Happy Holidays from the ECU Honors College!

The Honors College would like to extend warm wishes for a safe and restful holiday season.  Thank you for being a member of our Honors College family, and we hope you enjoy the video!



Posted in Honors College | Leave a comment

The Road to an URCA Award


By: Erika Dietrick, Honors College Junior

Applying for the ECU Undergraduate Research and Creative Achievement (URCA) award was similar to every other “first” I have had as a student new to research—confusing, overwhelming, and in the end, extremely rewarding.

I began my research on the endangered plant species Thalictrum cooleyi Ahles, or Cooley’s meadowrue, this fall after a semester of volunteering in the laboratory.  Volunteering consisted of learning laboratory protocol, listening to and participating in group meetings, gaining familiarity with commonly used equipment, and assisting in any hands-on or data-related tasks that needed to be completed.  It was difficult to be at ease at times in the laboratory because I started with almost zero knowledge of plants, but I had been interested in Dr. Claudia Jolls’ lab because she was a patient, helpful, and effective instructor in the Honors Research Colloquium.10689707_919389444757172_9190603531867221927_n

By the end of that semester, I had signed up for Field Botany and Plant Biology for the fall, sketched out a rough plan for my Senior Honors Project, and agreed to work as a Field Assistant for graduate student Renee Fortner.  Suddenly, my life was plants, and I had no idea what I was in for.

Working in the pine savannas of Pender and Onslow counties is what solidified my confidence and interest.  Every week or so, Renee and I would make the 2-hour drive to the site of Cooley’s meadowrue to gather information on sex ratios, pollination limitation, and density.  With each trip, I gained a newfound appreciation for the species and the protection of the pine savanna ecosystem in general.  There were so many memories made, from accidentally shattering a window of the biology truck to touching a venus fly trap for the first time.  The savannas were gorgeous and made working in the blazing heat of a North Carolina summer worth it.


Despite the experience gained up to that point, this semester in the laboratory was still very much a challenge.  I quickly realized how much thought, care, and work went into a quality research project.  There are things professors will tell you in your required lab courses, such as keep a detailed lab notebook or read and plan the experimental procedures ahead of time, that you think aren’t a necessity.  I couldn’t have been more wrong! It’s the attention to detail (along with several other admirable qualities) that make answering such significant scientific questions possible.

In addition to learning through experience what I should have learned the first time, I was also encouraged to apply for an URCA award by Dr. Jolls. (Follow link for more info.)  Through many revisions, I attempted to convey in very few words the essence of my project: I wished to use stereo- and scanning electron microscopy to view seed embryos under different environmental conditions and determine the plant’s potential for a seed bank.  This would accomplish three things: a) help us to determine what causes this mystery species to germinate b) possibly save this endangered species and c) protect the integrity of the pine savanna ecosystem.

Picture3I have to admit that I was not optimistic.  I knew that the attitude towards plants was generally negative, so I thought they may think my project less worthy of funding than say, something in chemistry, medicine, etc.  However, I can’t describe in words the excitement and pride I felt when I received that e-mail—I would be receiving a $1,000 stipend for the spring semester and a $625 materials budget.  I was ecstatic!

I have been hard at work ever since, and I hope to present my research findings thus far at the Association of Southeastern Biologists Conference in April.  I am extremely grateful to the URCA committee, Dr. Jolls, Dr. Fink (who manages the microscopes) and the ECU Honors College for where I am today and where I am headed.  If it weren’t for the Honors College, I never would have even considered conducting research; and now I’m getting paid to do it!

Posted in Honors College | Leave a comment

Pursuing Research at the Brody School of Medicine

NadiyaBy: Nadiya Yerich, EC Scholar and Honors College Freshman

I am a freshman at ECU, and I am a paid undergraduate researcher in the Department of Cell Anatomy and Biology at The Brody School of Medicine. I first learned about this position from an email sent to all of the EC Scholars about research opportunities. In high school, I did not have much exposure to research, so I knew that I definitely wanted the opportunity to work in a research lab in college. In fact, the Brody School of Medicine’s proximity to the ECU campus is one of the reasons I chose to attend ECU — I knew that there were so many professors there conducting fascinating research. When I saw the email about an open position in Dr. Sperry’s lab, I contacted her and asked for an interview. She agreed to the interview and offered me the position later that week, so I have been conducting research in Dr. Sperry’s lab for the past couple of months.

From the short time I have been involved in research thus far, I have already learned that
I immensely enjoy working in the lab. As an undergraduate researcher, Dr. Sperry and
her assistant helped me work around my schedule to find time to come into the lab every
day. I usually work around 10-11 hours per week. The mornings I spend in the lab are
actually my favorite part of the day. I love learning something new each day and
anticipating the work that will lead to an exciting discovery.

