Author Archives: Ansley Williamson

About Ansley Williamson

Ansley Williamson (she/her) is the graduate assistant of the Undergraduate Research & Creative Activities program and a Master's student of Environmental and Sustainability Studies at the College of Charleston. She graduated with her Bachelor's of Science in Natural Resources & Environmental Management from the University of Hawai'i at Mānoa in 2019.

Student Spotlight: Lauren Kendall Graham

This week we caught up with Lauren Kendall Graham, a junior majoring in Biochemistry and minoring in Women and Gender Studies. Lauren and her mentor, Dr. Sarah Maness, received a SURF 2021 grant to co-author and conduct the “Do You Want a Period?” campaign. This project was created to gather data concerning women’s knowledge concerning contraceptives. 

“So many women are unaware that the withdrawal bleeding that happens at the end of the birth control pill cycle is unnecessary. Contraceptives can change a woman’s period or can sometimes prevent her from having one at all. This study consisted of an interview that determined the extent of the interviewee’s familiarity with contraceptives as well as what would appeal best to them in a campaign. My main role was to recruit and interview participants, as well as co-author sections of the manuscript. This research is important to me as I plan on pursuing a career in women’s health,” Lauren told us.

This opportunity was important to Lauren because she hopes “to attend medical school and, after [her] residency, practice within the field of women’s health.”
“I am extremely interested in the current issues that are relevant to women’s health in the United States and further globally. I feel that my research with the Women’s Health Research Team is helping me to prepare for issues and phenomena that I will definitely encounter throughout my career,” Lauren shared with us.

Lauren felt that this project in particular is important because “I feel that there is a stigma surrounding women’s health issues. People my age feel uncomfortable when I bring up issues or current legislation that concern women’s health or reproductive rights. I feel that my work on these projects helps me to communicate better with my peers, most of whom are women, that our health issues and complications are normal topics and that we should not be embarrassed to discuss them. The more I study women’s health, the more work I find that needs to be done. Most women do not understand contraceptives or know about the multitude of options that are available regarding their reproductive health. I want my generation to become informed and empowered about their freedom and options concerning their sexual health.”

Thank you to Lauren for sharing your SURF 2021 experience for conducting this important work! Attached is a photo from Lauren’s project.


Surf info sessions on Monday 1/10 at 4:30 in CAAN 105 (Calhoun Annex) and Tuesday 1/11 at 3:30 in CAAN 106 (Calhoun Annex).

SURF grants provide funding to cover student research h expenses for projects carried out during the summer. The maximum award amount is $6,500. Check out and attend the info sessions to learn more!

Student Spotlight: Annie Forgette

This week we caught up with Annie Forgette, a Senior double majoring in Computer Science and Computing in the Arts with a digital media concentration! Annie and her mentor, Dr. Bill Manaris, received a SURF 2021 Grant to create an Interactive Participatory Music Environment where artists are able to host interactive musical and artistic experiences!

Our goal is to create an environment where everyday people are able to engage meaningfully with and contribute to shared musical and artistic experiences by making simple choices on and interacting with their smartphones! Some of my favorite memories from this experience have been the little a-ha moments that I’ve shared with my professor and colleagues along the way. Whether it’s when we finally debug a difficult error in our code or when we reach an interesting new concept for an artistic piece after much conversation and research, it’s super rewarding to have that shared moment of clarity,” Annie shared.

I’ve learned a lot from this experience! I think one of the most valuable things I’ve gained is the knowledge of what work in my field can look like. There are so many interesting intersections between art and programming, and this opportunity has been such a valuable chance for me to explore those intersections in a hands-on, real way. 

It is so important to explore within your field and department! I never really imagined myself doing research during my college career because I didn’t fully grasp what research in my field could look like. Research can be creative, collaborative, and artistic! I’d encourage others to be curious and explore the wide range of opportunities that are available to you!” Annie told us.


Attached are photos from Annie’s project. Thank you to Annie for sharing your SURF 2021 experience!

Student Spotlight: Patrick Wohlscheid

This week we caught up with Patrick Wohlscheid, a Senior majoring in English and Philosophy! Patrick and his mentor, Dr. Tim Carens, received a SURF 2021 Grant to study the work of Arthur Machen, a lesser-known late Victorian writer, and particularly his 1894 novella The Great God Pan.

While many other Victorian Gothic stories are clear and explicit about where monstrosity can be found, Machen uses deliberate modes of obscurity to challenge the visibility of monstrosity, making it difficult to locate, define, or interpret. Drawing on Machen’s work, the writings of 18th century philosopher Edmund Burke, and contemporary criticism on the Gothic, I attempt to explain how the category of obscurity sets Machen’s work apart from other Victorian Gothic texts, ” Patrick shared.

Patrick’s favorite part of his project was “being able to read such a wide variety of Gothic fiction, encountering in their early popularization many of the monsters we consider essential cultural figures today, from mummies and vampires to murderous villains and ancient spirits.”

