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University of Iowa News Release

March 30, 2006

UI Undergraduate Students To Be Honored For Research Projects

Four University of Iowa undergraduate students will be honored for their research projects at the Spring Undergraduate Research Forum (SURF) Saturday, April 1, in the atrium of the Blank Honors Center. UI Associate Vice President for Research David Wynes will present the Office of the Vice President for Research's Excellence in Undergraduate Research Awards at the forum, which begins at 11 a.m.

Opening remarks will be made by Associate Provost Lola Lopes and Honors Program Director John Nelson, who will highlight the value of research in honors education. The SURF event will also include research poster presentations by 35 undergraduates from the College of Liberal Arts and Sciences, the Tippie College of Business and the College of Engineering.

In February, the Office of the Vice President for Research, in conjunction with the Honors Program, created these new undergraduate research awards, which recognize outstanding accomplishments in scholarly investigation, artistic creation, or performance by an undergraduate student in four fields: arts and humanities, mathematics and engineering, natural sciences and social sciences. Each student worked with a faculty sponsor on his or her research projects.

The winners will receive $750 in travel funds and a $250 stipend to attend a conference in their area of study for the next academic year.

The awardees include:

-- Kevin Heintz of Ankeny, Iowa, earned the Arts and Humanities Excellence in Undergraduate Research Award. A junior majoring in literature, science and the arts and minoring in German and philosophy, Heintz worked with Adjunct Instructor Debra Pugh from the Center for Advanced Studies. His research project examined the function and effect of critical literature during Germany's Weimar Republic.

-- John Morrison of Iowa City, Iowa, a junior biomedical engineering student, will receive the Natural Sciences Excellence in Undergraduate Research Award. Morrison's research deals with how certain proteins affect the progression of malignant melanoma (skin cancer). His faculty sponsor was Karl G. Kohlgraf, a postdoctoral research scholar in the Department of Pathology.

-- Thomas Niblock of Nevada, Iowa, a junior economics and religious studies major, will receive the Social Science Excellence in Undergraduate Research Award. He worked with Economics Professor Beth Ingram on the research project, which seeks to determine the effect of the HIV/AIDS crisis in sub-Saharan Africa on labor productivity and income levels.

-- Michael Petrie of Dixon, Ill., a junior biomedical engineering student, will receive the Engineering and Math Excellence in Undergraduate Research Award for his redesign of a simulator used in training medical students to detect breast cancer tumors. Geb Thomas, associate professor of mechanical and industrial engineering, was Petrie's faculty sponsor on the project.

More than 1,500 undergraduates are involved in some aspect of research at the UI, many of them earning credit or getting paid for their work as research assistants.

"Research allows students to work directly in their field of interest and learn by the experience of doing -- to gain knowledge through first-hand experience. Research also directly involves students in their education, challenging them to apply their knowledge to new and ever changing problems," said Vice President for Research Meredith Hay. "The experience gained by our student researchers will make them contributors to Iowa's future. For example, there are UI students who will design homes that make the best use of our natural resources, use Iowa's agricultural products to efficiently insulate our homes, and design fuel cells to store our renewable resources."

SURF is co-sponsored by the University Honors Program, the Office of the Vice President for Research, the Office of the Provost, the Graduate College and the Pomerantz Career Center. 

STORY SOURCE: University of Iowa News Services, 300 Plaza Centre One, Suite 371, Iowa City, Iowa 52242-2500.

CONTACTS: Media: George McCrory, 319-384-0012,; Program: Bob Kirby, University Honors Program, 319-335-1684,

OTHER INFORMATION: See the Office of the Vice President for Research website: