Skip to content

Published: July 29, 2021

Border Control, Star Counts and Transracial Adoption Just Some of Summer Research Ops

Every summer, a group of driven UT students are awarded Summer Undergraduate Research Fellowships from the Office of Undergraduate Research and Inquiry (OURI). Paired with faculty members, the students dive into issues across all disciplines, from politics to biology to psychology.

They cap off their research by presenting at the 2021 Summer Undergraduate Research Symposium, a showcase of their research accomplishments, which will be held this year in the Grand Salon of Plant Hall on Sept. 3 from 3 to 5 p.m.

The following is just a sample of the projects underway.

Daniel Maselli '21 portrait
Photo courtesy of Daniel Maselli '21


Biology major Daniel Maselli '21 is studying proteins from the virus that causes COVID-19 under the guidance of Eric Freundt, OURI director. They hope to better understand the role that SARS-CoV-2 accessory proteins play during infection. Maselli is expressing the accessory proteins individually in cells to determine where these proteins localize and how they may be disrupting normal cellular functions.

Jonii Padden '22 portrait
Photo courtesy of Joni Padden ’22


Joni Padden ’22, who is majoring in economics with a minor in political science, is conducting data analysis on U.S. immigration and border control with Michael Coon, associate professor of economics. They are investigating the effects of additional border control and fencing on immigration location and decision making. Padden’s goal is to add to the current pool of literature surrounding U.S. immigration in the hopes of improving and refining the current policy system.

Sydney Parkhurst '22 portrait
Photo courtesy of Sydney Parkhurst ’22


Communication major Sydney Parkhurst ’22, with Julie Nelson, assistant professor of English and writing, is studying transracial adoption and the psychological effect it has on the adoptee.

"As a transracial adoptee myself (biracial, adopted by white parents) I often felt alone. However, after discovering the words "transracial adoptee," it opened up a community of people to connect with. I feel that this research is important to understand what needs to be done to further educate parents of adoptees while showing other adoptees that they are not alone,” Parkhurst said. “This summer I will be working with Dr. Nelson to write an autoethnography that captures narratives from my life and integrates research into them. I will also be creating a YouTube channel that showcases other adoptee's stories in the form of interviews to bring awareness to the topic."

Sean Knapp '22 portrait
Photo courtesy of Sean Knapp ’22


Physics major Sean Knapp ’22 is working with Simon Schuler, associate professor of physics, using stellar spectra to determine the elemental abundances of stars in the M67 open cluster. This star cluster is intriguing because it is about 4 billion (Gyr) years old. Usually, open clusters are not much older than 1 Gyr. M67 is a dense stellar environment full of metal rich stars. Knapp is working to determine stellar parameters such as surface temperature, surface gravity and the composition of stars in the cluster by examining spectral data gathered from telescopes. 


Find more stories about the SURF fellows on the Office of Undergraduate Research and Inquiry’s Facebook page.


Most people don’t ever get the chance to hold a heart in their hands.
A simulated natural gas explosion on Saturday gave UT students a unique opportunity to practice what they are learning in the classroom.
Students involved in Root@UT, the Criminology Club and the Cryptocurrency Club got a chance to interact, ask questions and learn real-world skills through hands-on stations and mock scenarios under the direction and supervision of law enforcement agents and officers.