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Travel Fund Creates Unique Opportunities for Students

Tierney Grisolano

Junior Tierney Grisolano was able to travel to present her research and participate in conferences thanks in part to the STAR Fund.

Junior Tierney Grisolano has a passion for research.

Since coming to Drake, she has found opportunities for exploration within both of her majors: religion and biochemistry, cell, and molecular biology. In 2016, Grisolano studied the role of T cells in obesity and diabetes at the Johns Hopkins School of Medicine during a summer program. Last year, she was one of 15 students who researched religious traditions in Greater Des Moines and wrote a chapter in the recently published Spectrum of Faith. The book was a collaborative project between the religion and English departments at Drake and showcased religious diversity in Iowa.

As a result of these projects, Grisolano was able to present her research in public forums. In September 2016, she shared her summer research at the Emory University Laney Graduate School STEM Research and Career Symposium. In November 2017, she was one of three Drake students who participated in a panel discussion about Spectrum of Faith at the American Academy of Religion conference in Boston, Massachusetts.

"During the conferences I was pushed out of my comfort zone and forced to adapt to a new environment," says Grisolano. "Presenting in front of a large crowd and in front of people who may know more about a topic than you do challenges your critical thinking. You learn a lot about yourself and how to be professional."

Grisolano received funding from the Drake University Student Travel and Research (STAR) Fund to attend both events. The College of Arts and Sciences National Advisory Council created the fund to enrich academic studies. Through grants of up to $250, the STAR Fund helps students travel to present academic papers, attend conferences, participate in significant performance competitions, or conduct research. Last year 18 students received grants from the fund.

"These are great opportunities, but they are very costly," says Grisolano. "That financial assistance is really helpful and definitely made it possible for me to participate."

Katie Huber

Senior Katie Huber was a recipient of aid from the STAR Fund, which help eased some of the burden of traveling.

Katie Huber, a senior who also received a grant from the STAR Fund, agrees.

"The financial assistance makes you a little less worried," says Huber, a physics and math double major. "It takes a weight off, which makes it easier to attend things like this."

Huber presented at the Conference Experience for Undergraduates, part of the annual meeting for the Division of Nuclear Physics of the American Physical Society, in Pittsburgh. The presentation was the result of nearly two years of research, which she is continuing as her senior capstone project.

Huber, who is interested in a career in environmental engineering, says the lessons she learned through her research and presentation will serve her well in graduate school.

"I participated in an hour-long poster session," she says. "I talked with a lot of people about my research, and as the event went on, I became more confident and was able to talk more coherently and fluently. It was such a confidence boost to be able to talk to people about such a technical topic and realize I do know the material well."

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