Tuesday July 19, 2011

Tomorrow's Researchers

Thanks to a $250,000 Berry Family Foundation gift, more students can conduct and publish research, and get a leg up on their peers seeking jobs.

In a University of Dayton laboratory, Caitlin Cipolla-McCulloch is testing the toxicity of nanosized particles on fruit flies to discover what additives in everyday products, like sunscreen, might cause cancer.

"We're seeing what harm these particles have on fruit flies and are trying to figure out a method for reversing the toxicity. I was just listed as one of the authors on a research paper in a scientific journal. That was pretty awesome," said Cipolla-McCulloch, a senior biology and religious studies major from Powell, Ohio.

Thanks to a $250,000 commitment from the Berry Family Foundation to establish an endowment for undergraduate research, more University of Dayton honors students will have the opportunity to conduct research for their thesis papers, publish in prestigious journals and get a leg up on their peers applying to graduate schools or seeking fellowships or jobs.

"The Berry Scholars Program is dynamic. Every time I'm around one of these students, it excites me," said John Berry Jr., chairman of the Berry Foundation. "All are high achievers. Some have worked internationally. They have a great deal of self-confidence. It's just impressive."

In the 1990s, philanthropist John Berry Sr., who served as a University of Dayton trustee and honorary co-chair of the $150 million Call to Lead fundraising campaign, gave $7.5 million for scholarships, with an emphasis on supporting UD's rigorous honors and scholars program.  Since then, the Berry Scholars Program, the most selective and rigorous in the University Honors Program, has attracted nearly 300 of the University's brightest students.

"This program has allowed the University of Dayton to attract high-caliber, energetic students who have raised the prestige of the University. It's analogous to sports. Every player elevates their game when you recruit these kinds of students," Berry said.

Modeled in part on the National Science Foundation's Research Experiences for Undergraduates program, the new Berry Thesis Fellows Program will make available funding for summer research preparation, scholarships and small stipends for undergraduate student researchers.

"The program has far exceeded my father's expectations, and provided such a positive impact on these students," Berry said.  "This gift is part of an ongoing continuation of trying to maintain the spirit of that program. My father would be incredibly proud."

Cipolla-McCulloch, who's living in the student neighborhood in a house of students dedicated to exploring faith and engaging in research, said the endowment will help other student researchers like herself.

"It's a great boost," she said. "A lot of students are required to do thesis research, yet find themselves in a bind because they have to juggle their research with a job.  This allows us to concentrate on the research and prepare for our professions."

For more information, contact Teri Rizvi at 937-229-3255 or rizvi@udayton.edu.