Besides learning a lot more about Victorian literature and being immersed in the field, I think that this project helped further develop my skills as a writer and critic, as well as giving me the chance to think of the intersections of philosophy and literature I hope that readers of my work come away with a more nuanced picture of monstrosity in Victorian literature and see the value in exploring the work of lesser-known literary figures,” Patrick added.


Attached is a photo from Patrick’s project. Thank you to Patrick for sharing your SURF 2021 experience!

Student Spotlight: Gabby Molloseau

This week we caught up with Gabby Molloseau, a Junior majoring in Biology and minoring in Psychology and Spanish! Gabby and her mentors, Dr. Michael Giuliano and Dr. Marcello Forconi, received a SURF 2021 Grant to study the intricate nature of cell surfaces in order to better understand cell signaling and communication.

Gabby shared with us a brief introduction of their research, “The environments of cell surfaces are notoriously complex and play a large role in intercellular communication and other biological processes. The interaction between water molecules embedded in the cell’s membrane and other molecules is what creates such a convoluted environment, that has yet to be researched fully. It is believed that the surface of the cell near the membrane will reflect similar properties to organic solvents, since most of the nearby water is bound up by the membrane itself. Previous work in the lab has allowed us to synthesize small organic reporter molecules that will now be used to embed into mimics of the membrane of a cell. Atoms in the reporter molecule will give unique spectroscopic signals, due to their sensitivity to the solvent surrounding the cell’s surface. These signals will allow for a better understanding of the properties of the environment of the cell’s membrane. Understanding the intricate nature of cell surfaces will allow for a better understanding of cell signaling and communication, the binding of medicines to cellular targets and how it affects their designed purpose, and how structure and function of biomolecules are related to the their environment.”

“I hope readers see how much fun organic synthesis can be,” Gabby added. “My favorite memory from this project was my first time characterizing the fluorine and hydrogen NMR because it confirmed that I successfully synthesized the molecule. I gained lab technique and learned how to perform many lab processes, such as flash column chromatography.”

Attached are photos from Gabby’s project. Thank you to Gabby for sharing your SURF 2021 experience!

STUDENT SPOTLIGHT: Laura Maria Diaz Coronado

This week we caught up with Laura Maria Diaz Coronado, a Junior double majoring in Music Performance (concentration in Music History) and Computer Information Systems! Laura and her mentors, Dr. O’Brien and Yuriy Bekker, received a SURF 2021 Grant to study Joaquín Orellana’s post-institutional career and how Guatemala’s troubled history during the 1960s-1980s interfered with both Orellana’s musical production and with audiences’ and scholars’.

“Joaquín Orellana (1933 – ) is an experimental Guatemalan composer, instrument creator, and violinist. His early work, while stylistically traditional, won several important international awards. His career was transformed, however, by a residence at the Latin American Center for Advanced Musical Studies at the Instituto Torcuato Di Tella in Buenos Aires, Argentina, where some of Latin America’s most elite and imaginative composers shared their work with leading composers from the U.S. and Europe. The graduates of the Di Tella Institute were characterized by both experimentalist techniques, and by their political convictions that their music should reflect and engage with the social realities of their own countries, rather than merely reflect European conventions and interests. Orellana was profoundly shaped by this experience, and spent the rest of his career embracing experimentalist techniques inspired by de-colonial ideologies and by Guatemala’s cultural history and conflicted social context. While many of Orellana’s fellow di Tella alumni have been the subject of musicological analysis, Orellana’s post-Institute career, while breathtakingly inventive, remains little studied. This project seeks to address this lacuna, which is owed largely to Guatemala’s troubled history during this period (1960s-1980s), which interfered with both Orellana’s musical production and with audiences’ and scholars’” Laura told us.

Laura hopes that the reader understands “the importance of decolonization in music, I want people to know the story on how western music got to this side of the world and the consequences. I also want people to realize how important are the composers of our era and get them interested in their work. ”

Her favorite memory from the project was “the interview with Joaquin Orellana, who is an amazing character and interesting composer, so I had a bunch of questions for him. I also liked the different analysis of Orellana’s work that I did with the composer assistants. I am amazed of how he came up with different musical notations for his own instruments and the combination with western notation to get something new.”

Laura told us “I gained knowledge and experience about Ethnomusicology thanks to my mentor, Dr. O’Brien, and I also got to work in Sibelius which is an important software for musicians to digitize music manuscripts. ”


Attached are photos from Laura’s project. Thank you to Laura for sharing your SURF 2021 experience!

Laura Maria Diaz Coronado in front of sheet music on her laptop

Joaquín Orellana and Laura Maria Diaz Coronado

Dr. Michael O’Brien, Laura Maria Diaz Coronado, and Julio César Santos Campos

Student Spotlight: Jenny Sella

This week we caught up with Jennifer Sella, an Exercise Science Senior minoring in Psychology! Jenny and her mentor, Dr. Morgan Hughey, received a SURF 2021 Grant to explore the energy expenditure differences between bicycles and electric-assist bicycles for Charleston’s bike share program.

