Research Awards

Advancement of Undergraduate Research in the Sciences (AURS)

The Advancement of Undergraduate Research in the Sciences (AURS) fund was established to support undergraduate research in the College of Natural Sciences and Mathematics at the University of Central Arkansas. We believe that engaging undergraduates in fundamental research prepares them for graduate or professional school as well as enhancing their undergraduate education. Not only do our undergraduates perform original research with a faculty mentor they also present that research at local, regional and national professional meetings and are co-authors on publications about their research. Our undergraduates have gone on to be successful in their careers upon graduation due in part to these experiences with our faculty.

Summer Research Stipends are evaluated by a ad-hoc committee of faculty formed by the CNSM dean’s office. All awards were sponsored by The Advancement of Undergraduate Research in the Sciences Endowment.

The Summer 2022 Award is March 18, 2022.

Important Links:

AURS Fund Website

Guidelines for AURS Fellowship Proposals

AURS Fellowship Cover Letter

AURS STEM Communicator Guidelines

2020 Recipients

Summer Research Stipends: ($5000)

Manling Cheng for the proposal entitled “Comparison of normal rat leg bone with those under simulated microgravity and cosmic radiations conditions,” with Dr. Rahul Mehta in the Physics & Astronomy Department.

Grace Davenport for the proposal entitled “Effects of Riparian Buffer Width and Farm Pond Proximity on Fish Assemblages in the Black River Watershed in Arkansas,” with Dr. Ginny Adams in the Biology Department.

Southwestern Energy Research Fellow

The purpose of this Fund is to support undergraduate and graduate student research in the fields of Environmental Science, Geography and Physics.

Award amounts may be used for all ordinary and necessary expenses associated with conducting research projects, including but not limited to, supplies and equipment, travel and presentation of research at local, state and national conferences and symposia.

Student must have a GPA of 3.0 or above and shall be selected by not less than 6 committee members.



Deadline to apply is March 18, 2022

Also, on an annual basis the Dean of CNSM shall prepare and provide Donor and the Foundation, an annual report listing the recipients of the research grants, the amounts awarded to each recipient, the results of the research project, and such other information as the Donor may from time to time designate.

2020 Recipients

Manling Cheng, Undergraduate Student, Physics & Astronomy

Grace Davenport, Undergraduate Student, Biology

Chance Garrett, Graduate Student, Biology

Willow Newman, Undergraduate Student, Biology

Joseph Redinger, Graduate Student, Biology

2019 Recipient

Lillian McDaniel, Undergraduate Student, Geography

Shortleaf pine ecosystems are a dominant forest type in the Ouachita Mountains, but they have been severely degraded in the past century due to logging and fire suppression. Prior to the 1930s, regular, low-severity fire maintained open woodland characteristics allowing for a rich diversity of plants and animals. I collected data from one of the few old-growth shortleaf pine forests in Arkansas that developed under frequent burning prior to fire suppression. Tree ring data from the site provides information on forest composition, tree establishment, and growth rates during periods of frequent fire and during the last 70 years with no fire. This project will answer two questions: (1) Did the composition and timing of tree establishment change in response to changes in the fire regime? (2) Do tree-ring growth patterns indicate changes in forest density in response to shifting fire regimes? The results will be used to develop a comprehensive record of forest stand dynamics in the Ouachita Mountains and guide restoration of shortleaf pine forests. I will present this project at the American Association of Geographers Annual Meeting in Denver, Colorado, April 2020.

2018 Recipient

Mason Rostollan, Graduate Student, Biology

Kanembwe, Rwanda, is a small village in the northwest corner of the country and is characterized by poverty, unemployment, illiteracy, and overall low quality of life. The majority of residents perform day labor, so many families have food and healthcare insecurities. The purpose of this study is to characterize some of the environmental health risks identified through interviews with residents of the village. The two primary areas of concern are upper respiratory illness resulting from long-term smoke exposure and diarrheal diseases. The objectives of this study are to 1) characterize the microbial community structure of drinking water using 16S rRNA gene sequencing and 2) characterize smoke particles from various biomass-burning cooking methods. The primary result of this project will be a better understanding of causes of illness from the residents’ environment and the implementation of changes to lower the effects of these health risks. This project has been selected to be presented at the Mixed Methods International Research Association (MMIRA) in Vienna, Austria, in August 2018.

2017 Recipient

Chris Robinson, Graduate Student, Biology

As the Earth’s climate continues to change, animal populations will either adapt to these new conditions or die off. It is difficult to predict how a species will respond to increasing temperatures, so it is important for conservation efforts to begin measuring and understanding how local populations interact with their environments. For reptiles and amphibians, temperature can influence development, behavior, and internal processes, so we might expect these to change as the climate is altered. For the Arkansas-native prairie lizard, hormones are critical for developing colorful signals males use to attract females. Such hormones are frequently influenced by environmental conditions. Currently, I am collecting data to understand how hormone concentrations and these colorful signals influence male reproductive success. These data will provide a baseline to which future data can be compared to assess how this populations of lizards has changed over time. Studies of common species, such as this one, are important as proxies to inform management strategies for other more critically threatened similar species.