Campus undergraduates awarded research grants

Photo: Chancellor Robert Birgeneau presents an award to a student.
Tony Zhou/Staff
Chancellor Robert Birgeneau presents an award to a student.

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Several UC Berkeley undergraduate students were recognized by the Institute of International Studies last Thursday at an award conference after traveling abroad to areas such as Lebanon, Israel and Cairo and conducting exemplary research involving a variety of topics ranging from informal-sector employment for Kenyan women to China's foreign investments in Africa.

Chosen from a total of 128 applicants, 38 undergraduate scholars - known as the Institute of International Studies' Junior Scholars - were awarded about $2,000 in merit scholarships to conduct research in over 24 countries across the globe over the past year through independent travel and the UC Education Abroad Program. Eleven junior scholars chose to present their findings in research papers that were judged by a faculty panel at the institute, which then awarded each of the three strongest candidates an additional $1,000 prize at the conference.

"We had students from over 29 departments, including economics, Near Eastern studies, and (molecular and cell biology), apply for the scholarship," said Amy Gurowitz, a political science professor and director of education programs at the institute. "We are expanding the general mandate of enhancing undergraduate research."

Program Manager for the institute Vicki Mach said the ultimate goal of the institute was to provide as many undergraduates as possible on campus with the funding to conduct fieldwork and partake in interdisciplinary international relations research domestically and abroad.

The three junior scholar recipients of the additional $1,000 prize - seniors Hannah Jewell, Tamar Sella and Alisa Shekhtman - presented their research in poster format alongside 11 of their fellow scholars. Sella, who conducted research on the collaborations between Ethiopian and Israeli musicians after a trip to Israel over winter break, and senior Roxanne Darrow, who researched the transformation of agricultural life in Chile, were awarded another $250 each for the "Best Poster Award" at the conference.

"Judging by the extraordinary quality of the work, I would have thought they were all dissertation research from graduate students getting Ph.Ds," said Associate Vice Chancellor for Research Robert Price. "These undergraduates give medium to keep continuing in this research for years to come - it is very impressive."

Jewell - an employee of The Daily Californian who traveled to Israel, the West Bank, Jordan and Lebanon last year - conducted interviews with displaced Palestinians living inside and outside refugee camps and the conceptualization of the right to return to their native land to form the basis of her research.

"It was difficult and intellectually challenging, but the refugee camps formed a picture of Palestine," Jewell said. "The right of return is a sacred thing you cannot give up."

Chancellor Robert Birgeneau also attended the ceremony to present the awards to the junior scholars.

"We are fortunate that through global research programs we can enhance the multicultural fluency of our undergraduates," Birgeneau said at the ceremony. "This is the aspect that makes (UC) Berkeley special - comprehensive excellence."


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