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My Honors College

Undergraduate Research

Student Research is one of the four primary branches of Beyond the Classroom activities at the Honors College. The Honors College offers funding for undergraduate research across disciplines in order to promote intellectual growth and to encourage excellence in scholarship. 

Student Research funding includes two Honors College grants (Science Undergraduate Research Fellowships and Exploration Scholars Program) and Senior Thesis support. Additional support is available for research-related travel. Science Undergraduate Research Fellowships (SURF) and Exploration research funds are awarded as a student stipend.

Please note, however, that SURF and Exploration funds may not be used to support senior thesis research while you are enrolled in SCHC 499 or another senior thesis class. Projects supported by undergraduate research funds may later be developed into a senior thesis, but students seeking financial support during the senior thesis process should apply for a senior thesis grant.


Current Research Opportunities

Global Ethnolinguistic Conflict: An Internet Encyclopedia Project
Prospective Applicants:  We are seeking student researchers who have interests in Global Politics, International Relations, International Business, Geography, History, Language & Culture, and other relevant Humanities subjects. We welcome participation of students who have excellent writing and editing skills, or who are interested in the development of digital resources, in graphic arts and web-design, and in the coding of information structure and user interfaces (Computer Science, Graphic Arts, etc.).

Student researchers will have the opportunity to become part of the research team, and to be electronically published. Possible opportunities as a student researcher on this project can include (i) independent study credit, (ii) undergraduate research scholarships (e.g. Exploration Scholars Program, Science Undergraduate Research Fellowships, Magellan Scholarships, etc.), or (iii) a Senior Thesis project. Student involvement in this project is quite flexible and can involve whatever number of hours as their course load permits.

Project Abstract:  Linguistic minorities arise through conquest, colonization, immigration, enslavement, or states that ignore ethnolinguistic territories. The existence of linguistic minorities often leads to ethnolinguistic conflict, and such conflicts can involve assaults on minority language rights but tend to attract less attention and be less acknowledged as a “class”, than ideological, religious, environmental, or economically-based conflict. Proceeding from the publication of Language Conflict and Language Rights: Ethnolinguistic Perspectives on Human Conflict (Cambridge University Press, 2018), we are creating an Encyclopedia of Global Ethnolinguistic Conflict, a source of information about ethnolinguistic conflicts and language rights violations around the world. Conflict cases will be geo-located, with information about the state/territory of the conflict, the ethnolinguistic parties to it, its history and linguistic background, and relevant language rights issues. Users will be able to compare and contrast conflicts, sorted by conflict type, language family, location, etc. We expect the Encyclopedia of Global Ethnolinguistic Conflict to grow to several hundred cases, providing useful information to linguists, political scientists, historians, and legal scholars, as well as to the general public.

Research Plan:  We plan to create a prototype of the digital resource with support from the Center for Digital Humanities, beta test this resource with USC classes in Spring 2019, and roll out a publicly accessible version of the Encyclopedia at the UC – Davis Summer Linguistic Institute in June-July 2019. This is a long-term project that will extend over several years.

Interested students should submit a current resume, along with a statement describing their interest in the project and the role that they feel most suited for.

Contact: Stanley Dubinsky


Investigators:  Stanley Dubinsky (Linguistics Program and Department of English Language & Literature). Michael Gavin (Department of English Language & Literature)

Opportunity for a Biology Major with an interest in Ecology/Evolutionary Biology
The Dudycha Lab is looking for one additional undergraduate researcher with an interest in ecology/evolutionary biology to join the lab this Fall 2018.  The 

student would be working on a project in algae, measuring population growth, cell size, and trophic interactions.   The student is expected to be a biology major and have already taken, and done well in, BIOL 301.

Please contact Dr. Dudycha directly at

Jeffry L. Dudycha


Dept. of Biological Sciences

Early Language and Literacy Acquisition in Children with Hearing Loss (The ELLA Study)

The ELLA study is funded by the National Institutes of Health. The purpose of the study is to track developmental changes in early language and literacy skills of preschool children with hearing loss and identify early predictors of elementary school literacy skills. The study uses standardized testing, language sampling and eye tracking methodology.

Opportunities for volunteer and independent study credit are available. The lab also supports its undergraduate research assistants in pursuing SURF/Exploration/Magellan funding.

Interested students should contact Dr. Krystal Werfel (

An Investigation of Minimal Hearing Loss in Students with Reading Impairments (The MINI Study)

The MINI Study is funded by the USC Provost’s Office. The purpose of the study is to determine whether students with reading impairments exhibit minimal hearing loss at higher rates than students without reading impairments, as well as the association of minimal hearing loss with deficits in specific reading skills (e.g., decoding vs comprehension). The study involves literacy and audiology assessment of students in 2ndthrough 12th grade.

