November 2021 URCC Newsletter

Director's Message

Dear students,

Late November brings cooler weather, shorter days, Thanksgiving, and Native American Heritage Day. On campus classes and research continue. High quality undergraduate-faculty research partnerships enrich the academic and learning environment at Brandeis. Read this issue of the URCC newsletter to learn how some of your peers have engaged in research and creative projects at Brandeis, view a list of selected undergraduate projects funded in Fall 2021, and add upcoming events and workshops to your calendar.

However you spend this coming week, whether in celebration or quiet contemplation, I wish you the best.

Margaret Lynch
Director of Undergraduate-Faculty Research Partnerships

Table of Contents


  • New Guidelines for Undergraduate Research Participation
  • Spring 2022 URCC Symposium: Save the Date
  • Brandeis Educational Justice Initiative
  • Undergraduate Creator Spotlight
  • Fall highlights (funding, recent awards, Research 101)
  • Undergraduate Presentation and Publication Opportunities



New Guidelines for Undergraduate Research Participation

Brandeis has developed an updated set of guidelines for faculty-mentored undergraduate research and creative projects across the academic disciplines. Please review these Guidelines for Undergraduate Participation in Faculty Research Projects which outline policies and procedures for undergraduate participation in research or creative projects through grant or fellowship-supported opportunities, course credit, or volunteering in the Sciences, Social Sciences, Humanities, and Creative Arts.

Faculty, staff, and students who have questions or seek more information can contact Margaret Lynch in the Undergraduate Research and Creative Collaborations Office.

Spring 2022 URCC Symposium

The Spring 2022 Undergraduate Research and Creative Collaborations Symposium is scheduled for the afternoon of Tuesday, May 3, 2022 at Brandeis. Mark your calendars. Information for presenters and attendees will be available in Winter 2022. 

Brandeis Educational Justice Initiative

The Brandeis Educational Justice Initiative (BEJI), founded in January 2020, is an emerging program that enables Brandeis students to provide educational opportunities for individuals impacted by the carceral system. BEJI was founded by three full-time faculty members: Rosalind Kabrhel Associate Professor of the Practice in Legal Studies, John Plotz, Professor of English and Barbara Mandel Professor of the Humanities, and David Sherman, Associate Professor of English, to further the University’s core values both within the curriculum and through co-curricular opportunities for students through partnerships with external organizations.

BEJI nurtures the growth of undergraduate and graduate students from their early curiosity about the criminal justice system through participation in hands-on carceral education programs and by supporting their pursuit of innovative research. Some students initially choose to become involved with BEJI through course offerings, among which is the Legal Studies Practicum LGS145a Experiences with Justice, offered every semester. The practicum is a place where students can develop critical understanding about the foundations of the criminal justice system and mass incarceration.  Students are provided opportunities to assist in the delivery of BEJI’s educational programs and reflect upon their experience as well as explore their own research areas of interest in a supportive classroom environment. The practicum can also serve as a springboard that encourages further investigation after its completion, fostering a sustained intellectual community. By working directly with individuals within and impacted by the carceral system, students are afforded a unique and valuable perspective in their understanding of mass incarceration, an important social justice issue. 

Whether or not they choose to pursue coursework, as students become more involved in and experienced with BEJI programming they have the flexibility to work with more than one program and pursue multiple areas of interest. For example, students can tutor incarcerated students one-on-one through BEJI’s partnership with the Petey Greene Program, assist with a semester long skill development workshop series for recently released individuals through our Partakers Empowerment Program, or assist a graduate student or professor teaching a credit-bearing course to incarcerated individuals.  BEJI also hosts a reading group that explores carceral themes. This diverse experience gives students more than one perspective and enables them to explore multiple avenues of research investigating the carceral system. Students who work with BEJI also have the opportunity to pursue leadership roles in BEJI itself. BEJI presents an opportunity for students to be as involved as they like, with participation stretching from one to multiple semesters, including over the summer and winter recesses.  The following chart illustrates a student’s possible path through BEJI.

Brandeis senior Caroline O. is an exemplary case of a student whose research interests are supported by BEJI and the Undergraduate Research and Creative Collaborations Office (URCC).  Caroline was initially inspired to work with BEJI after taking Professor Rosalind Kabrhel’s course, LGLS 141b Juvenile Justice: from Cradle to Custody as a sophomore. She worked with BEJI as a junior, serving as a teaching assistant to Professor David Sherman when he taught a poetry class to students in custody at the Department of Youth Services. As an English major, this experience offered a unique opportunity to bridge her academic interests. Caroline then decided to examine this experience further by developing her own research project; she was an inaugural recipient of the Jane Kahn ’77 Undergraduate Research Fellowship, which funds student research focused on emerging issues in criminal justice reform. Caroline reflected on these experiences:

"I was fortunate enough to be a recipient of the Kahn Fellowship, in which I had the opportunity to delve deeper into the world of juvenile justice, and how creative arts might help those who are involved in the system. While doing this research, I was also teaching poetry with Professor Sherman to those in the juvenile facilities. These incredible experiences helped shed light on how different fields of interest--for me, being English and juvenile justice--can interact with one another to hopefully create change."

