While many college students across the country will spend the summer relaxing, 44 of our undergraduate students will launch research projects in fields ranging from neuroscience, to global development, to studies of diabetes, autism and schizophrenia. These projects are supported by the Harrison Undergraduate Research Awards, which are awarded each spring to students who submit detailed proposals with the endorsement of a faculty member.
Many of the Harrison projects have an international focus. For example, one student is researching how race, culture and historical experience in villages in rural Nicaragua shape attitudes toward road development. Other projects are focused closer to home, but have global implications. One student will study the remittance service providers that Latino immigrants in Richmond use to send money home to their families; the aim is to develop a better understanding of the remittance service provider market for immigrants.
We are grateful to the late David A. Harrison III (Col '39, Law '41) and his family for supporting the awards that bear their name. In addition to the Harrison awards, this summer the Stull family is supporting an undergraduate student who is conducting research on Parkinson's disease, and the Finger family is supporting another undergraduate who is researching the rise of American astronomy in the antebellum period. These opportunities for students might not exist without the generosity of these families.
We encourage undergraduate research in many other ways at the University. The Jefferson Public Citizens program allows teams of undergraduate students to combine their research with public service under the guidance of a faculty mentor. Now entering its fifth year, the program has supported 70 student projects. In two examples from this year's projects, one team examined how microfinance programs in La Paz, Bolivia, affect women's social development, while another team worked with staff and students at a Charlottesville elementary school to develop an after-school program focused on health, wellness and a schoolyard garden program.
In yet another program, U.Va.'s Center for Global Health oversees the CGH-University Scholar Awards. These awards provide support for undergraduate, graduate and professional students from all of our schools to design and carry out interdisciplinary research projects related to global health. Our students approach environmental health, economic health, mental health and other facets of human health from a broad range of disciplines including politics, biology, economics, foreign affairs and other fields.
At the end of April, dozens of our undergraduate and graduate students presented their research at our annual pan-University Presidential Research Poster Competition. From 42 presentations, we selected 14 winners in each of the following seven categories: physical and environmental sciences; engineering; bioscience and health; humanities; social, behavioral and economic sciences; law, business, policy and education; translational and applied research; and performing and fine arts and architecture.
These remarkable projects demonstrate one of the distinguishing qualities of the U.Va. student experience—the opportunity to participate in cutting-edge research by working closely with faculty members. U.Va. combines the relatively small scale of a liberal arts college with the intellectual resources of a major research university, and this uncommon scale enables intensive student-teacher interaction and research collaboration. The University's Center for Undergraduate Excellence offers guidance to students who want to explore these opportunities, and a student-run program called the Undergraduate Research Network helps connect students who are interested in research to faculty-led projects and to each other.
More than half of our students engage in some form of research, including classroom and independent work, during their undergraduate careers. This experience enriches their learning while they are students here, and gives them an edge in various marketplaces after they graduate. Our students who have done undergraduate research are stronger candidates for fellowships, graduate and professional school admissions and career opportunities.
The benefits are obvious. It is equally obvious that the intensive work done by undergraduates in their third and fourth years requires greater resources. Research is only one part of the more rigorous work that students take on after their second year. In the College, for example, students in upper-level classes pursue 850 independent study, thesis and tutorial courses each semester, versus 150 such projects in lower-level classes. This increased demand requires increased support. We are working on a sustainable model to provide adequate financing for upper-division work in all of the University's schools, because we want all of our students to be able to pursue these opportunities.
At a recent on-Grounds event, I was asked by Board of Visitors member Dr. Stephen Long to choose the single word that best describes the University's future. Curiosity is the word I chose. Inquisitive thinking, the thirst for new knowledge, and plain old human curiosity have always been the main drivers of learning and discovery at U.Va. And curiosity is the motivating factor for our students who spend their summers tackling the toughest problems of our time.