Undergraduate Research Scholars

College of Letters & Science

People of URS

Discovering what matters, shaping the future
Taylor Shiff

I didn't realize how much URS impacted me, until I realized how often I told friends about what I learnedin seminar. URS gave me a sense of a community. And it opened me up to all of the opportunities wehave on campus. URS taught me to put serious thought into why I am at UW-Madison and what I wantto get out of my education. It helped me realize that it's ok to not always have it all figured out, but italso gave me a better sense of direction.

Jesse Galván

My interpersonal skills were enhanced through my research, and I was able to get experience working in a professional environment. Ultimately, I think the most fulfilling aspect of my research was becoming aware of a social issue few people know about. I did not have many interactions with students with intellectual disabilities, but now I understand some of the major struggles they endure in their education, and I was able to relate that with my own family’s struggle to obtain a higher education. Diversity is more than just dealing with race – you have to consider individuals that see the world differently. My research has allowed me to consider what diversity really is, and I will take that with me throughout my undergraduate career and beyond it.

Phu Nguyen

What's your childhood dream? If it was like mine, which was to do research, URS would be a great place to apply to. It is probably the best opportunity for undergraduates to conduct research. It was really a dream come true. I did not think I would able to do research as a freshman. It is indeed possible. Every year, URS admits many freshmen. So, what are you waiting for? Apply now!

Joel Villarreal

Hi my name is Joel and I was fortunate enough to be in URS. I will admit I was pretty nervous and unsure about the whole research side of things when I first heard of URS. I always thought of research as a lonely position, constantly having your head down reading articles and never really communicating with anyone, but solely from URS I learned that was a big misunderstanding of research. Communicating with your mentor and colleagues consistently happens were you can become very comfortable in your workspace. Also the sense of having your own work gives you the best feeling that you couldn't find anywhere else. The responsibility and drive you develop will be everlasting. Even in our Wednesday seminars I try to stay away from being close-minded, but it is more difficult when you hardly know the other side of the perspective. So they show you so many angles that it gives you a view from different perspectives steering you clear from the close-minded nature. Again URS is an opportunity that does not come around too often. So when it comes near, you have to grab it by the horns and make the most of the opportunity.

Ryan Moriarty

My research this year has taught me more than my classes have. It has taught me good time management, and the importance of staying organized and on track. I also learned how trial and error can be effectively used in an experimental setting. I learned a great deal about how research in a lab is done, which has influenced my academic career and has made me think about the path I want to take after graduation.

Thomas Hameister

When I arrived at SOAR, I didn’t know what my major would be or what I was going to get involved with. With all the confusion floating about with what I what to do and who I want to be, I felt lost. To my surprise, it has been the Undergraduate Research Scholars that has held my experience together. When I first applied, I never thought I would get in, and when I got in, I had my doubts about accepting. With hindsight, I am so thankful that I did! This year, I have been challenged to think critically in ways I couldn’t have imagined. Research is hard, but with the support of an amazing mentor, knowledgable fellows, and a well-established, impactful program, I feel confident about what I do. In addition, my own research has given me something to be proud of, and seeing the diverse, innovative projects of my peers has inspired me to work on my own. Above all, as a Research Scholar, I belong to a community that values knowledge and investigation.

Camilo Campo

Overall, my time doing research in the lab has been very enlightening and rewarding. I was involved in a research project that has potential to positively impact people’s lives. My experience has also taught me how important it is to reflect on what I’m doing. It was easy for me to get caught up in how tedious the research was at times and lose sight of the implications of the data. The activities my Fellows planned for seminar taught me how to approach my research with a new perspective, emphasizing the overall goal of my research and the role I needed to fulfill in order for that goal to be reached. This enhanced my sense of responsibility. Finally, my experience taught me the importance of asking questions. It wasn’t until I began writing response papers for seminar about my research and I started asking my mentor to explain things in more detail that I gained a much more comprehensive understanding of the project.

Edwin Chen

As a naïve freshman from Los Angeles, CA attempting to adjust to an independent life in UW-Madison, I rarely ventured away from my textbooks. I didn't take the initiative of participating in campus-based programs such as URS. As a sophomore this year, I realized my mistake and made it a goal to take part in campus life, because college is much more than earning elusive 4.0s, partying safely on Thirsty Thursdays, taking confusing exams on material I have never seen before, and whatnot. Fortunately, I was recommended to URS as a way for me to not only interact with fellow peers, but to also engage in an enriching and unique research experience. To be honest, when I first applied as a potential URS Scholar, I was not expecting much. I thought URS would just be a means for me to obtain a research position, which would look great for my lackluster resumé. However, now I realize that I have found much more than a resumé-builder. I find URS to be a new avenue that leads to fresh experiences, knowledge, and people. I have learned so much about the research process that I don't find it silly to call myself an actual researcher anymore. I have met countless other researchers I can relate to, and have learned about the significance of their research on my daily life. Even as a Nursing major, I have had the opportunity of working with calves (yeah, I know right?) and studying how their immune system affects their growth (wait, for real? EXACTLY.) I guess what I'm trying to say is that being a URS Scholar is much more than taking up a research position. It's a game-changer.