Opportunities for volunteer and independent study credit are available. The lab also supports its undergraduate research assistants in pursuing SURF/Exploration/Magellan funding.

Interested students should contact Dr. Krystal Werfel (

Autism and Fragile X Syndrome

Are you interested in graduate school? Do you want to gain some research experience to boost your resume? Are you interested in autism and developmental disorders? We are recruiting motivated students to assist with a research study focused on autism and fragile X syndrome! Our research is interdisciplinary and draws on techniques from the fields of psychology, communication science and disorders, physiology, and genetics. We offer students opportunities to obtain hands-on research experience, professional development, and mentorship. Opportunities for volunteer and independent study credit are available. We also support students interested in pursuing SURF/Magellan/Exploration funding.

For more information, please contact Dr. Jessica Klusek (

Neurodevelopmental Disabilities Research Lab

The Neurodevelopmental Disabilities Research Lab is recruiting honors college students to become a part of our research team! Are you interested in graduate school? Do you love to work with young children? Do you want to gain some compelling research experience? Interested in completing a senior thesis? The Neurodevelopmental Disabilities Lab (Principal Investigator: Dr. Jane Roberts; is seeking highly motivated students to become a part of our research team. Students will obtain hands-on research training by assisting with activities such as participant assessment, behavioral coding, and data entry. Student research assistants gain mentorship, the potential to pursue independent research, and opportunities to present at local conferences. Volunteer or course credit opportunities are available. Due to the nature of our work, a two semester commitment is generally required. Interested students should contact Dr. Abby Hogan at for additional information.

Obesity Prevention

The USC Department of Psychology's Obesity Research Group is seeking highly motivated and reliable undergraduate research assistants to work on a grant project funded by the National Institutes of Health. Project FIT (Families Improving Together) is a family based weight loss intervention designed to reduce weight status in African American families with adolescents between the ages of 11-16. Students who are interested in learning about environmental factors associated with health behaviors may be particularly interested in applying. Students interested in learning more about different approaches to obesity prevention may also be interested in gaining experience working with both community and family related approaches. Research assistants could gain course credit for this experience and would work ~6-10 hours per week. Please contact Lauren Huffman with questions (see contact information below).

Interested students should email their resume and a cover letter to:
Jasmine B. Gant
University of South Carolina Department of Psychology
1233 Washington Street, 9th Floor
Columbia, SC 29201

Promoting Exercise Among Breast Cancer Survivors

I am looking for 1-2 Honors college students (Junior year preferable) to work and learn on a project where breast cancer survivors, volunteers in the Reach to Recovery program of the American Cancer Society will coach other breast cancer survivors to become physically active. This 5-year study offers the opportunity for students to learn about recruitment of coaches and participants, designing recruitment materials, data collection (quantitative and qualitative) and data analyses. I am looking for students with a background in psychology, nursing, exercise science, counseling, or social work, who are willing to commit to 6-8 hours per week (work hours are flexible). The work is voluntary. Students may apply for funding through the Honors College. They will also be encouraged to apply for Magellan funds and mentorship will be provided.

Interested students should send your resume and a letter outlining your interest in the study and relevant experiences and/or skills to Dr. Pinto at

Bernardine M. Pinto, Ph.D.
Professor and Associate Dean for Research
College of Nursing
1601 Greene Street, Rm 302 B
Columbia SC 29208
Ph: 803-777-9272

Auditory Cognitive Science Research

The USC Speech Perception Laboratory studies speech understanding difficulties under adverse listening conditions with specific clinical applications.  Some current opportunities are as follows:

1.      Perceptual Processing of Speech Cues by Younger and Older Listeners: This project investigates how age and hearing impairment influence a listener’s ability to process different speech cues.  Digital signal processing methods are used to investigate behavioral and psychophysical abilities.  We apply this information toward recommendations for hearing aid programming.

2.      The Identification of Speech from Partial Information: This project investigates how listeners process speech information differently, depending upon the availability of different linguistic, acoustic, and/or visual information, as well as the noise context.  

3.      Neural Processing of Temporal Speech Information: The speech signal has incredible temporal complexity and our ability to process that temporal information, in part, determines how well we understand speech.  We are investigating how well the brain tracks auditory temporal information. 

Interested students should contact Dr. Dan Fogerty ( about current opportunities.  The lab will support accepted students in applying for Exploration/SURF funding, which will be subject to approval from the SCHC.  For further information on SCHC research funding, see the Exploration and SURF page.

Autism and Video Game-based Training

Project Abstract
Children with autism spectrum disorder (ASD) suffer from impairments in social functioning that can manifest as an inability too work together or cooperate with adult caregivers and/or same age peers.  Video-game based training is a promising approach to encouraging social skills in this population. The goal of the current project is to create a suite of computer-based teamwork games, the Cooperation Station, using the Unity 2D game engine (  These games can be anything that encourages two people to work and play together.  When completed, these games will be distributed freely to autism clinics around the country. 

