Illustration of web sites representing virtual fellowships

Hallmark program forges on despite pandemic

August 24, 2020

Student Experience

Whether it’s conducting a comparative analysis of countries’ refugee crises or completing internships with drone manufacturing companies in Tel Aviv, every summer University of Richmond undergraduate students pursue original research or internship experiences based on their own academic interests ­— thanks to The Richmond Guarantee.

This signature promise to undergraduate students guarantees that funding is available for up to a $4,000 fellowship for a summer internship or faculty-mentored research opportunity.

In the wake of COVID-19 this summer, nearly 400 students sidestepped unprecedented barriers and found safe and socially distanced ways to explore the topics that interest them most and put what they learned during their time in the classroom to the test.

Rising junior Katelyn Wing, a biochemistry and molecular biology major, spent her summer conducting research to help her land a career in the health care field.

“The very first biology class I took at UR was ‘Infectious Diseases,’ and that sparked my interest in going into the health care field,” Wing said.

This summer, Wing worked under mentorship from UR biology professor Jonathan Richardson and the environmental health coordinator in Somerville, Massachusetts, to study how demolition and construction projects in the city impacts its rat populations.

“Rats are a commonly known vector for disease and have been infesting urban areas at an increasing rate over the last several years,” Wing said. “And as their populations increase so does their contact with humans, and that’s a major public health concern.”

Wing and her advisors surveyed construction sites by placing motion-activated cameras that collected photos to help her analyze changes in the number of rats found over the course of the construction projects. When construction was delayed due to COVID-19, she listened to the concerns of residents and city counselors as Somerville seeks to develop better rodent control methods and education.

“The ability to listen, interact, and react to people’s concerns is an integral skill to learn,” Wing said, “especially in the scope of healthcare.”

Wing was one of 170 students who worked with 88 UR faculty mentors to conduct research projects. Using Zoom for routine check-ins with their faculty mentors, students this summer studied subjects ranging from music written by inmates in the City of Richmond to the role of corruption on trade and development in Pakistan.

Additionally, more than 200 students completed internships with organizations that spanned nearly 25 states, 100 cities, and 13 different countries.

“These powerful experiences are invaluable to our students and are a staple in the Richmond experiences,” said Brendan Halligan, associate director of experiential learning, exploration, and assessment. “They challenge students to take what they’ve learned in the classroom and apply them in new settings, all while obtaining the experience necessary to pursue their professional and academic interests.”