Student Research Grants Enhance Graduate Students' Research and Professional Development

Each year the Graduate School’s Student Research Grants Competition helps over 300 dissertators and final year MFA students travel to conferences and conduct research off campus. Here award winners share their stories.

Melissa Miller

PhD Student | Slavic Languages and Literature | Conference Presentation Funds recipient

In November 2013 I attended the annual ASEEES (Association for Slavic, East European, and Eurasian Studies) Convention. I presented a paper on the portrayal of pregnancy and childbirth in 19th Century Russian literature, specifically Chekhov and Tolstoy.

I was able to make contacts with leading scholars in my field from other universities who also work on my authors (Anton Chekhov, Lev Tolstoy) and the ways they narrate medical experiences. Furthermore, the panel I was on served as a fantastic model of rigorous intellectual inquiry and meaningful discussion. This panel is now the standard I shoot for when presenting at conferences and organizing my own panels.

John Liu

PhD Student | Sociology/Community & Environmental Sociology | Research Travel Award recipient

I traveled to United Nation’s climate change conference (COP 19) in Warsaw, Poland during November 14th to 20th 2013. Thousands of representative from governments, businesses, and NGOs convene in the two-week long international negotiation on humanity’s action to fight climate change. I was there to follow the discussions on the carbon market , and meanwhile, re-connect with some of my interviewees for follow-up conversation.

Kimberly Keil

PhD Student | Comparative Biomedical Sciences | Conference Presentation Funds recipient

The Vilas award was used to present my research during a poster session at the 2013 10th World Congress on Urological Research in Nashville, TN. This award not only afforded me an opportunity to disseminate my research to a broader scientific audience, but allowed me to interact with leaders in the field in basic, translational and clinical urology research. Opportunities to expand my understanding of how my research fits into the greater context of the urology field as well as the networking opportunities are especially important as I prepare to transition to the next phase in my research career.

Like so many other projects across campus, my work is currently funded by a small grant which does not provide funds for travel. Therefore the Vilas travel awards are so important in that they allow graduate students like myself to offset travel costs to promote our research while saving valuable research dollars to continue these promising and relevant projects.

Jillian Slaight

PhD Student | History | Research Travel Awards recipient

With my VIlas grant, I traveled to Nice, where I’ve been consulting the departmental archives of the Alpes-Maritimes region of France. I’ve been looking at judicial files from the eighteenth century which contain witness testimony and interrogation records in cases of “seduction.” This term often referred to men who impregnated young women and subsequently reneged on promises to marry them, but it also referred to men and women who married against the consent of their parents. It sometimes (but rarely) referred to men who abducted young women of higher social status in order to marry them and thus gain higher social status themselves.

The archives in Nice have already benefitted my research tremendously. The proximity to France’s borders meant that young couples who eloped could easily hope to cross the Var, leave France, and thus evade their parents and French justice. The content and tenor of witness testimony in small towns varies significantly from similar testimony in Parisian police files. In contrast to Paris, neighbors kept even closer tabs on each other and didn’t hesitate to share what they saw from their windows. For example, one young man on trial for seduction claimed he did not know the woman filing suit whatsoever, but his neighbor reported seeing him gleefully tossing sugared almonds into that woman’s mouth one day that summer. These testimonies have been as useful as they’ve been funny.

Ashley Hinck

PhD Student | Rhetoric, Politics, & Culture in the Communication Arts | Research Travel Award recipient

My research project considers how TeamMates, a nonprofit mentoring organization uses Huskers football fandom to invite fans to participate in civic engagement–to volunteer to mentor. With the Vilas Research Travel grant, I was able to travel to Omaha, Nebraska to conduct interviews with TeamMates board members and conduct participant observation at the TeamMates fundraising gala. I also traveled to Lincoln, Nebraska to conduct participant observation at the Nebraska football game against Northwestern, observing tailgating practices. Lastly, I traveled to Ann Arbor, Michigan to the Nebraska football game at the University of Michigan, observing Nebraska fans at an away game. With limited departmental resources and TA salaries cut over the past 5 years, I couldn’t have done this research without this award. The Vilas Research Travel Award is critical to supporting graduate student research at UW–Madison.

Vijay Limaye

PhD Student | Epidemiology and Environment and Resources | Conference Presentation Funds recipient

I attended the American Public Health Association’s annual meeting in November 2013 in Boston. I presented a poster on a part of my dissertation research, titled “Climate Change and Health Risks from Extreme Heat and Air Pollution in the Eastern US.” This project spans modeling in climate change, air quality, energy demand, and epidemiology. My poster won third place in the Environment Section’s student competition at the conference.

