scholarly activity and research is finding resources, such as connecting with a professor or joining a research lab on campus.


It doesn’t matter what your major is. Get involved with research!

Research isn’t just for a stuffy scientist wearing a white lab coat (full disclosure, that’s what I used to think). Research allows you to become engaged in your field of study in a more immersive way and provides a chance to gather with like-minded individuals. I also recommend establishing professional relationships with faculty members.

If you’re passionate about your studies and would like to become involved in research, I feel confident you will find a faculty member who would love to help.

Interview by Hope Voorhees

The URSCO blog helps UNCG’s undergraduate scholars share their work and impact with the world. Interested in sharing your work? Contact URSCO Director Lee Phillips at or Office of Research and Engagement Media and Communication Manager Sangeetha Shivaji at

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The Buzz on Bee Size

Kali Cox graduated in May 2019 with a degree in biology. She and her collaborator Jake Herman completed the project below with guidance from faculty mentor Dr. Olav Rueppell.

Describe your project.

I wanted to know what impact honeybee body size has on the number of ovarioles present or produced in their ovaries. An ovariole is a clear tube inside an ovary where eggs are normally stored. Honeybees can have multiple ovarioles. Specifically, I was investigating if ovary size and number of ovarioles are dependent or independent of overall body size, in small and normal colonies.

Diving in.

I became interested in this project after talking to members of the lab and my professor. The one professor that was inspiring to me is Dr. Olav Rueppell. He has so much knowledge and I found talking to him about my ideas and research always made me feel more inspired to continue my research in the future.

After reading articles on ovaries and honeybees, I wanted to learn more about it all. I found that there had not been as much research on the ovaries of honeybees as I thought, and I wanted to explore this more. I found the ovaries to be very intriguing.


The different body measurements of the bees were positively correlated in general, but all external body size measurements trended towards a negative correlation with ovary size –particularly the head width and the thorax width.

Basically, an increased body size did not necessarily determine a higher number of ovarioles. A decreased body size did not necessarily determine a lower number of ovarioles present in the bees. While the queen is bigger and has a much bigger ovary than workers, the same relationship between body size and ovary size did not hold true among the workers.

I presented my research at the Carolyn & Norwood Thomas Undergraduate Research and Creativity Expo in the spring 2019 semester.


Honeybees are an important part of pollination, which plays an important part in human survival. My study proved to be more complicated than anticipated. More studies are needed to disentangle the consequences of body size variation in honeybees. However, my project expands our knowledge on this topic.

Learning curve.

For my project, I used a microscope, size-measuring technology, and statistical testing programs.

I was surprised by the amount of information that I have learned since starting my research project and the joy I have found in engaging in research activities.

I have learned to use statistical software programs, which I had no previous knowledge on.

One of the difficulties I encountered was learning to dissect the ovaries in a honeybee. I overcame this by practicing the procedure daily. I also learned to correctly identify the ovary and the number of ovarioles in honeybee abdomens.

This project changed from the beginning of the first proposal I had, as most research does.

You have problems you run into or questions that cannot be answered, and so you have to come up with new questions and new ways to conduct the research.

Seize your opportunity.

I think it has been a wonderful opportunity to be able to participate in undergraduate research and benefit from the URSCO grant I received for this research.

It has ignited a love of research I did not know I had before and has convinced me to continue on to graduate school. It has helped me grow as a scholar in biology and has given me many opportunities to meet other researchers and attend conferences on different types of studies being conducted in the scientific community.

My advice for incoming students would be to pursue any type of research offered. It can help in future careers, you gain experience in public speaking, and you will learn much more about a subject due to being engaged in the process.

Interview by Hope Voorhees

The URSCO blog helps UNCG’s undergraduate scholars share their work and impact with the world. Interested in sharing your work? Contact URSCO Director Lee Phillips at or Office of Research and Engagement Media and Communication Manager Sangeetha Shivaji at

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Digging In

Since 2009, Dr. Joanne Murphy (left) has guided UNCG students like Michael Bell (right) through six-week professional internships at an archaeological field school on the Greek island of Kea.

Repost from the Fall 2019 Research Magazine

Senior classical archaeology major Michael Bell can easily point to how opportunities for undergraduate research have changed the trajectory of his life.

He met Dr. Murphy on his second day of classes as a transfer student at UNCG. During a discussion of ancient graffiti, Bell recounted an instance of Greek mercenaries scrawling their identities and deeds into the stone of Abu Simbel, while fighting on behalf of sixth century BCE Egyptian pharaoh Psamtik II.

Murphy challenged Bell, asking for a short presentation on the subject at the next class. Though he was, he says, “filled with trepidation,” he successfully completed the assignment – and learned about the graffiti’s connection to “The Iliad” in the process.

Since then, Bell has traveled to Greece three times to conduct research. As a first-generation college student with financial need, Bell assumed he would not have the opportunity to study abroad, but he applied for and received an award through UNCG’s URSCO.

Using data collected by the Kea Archaeological Research Survey, Bell is analyzing the use of apicultural goods, like honey and beeswax, and metallurgical material on the Cycladic island of Kea – the earliest known site for metal production in the Aegean. He’s exploring prestige goods production and how they relate to social organization and economic priorities. Bell has presented his work at the Southern Conference Undergraduate Research Forum, as well as at UNCG’s Thomas Undergraduate Research and Creativity Expo.

He plans to apply for graduate programs in classical archaeology this fall, and credits hands-on research and mentorship as experiences that have developed him as a scholar and otherwise.

“The experience I gained in field work, research methods, experimental design, data collection and analysis, and presenting results has been instrumental in preparing me for my future academic endeavors – and in helping me to build confidence in my personal life,” says Bell.

“The opportunities undergraduate research has afforded me have allowed me to develop skills that go far outside the bounds of standard coursework.”

Repost from the Fall 2019 Research Magazine

The URSCO blog helps UNCG’s undergraduate scholars share their work and impact with the world. Interested in sharing your work? Contact URSCO Director Lee Phillips at or Office of Research and Engagement Media and Communication Manager Sangeetha Shivaji at

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