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CURCA mini-grants fund variety of undergraduate research projects

Dr. Mattias Johansson has received a CURCA mini-grant for research on invasive eel in Georgia.

Opportunities for University of North Georgia (UNG) students to have their sculptures displayed on campus and research about invasive eel in Georgia are two of the 10 projects to receive Center for Undergraduate Research and Creative Activities (CURCA) mini-grants for the 2019-20 school year.

The grants offer up to $3,000 to fund supplies, travel to conduct research, or specialized student assistance to faculty beginning or continuing undergraduate research projects in all academic areas. The mini-grants are reviewed and selected internally by a cross-disciplinary and cross-campus group of faculty members.

After Jeffrey Repko saw the biennial outdoor sculpture exhibit at UNG, which features artists from the region, he wanted to include some sculptures by UNG students. The assistant professor of visual arts said the exhibition would give the students' art exposure and better prepare them for their careers. Repko submitted a successful mini-grant application after he conferred with Dr. Jon Mehlferber, professor of visual arts, who runs the sculpture exhibit.

Before the coronavirus pandemic (COVID-19) moved instruction online for the remainder of spring 2020, Repko and his students visited public art displays in Gainesville, Georgia, and along the Beltline, at Piedmont Park, and at the High Museum of Art in Atlanta. That research was a form of idea mining and motivation for how students can craft their own sculptures for public display.

Dr. Mattias Johansson, assistant professor of biology at UNG, has examined the geographic spread and ecological impact of invasive Asian Rice Eel in Georgia and received a mini-grant to build this research with students. The mini-grant will facilitate molecular analysis, an in-depth form of research that otherwise wouldn't be possible.

"Getting CURCA funding means this project is possible," Johansson said. "I can teach the students the techniques I know best."

Johansson said the eel were likely introduced in Georgia by people who wanted to fish for them so they could have sushi. The UNG faculty member said millions of Asian Rice Eels are now in Georgia, and "they eat whatever they can catch." He said this has a ripple effect by consuming food sources for other species that might be more desirable.

"There's no recognition of the potential impact" of introducing invasive species, Johansson said.

Other faculty awarded mini-grants from CURCA were:

  • Dr. William Balco, assistant professor of anthropology, targeted geophysical prospection at the Rice Farm site.
  • Dr. Erin Barding and Dr. Margaret Smith, associate professors of biology, and Dr. Dobrusia Bialonska, assistant professor of environmental microbiology, characterization of the gut microbiome of Trichoplusia ni.
  • Dr. Frank Crittenden, lecturer of biology, investigating the role of SULT4A1 in modulating mitochondrial activity during differentiation of neuroblastoma cells.
  • Abby Neyer, assistant professor of biology, Dr. Jennifer Mook, associate professor of biology, and Dr. Natalie Hyslop, professor of biology, investigating seasonal differences in energy metabolites in a long-lived ectothermic vertebrate exposed to variable thermal and habitat conditions.
  • Dr. David Patterson, assistant professor of biology, Rosann Kent, lecturer and director of the Appalachian Studies Center, Dr. Sudhanshu Panda, professor in the Institute for Environmental and Spatial Analysis (IESA), and Karrie Ann Fadroski, senior lecturer of biology, breaking nutritional barriers in schools through precision agriculture.
  • Jessica Patterson, lecturer of biology, Dr. David Patterson, assistant professor of biology, and Dr. Erin Barding, associate professor of biology, an investigation of morphology and burrow networks as a conservation tool.
  • Dr. Margaret Smith, associate professor of biology, effect of microplastics on sea urchin larvae.
  • Dr. Katayoun Mobasher, professor in IESA, and Dr. Jerry Allison, professor of chemistry, geological analyses of crystalline rocks in Piedmont Physiographic Province in Georgia.

CURCA supports faculty and students pursue research and creative activities through programs that offer mentorship, funding, recognition, and opportunities for publicity and dissemination of research accomplishments.

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