Students showcase projects at annual Rice Undergraduate Research Symposium


Research projects on campaign behavior during early voting and fake followers on Twitter were among the award-winning poster presentations at the 16th Rice Undergraduate Research Symposium (RURS) April 12.

More than 250 Rice students presented their current research findings at the event, which showcases the work of the university’s next generation of knowledge-makers. Approximately 100 faculty members, physicians and researchers from the university and local community served as judges for the competition, which has been held annually since 2002.

Student organizers Peter Yun and Lanie Tubbs said they were pleased with the wide range of projects and research experiences reflected in the judges’ selections for winning posters.

“RURS is the premier event for Rice undergraduates to showcase and share research from all disciplines to their peers, their mentors and the Greater Houston community,” Yun said. “Research is a crucial component of the undergraduate experience, allowing students to expand their studies beyond the classroom.”

“The exchange of knowledge and new ideas is at the heart of the symposium’s mission, which is to promote enthusiasm for and excitement about undergraduate research,” Tubbs added. “We hope (the Rice community) is just as inspired as we are by the research our amazing peers are doing.”

Danika Burgess, director for curriculum and fellowships at Rice’s Center for Civic Leadership, said the goal of RURS is to promote undergraduate interest and engagement in research projects.

“A primary mission of universities is the production of knowledge, including the evaluation of its rigor and replicable results,” she said. “In addition to finding new answers to old and new problems and expanding human capabilities through complex understandings of the working of the world, Rice University researchers are also inviting undergraduate students into the processes of their work. The Center for Civic Leadership is proud to support undergraduate research as a highly rigorous form of experiential learning.”

RURS is unique in both its inclusion of all undergraduate students and its restriction to Rice University students. Many of the students who present at RURS have worked in labs on campus and in the Texas Medical Center. Burgess said some of the undergraduate presenters have been “busy in archives and in the field, studying communities, gathering data in parks and transit routes. Other students have delved into policy analysis and honed their skills at measuring impact and implications of different potential solutions to pressing problems.”

The 2017 RURS winners from each participating school are:

Wiess School of Natural Sciences

A $750 award was divided among the top four projects.

  1. Roger Liang, “Novel Rational Combined BRAF Inhibition and Cytokine Therapy for Melanoma.”
  2. Megha Sheth, “Sustained PGC1β Activation Induces Skeletal Muscle Loss Via Apoptosis and Autophagy.”
  3. Michelle Tran, “Elucidating Novel Mechanisms by Which Tumor-Associated Endothelial Cells Inhibit Cytotoxic T-Lymphocyte Infiltration Into Ovarian Tumors.”
  4. Hector Chaires, “A Structural Approach to a Global Concern, New Delhi Metallo β-Lactamase.”

George R. Brown School of Engineering

A $1,250 award was divided among the top three projects and one group project.

  1. Rohan Palanki, “Development of a General Sensitivity Tuning Method for Two-Component Systems.”
  2. Zhouhan Chen, “Twitter Spam Analysis — How Many Fake Followers Do You Have?”
  3. Isaac Dykeman, “Fine-Grained Prediction of Storm Damage to Homes Using Deep Learning.”

Engineering group project:

  1. Andrew Dumit and Raymond Cano, “Predicting Resilience to Alzheimer’s Disease.”

School of Social Sciences

A $600 award was divided among the top three projects.

  1. Rachel George, “Laser Ablation Inductively Coupled Plasma Mass Spectrometry Chemical Sourcing of West African Pottery.”
  2. Bairavi Shankar, “The Warriors of Cancer: An Examination of Public Discourse and Private Online Experiences.”
  3. David Ratnoff and Chloe Wilson, “Campaign Behavior During Early Voting: Strategy and Behavior in Annise Parker’s Mayoral Campaigns in Houston, Texas.”

School of Humanities
A $500 award was divided among the top three projects.

  1. Gary Dreyer, “A Historical Perspective on the Political Culture of Russian-Speaking Israelis.”
  2. Magen Eissenstat, “Reading Facebook.”
  3. Megan Wright, “Connecting Josquin’s Motet Qui Velatus Facie and St. Bonaventure’s Canonization: Where Was Josquin in 1482?”

For more information on the undergraduate research at Rice, visit

About Amy McCaig

Amy is a senior media relations specialist in Rice University's Office of Public Affairs.