Gavin Naylor

Shark specialist Gavin Naylor will be working with rising senior Jasmin Graham to study the evolution of hammerhead sharks this summer.

Hands-on research is a big part of studying at the College of Charleston. And collaborative research with a faculty member is one of the most rewarding experiences an undergraduate student can have. That’s the primary reason that, during the summer, research takes on an even bigger role for roughly 40 CofC students who are fortunate enough to receive SURF grants.

SURF (Summer Undergraduate Research Funding) is available to any student via a competitive proposal process. Funding up to $6,500 can be obtained to support collaborative research projects involving at least one faculty member and one undergrad student. And the best part? These projects can be initiated by either person.

Each year, SURF grants are awarded across a variety of academic disciplines. Every student funded through the grant program presents his or her work in a poster session at the beginning of fall semester.

For more information and to see last year’s presentations, visit Undergraduate Research and Creative Activities.

Here’s a sampling that includes six projects happening this summer:

1. Geology major David Derouen, working with professor Adem Ali, will be engaged in remote satellite sensing of water quality parameters in the coastal waters of the U.S. Virgin Islands. Their work will attempt to assess the impact of increased stormwater runoff and wastewater discharge in this region. The environmental changes associated with the growing urbanization here are predicted to accelerate climate change and slow reef recovery rates, and the researchers are gathering data to test that hypothesis. “The goal,” says Derouen, “is to develop a robust, regionally tiered model that can estimate concentrations of water quality parameters from satellite data, and in turn provide information that’s critical to understanding the biogeochemical processes in the reef ecosystem.”

2. Psychology major and Honors College student Diana Devine is working with psychology professor Amy Kolak to examine the self-regulatory skills at play within a family context. Their study involves an attempt to better understand two-year-old children’s ability to control their behavior without their parents’ help.

3. Maja Grzejdziak is one of several public health majors who will be working with professors Merissa Ferrara and Beth Sundstrom from the Department of Communication to study the barriers that women in rural communities face regarding access to healthcare. This study will examine the effectiveness of Planned Parenthood’s eHope Plus program, an initiative that utilizes telemedicine. eHope Plus began in South Carolina this spring.

4. Marine biology major and Honors College student Jasmin Graham will be working with professor Gavin Naylor, who specializes in shark research. “I was overseas studying last semester,” explained Graham, “but I was still able to apply for this SURF grant. So this summer I’m continuing my work in tracing the evolutionary history of hammerhead sharks using anatomical data. There are two schools of thought on why these sharks evolved to have flat, broad heads, and our study proposes to obtain nuclear gene data using a cross-species gene capture approach that Dr. Naylor developed. This will allow us to address the question from a genomic perspective.”

5. Rising junior Carly Harward – a dance major – is working with professor Gretchen McLaine on an intriguing study. Harward and McLaine are analyzing the journals of renowned choreographer and dancer Vaslav Nijinsky, who suffered from schizophrenia, to examine how mental illness affects creativity and how such illness is communicated through non-verbal communication. This study will involve the duo traveling to Spoleto, Italy, to observe Mikhail Baryshnikov perform a selection of Nijinsky’s work.

6. And Classics major Sarah Legendre, who is also an Honors College student, will work with professor Allison Sterett-Krause to examine fragmentary pieces of antiquity, such as broken glass, to answer questions about daily life in the Imperial period (ca. 50 C.E. to 450 C.E.). Says Legendre, “Using the techniques of statistics and probability, we will test our proposed model for viability on both fragmentary and complete vessels. Our project will employ a contextual component as well: studying glass from ancient perspectives to understand Roman categories for vessels. Combining quantitative mathematical study with ancient literary and visual evidence offers a new avenue for archaeologists studying the creation and use of glass in antiquity. Such a model may provide new methods for archaeologists studying many different time periods and materials.”