Carina Carreño

As a genetics student and researcher with the intentions of teaching, the URS program has provided me with the opportunity to combine my interests and that is why this program means a lot to me. The URS program creates an open discussion between UW students on complicated and relevant topics that is impacted by the work of researchers. Working with many inspirational and insightful research mentors, scholars and fellows, I have gained a reinvigorated sense of research and reassurance in my future teaching endeavors, but also, a broader sense of what it means to benefit the public good. As a first-generation Latina college student, and as a transfer student at UW, it has also allowed me to share my diverse experience with other students of all backgrounds.

Kathryn Muench

Confidence-I've grown a lot in this area, I feel I can take any challenge thrown at me because of theresearch. Seminar was an eye opener- I got so many different perspectives all at once, I learned a lotabout others, but also myself.

Dania Shoukfeh

The research revolved around the Society of American Indians 1914 Conference held at UW-Madison. Although the work wasn't related to my major, I still learned a lot about research in the social sciences and about how to work with a professor! I'm glad I branched out of the sciences and got to experience a less well known form of research. The symposium at the end of the year was kind of intimidating but during the event it was so cool to see all of the other undergraduates doing such a wide range of research at UW and presenting to others definitely made me a better speaker. The URS meetings were honestly my favorite part of the week. My seminar group eventually became like a mini-learning community by the end of the year and we learned to be comfortable and open with each other and we had a lot of laughs. The URS Program is an amazing opportunity that shouldn't be passed up!

Srikar Adibhalta

Failure is not only acceptable, it is expected. People told me this about research, but I had to see it to believe it. And just because it’s expected, doesn't mean it sucks any less when it happens. In seminar, as we became closer with each other, the discussion became more intense, and that's what I liked the most, meaningful discussion.

Nithin Charlly

Not only did I learn some amazing biochemistry and lab techniques, I understood the importance of communication in research. In the beginning, another more experienced student in the lab took me under his wing. After the training process was completed, I was placed into the wild. I’m no stranger to stressful situations but this was different. I was afraid to try anything because I was under the impression I would fail at any point. Asking someone in the lab was also out of the picture; won’t they think I’m incompetent? But alas, I did run into trouble. And that was when I remembered my Fellows stressing the fact that communication with your mentor is very important. So I took a leap of faith. Through this humbling experience, my confidence grew and I learned communication is one of the most important things in my job. I began to seek faculty members for assistance and, consequently, I have become more knowledgeable and more recognized in my lab.

Emily Strack

URS has really helped me to further develop my critical thinking skills. It has challenged me to question what things I have actually learned versus what I have been taught to know. I value my experience in URS greatly as it offered me the chance to work one-on-one with an awesome professor on campus, and learn so much about the research process. I got more out of it than I expected, and I am so thankful for the privilege to call myself an Undergraduate Research Scholar.

Natalie Morel

My first semester of freshman year was extremely hectic, so I always looked forward to going into my lab. When I was there, all of my problems seemed to melt away, and I could focus on learning the lab procedure and coming up with creative solutions to any problems that came my way.

Lillian Childress

How many people get to choose to do research in something they enjoy? Is it art? STEM? Pop culture? URS really caters to all people with wide ranges of interests. My URS experience has been great. I went into it thinking the seminars would be boring and heavily related to topics I wasn’t really interested in, but my fellows and the other students in my class really made it fun and interesting. We talked about a wide range of topics. Because of URS, I have developed new interests, formed new relationships with faculty and my peers, and got to conduct research in the psychology department.

Kaitlyn Hopfensperger

Seminar is a great time to gain new insights on a wide range of topics. I love debating, seeing different perspectives, and questioning what we are presented, as well as being with the friends that I have made in the program. Seminar allows me to think critically in an engaging and enjoyable environment and I look forward to it every week.

