The Office of Undergraduate Research has announced the recipients of experiential learning scholarships this fall, including the Jacklyn W. and William R. Jones, Jr. Experiential Learning Scholarship and the Dennis Dean Undergraduate Research Scholarship.

Of the 26 diverse and exceptional applications that were submitted, three students were selected as recipients for these scholarships this fall.

About the recipients

Stephanie Flear, a junior majoring in electrical engineering and minoring in green engineering, was selected to receive the Jacklyn W. and William R. Jones Jr. Experiential Learning Scholarship, being recognized for her self-driven research and service project in Nepal, where she aspires to install an energy floor at a family support center housing more than 80 youth to overcome energy poverty in the area. Her faculty mentor is Jennifer Lawrence, College of Architecture and Urban Studies.

“Virginia Tech has enabled me to truly follow my dreams and not only think bigger than a degree, but also realize how it will impact others around me. This embodies our motto Ut Prosim (That I May Serve) and intersects experiential learning with a dedication to serving everyone, not only those within our institution,” said Flear of her experience.

Two researchers were selected to receive the Dennis Dean Undergraduate Research Scholarship this fall. Amber Abbott is a senior majoring in microbiology and minoring in music. “My long-term career goal is to discover and develop novel ways of combating infectious disease. I hope to ultimately progress to a management position and lead my own lab, so that I can direct research while helping respond to disease outbreaks in society.”

Abbott’s current research takes place in the neurovirology lab of Andrea Bertke, Associate Professor of Infectious Diseases in Public Health for the Department of Population Health Sciences in the Virginia-Maryland College of Veterinary Medicine. Abbott focuses on determining molecular mechanisms that regulate the herpes simplex virus latency and reactivation in different types of neurons in order to ultimately develop novel antivirals to prevent viral reactivation.

The other recipient of the Dennis Dean Undergraduate Research Scholarship is Kyle Rega. He admits his interest in research was sparked by his personal experiences with Type 1 diabetes. He said, “I want to dedicate my life to research because I know that without the countless years of research done before my time, insulin may not have been commercially synthesized, which is a death sentence for Type 1 diabetics like myself.”

Now a junior double majoring in biochemistry and mathematics, Rega is conducting research under the supervision of Bingyu Zhao, Associate Professor of Plant and Environmental Sciences in the College of Agriculture and Life Sciences. His research studies antimicrobial activities of certain epiphytic bacteria strains, with a goal of optimizing the bacteria strains to prevent pathogens from wreaking havoc on plants.

Agota Banks, a sophomore in biological sciences, and Valeria Martinez Rodriguez, a senior in biological systems engineering, received honorable mention for these scholarships.

About the scholarships

Recognizing the continued need for endowed scholarships to benefit students at Virginia Tech, Ronald A. Jones '80 and Patricia M. Jones generously established the Jacklyn W. and William R. Jones Jr. Experiential Learning Scholarship, in honor of Ron's parents. This scholarship is awarded to Virginia Tech undergraduates in any major who participate in guided experiential learning opportunities.

At the same time, Dennis Dean, former director of the Fralin Life Science Institute, university distinguished professor in biochemistry, and long-time supporter of undergraduate research, responded to the need to financially support undergraduate research at Virginia Tech in the long term.  

Dean was responsible for the Fralin Summer Undergraduate Research Fellowship, which is designed to give students a full-time research experience in the life sciences mimicking graduate school, as well as the academic year Fralin Undergraduate Research Fellowship Program, which is aimed at increasing diversity in research. Dean expands his legacy with this scholarship to recognize engagement in undergraduate research by students with financial need.

"We are extremely happy that donors are recognizing the contemporary interest of our students in experiential learning and are helping to remove some of the financial barrier to engagement," said Jill Sible, associate vice provost for undergraduate education. "We look forward to attracting additional funds for these valuable, high impact purposes."

Each scholarship of $1,000 will be awarded on a semester basis. More information on the scholarships and application process is available on the OUR website: www.research.undergraduate.vt.edu.

Written by Keri Swaby and Rachel Kinzer Corell