Undergraduate Research Leaders

Undergraduate Research Leaders (URLs) are key members of the UROP team and serve as advocates for undergraduate research and creative scholarship at the University of Oregon. 

URLs are also available to advise students about getting involved in research and navigating the resources available to students on campus. 

Read the URL profiles and click “Schedule and Advising Appointment” to get in contact. 

Interested in being an Undergraduate Research Leader?

Cailan Feingold

Major: Biology          Academic Year: Junior          Faculty Mentor: Diana Libuda

How would you describe your research to friends that are not in your field?

I research the biological processes of meiosis and reproduction in the Libuda Lab. Specifically, the differences in the development of sperm versus eggs. My research pertains mainly to male infertility caused by heat.

More Q&A with Cailan

Who has been your mentor and how have they been helpful during your research experience?

My mentor is Cori Cahoon. She is a postdoctoral fellow in our lab, and she has been absolutely fundamental to my research. Both inside and outside of the lab she has helped me become a better scientist. Together we brainstorm ideas for our project and work together on carrying out experiments and analysis.

 

What has been one of the highlights of your research experience so far?

Presenting my poster at the Undergraduate Research Symposium was a great experience. It was a good opportunity to learn how to share my research with a wide audience and to learn from my peers involved in research as well. It was amazing to see how many types of research are occurring on our campus.

 

Students get involved in research through a variety of ways. How did you get your start?

I worked together with one of my Biology professors to reach out to the principal investigators of labs doing research I was interested in. I would read papers published by these labs and if their work appealed to me, I would email the principal investigator expressing my interest.

 

If you could do research in a different field, what would it be? Why?

I would do research in psychology, because I think the development of the mind and studying behavior is incredibly fascinating. I think it would be very enjoyable to study a topic within psychology like dreams, something that is often so hard to describe but universally experienced.

 

What is your favorite place on campus?

Autzen Stadium.

 

What are you currently reading?

I am currently reading Shoe Dog by Phil Knight.

 

How do you stay inspired and energized?

I am very passionate about health and fitness. I find that when I am in a rut, if I switch up my exercise routine, I can find new motivation easily. I love running and am currently training for my third marathon. A good run can also always help inspire me.

 

Have you thought about what you want to do after graduation?

I hope to attend medical school and become an Orthopedic Surgeon focusing on sports medicine.

 

What would you say is the greatest benefit of conducting research as an undergrad?

The connections it allows you to form with mentors and faculty. Working in a lab, for me, has created relationships that have helped me grow in so many ways as a student and a person. They have offered me valuable advice and support that has contributed to my successes both inside and outside of my academics.

 

What advice would you give a first-year student that wanted to get involved in research? How can they best prepare?

My best advice would be to talk to your professors and ask them for tips on how to get involved with research. Many professors have their own research going on and would love to have helping hands. Otherwise, they can point you in the direction of other faculty members who do. That is how I found my way into my lab, and I would have had no idea where to start without the advice of my biology professors I worked with.

The best way to prepare for working in research is to do background reading on the topic you are getting involved with, but also knowing it is okay to feel overwhelmed with the material in the beginning. Trying to orient yourself in the subject matter is a very important part of beginning to understand how research works and why you are doing the tasks that are part of your research.

Nora Kearns

Major: Human Physiology          Academic Year: Junior          Faculty Mentor: Calin Plesa

How would you describe your research to friends that are not in your field?

I work in two very different but equally exciting labs! I am a research assistant for Elinor Sullivan in her HPHY Behavioral Neuroscience lab. Elinor is the PI on the Prenatal Environment and Child Health study, which is looking at how such factors as metabolic state and inflammation in the in-uterine milieu influences child development.

I am also completing a Knight Undergraduate Scholarship with Calin Plesa in his bioengineering lab. My project is repurposing the minimal replication system of a bacteriophage as a tool for bioengineering. It’s been a super steep learning curve but I’m really enjoying it!

More Q&A with Nora

Who has been your mentor and how have they been helpful during your research experience?

I have been with Elinor Sullivan since the Spring of my Freshman year, and just recently started with Calin Plesa. Elinor has been an incredible teacher and supporter, always providing opportunities for me to gain autonomy as a researcher. I did a fellowship with her last summer and worked full time in her lab at OHSU. During that time she gave me specific projects and tasks that would build my skillset. From Elinor I have learned so much about the logistics of coordinating a large, longitudinal human research study.