James LaPierre

When my parents encouraged me to enroll in URS my freshman year, I was confused. Why on earth would I, an economics major, sign up to do research in a science lab? In my past experiences I equated hands-on research with doing experiments in science classes. I thought that by joining URS I would be forced to dissect animals or mix dangerous chemicals in a laboratory...two terrifying prospects for someone who hadn't taken a science class since early in high school. Fortunately, I quickly learned there were research opportunities all over campus in tons of disciplines from biology to communication arts, history to kinesiology, business and economics. URS truly helped me discover that research comes in all shapes and sizes. If you're into looking at cells, do it. If you want to research classic film theory, you can do that too. One of the raddest things about URS is the flexibility – you're free to choose what you want to study. I think that's pretty cool.

Alright, so fast forward a few months into my freshman year. I thought I had my whole life figured out. I planned to major in economics as an undergraduate, pursue a PhD in economics, then work in a related field- that is, until URS helped me understand exactly what an economics researcher does. After browsing several economics research projects, I noticed nearly all of the research positions were incredibly math-heavy. After further searching, I discovered graduate level economics is almost entirely calculus-based, which holds little appeal for me. I eventually found a really interesting research project in the Educational Policy Studies department, and I'm loving it. URS helped me realize that an economics PhD may not be what I'm looking for, and perhaps focusing on policy and business would be more engaging and consistent with my interests. I am glad I joined URS as it has allowed me to explore research in several different fields and gain a clearer understanding of my future goals.

Hawa Keita

Participating in URS was one of the best decisions I made my freshman year because I got a head start in discovering what I love to do. Just interacting with professors and graduate students in this professional research environment was very rewarding. Also, the seminar was a great addition for my personal growth because it provided an outlet for me to challenge myself by taking risks and learning new perspectives.

Evan Hernandez

Working in the Wisconsin Institute for Discovery has probably been the craziest-coolest experience of my entire first year at Madison. I spend my research days working with virtual reality, learning how to create 3D computerized representations of real objects; there's obviously SO much more to it than that, but for the sake of conciseness let's just say I scan real-life objects and put them into the computer. The process has shown me how little I actually know about anything, especially computers, and with each new object that I virtual-ify I get more excited about the work that the Living Environments Lab does. Really, it's amazing: once you've held a LIDAR scanner or stood in The Virtual Cave, you truly realize how awesome computers actually are.

Delsin Sanghvi

In the URS seminar we practice giving as well as listening to opinions, which are not always developed in other general education courses. Communication is an important skill. Writing emails to a professional in a field is another skill I learned through the program. Most importantly I discovered that, although I have a passion for research, doing research in the molecular field is not something I would enjoy long term. Instead, I will continue to use the skills I have gained through the program to look for opportunities in the kinesiology field where the research is more tangible.

Anthony Minucci

Endlessly sifting through 60-year-old censuses, blankly entering plain numbers in spreadsheets, and not always finding the information I need regularly takes up hours of my time. This unfriendly enterprise is my URS research project that I work on with a team of other scholars. BUT lets’ start somewhere else: it is early October, in a brand new city, living on my own for the first time of my life. In the past year I’ve made more decisions that will impact the rest of my life than in the 18 years prior, and none seem to have been bad. One such decision made me a Badger, and another made me one of many scholars in the Undergraduate Research Scholars program. So far, I haven't learned much about URS or my specific research, but I’m on my way to my first meeting with my URS instructor. Walking under the canopy of beautiful fall leaves that line Bascom Mall, I feel like I'm in the right place, and when I stop daydreaming, I see that I am: North Hall. The rest of my experience with URS is history, and it’s history I treasure. URS has taken me from the oldest building on campus, to presenting at one of the largest symposiums UW hosts and from digging through one of the most vast library systems in the nation, to creating real information on a project that has never been attempted before. Not only has URS brought me to cool places, it has expanded my opportunities and ideas as much as any other experience on campus. And although my particular URS project sometimes involves tedious work I don't personally have a knack for, I know many other scholars have research projects they live for. Trying new things, meeting new people, and learning what you like is what this time of your life is for, and it is what URS has given me.

Diane Kee

Research: Participating in research is a way to learn by engaging in the Wisconsin Idea; the contribution of Scholars in all fields of study will extend far beyond the borders of our campus. Seminar: URS Seminar is a rare and important opportunity to gather with your peers from many different places and diverse disciplines to discuss real issues and hear perspectives you may have never considered.

Meghan Padrón

My experience with URS has been nothing but positive – being able to contribute to one of the programs on campus which makes the University unique has been an honor and great learning experience. Being a part of this community contributed to the success of my Wisconsin Experience. I will take a sense of confidence with me after leaving URS. Because of the things I learned over my time with the program, I believe I am a more capable communicator and thinker.

Cory Washington

Planted by courage and curiosity, watered by a unbreakable support from faculty, tended to by a will to learn new things that benefits the world around, produced a deeply rooted, strongly connected, passionate student with great potential to expand with a fresh perspective on life.