Students interested in pursuing a relationship with BEJI can contact any of the three founding faculty members, Rosalind Kabrhel, John Plotz, and David Sherman, as well as Holly Robbins or Rachel Dale, or register for coursework offered by the Legal Studies Program.

Read this article on our website

Undergraduate Creator Spotlight: Vicente Cayuela Aliaga '22

Majors: Studio Arts: Sculpture and Digital Media Focus

Minors: Architectural Studies, Film, TV, and Interactive Media

Faculty Project Mentors: Catherine Della Lucia, Joe Wardwell

Current Focus: Studio Honors Thesis

Brandeis senior and artist Vicente Cayuela Aliaga is one of eight undergraduate recipients of a Fall 2021 Fisher Explorer Grant. He was also awarded a 2021 Remis Summer Study Grant to support his projects and studies in Fine Arts for his novel explorations of alternative photography, among them creating constructed photography sets and paper sculptures with cyanotype prints, as well as the Steven M. Bunson ’82 Internship Fund in the Arts WOW from the Hyatt Career Center. His sculptural and photographic projects are being exhibited in two upcoming group exhibitions at the Griffin Museum of Photography.

Vicente’s creative contributions extend beyond Brandeis. A successful internship at the Griffin Museum of Photography prepared him to accept his current position as Lead Content Producer for Video and Social Media. This previous museum experience also allowed him to become the current Lynn Warner Curatorial Intern at the Rose Art Museum.

Vicente recently had a conversation with Jadnavi Swamy, ’22, URCC Undergraduate Assistant. The conversation has been edited for clarity and length. Read this article on our website

Can you tell me about your creative project and what questions you're exploring?

I am exploring the intersections of photography, object-making and readymades. By merging these elements together, I try to expand the ways in which photographs can be constructed as well as the ways in which they can exist in space. Objects not only carry sociocultural meaning, but they also play a role in the construction of our personal and collective identity. Photography is a great medium because it is a means for both societal and self-representation. My Studio Art Thesis started as a reaction to our alienation from nature. However, I have recently started feeling more comfortable exploring my own juvenile experiences through my photographic practice… By incorporating objects that have both autobiographical and larger cultural significance, I create complex narrative compositions that are both comical and melancholic. I am inspired by romanticized ideas of teenage angst, nostalgia and my own coming-of-age. These photographs address seldom-talked issues about adolescence, including drug addiction, domestic abuse, loss, trauma, lack of guidance, sexual alienation, and social isolation.

What in particular sparked your interest in photography and these projects?

I'm interested in merging digital and physical mediums because digital media has way more potential for mass cultural engagement than other artistic practices. At the same time, it is paramount for me to incorporate material elements into my photographic practice as a way to honor the physicality of manual labor. I come from a family of wood and textile workers. I lived in a carpentry workshop most of my childhood, so I developed an affinity for manual work and aesthetics from a very early age. I think this is my own way to keep that connection alive.

I discovered alternative photographic processes at the Griffin Museum. I like alternative photography because it’s very physical and process based; you're not just pressing a shutter. During the summer of my internship, I got a Remis Grant from the Fine Arts Department to explore the cyanotype process. Cyanotypes have a bad rep because it's a very accessible and straightforward alternative process. By making sculptures out of the prints I want to show that it's not the medium that's limiting; which is what I have been exploring in addition to my constructed photographic sets. One of my sculptures is being exhibited at the Winter Solstice exhibition at the Griffin Museum in December.

This fellowship that you mentioned, was this the funding for your project?

Last summer (2021), the Remis grant allowed me to start working with cyanotypes. This semester, I got the new Fisher Explorer Grant which I will use to pay for the face mounted acrylic prints of my constructed photographs that will be exhibited in another group exhibition I have in March. In addition to the courses I am taking at Brandeis, I enrolled in the Photography Atelier 35 Course, which is a professional project and portfolio development course that culminates in an exhibition at the Griffin Museum. Last summer, I was also awarded the Stephen M. Bunson '82 Internship Fund in the Arts from the Hiatt Career Center’s World of Work (WOW) Fellowships. That program funded my internship at the Griffin Museum before I became their Lead Content Creator.

How did you find out about opportunities for undergraduates and creative scholarships?