Calin is teaching me new and valuable skills that are more relevant to the future I want to pursue in Biology. I’ve just started with him, but he’s a great teacher and very patient!

 

What has been one of the highlights of your research experience so far?

The best part of my involvement in research so far was being on the PEACH team at OHSU. I got to be a part of such an intelligent, compassionate, and driven group of women with a shared interest in maternal and infant health.   

 

Students get involved in research through a variety of ways. How did you get your start? 

I took a nutrition class with Elinor my Freshman year. During that time I read an article about her research. I expressed my interest to her and she asked that I send her my resume. The following term I started working in her lab, and then over the summer I volunteered in her lab at OHSU.

 

If you could do research in a different field, what would it be? Why?

I recently started work in a bioengineering lab, which I’m finding incredibly interesting. It’s such a new experience for me and I’m astounded by what can be accomplished with bioengineering.

 

What is your favorite place on campus?

Knight 221 is my favorite study spot – I’ve had lots of fun study sessions with friends in that room and I teach an Encore class in the room over (222), so 221 and 222 hold a special place in my heart!

 

What are you currently reading?

If I’m reading anything other than a paper or a textbook…it’s probably a recipe.

 

How do you stay inspired and energized?

I make time to exercise – even 30 minutes a day makes me feel so much better and more focused throughout the day.

 

Have you thought about what you want to do after graduation?

My current plan is to do a PhD in Developmental Biology and teach and do research at a research university.

 

What would you say is the greatest benefit of conducting research as an undergrad?

The greatest benefit for me has been the amount I’ve learned through reading literature and working with my mentors. I have this analogy that learning is like digging a well. We dig the well so that one day it’s full of important knowledge and skills that we can use to help and give to others. Everything we learn gets us closer to preparing that well for what we eventually want to do – whether that be medicine, research, teaching, etc.  But we can’t dig the well alone, and we can dig it so much faster with the help of mentors and when we are seeking learning opportunities outside of class.

 

What advice would you give a first-year student that wanted to get involved in research? How can they best prepare?

I would say just be proactive and start looking into research early. Contact a professor and express interest fall or winter term of your feshman year!

Rennie Kendrick

Major: Biology          Academic Year: Senior         Faculty Mentor: Dasa Zeithamova

How would you describe your research to friends that are not in your field?

I am interested in how we learn, remember, and connect across information.

More Q&A with Rennie

Who has been your mentor and how have they been helpful during your research experience?

I have been mentored by Dasa Zeithamova for almost three years in the Brain and Memory Lab, and she has been very supportive of my undergraduate research experience. She has given me the freedom to share my own research ideas and has supported me in formulating concrete experimental questions and procedures. Most importantly, she has helped me see myself as a researcher by allowing me to pursue my own interests and questions, and teaching me how to think critically about those questions – this skill is far more important than any other technical skill I have learned.

 

What has been one of the highlights of your research experience so far?

I have been able to design four original memory experiments; although my methods are very simple, it was incredible to have free reign over my own project. I also have enjoyed the community of working in a lab and collaborating with others to solve difficult problems. 

 

Students get involved in research through a variety of ways. How did you get your start? 

I knew I wanted to work in a neuroscience lab, and I knew I was very interested in memory research. I went to the Institute of Neuroscience website (https://ion.uoregon.edu/content/institute-neuroscience) and read through the different faculty profiles. Dr. Zeithamova’s research seemed most aligned with my interests, and I noticed that an undergraduate in her lab had actually published a paper with her – this signaled to me that Dr. Zeithamova was committed to engaging undergraduates in real projects.

 

If you could do research in a different field, what would it be? Why?

I would do research in a more technology-oriented field, like computer science. A lot of my research has focused on abstract, basic science questions. It would be exciting to design some kind of algorithm or machine that would have an immediate, tangible impact.

 

What is your favorite place on campus?

One of my favorite places is the outside area of the Jordan Schnitzer Museum of Art café; I love to get a chai and just sit out there and do work when it is sunny.

 

What are you currently reading?

Educated by Tara Westover and The Tale of the Dueling Neurosurgeons by Sam Kean

 

How do you stay inspired and energized?

Maintaining balance and having other markers than academic achievements to track my progress keeps me inspired and energized. Learning a new skill or starting a new (non-academic) hobby can be a great way – I started ballet this year, and it has been amazing and energizing to again be a beginner at something and to make large improvements. I also love spending time outside (skiing, hiking, running).

