BSOS Summer Scholars (for Undergraduate Research)

The BSOS Summer Scholars awards are offered in collaboration with the College of Behavioral and Social Sciences Dean's Research Initiative. These awards are partially underwritten by the BSOS Be The Solution Fund which is supported by the BSOS Dean and donors to the College.

The BSOS Summer Scholars are awarded up to $3000 to support a specific undergraduate student research project in the summer that is completed under the supervision of a faculty member. BSOS faculty mentors will be asked by the BSOS Associate Dean for Research to nominate students as part of the annual BSOS Dean's Research Initiative.

Undergraduate students who are interested in summer research funding should also apply for the Maryland Summer Scholars Program for Summer 2016 (applications are typically due in February). Maryland Summer Scholars may be more appropriate for freshman/sophomore students and BSOS Summer Scholars for junior/senior students, although individual circumstances may vary.

BSOS Summer Scholars in Summer 2015

Andrew Lazarchik
Department of Psychology
Mentored by Professor Jens Herberholz 

Interactions between social status and alcohol intoxication in crayfish 

Alcohol is a major drug of abuse that causes devastating effects on society. However, the mechanisms by which alcohol interacts with nervous system function are still poorly understood. This is in part because alcohol does not bind to a single receptor type in the brain, but instead exerts its effects by altering the function of multiple neurotransmitters, including serotonin (5-HT) and γ-aminobutyric acid (GABA). Crayfish are well-established models for neurobehavioral research, and the structure and function of the lateral giant (LG) escape circuit has been described extensively. In this summer project, Andrew exposed crayfish to alcohol and experimentally manipulated the animal’s GABAergic system. This was done by injecting live crayfish with either a GABA antagonist (picrotoxin) or GABA agonist (muscimol) at concentrations that do not produce any behavioral change before the animals are exposed to alcohol. This work is of high significance because the cellular and circuit-level effects of alcohol intoxication are virtually unknown in any organisms, including humans, and the interplay of alcohol and social experience is completely understudied in the literature. 

Michelle Schteyn
Department of Psychology
Mentored by Professor Richard Yi

Investigating the utility of combined construals on task persistence

Michelle worked to understand persistence and distress tolerance utilizing Construal Level Theory, a highly influential social-cognitive theory. Informed by the vast literature supporting Construal Level Theory, Michelle explored how detail-oriented (concrete) thinking versus high-level (abstract) thinking facilitates self-efficacy and motivation, respectively, as well as how they interact. The topics of self-efficacy and motivation, and the related constructs of persistence and distress tolerance, are of great importance in almost every human undertaking, relevant in promoting personal well-being, interpersonal success, goal attainment, and therapeutic outcomes. 

Tiffany Bamdad 
Department of Psychology
Mentored by Professor L. Robert Slevc

Pitch dynamics of emotional communication

Tiffany's project was based on interesting findings suggesting that the pitch dynamics of speakers' voices relate to the emotional content being communicated. For example, when people are in agreeable interactions, the pitches of their voices tend to be related by constant intervals. Past research indicates that "musical" features (of pitch and interval) may emerge in speech as an additional channel of communication, and/or that part of how music expresses emotion is because it reflects the pitch patterns of emotional speech. Tiffany analyzed real and clinically relevant agreeable and disagreeable conversations using sophisticaed methods for phonetic analysis. 

BSOS Summer Scholars in Summer 2014

Kevin Denny
Department of Geographical Sciences
Mentored by Professor Shunlin Liang and Mila Zlatic 

The Impact of New Subway Construction on Development Patterns in Chinese Cities with focus on Beijing

This project will investigate how recent transit construction has influenced development patterns and land values in China – focusing primarily on Beijing. Recent construction on Beijing’s subway has occurred at a rapid pace since 2007, causing it to grow to one of the two longest subway systems in the world. Future expansion plans for the subway are just as ambitious which will make it by far the largest in the world and nearly 3 times the size of New York’s subway. Much of this recent construction (and planned construction) is occurring in suburban areas and areas on the urban fringe of Beijing that are less developed that urban core areas of the city that been historically served by the subway. As a result of this, there is significant potential for new subway service to drastically impact land values and character of these areas. This project will study how new subway lines and stations from 2007 – present have influenced new development in their surrounding areas, as well as how they have affected housing prices and land values in their immediate vicinity. This information will be very useful to future to transportation planners and urban planners in light of the planned doubling in size of the Beijing subway by 2020. I hope to be able to analyze why new subway construction’s economic impacts have affected certain areas differently than others. This will benefit future planners by allowing them to plan new subway lines and their immediate station areas more effectively in order to provide the maximum positive economic impact to the city.