I am always looking for opportunities to pursue the things that I am passionate about. I am a very driven person. I’m also very stubborn and also very broke, which is just an awesome combination! I think that when you come from the “Global South,” you know the reality you’ll have to go back if you don't work hard enough. In high school, I was one of the two students in my country that were selected for the EducationUSA Opportunity Funds. This program allowed me to study abroad because it covered all my college application expenses for two years, including visa, plane tickets, and preparation for language tests and the SATs. Thanks to EducationUSA, I was able to receive a Wien International Scholarship at Brandeis, which is a part of a global network of scholars. As an undergraduate, I have received multiple creation grants from Brandeis to work on my creative projects. There are many resources out there and the Internet is a thing. Following the Creative Arts Instagram (@createatbrandeis) is a great way to keep up to date with creative opportunities that are happening on campus.

That's amazing! Have you found any unexpected benefits from your project so far?

I’m probably way more comfortable exploring my own identity and society through my art than I was before… When I began incorporating more of my personal experiences into my photographs, people related to them way more than anything else I had done before. In a certain way, my practice became a tool for communication. It allowed me to connect with people at a different level and that's all I care about, really. The visual arts are probably the most alienating discipline for everyday people, especially to those like me that did not have any access to high culture. In my work, I am addressing the habits of a generation that is not only tired of elitism, we also have a very sarcastic sense of humor to cope with the ridiculous state of the world we live in. I incorporate a lot of camp aesthetics and juvenile paraphernalia as a way to capture this numbness and cynicism. Making art that intentionally reacts to cultural issues is hard because you have to take a stance. For a long time, I was not willing to do that. My creative projects have allowed me to become more loose and at the same time more intentional when tackling social issues that I care about in my work. I like that I am not taking myself too seriously anymore.

What are some of the major challenges you have faced during the process and what steps did you take to overcome them?

The biggest challenge is time and energy. I am taking a full academic load and I work three jobs. At the same time I’m job hunting so I don’t fall off the face of the earth after I graduate. My art practice comprises many stages. I start by folding paper or making prints and then turning them into sculptures, or maybe making plaster casts which I paint and photograph later in nature. I print pictures and collage them to build photographic sets. So, I have to go out to collect objects and arrange them in a way that I can create connections between them. I survey people and my friends about their own youth experiences to see if what I am making is relevant to my generation. After I finally get to take a picture of a set, it’s not done because there is all this post-production work involved.

Another challenge I have had to face is that a lot of people look down at art students because they think arts are not valid professional enterprises. Societal perception around the arts needs to change. The same people that look down at the arts are the ones who benefit from the work of creative people daily and want their logos designed for free. Creatives and artists are everywhere, and they make daily contributions to society.

Did you receive guidance or inspiration from anybody in particular?

Yeah! I’ve received a lot of guidance from a lot of people at Brandeis . Sheida Soleimani has been one of my biggest inspirations at Brandeis, both conceptually and in the production process of my own work. Her work is so aesthetically interesting, but it also tackles identity and political issues in a very cerebral way. She introduced me to constructed photography in “Introduction to Digital Photography,” one of the more impactful classes I’ve taken at Brandeis. Mark Delello at the Sound and Image Media Studios (SIMS) has also been a great mentor. I have worked at SIMS for three years. Thanks to Mark, I have been able to expand my multimedia skills and work for different creative projects in the Brandeis community. The media lab is a great resource for students, because we have access to all sorts of professional software and equipment.

Did you enroll in any creative project for credit and, if so, which courses?

Yes. Over the summer I took the internship class that you need to take as an international student in order to be eligible to work off campus. But this semester, I am doing independent study as part of the academic component of my internship class with lauren woods (she always uses lower case letters.) She was my Video Art professor at Brandeis before the pandemic hit. I am interested in the measures museums are setting in place in order to ensure broader cultural representation, such as deaccessioning works in order to diversify their collections, which is a very controversial topic. Woods was the perfect fit because she specializes in monuments, public memory, and sociocultural practice. She's definitely someone who I look up to for her social engagement and understanding of cultural institutions. I am also enrolled in the Honors class with Studio Art Faculty Joe Wardwell and Catherine Della Lucia.

Fall highlights (funding, recent awards, Research 101)

New Funding Opportunity

David and Lola Swede P’89 Research Fellowship Fund for Jewish Studies: for students who are conducting research on topics related to Judaism and/or the Jewish people. A $5,000 summer stipend. Application deadline March 2, 2021.

Upcoming Undergraduate Funding Deadlines

January 20 deadlines: Check the URCC webpage list and ForagerOne.

Look forward to March 2 deadlines for summer funding.

