Tina Slack Receives Competitive Internship Position

The Undergraduate Research Program would like to recognize and congratulate Christina Slack for her recent acceptance into the competitive Naval Research Enterprise Internship Program (NREIP).  Last year, only 590 students were chosen to participate in this program.


NREIP is a ten-week program that places its interns in a Navy Laboratory over the summer. Under the guidance of a research mentor, interns will have the opportunity to participate in research. Participants will receive a research stipend to be used towards their research efforts.

According to NREIP’s website, ” The goals of NREIP are to encourage participating students to pursue science and engineering careers, to further education via mentoring by laboratory personnel and their participation in research, and to make them aware of DoN (Department of the Navy) research and technology efforts, which can lead to employment within the DoN.”

NREIP selects its interns based on academic achievement, personal statements and recommendations, and, of course, research interests.


Tina Slack, a current SURF (Summer Undergraduate Research Fellowship) recipient, was recently selected to participate in this internship. Tina is interested in pursuing research as a career, and her selection for this internship will open many doors for the future.

“Receiving this internship allows me to be one step closer to my dream job. I would love to work in the government as a research scientist. This internship gives me the chance to explore the government research world and get my foot in the door, so to speak.” (Tina Slack)

Although internships like NREIP may seem impossible and far off, Tina believes it is always worth it to apply and open yourself up to opportunities.

 “You should never count yourself out for any opportunity. The internship I applied for seemed like such a far reach for me, and the acceptance rate is completely dependent on the lab’s research needs. It was a long shot, but it worked out. Always apply for everything that you are interested in.”

Tina already has plans for the research she will be conducting over the 10-week period.

“During the internship, I will be working with synthesis and characterization of micron organic/metal materials, along with a project involving wet chemistry and nanocrystal synthesis and characterization.”

Tina is currently conducting her own research here at UWW, with Dr. Steven Girard of the UW-Whitewater Chemistry Department.

“I have conducted silicide nanoparticle research with Dr. Girard beginning my second semester of my freshman year. The nanoparticles are useful in thermoelectric materials, which are materials that can convert heat into electricity.”

She and her mentor are working to gain a better understanding of the process of synthesis as it relates to their research.

“There have been many challenges in our research project. We do not have a full understanding of the chemistry behind the process of synthesis, creating lots of questions that need to be answered. We are currently in the process of answering all of these questions to the best of our ability. Some are answered successfully while others seem to create more questions, but we learn something from every experiment.”

As the academic year comes to a close, Tina plans to finish up her work with Dr. Girard.

“I am still conducting research on the silicide nanoparticle project, however it is coming to a close. The last piece of the project will be to test our material for thermoelectric properties. I will also be writing a manuscript of the work to hopefully be published in a scientific journal.”

Once again, the Undergraduate Research Program would like to congratulate Tina Slack on the terrific accomplishment of receiving this competitive internship position. For those of you interested in research, please visit us in our Andersen Library office, or head to uww.edu/urp.

“I would love to extend my gratitude to the Undergraduate Research Program. They have supported me every step of the way throughout my research career. Without their support, I would not be where I am today!”

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Published Before Graduation: Alyssa Fernandez

alyssa_fernandezThe Undergraduate Program would like to recognize the work of one of our student researchers, Alyssa Fernandez. Recently, Alyssa was informed that the research she has been conducting with her mentor, Dr. Pete Killoran, is going to be published and will be occupying an entire chapter of a book regarding the Eastern States Mental Institution.

Alyssa is entering her fourth year at UWW, with a double major in Chemistry and Criminology and a minor in Biology, as well as pursuing a certification in Forensic Science. She received a Summer Undergraduate Research Fellowship grant in order to pursue her research in the fields of Forensic Anthropology and Biology.

Alyssa is working with Dr. Killoran, a faculty lecturer from the Sociology, Criminology, and Anthropology department here at UWW. Their research focuses around the remains of patients buried at the Eastern States Cemetery in Lexington, Kentucky.

“Eastern States was a mental hospital that was open in the early 1800’s and closed around the turn of the century. During this time there were very few restrictions and practically no oversight on the ingredients going into medication. Some patients who were deemed mentally ill were given a patent medicine called Calomel. Calomel contained extremely high levels of mercury and other heavy metals, which in turn made the patients more and more ill.”

Research continues to be conducted on the daily life and health of patients at Eastern States, ever since the cemetery was discovered. Alyssa and Dr. Killoran hope to fill in a gap in the research regarding the long term health of the patients as well as the affects that the medicine, specifically Calomel, had on them. The patients receiving this drug were ingesting 4000 times the current EPA ingestion limit of Mercury.

Over the summer, Alyssa and Dr. Killoran travelled to Kentucky with Whitewater’s X-Ray Fluorescence (XRF) apparatus, using it on bone and teeth samples to capture and record energy bursts unique to specific elements.

“With the use of the XRF we were able to see small spikes of Mercury, Arsenic, Strontium, and other elements within some of the Eastern States’ samples.”

