27 URI students to conduct research as part of prestigious summer fellowship program

Media Contact: Neil Nachbar, 401-874-9519 |
Raymond Turrisi
Raymond Turrisi works on MATLAB code to calculate hydrodynamics on the upper monitor and SolidWorks on the lower monitor to produce a thruster mechanism.

KINGSTON, R.I. – June 25, 2019 – Sixty-two undergraduate students from nine local colleges and universities were selected to conduct “graduate-level” research in the University of Rhode Island’s Summer Undergraduate Research Fellowship (SURF) program.

A total of 27 students from the University of Rhode Island were chosen to participate in the 10-week program.

The SURF program is supported by Rhode Island Idea Network of Biomedical Research Excellence (RI INBRE) and the Rhode Island National Science Foundation Established Program to Stimulate Competitive Research (RI NSF EPSCoR) grant. Both federally funded programs are based at URI. The SURF program is intended to help students:

  • Develop professional relationships with faculty and graduate students
  • Gain hands-on experience with active Coastal Ecology Assessment Innovation & Modeling research projects
  • Become familiarized with complex lab and field equipment
  • Learn about topics such as applying to grad school and communicating research effectively

“Students are provided an experience that will help advance their budding research careers, whether it be in graduate school or in industry,” said Jim Lemire, SURF program coordinator and professor in Roger Williams University’s Feinstein School of Social and Natural Sciences.

Raymond Turrisi, who enrolled at URI in the spring semester of 2018, appreciates the opportunity to conduct high-level research as an undergraduate.

“What I love about the SURF program is that it provides a sandbox for the student to tackle problems under a mentor,” said Turrisi, of West Warwick, Rhode Island. “You have to be able to ask qualitative questions and then find your own answers through reading high level papers or through experimentation.”

Turrisi, a double major in mechanical engineering and French, is interested in a career in robotics and mechatronics. His research project will present the opportunity to enhance the skills needed in that industry.

“Ray is an excellent undergraduate researcher and a good mechanical designer,” said URI Graduate School of Oceanography Assistant Professor Mingxi Zhou, Turrisi’s mentor. “He has been challenged to design a new type of unmanned underwater vehicle (UUV) propulsion system, which will be integrated on to commercially available UUVs and the prototype UUV which is under construction in my lab.”

Turrisi’s previous lab experience came in the spring 2019 semester, while working as an undergraduate research assistant in the Dynamic Photomechanics Laboratory, under Simon Ostrach Distinguished Professor Arun Shukla.

“Dr. Shukla challenges and pushes his students to do their best work and is engaged with them as much as he can be,” said Turrisi.

“Ray is a highly motivated, intelligent and hard-working student,” said Shukla, who teaches in URI’s Department of Mechanical, Industrial and Systems Engineering. “It is a pleasure to have him work in my lab.”

Since 2007, RI NSF EPSCoR has supported more than 380 students through the SURF program.

“What began as a handful of students being paid to work in some labs at Brown University, URI, RWU and Providence College has grown into a state-wide partnership with the RI INBRE program and nine Rhode Island colleges,” said Lemire, the SURF program coordinator.

The students will present the results of their summer research at the Rhode Island SURF Conference on July 26 in URI’s Avedisian Hall, on the Kingston Campus.

Here is a complete list of the URI students taking part this summer:

Devyn Barraza
Major: Biology
Mentor: Kayla Kurtz (URI)
Hometown: Plainfield, Massachusetts
Project: Biofilm growth on marine environments

Jasmine Bazinet
Major: Pharmacy
Mentor: Jyothi Menon (URI)
Hometown: East Lyme, Connecticut
Project: Development and characterization of lipid-polymer hybrid nanoparticles for drug
delivery applications

Laura Berard
Major: Marine biology
Mentor: Coleen Suckling (URI)
Hometown: Cumberland, Rhode Island
Project: Determining how echinoderms respond to a high CO2 world

Shawn Carlson
Major: Chemical engineering
Mentor: Arijit Bose (URI)
Hometown: Wakefield, Massachusetts
Project: Algae-surface enhanced Raman spectroscopy (A-SERS) based detection of nitrates and phosphates in water

Matthew Carley
Major: Pharmacy
Mentor: Chris Hemme (URI)
Hometown: West Greenwich, Rhode Island
Project: Development of bioinformatics tools for pharmacogenomics

Marina Carro
Major: Chemistry and applied mathematics
Mentor: Matt Bertin (URI)
Hometown: Cranston, Rhode Island
Project: Exploring the chemical potential of the Ocean State: the development of a screening library for neuroactive & anti-inflammatory drug leads

Stephen Davia
Major: Biomedical and pharmaceutical science
Mentor: Navindra Seeram (URI)
Hometown: North Providence, Rhode Island
Project: Bioactive compounds from medicinal plants