Recent Awards

Read below to see a list of Brandeis undergraduates who have recently been awarded funding from Brandeis:

Phoebe Rothman Giddon
Brandeis Alumna Undergraduate Fellowship Award

Joelle Galatan, '22

Major: Health: Science, Society, and Policy

The Experiences of People with Endometriosis in Receiving non-Endometriosis-Related Gynecological Care

Faculty Mentor: Sarah Lamb

Provost’s Undergraduate Research Fund Fall Senior Thesis Awards

Maria Aranibar, '22

Majors: Sociology, International Global Studies

How Gentrification is Ruining our Public Schools: A Somerville Case Study

Faculty Mentor: Sarah Mayorga

Kristi Ho, '22

Major: Social Justice and Social Policy

The Mental Health Impacts of Community Gardening and Urban Farming in a Diverse, Urban City

Faculty Mentor: Thuy Lam

Savannah Jackson, '22

Majors: Sociology, International Global Studies

Mediating Authenticity: Interpretation as a Social Process

Faculty Mentor: Sarah Mayorga

Mariah Lewis, '22

Majors: Psychology, Sociology

Interrogating Safety: How College Students Navigate Resources in Times of Need

Faculty Mentor: Sarah Mayorga

Luochen Liu, '22

Majors: Biology, Neuroscience

Investigating the molecular mechanism of translation regulation through ribosome heterogeneity using rpL40 as a paradigm

Faculty Mentor: Kene Piasta

Simona Shuman, '22

Major: Sociology

Food Insecurity in Two Neighboring Cities During the Covid-19 Pandemic

Faculty Mentor: Wendy Cadge

Provost’s Undergraduate Research Fund Fall Academic Year Award

Amy Schroeder, '23

Major: Politics

Archiving Diversity in Asian Diaspora: Southeast Asians in Massachusetts and the Model Minority Myth

Faculty Mentor: Howie Tam

Fisher Explorer Grants

Kathryn (Katie) Ball, '22

Major: Music

The Cultural Dynamics of Dvorak's New World Symphony: Appropriation, Legacy, and National Identity

Faculty Mentor: Erin Gee

Sienna Bucu, '22

Major: Fine Arts

Passing Through Spaces

Faculty Mentor: Gisholt, Alfredo

Vicente Cayuela Aliaga, '22

Majors: Fine Arts and Film, TV, and Interactive Media

Biological Burdens

Faculty Mentor: Catherine della Lucia

Duomi (Amy) Chen, '22 

Major: Fine Arts

The Representation of Androgyny and Gender Fluidity in Late Nineteenth-Century European Art

Faculty Mentor: Charles McClendon

Matthew Kaufman, '22

Majors: Fine Arts, Psychology

Ways of Seeing - The Art of Psychological Disorders

Faculty Mentor: Joseph Wardwell

Anya Shire-Plumb, '22

Majors: Fine Arts, Studio Art and Psychology

Senior Studio Exploration

Faculty Mentor: Catherine Della Lucia

Marissa Small, '22

Majors: Fine Arts, IIM Biology & Society

21st Century Futurisms

Faculty Mentor: Peter Kalb

Ashley Young, '22

Majors: Fine Arts and Studio Art, Psychology

Disrupting and Deconstructing: Confronting Misogyny in the Art World

Faculty Mentor: Joe Wardwell

Undergraduate Presentation Opportunities

Now Accepting Posters On the Hill 2022 Submissions: Deadline December 13, 2021.
Posters on the Hill (POH) is a critical element in CUR's advocacy efforts. It is more important than ever that the voice of undergraduate researchers and their mentors are heard on Capitol Hill. This prestigious event celebrates the impressive work of the accepted students and prompts the messages of the importance of undergraduate research at the federal level. POH 2022 will take place virtually, dates will be announced in early 2022. We encourage all students to submit their research abstract by December 13, 2021, to be involved in this prestigious event. You can check out deadlines, submission information required, and more, here >>

Undergraduate Publication Opportunities

Do you have a paper or project you're particularly proud of? We've compiled a database of peer-reviewed journals which publish undergraduate research from across all disciplines. Getting your research out there can be a great way to build your resume, connect with peers and faculty who are interested in your topic, and show off your hard work. You can check out the database here. Be sure to check back frequently, as new journals and new deadlines are being added all the time.

External Undergraduate Research Opportunities

We are excited to announce a new international research internship opportunity for undergraduate engineering students funded by the National Science Foundation (NSF)  International Research Experience for Students (IRES) program.  

Through our AM² partnership between Texas A&M University Engineering (TAMU) and Arts et Métiers Institute of Technology, the project will be a summer-long research experience and internship program for a diverse cohort of students who are focusing on smart manufacturing and artificial intelligence (AI) for the emerging industrial era in Aix-en-Provence, France. Please inform your students about this unique opportunity! It also includes a $5,000 stipend for selected students!

More information about this research internship experience is available online. If you or your students have any questions, please contact the Halliburton Engineering Programs office at Texas A&M University at The deadline to apply is 02/01/2022.