Have you thought about what you want to do after graduation?

The fall after I graduate I will move up to Vancouver, British Columbia to work in a lab at University of British Columbia to study the mechanisms of fear memory formation, a subject I’m very passionate about. I also hope to eventually go to graduate school for neuroscience.

 

What would you say is the greatest benefit of conducting research as an undergrad?

I learned a type of critical thinking that could not be replicated in the classroom. I learned how to approach problems that really do not have answers and to trouble shoot my way through them. I learned how to be okay with failure and factors I can’t control. It also felt like a way to personalize my own undergraduate experience, by engaging with material that I was passionate about, rather than material that I needed to learn for a test.

 

What advice would you give a first-year student that wanted to get involved in research? How can they best prepare?

My advice would be to choose research labs based on your interests, but most importantly, based on your impressions of the principle investigator (your mentor). Who your mentor is will shape how engaging the research is. I would do background research and try to set up an in-person meeting; if the mentor is too busy, or not willing to set up a time to meet, that will most likely tell you something about what their accessibility will be like once you’re in the lab.

Adie Fecker

Major: Biology          Academic Year: Senior         Faculty Mentor: Phil Washbourne

How would you describe your research to friends that are not in your field?

Social interaction is an integral component of a high quality of life as a human being. The population of autistic individuals is growing and at this moment there is no treatment that can meaningfully improve the quality of life for these individuals. My research investigates how sensory systems like sight, smell, and touch, influence social behavior in a zebrafish model. I hope to reveal brain regions and sensory systems that support social behavior. I hope my research informs novel therapies to support autistic patients that takes sensory integration into account.

More Q&A with Adie

Who has been your mentor and how have they been helpful during your research experience?

Phil Washbourne has been an amazing mentor. He expects lab members to be self-motivated but is always there to answer questions or provide help.

 

What has been one of the highlights of your research experience so far?

My research has allowed me to take a leadership position in planning the undergraduate research symposium. I’ve gotten to meet so many diverse students and give back to the research community on campus.

 

Students get involved in research through a variety of ways. How did you get your start? 

I researched labs on campus through the Institute of Neuroscience website and sent emails to labs I was interested in. Everyone on this campus is very welcoming and the whole process was a positive experience.

 

If you could do research in a different field, what would it be? Why?

I am happy to be working in neuroscience because it is very interdisciplinary. If I could change fields for a day I would love to experience an astrophysics lab. I love space and astronomy!

 

What is your favorite place on campus?

Chapman library

 

What are you currently reading?

On Earth We’re Briefly Gorgeous by Ocean Vuong

 

How do you stay inspired and energized?

I try to keep up on current publications and articles related to my field and areas of interest. I keep up communication with my PI and mentors.

What would you say is the greatest benefit of conducting research as an undergrad?

You become an independent learner. Rather than finding out tings through classes and getting grades, you get to be on the cutting edge of knowledge in the lab.

 

What advice would you give a first-year student that wanted to get involved in research? How can they best prepare?

Read papers on what you’re interested on and find what you’re especially passionate about.

About Undergraduate Research Leaders

Responsibilities
  • Act as advocates for undergraduate research at the University of Oregon as well as UROP’s programs, services, and resources
  • Act as a peer mentor to undergraduate students interested in research
  • Attend monthly meetings with UROP staff
  • Act as evaluators for the spring UROP Mini-grant funding cycle
  • Give presentations at information sessions as well as by request from student groups, programs, and classes
  • Serve as volunteers at the Undergraduate Research Symposium
Benefits
  • Opportunity to positively impact the educational experience of your peers.
  • Learn how to coordinate a Mini-grant program (spring term) and evaluate research proposals. 
  • Outreach and leadership experience.
  • Engage in professional development workshops hosted by UROP staff.
  • Practice your public speaking by promoting undergraduate research to student groups.
  • Leadership experience for  your résumé and the opportunity for an excellent letter of recommendation.
  • Network with students, faculty, and staff on campus.
Eligibility
  • Current University of Oregon student.
  • Equivalent of one academic year of research experience (3 quarters) OR a full-time summer research experience.
  • Presented at the Undergraduate Research Symposium or other academic conference.

Apply to be an Undergraduate Research Leader.

Submit a résumé and cover letter that describes your interest and qualifications to urop@uoregon.edu

Applications are considered on a rolling basis.

For more information contact Karl Reasoner at urop@uoregon.edu or 541-346-8520.