After they returned to Whitewater with very small samples, Alyssa began to work with Dr. Ejnik of UWW’s Chemistry Department to test them. The tests they are conducting will enable them to detect more exact amounts than what was measured in the field.

Alyssa and Dr. Killoran’s research will help to give scientists a much broader view into the life and death of the patients at Eastern States. Their research also gives us a look into the resilience of the human body.

“The idea that the Eastern States’ Patients were ingesting such high doses of Mercury and other heavy metals multiple times per day and were able to survive long enough to absorb into their bones is astounding.”

Alyssa presented her research at Fall Undergraduate Research day, and has also been asked to present to the Dean’s Advisory Board. She plans to continue her undergraduate research until May of 2018, after which she hopes to attend graduate school to pursue a Ph.D. in either Biochemistry or Analytical Chemistry.

Getting something published is an amazing feat and Alyssa has demonstrated that through hard work and dedication to research, it is possible for an Undergraduate student to get work published.

“Having the opportunity to have my work published is truly amazing. Not only has this research alone opened so many doors for me, but being able to be published before finishing my Undergrad is absolutely incredible.”

For those who are interested in getting their own work published, Alyssa stresses the importance of making connections with professors.

“I made a connection with Dr. Killoran by occasionally stopping by his office just to say hi or to have a quick chat, asking questions and participating in class, and showing a genuine interest in the topics that we learned in class. Because of these things, Dr. Killoran approached me and asked me if I would be interested in being a part of this research opportunity.”

Making connections with professors is important for many aspects of undergraduate life, and can open up great opportunities and lead to great advice.

“There is no one better to talk to about jobs, careers, research and/or graduate school than someone who has already experienced it.”

If you are interested in learning more about Alyssa’s research, be sure to look out for the upcoming publication!

(All quotes provided by Alyssa Fernandez)


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Researcher Profile – Ayla Sanchez


Last year Dr. Bruce Jackson, esteemed researcher and professor, paid a visit to the UW-Whitewater campus. Dr. Jackson is the head of multiple programs at the Massachusetts Bay Community College. Since his visit, Dr. Jackson has promoted UWW’s Undergraduate Research Program, and has even encouraged his students to look into Whitewater’s research program and the opportunities provided.

Ayla Sanchez is one of Dr. Jackson’s students, working towards a degree in Biotechnology and Forensic DNA Science at Massachusetts Bay. Under Dr. Jackson’s supportive lead, Ayla has found success and connectivity.

“Working with Dr. Jackson has been a revolutionary journey for me. I’ve blossomed from being an introvert to the Chief Mentor of the Forensics DNA Science Program under Dr. Jackson’s program.”

After suggestion from Dr. Jackson, Ayla recently visited UW-Whitewater to check out URP and conduct research, spending 10 weeks on campus. During her stay in Whitewater, Ayla spent time in labs, giving her a chance to gain skills in cell cultures (a requirement for her major), communication, and networking.

“My time at Whitewater has incorporated new habits and confidence in me, such as networking more comfortably, being willing to travel more, and the overall confidence to try things that I may not have otherwise.”

Ayla took full advantage of the services offered here at UWW, as well as getting to enjoy the city of Whitewater.

“I relished the free yoga classes that the university provided on Mondays and Wednesdays at noon.”

Miguel Aranda, UW-Whitewater’s Undergraduate Research Program Associate, worked with Ayla in order to help her have the best experience possible, including providing access to necessary labs/academic buildings, as well as providing insider information on the best places to eat, shop, and hang out in Whitewater.

“I found myself enjoying everything; from the students who already graduated, students still attending, the staff, and the city of Whitewater itself.”

Ayla is currently working on a personal research project in the field of forensics. The goal of the project is to provide a DNA analysis of her mother and her grandfather.

“My mom’s father passed about 15 years ago, leaving behind a house in Puerto Rico. On her birth certificate, her father’s name is NOT there, and she needs to prove that she is, biologically, his daughter.”

She hopes to prove that her grandfather is indeed her mother’s biological parent. She will be conducting her research on hair and teeth samples, using her skills developed from her studies as well as her time here at UWW.

Ayla’s future looks bright. She hopes to someday receive a doctorate in molecular biology or a related field. She plans to work towards a career in forensic genetics and undertake both anthropological and criminal casework. Ayla is currently planning to finish up her degree and graduate from Mass Bay. She then hopes to continue her education in biology at the University of Wisconsin Whitewater.

Ayla is a promising young researcher who will bring pride to the University of Wisconsin Whitewater’s Undergraduate Research Program. She is a great example of an undergraduate student committed to her research goals.

“The advice I would give other students is to be meticulous in their research because even the most minuscule mistakes can ruin the end results of a project.”

If you or anyone you know is interested in Undergraduate Research at the University of Wisconsin Whitewater, please visit our website at uww.edu/urp or stop in our office in Andersen Library during office hours.

“Going home was bittersweet, as I was not ready to leave Whitewater.”





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