Students involved in this research will be expected to: (1) Generate game ideas and work as a member of a team to bring them to life, (2) master Unity 2d programming relevant to game creation and (3) work on sound and graphic design relevant to game creation. Computer programming experience (in some language) required. Experience with Unity2d or Unity3d beneficial but not required.


Roger D. Newman-Norlund, Ph.D.
Assistant Professor, Department of Exercise Science
Adjunct Professor, Department of Psychology
Director, USC Brain Stimulation Laboratory
Director, Perceptual Motor Development Laboratory
University of South Carolina
Discovery I Building, Office 202D
915 Greene Street
Columbia, SC 29208
Office: 803-777-7176
Fax: 803-777-8422

Tracking Mild Traumatic Brain Injury Using MRI

Project Abstract
mTBI, or mild traumatic brain injury, occurs in athletes following physical impact to the head. After a mTBI has occurred, it is important to rapidly and objectively assess brain function. One way to do this is by using magnetic resonance imaging or MRI.  MRI uses radio frequency to tilt hydrogen atoms in the brain out of alignment with a static magnetic field. As the hydrogen atoms return to their original orientation, they release energy which is measured by specialized coils in the MRI machine and can be used to construct 3D images of a participant's organs.  We will measure brain activity in up to 15 college age students within 72 hours of mTBI, and again 45 days post mTBI.  Both structural and functional (brain activity during rest) brain images will be acquired for each participant at each time point. The goal of the current project is to examine brain changes occurring between the initial and final scans. 

Students involved in this research will be expected to (1) Master basic principles of functional magnetic resonance imaging and become safety certified on our research MRI scanner (12 hours of safety training), (2) assist with the acquisition of MRI data following mTBI , (3) assist in the analysis of brain imaging data and (4) assist in the interpretation of results. Good computer skills and tenacity are a must. Programming skills would be advantageous, but are not required.


Roger D. Newman-Norlund, Ph.D.
Assistant Professor, Department of Exercise Science
Adjunct Professor, Department of Psychology
Director, USC Brain Stimulation Laboratory
Director, Perceptual Motor Development Laboratory
University of South Carolina
Discovery I Building, Office 202D
915 Greene Street
Columbia, SC 29208
Office: 803-777-7176
Fax: 803-777-8422

Relationship Between Resting-State brain Activity and Personality/Political Affiliation

Project Abstract
Human beings vary widely in terms of their personalities. Some people are more comfortable in a dominant role while others shy away from confrontation. Some people are high in empathy, while others have difficulty understanding the emotions of others. Recent evidence suggests that basic personality traits like dominance and empathy have are linked to political affiliation (i.e. whether someone is a Liberal/Democrat or a Conservative/Republican) (Newman-Norlund, Burch & Baer, 2013). Recently, my lab acquired data from 36 people that makes it possible for us to examine the relationship between brain activity (Resting State fMRI Scan), personality (PDP Personality Questionnaire) and political affiliation (Political Affiliation Questionnaire). The goal of the current project is to analyze this data and interpret the findings. A better understanding of the relationship between these variables could help us understand the neural factors that guide our everyday behavior.

Students involved in this research will be expected to (1) Master basic principles of functional magnetic resonance imaging and brain connectivity (2) Become familiar with neuroanatomical locations and functions of brain areas relevant to the personality and political affiliation (3) prepare raw behavioral and brain data for subsequent analysis (4) assist in the analysis of brain imaging data, (5) assist in the interpretation of results and dissemination of findings (via creation of PowerPoint presentations, posters presentations and manuscripts). Good computer skills and tenacity are a must. Programming skills and experience with statistics software would be advantageous, but are not required.

Applicants must be eligible for the SURF grant.

For more information about this project, contact:

Roger David Newman-Norlund, Ph.D.
Assistant Professor, Department of Exercise Science

Chemotherapy and Muscle Function

Dr. Ashley Smuder (Department of Exercise Science) is looking for highly motivated and reliable undergraduate student to work on a grant project focused on the effects of chemotherapy treatment on cardiac and skeletal muscle.

Project Abstract: Patients receiving the highly effective chemotherapy drug doxorubicin (DOX) often suffer from irreversible cardiac and skeletal muscle dysfunction. Common conditions in patients receiving DOX include fatigue, exercise intolerance and congestive heart failure. These symptoms often develop after treatment has ended and result in reduced quality of life. The goal of the current project is to understand the mechanisms by which DOX is damaging to muscle tissue, in order to develop protective countermeasures to combat DOX-induced muscle toxicity.

Applicants should have good writing skills, but are not required to have previous laboratory experience. During this experience students have the potential to learn basic laboratory skills including: western blotting, immunohistochemistry and RT-PCR, to present research findings at local conferences, and to be a co-author on research publications. Students must be able to commit a minimum of 10 hours per week to the lab. The lab will support accepted students in applying for funding.