Dr. Sperry’s team is mainly studying PPP1R42, a protein she discovered. We are
conducting research on the effects this protein, R42 for short, has on cell functions. R42
is found in lots of different cell types, such as photoreceptor cells and sperm cells, and
plays a role in the regulation of the centrosome. When centrosomes do not function
correctly, it can lead to genetic mutations related to cases of genetic diseases and male
infertility. Dr. Sperry, Rong Wang (Dr. Sperry’s Research Technician), two other
students and I are conducting research in order to discover whether R42 could possibly be
used as a marker for these types of diseases in the long run.

So far, I have mainly been observing the different procedures for the multiple
experiments conducted in our lab. I have also gotten the chance to complete several
experiments on my own here and there, but I will start working on my own experiment
soon. I feel like I have learned so much already, and I am really looking forward to
working alongside Dr. Sperry’s team for the next several years. I have highly enjoyed
learning various research techniques and conducting research on my own as part
of a team.

I truly believe that without the Honors College and the email about the
position, I would never have learned about the opening in Dr. Sperry’s lab. There are
many professors on both ECU’s main campus and the Brody School of Medicine
conducting interesting research, and I encourage any and all undergraduate students to pursue open research positions in order to expand their knowledge base and learn more
about the research process.

Posted in Advice/Tips, EC Scholars, Honors College, Living Learning Experiences, Research & Internships, Uncategorized, Volunteering | Leave a comment

ECU Engineering Experiments with SolidWorks

ashley wilfordBy: Ashley Wilford, EC Scholar and Honors College Freshman

As I begin working towards my engineering degree at ECU, one of the classes for my major is Engineering Graphics.  The course focuses on drawing design and modeling software and is required for all first-year engineering students. Once a week, we meet for the lab of this class in order to utilize a Computer Aided Design software called SolidWorks. With SolidWorks, I have already learned how to create individual parts, such as heat sinks, flanges, and brackets; assemblies, such as doors and pulley systems; and drawings for both parts and assemblies. The class is taught by the wonderful Dr. Howard, who also wrote the textbook for the SolidWorks software.  This class is a great and fun
introduction to engineering design!

I am excited for what we will be learning later this semester with SolidWorks and discovering all of its possibilities, including modeling moving parts and thermodynamics. Also, for our final project, we must create an assembly with multiple parts and drawings for each part and the assembly on our own. While I have many ideas for possible project ideas, some projects that have been completed in the past include a playground, jewelry pieces, clocks, and a Rubik’s Cube! I’m looking forward to the rest of this semester
experimenting with SolidWorks!

Posted in Advice/Tips, EC Scholars, Honors College, Uncategorized | Leave a comment

Inspiring Confidence and Compassion: Honors 2000

By: Amanda Hall, Honors College Freshman

Amanda (back row, third from left) with her group

As a freshman in the Honors College at East Carolina University, I am currently enrolled in Honors 2000. This class challenges Honors College freshmen to embrace leadership and leave an organization better than how we found it. Basically, the Honors College freshmen are assigned an organization in the community based off of an interest survey.

Amanda (back row, third from left) with her group

Working in groups, we are able to develop a plan to present to the organization and complete it! Personally, I believe this is an incredibly unique opportunity to make a change and truly affect the lives of others. At first, the idea of working with adults and offering my opinions, which could be rejected, scared me! At the same time, I felt excited and knew that I would be better prepared for the real world due to the professionalism and organization required for the course. After beginning this project, I am more confident in my ideas, and I enjoy working with my group members.

Although the development of leadership through a volunteer project is a major component of the class, speakers and lectures also add to the course. Listening to leaders who demonstrate success and are capable of inspiring other people are excellent sources to learn from. The speakers come from a variety of backgrounds and hold multiple vocations, which provides insight for students interested in a particular field. In high school, I attended the same mundane classes and questioned how the subject would apply to the real world. In Honors 2000, it is clear how every lecture relates to life, and I am always surprised by what is discussed in class. The Honors 2000 curriculum is truly fascinating.

One quote stands out to me that Dr. Herdman, my Honors 2000 professor, shared with the class. The quote, “Successful people establish the habit of doing things unsuccessful people do not like to do.” After hearing this quote for the first time, I let it sink in for a few minutes. Eventually, I recognized what most people dread or fail to complete. To me, this meant that I needed to maintain my study habits and give up a few hours a week for volunteering. So far, I have volunteered with Habitat for Humanity, participated on the club soccer team, contributed to the volunteer committee of ECU’s Dance Marathon, am a member of the Honors Marketing Committee, and accomplished progress with my organization for the freshmen honors project. However, I realize that this is not enough. I want to do more. I need to serve more than just the campus community and the city of Greenville. Serving more than just the area of Greenville is my ultimate goal. Hopefully, I will be able to work towards this as I develop leadership skills through the completion of this class offered by the ECU Honors College.

Posted in Colloquiums & Seminars, Honors College, Honors Colloquiums & Seminars, Living Learning Experiences, Uncategorized, Volunteering | Leave a comment