Jenny shared with us, “Bike share programs are a growing trend in cities around the world, where users can rent, ride, and return bicycles at several stations designed to offer alternative and more physically active transportation. Many bike share companies are further innovating by offering electric bicycles (e-bikes) which use a battery and motor to offer a boost while the user is pedaling. The goal of our study was to quantify the differences in energy needed to use a regular bike share bicycle compared to an e-bike and to examine differences in individual perceptions of difficulty between the two bike types. Compared to regular bikes, we hypothesized that e-bike rides would use about 25% less energy, yet individuals would report greater enjoyment on the e-bike. Essentially, e-bikes may not offer as much physical activity as a regular bicycle, we predicted that they would be more enjoyable to users and still raise one’s heart rate enough to offer substantial activity “points,” making them all around more favorable to a city’s population.”

We asked Jenny what her favorite memory from her project was, ” truly, every participant’s initial reaction to riding the e-bike. We would have participants start riding the bike in the parking lot at Hampton park before entering the bike lane on the road. This allowed participants to get a good “feel” for how the bike works, and adjust the seat as needed. Hilariously, as one started pedaling and the e-bike motor kicked in, without fail, every participant exclaimed “WOAH!” It was very funny for me to hear over and over again, and every single participant said it.”

“I gained a lot from this project including hands-on experience, new knowledge, and skill development. I applied skills and knowledge I had originally learned in the classroom to a more involved, hands-on project. From practical applications of how the body works and responds to exercise, to drafting the methods section for our manuscript, I could apply the concepts learned in my Exercise Science classes to a more “real world” experience. While I am still deciding what I want to do after graduation specifically, this project has emphasized my desire to work with people and in a healthcare profession. Beyond the busy work and time spent on all other aspects of this project, I most appreciated the time I had engaging directly with participants. I am certain I will take the skills from both the classroom and this specific hands-on experience into my career in the healthcare field.” Jenny told us.

“I hope readers understand the importance of incorporating physical activity in their daily lives, even in ways that may seem unconventional or “easy.” Replacing commute travel with a bike, or e-bike, is a great way to increase activity and, if whole communities integrated more usage of bike share programs, then whole communities health and fitness would improve.” Jenny shared.


Attached are some photos from Jenny’s project. Thank you to Jenny for sharing your SURF 2021 experience!

Student Spotlight: Sam Andritsch

This week we caught up with Public Health major and Geoinformatics minor, Sam Andritsch! Sam and her mentor, Dr. Brian Bossak, received a SURF 2021 grant to explore the spatial correlation between COVID-19 mortality and fine particulate matter concentrations in the United States. “Using Excel maps we were able to determine clusters of counties with respectively high COVID-19 mortality rates and high fine particulate matter concentrations. This finding will lead to further investigation into the Social Determinant of Health and/or geographical features that contribute to this positive association between the variables” Sam told us.

“From the results of the project specifically, I want people to understand the close relationship that exists between the environment and human health. It is not enough to just focus on human health, we need to take an interdisciplinary approach if we ever want to stop and prevent health crises like COVID-19.” Sam hopes readers will understand the importance of intersectionality when discussing environmental health.

Sam told us that “One of my favorite memories of this project was right after I ran some of the first correlation analyses in SPSS. This was the first time I saw that there was a significant positive correlation between COVID-19 mortality and fine particulate matter concentrations. It was so validating to see our hypothesis supported with analysis from our own work. I gained a wealth of knowledge from this experience. The technical Excel and statistical analysis skills have already set me apart from my peers in classes this semester. However, the most valuable skill set I acquired were the skills needed to prepare and propose a manuscript. This is something I fully anticipate to continue doing throughout my career, and this initial experience with Dr. Bossak as my mentor has been invaluable.”

Attached are some results from Sam’s project. Thank you to Sam for sharing your SURF 2021 experience!

Average Daily PM2.5 by County

COVID-19 Mortality by County


-The URCA team

URCA Instagram

URCA Twitter

URCA Facebook


Student Spotlight: Grace Bader

This week we caught up with Grace Bader, a junior majoring in Molecular Biology & minoring in Neuroscience and Chemistry. Grace and her mentor, Dr. Jenn Wilhelm, received a SURF 2021 Grant to explore peripheral nerve injuries.

Grace told us, “My project focused on peripheral nerve injury and how the absence/addition of estrogen combined with exercise can facilitate synaptic changes after injury. My favorite memory with Dr. Wilhelm from the summer was towards the end of the project. Dr. Wilhelm and I were analyzing samples under the microscope and finally got some definitive results for my summer project. I gained a lot of lab experience from this that will be useful to me when I pursue medical school or MD/PhD programs.”

Grace added, “Don’t be afraid of the research process. Freshman year I was overwhelmed at the thought of starting research, but Dr. Wilhelm has made it a smooth process and I have learned a lot from her. If you are able to find a mentor/PI who you work well with and is understanding then the research can be a very fun and rewarding experience!”

Attached are photos provided by Grace of the research process. Thank you to Grace for sharing your SURF 2021 experience!

Student researched Grace Bader looking into the lens of a microscope

Grace Bader looking through the lens of a microscope.

Photo taken from microscope of neurons found

Neurons that Grace and Dr. Wilhelm found on a slide.

-The URCA team

URCA Instagram

URCA Twitter

URCA Facebook