Rebecca Dickinson
Majors: Cell and molecular biology, biochemistry
Mentor: Jodi Camberg (URI)
Hometown: North Kingstown, Rhode Island
Project: Biochemical characterization of ATP-dependent cell division proteins

Jessica Florendo
Major: Marine biology
Mentor: Anabela Maia (Rhode Island College)
Hometown: Scotch Plains, New Jersey
Project: Effects of temperature on metabolism and muscle function of Narragansett Bay fish species

Eden Francoeur
Major: Chemistry and applied mathematics
Mentor: Niall Howlett (URI)
Hometown: West Greenwich, Rhode Island
Project: Understanding the molecular basis of the human genetic disease Fanconi Anemia

Jessica Hiltz
Major: Marine affairs
Mentor: Tracey Dalton (URI)
Hometown, Newtonville, Massachusetts
Project: Women in marine science

Mirim Ji
Majors: Biomedical and pharmaceutical science, psychology
Mentor: Bongsup Cho (URI)
Hometown: Cranston, Rhode Island
Project: Probing the conformational heterogeneity of 4-aminobiphenyl-modified sequences by 19FNMR

Meagan King
Major: Biological sciences
Mentors: Alexa Sterling, Dr. Bethany Jenkins, Matt Bertin (URI)
Hometown: Westerly, Rhode Island
Project: Examining the dynamics of diatom population dynamics and diatom species that cause harmful algal blooms in Narragansett Bay

Kayleigh LaPre
Majors: Cell and molecular biology, biochemistry
Mentor: Katharina Quinlan (URI)
Hometown: Cumberland, Rhode Island
Project: Electrophysiologic comparison of motor neuron drive in an animal model of cerebral palsy

Emily Loomis
Majors: Cell and molecular biology, biochemistry
Mentor: Katharina Quinlan (URI)
Hometown: West Warwick, Rhode Island
Project: Identifying mechanisms of interaction between bacterial species in the human oral microbiome

Mileena Nguyen
Major: Chemistry and applied mathematics
Mentor: Niall Howlett (URI)
Hometown: Quincy, Massachusetts
Project: Understanding the molecular basis of the human genetic disease Fanconi Anemia

Gabrielle Pantoni
Majors: Biology, philosophy
Mentor: Matt Ramsey (URI)
Hometown: Campbell Hall, New York
Project: Assessing changes in coastal ecosystem engineers and associated communities in Narragansett Bay

Julie Phin
Major: Chemistry and applied mathematics
Mentor: Daniel Roxbury (URI)
Hometown: Providence
Project: Hydrogels with nano-structured depots for multiplexed, optically directed regulation of cell behaviors

Bryant Point
Majors: Chemistry, applied mathematics
Mentor: Mindy Levine (URI)
Hometown: Barrington, Rhode Island
Project: Colorimetric detection methods for nitrate and phosphate monitoring using hand-held, portable devices

Sebastian Rueda
Major: Chemistry
Mentor: Matthew Kiesewetter (URI)
Hometown: Central Falls, Rhode Island
Project: A cradle-to-cradle approach to bio-renewable plastics

Kayla Russo
Major: Cell & molecular biology
Mentor: Keith Thompson (URI)
Hometown: Mahopac, New York
Project: Modeling the metabolism of important planktonic species in Narragansett Bay

Stephanie Sandin
Majors: Chemical engineering and German (IEP)
Mentor: Daniel Roxbury (URI)
Hometown: Warwick, Rhode Island
Project: Multiplexed optical detection of heavy metal contaminants in plants

Sophia Silvia
Major: Chemistry and applied mathematics
Mentor: Steven Gregory (URI)
Hometown: Portsmouth, Rhode Island
Project: Horizontal transfer of ribosomal RNA genes among extremely thermophilic bacteria

Klara Szilagyi
Major: Biomedical engineering
Mentor: Yalda Shahriari (URI)
Hometown: East Providence, Rhode Island
Project: Brain-computer interfaces

Raymond Turrisi
Majors: Mechanical engineering and French (IEP)
Mentor: Mingxi Zhou (URI)
Hometown: West Warwick, Rhode Island
Project: Enhancing the Narragansett Bay Observatory with unmanned underwater vehicles (UUVs)

Jacob Ullom
Major: Cell and molecular biology
Mentor: Arnob Dutta (URI)
Hometown: East Providence, Rhode Island
Project: Role of histone H3T11phosphorylation in SWI/SNF mediated gene regulation

Tanner Wildfong
Major: Biomedical engineering
Mentor: Geoff Bothun (URI)
Hometown: Longmeadow, Massachusetts
Project: Lab-to-field: Nanostructured sensors for monitoring pollutants in coastal ecosystems