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UMD Supports Undergraduate Research Activities


Courtney Crowley  

In every discipline, UMD supports undergraduate students who work with a faculty member on research. In fact, UMD pays the student for their efforts.

Courtney Crowley | Wil Licht | Graeme Shields

Courtney Crowley — Labovitz School of Business and Economics

Does self-esteem impact how people work? Courtney Crowley, a fifth-year senior, researched to determine “Self-esteem at work:  An examination of the relationship between organization-based self-esteem and employee well-being.”

Crowley, organizational management major and a psychology minor, said the idea for her undergraduate research opportunity project (UROP) came from an independent study she conducted with Jon Pierce, professor, Management Studies in the Labovitz School of Business & Economics.

For an independent study, she completed a comprehensive literature review and realized that there were little to no studies that addressed how work related self-esteem influences people’s overall level of well-being. Given the amount of time that people spent within the context of work in organizations throughout their lives, she reasoned that experiences within that realm were likely to impact their lives as a whole.

The data for Crowley’s UROP came from a survey given to UMD faculty and staff. The University of Minnesota in recent years has demonstrated its commitment to wellness among its faculty and staff and thus far, they have focused predominantly on promoting a healthy lifestyle. Crowley’s research focuses on the psychological aspect of well-being. “It is my intention to provide the findings of my study to HR department here at UMD as well as the central office in the Twin Cities,” she said.   

There were difficulties with the statistical analysis software and data collection site but the obstacles taught her to be persistent. “If you push through, you get a great result in the end,” she said.

Crowley said that there is a misconception that research can be dry and boring but it is actually interesting and enjoyable, especially while examining something of personal interest. “It’s tremendously exciting to see everything unfold, and then in the end when it comes together to see the hard work pay off,” she said.

UROP has taught her to be an advocate for her educational experience at UMD. “This has really taught me to push my limits academically and has helped me to really grow as a person and as a student,” Crowley said.


Wil Licht — Swenson College of Science and Engineering

Wil Licht, a senior in the Department of Biology, worked in Tim Craig’s lab to test the preference of Oecanthinae tree crickets for ovipositing, or laying eggs.
Wil Licht  

Licht, a biology major and natural history minor, presented his research at the National Conference of Undergraduate Research at Weber State University in Ogden, Utah, in spring 2012. He also gave a talk on it at the Entomological Society of America’s meetings in Knoxville, Tenn., in fall 2012. He is currently writing a paper for a peer-reviewed publication describing the results of his studies. He will be the senior author.

Licht studied plant-insect interactions in Craig’s lab, and he became interested in the crickets while observing the gall maker Eurosta solidaginis. These flies are responsible for the golf ball-like spheres known as galls on goldenrod stems. Licht dissected the galls of the goldenrod gall flies and found the eggs of crickets that were not noticed before. “I reared the crickets and tried to figure out the process of why they would lay their eggs there,” he said. “What I did was an experiment determining whether they actually prefer that tissue or not.”

His research is important to biology because small behavioral differences in an animal, whether it’s a pronghorn sheep or a butterfly, can result in significant changes in their ecology.  “If we don’t understand these differences, we can end up causing problems for ourselves and for a species in that ecosystem,” he said.

Licht said that nobody has noticed this behavior before and there is a wealth of further research that can be done. “I think my research opened up opportunities for future researchers to try to figure out more details as to how and why this process is occurring,” he said.
Licht has worked on an independent study and two UROPs. He said that UROP gives a lot more independence in your research, and it gives a little bit of money to get your own materials. “It’s great for the professors, it’s great for the students,” he said. He plans to attend graduate school and continue his passion of research.

Graeme Shields - School of Fine Arts

Graeme Shields has a creative project UROP working under Justin Rubin, professor of music. "Dr. Rubin is one of the most knowledgeable mentors I have ever had the fortune to work with," said Shields. "He has positively influenced my writing as it becomes more mature. Working with a helpful and dedicated professor, I am excited to journey into a world of research and experience." Shields is working on composing music for the spring 2013 production of William Shakespeare’s Coriolanus. He is writing all the scene changes, the music during the battle scenes, and the underscore. Some music sequences will be two minutes and some will be a couple of seconds.

Kate Ufema, director UMD Theatre Department and professor of Voice and Speech and Musical Theatre Specialist, is directing the play. Ufema has put her own spin on it by switching the gender roles; all the male roles will be played by females and vice versa. “I think she wanted it set in time when most men would be killed in war, so women become the dominant gender,” Shields said.

Graeme Shields  

As Ufema planned a production with a lot of music, she consulted with Rubin. He recommended Shields, a junior music theory and composition major, as a composition student capable and willing to write programmatic music. Shields is also a University Honors student.

“She wants it to be pretty epic; she wants big battle scenes,” Shields said.  “Since the gender roles are switched, it is called Coriolana, named after the main female character.”

All the music Graeme is composing is digital music. “It’s not digital like futuristic sounds but all digital instruments, such as digital ensemble and digital flute,” he said.

Graeme said that there are advantages of composing digital music. “"If I like the way it sounds, I can put it in there whether it's technically possible to play or not,” he said. “All my performances were done on computer and it relates back all the way to when I started composing.”

Shields said that every year at UMD is getting better and better, with more opportunities, and meeting more people. “I feel like I am starting to get a little less conservative as far as compositions go, I am not afraid to do things I was afraid to do two years ago,” he said.

This is part one of a two-part story. Read part two.

Written by Madiha Mirza. January 2013

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