Maya Freund

Maya Freund
Department of Hearing and Speech Sciences
Mentored by Professor Sandra Gordon-Salant

Perception of Audio-Visual Asynchrony in Recorded Words and Sentences

For the duration of my summer research experience, I will be working on an audio-visual asynchrony project. This project investigates the effect of listener age and hearing sensitivity on the ability to integrate auditory (A) and visual (V) spoken information that is presented asynchronously (that is, the onset is separated in time). Young listeners can integrate asynchronous AV information over a 200 ms time window, but because older listeners have slowed auditory processing, it is expected that their temporal integration window for AV asynchrony is greater than 200 ms.  During the study, participants’ ability to identify words and sentences from videos of different speakers will be measured. In all of the videos, the audio is presented in a number of fixed time intervals to begin either slightly before or slightly after the visual information. It is hypothesized that there will be significant differences in accuracy of identifying the words and sentences based on a listener’s age and status of hearing impairment, with poorer performance for isolated words than sentences because of the brief duration of the words. The findings have important implications for understanding limitations in spoken word processing by older individuals with hearing loss.


Matthew Gabb
Department of Anthropology
Mentored by Professor Sean Downey

Explaining the Resilience of Q’eqchi’ Mayan Swidden Agriculture

The common-held belief about swidden (or slash-and-burn) agriculture is that it is neither resilient nor sustainable. Previous research among Q'eqchi' Maya in Belize has shown that the structure of a village's reciprocal labor-exchange networks changes through time in association with its age. This research project will explore how resilience in increased by asking how the social and spatial organization of swidden labor relates to the management of common-property resources. Daily work-log and labor network data collection began in 2010, including information on field locations, activities, productivity, and collaborative labor group membership. These data will be explored statistically and spatially to determine whether work patterns and group membership relate to landscape properties such as soil fertility and fallow status. If correlations are found, it could provide a mechanistic explanation for the previously documented association between village age and labor network structure.


Taylor Morris
Department of Psychology
Mentored by Professor Arie Kruglanski

The Effect of Self-Regulatory Mode on Preference for Single or Multiple Means to a Goal

Are you a "doer" or a "thinker?" This project is psychological study to investigate the relationship between self-regulatory and preference for either single or multiple means to a goal or in more colloquial language: "Doers vs. Thinkers." In an experimental manipulation to determine preference for either single or multiple means to a goal, it is hypothesized that locomotors (doers) will prefer single mean, because previous research suggests that people view single means as more direct. Conversely, Assessors (thinkers) will prefer multiple means because it gives them to opportunity to analyze options. Should this hypothesis be confirmed, the field of motivational psychology would have a stronger base of knowledge concerning the manipulation of goal oriented behavior for success.


Rebecca Sherman
Department of Hearing and Speech
Mentored by Professor Rochelle Newman

Infants’ Preference for their Own Name with and without a Stressed Syllable Vowel Change

Children are exposed to a multitude of dialects from caregivers, television, radio, and relatives. It is important for children to comprehend dialects other than their own in order to understand those around them, and fully develop language. The main changes that occur within dialects are vowel alterations. Therefore, the present study is concerned with infants’ ability to recognize familiar words spoken with a slight vowel change. To investigate this, we are using infants’ own names, which are one of the first words infants recognize. The study investigates whether infants will still recognize their own name when pronounced with a “dialect”. Subjects are under one year old, as prior studies have shown that infants as young as a couple of months already demonstrate recognition of their own name. The study utilizes the head turn preference paradigm; infants are seated in a three-sided booth on their parent’s lap and familiarized to look for the flashing light, and hear a voice saying a name on each trial. Typically, infants will listen longer to their own name, than to foil names. The data consists of looking times for the subject’s own name, versus an altered version of their own name.


Maggie Sundel
Department of Psychology
Mentored by Professor Tracy Riggins

The Impact of Emotion on Memory during Development

Eyewitness testimony in children typically relies on young individuals’ accurate memory for emotional events. Research in adults suggests that emotion influences memory; for example, emotional information is usually better remembered than neutral information. However, there are few studies examining how the link between emotion and memory changes during development. The proposed study is designed to fill this gap by investigating the effect of emotion on memory in adolescents (whose memory abilities are still developing) and adults. Specifically, I will examine the impact of two emotional dimensions on memory: valence, which refers to whether an emotion is negative or positive, and arousal, which refers to the strength of one’s response to an emotion. Participants will see pairs of emotional and neutral drawings, describe a connection between the images, and later be asked to recall the emotional picture in the pair. I hypothesize that participants of all ages will better remember items associated with emotional stimuli than those associated with neutral stimuli but that there will be age-related differences in memory for the line drawing-emotional context associations, as the development of memory for contextual details continues throughout the teenage years.


Fan Wu
Department of Government and Politics
Mentored by Professor Margaret Pearson

Analyzing the Pursuit of Innovation in the Contemporary Chinese Educational System

This project will be centered on analyzing the efforts of Chinese educational institutions in the pursuit of innovation. With the unprecedented increase in globalization, the Chinese educational system is seeking to incorporate itself into the international community. However, what would be the impact of introducing foreign elements into a relatively traditional system? Would they clash? How would they clash? What would develop after the establishment of a system equilibrium? In my research, I aim to shed light on these issues through interviewing Chinese delegations, reading primary-source documents in Chinese, analyzing the Chinese understanding of innovation, and predicting future outlooks for innovation in the Chinese educational system. By doing this, I would be able to understand the values of the Chinese educational system and the reasons behind the institutional drive to innovate.