Thanks to the Vilas Conference Presentation Award I received, I was able to discuss my work with other researchers and practitioners in the field of environmental epidemiology, an increasingly visible and pressing area of study in the broader field of public health. As a result of these discussions, my future presentations and written work on this topic are stronger in methodological rigor and clarity.

Kristen Murfin

PhD Student | Microbiology | Conference Presentation Funds recipient

I attended the American Society of Tropical Medicine and Hygiene Conference in Washington DC. I presented a poster. I was able to attend a conference outside the main focus of my lab. This award allowed me to pursue my personal interests and see the application of my research to other fields. I also had the opportunity to meet potential postdoctoral mentors and gain a better understanding of what I would like to do next. I appreciate the opportunity that your program has provided!

Athan Biss

PhD Student | History | Research Travel Award recipient

I traveled to Fisk University in Nashville, TN (the photo is of the downtown Parthenon decked out in Holiday Colors) to conduct archival research in the Franklin Library’s Special Collections. I was able to use the one of a kind Fisk Jubilee Singers Archive collection for several days. Many of the materials are not available anywhere else, so this was a rare opportunity to dig into the letters, diaries, and scrapbooks from the group’s travels in 1870s.

The application process was straightforward and the payment of the award was prompt. I also found that people were always happy to answer my questions at various stages of the process and I am very grateful for this help.

Tobias Zuern

PhD Student | East Asian Languages and Literature | Conference Presentation Funds recipient

I was attending the American Academy of Religion annual conference in Baltimore. I had been organizing a panel for this event on the reception of the Zhuangzi, an early Chinese classical text that had been interpreted predominantly in philosophical terms. The panel to which I contributed a paper addressed these philosophical readings by presenting neglected commentaries and their readings of the Zhuangzi that emphasize artistic, political, and cosmo-physiological aspects.

The fellowship allowed me to cover big portions of my trip to Baltimore. Without the grant I would have had a huge hole in my budget that would have heavily impacted the rest of the semester.

Roseanne McManus

PhD Student | Political Science | Conference Presentation Funds recipient

I presented a paper at the Peace Science Society Annual Meeting in Knoxville, TN. I gained valuable feedback on the paper that I presented and networked with some senior scholars at the conference. My paper won the Stuart A. Bremer Award for the best graduate student paper. This award includes money for a trip to the Hague this summer to present the same paper at the 2014 meeting of the Network of European Peace Scientists.

Caroline "Caro" Williams

PhD Student | Curriculum and Instruction | Conference Presentation Funds recipient

I attended the Psychology of Mathematics Education – North America conference in Chicago, IL. I presented a poster and four talks, ranging on topics from how the Microsoft Kinect and Sesame Street can support mathematics learning in young children, to how gesture and language contribute to improved mathematics justification in undergraduates, to exponential functions learning trajectories in middle school students, to how mathematicians choose examples to approach proving conjectures.

The Vilas award permitted me to attend my only conference this year by funding my registration, travel, and housing! Last year, during submissions time, I had assumed that I would have travel funding through my assistantship and could consequently be an active presenter at PME-NA. The Vilas award helped me make good on my promise to attend and present my and my colleagues’ research.

Stephanie White

PhD Student | Composition and Rhetoric | Research Travel Awards recipient

This past September, I traveled to Washington, DC to conduct classroom observations and recruit participants for one of the case studies of my dissertation, which is about community-engaged composition classes. I was able to observe three class sessions each of the three course sections that constitute my research site.

These classroom observations allowed me to note the specific concepts and vocabulary the instructor and students used in their class, which was vital for me to carry out my interviews using an approach grounded in the course itself. I was able to attend sessions that dealt specifically with a range of key themes in my research, which has been highly productive in the subsequent interviews with students. The classroom observations also gave me the opportunity to introduce myself to the class in person. The high rate of response to my survey and to my request for multiple interviews with students, I am convinced, is the direct result of this in-person recruitment.

Dan Tian

PhD Student | Biomedical Engineering | Conference Presentation Funds recipient

I attended the 2013 Biomedical Engineering Society (BMES) annual meeting, where I presented a poster presentation on my research. Utilizing the Vilas award money, I was able to attend and pay for the cost of the BMES conference. At the conference, I was able to receive feedback on my research and broaden my knowledge of relevant progress in my field. I also attended multiple career workshops that helped me strengthen my application as a candidate for the next step in my career. I want to thank the Vilas Award committee for providing me with this funding opportunity.

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