Interested students should send their resume and a letter outlining any relevant experience and/or skills to Dr. Smuder at:

Engaging Youth and Families in Mental Health Services
Are you interested in learning more about real-world applications of psychology to help youth and families in need? Are you interested in developing research skills (e.g., data collection, entry, and management, writing) that are attractive to graduate school programs? We are seeking motivated students to assist with a research study focused on improving mental health treatment participation. In mental health services all around the country, many youth and families don’t achieve their goals due to common barriers that interfere with them fully participating in treatment. The goal of our study is to work with community mental health providers to find ways to increase youth and family participation in services. Students will have the opportunity to participate on a multisite team (along with students and faculty from the University of California, Los Angeles) and interact with providers statewide. Student research assistants will have opportunities for hands-on research experience and mentorship. Volunteer or independent study credit opportunities are available. Students are also encouraged to apply for Magellan and other internal funding. Students should be able to commit approximately 8 hours per week (work hours are flexible). Interested students should send a resume and cover letter to Dr. Kim Becker at Please indicate prior research experiences and software proficiencies (e.g., Excel, Access, SPSS, etc.). 
Investigating mechanisms that contribute to cardiovascular risk after an adverse pregnancy outcome
Women who had high blood pressure in pregnancy or preterm birth have a lifetime of increased risk of cardiovascular disease (CVD). The goal of this project is to link levels of hormones that influence blood pressure to subtle measurements of vascular dysfunction in women soon after having a baby so that prevention of disease is still possible. Given the race disparities in both adverse pregnancy outcomes and CVD, we will investigate the effect of race on these mechanisms.

I'm looking for students to help collect non-invasive measurements (blood pressure, tonometry, ultrasonography) of vascular function.  This would be an ideal lab environment for someone interested in becoming a physician or PA. 

If you are interested in working on this study, please contact me by email at:

Abbi Lane-Cordova, PhD
School-Based Prevention Research Lab
Are you looking for opportunities to develop research skills that will help you prepare for graduate school? Interested working on research related to children, especially those who are part of underrepresented groups (e.g., racial/ethnic minorities)? Do you love working with kids? The goal of the School-Based Prevention Research Lab at the University of South Carolina is to improve children’s academic and social/behavioral outcomes. Our lab is focused on helping schools improve their use of data and evidence-based interventions, as well as promoting parent engagement in children’s education. We are seeking out individuals who are passionate about working towards the success of all children in schools. Undergraduate research assistants will have the opportunity to gain hands-on and mentored research training such as data entry, data coding, and potentially working directly with children. Research assistants can participate as volunteers or earn course credit, and have the potential to pursue research funding for independent projects. Interested students should contact Dr. Stacy-Ann January at for more information.
Exercise Science Research Opportunity
Interested in exercise and the brain and/or clinical populations (such as cancer survivors)? Dr. Ehlers’ current project aims to better understand breast cancer survivors’ needs and perceptions related to their physical activity levels and cancer-related cognitive impairment across the cancer experience. Study will use a combination of quantitative (questionnaires, physical activity monitoring, cognitive testing) and qualitative (interviews) assessments to answer research questions. Study will lead to an exercise program aimed at improving cognitive function in breast cancer survivors beginning Summer 2018.

Student Experience:
Student will gain experience with objective behavioral monitoring, neuropsychological testing, psychosocial aspects of cancer, qualitative interview administration, graded exercise testing, exercise prescription and leadership with clinical populations, and magnetic resonance imaging of the brain.

Position Details:
Experience is volunteer or independent study. Please note paid opportunities may be available after a semester working in the lab.
Work schedule is flexible and will include 10-20 hours per week.
Multiple semester commitment preferred (starts Spring 2018 semester and will continue in Summer and/or Fall based upon student’s interests and availability).

Dr. Diane Ehlers, Exercise Science at
Neuroscience Research: Sleep and Cognition
The Pocivavsek lab seeks enthusiastic undergraduate scholars that are motivated to conduct preclinical research in the area of sleep and cognition.  We aim to understand the underlying molecular mechanisms of cognitive dysfunction. Poor sleep quality is associated with impairments in cognitive function.  Our research strives to unravel common molecular mechanisms between sleep disturbances and cognitive impairments and introduce new therapeutic approaches to alleviate these outcomes.  More information about our lab can be found at
Project Goals: The aims of our project are designed to investigate the interplay between tryptophan metabolism via the kynurenine pathway, sleep and cognition in rodents. Experimental work will encompass mainly biochemistry (in vivo microdialysis and HPLC), pharmacology, and behavioral neuroscience (hippocampal-dependent learning and memory tasks, EEG/EMG sleep recordings).   
How to apply: Applicants should send a cover letter directly to Dr. Ana Pocivavsek at