USU's 'academic opportunity fund'
helps undergrads travel to present research
By Angela Busselberg
December 12, 2006 | Brittany Webb, a senior dual-majoring
in physics and chemistry, recently attended a conference
in Mexico to present research on a Women
and Gender Study on why women advance and or leave
professional organizations. "As a scientist, this helps
me understand who it is I work with, how it happens
and understanding why. It will help me a lot in my profession
career," said Webb.
"We were invited to attend a conference in Mexico.
They paid my registration fee and I had to cover my
hotel and passport. It was over $700 for just the hotel.
That's a gigantic amount for a poor college student,"
Webb was granted $450 from the Academic
Opportunity Fund to help cover the expenses. "It
doesn't cover everything but it helps," said Webb.
"The Academic Opportunity Fund was exactly what we
wanted to help undergraduate research," said Joyce Kinkead,
vice president for undergraduate research, "we had a
gap in our funding and ASUSU stepped up and created
a wonderful program."
"The fund was created to give students the opportunity
to present research or compete in an academic competition.
It covers travel and entrance fees up to $500," said
Michelle Lundberg, Academic Senate President, and member
of the AOF committee.
"This research got me involved and it looks good on
grad school applications but also professionally," said
Zac Humes received funding from AOF last year when
he presented research on a fluid dynamics project called
Vectoring Particle Sorter. "This product uses fundamental
fluid dynamics to sort particles more accurately without
contact and more cheaply than its predecessors," said
Humes was invited to attend the American Physical
Society Division of Fluid Dynamics. "This conference
is a chance to present our capabilities as a lab in
terms of equipment we have in leading research ideas."
The APS said this meeting is "one of the most significant
professional meetings in fluid dynamics in the US."
"I was able to attend the conference because of the
AOF funding I received. It's difficult to find extra
money for anything outside of the usual expenses when
you are a student," said Humes.
This year alone, the fund has been able to provide
funding for over 30 students, totaling $7,170. Since
it was established in 2001 the fund has helped 144 students
giving out $32,400 worth of funding, said Kinkead.
"Sixty-three percent of the money asked for is awarded
and almost all of the applicants get some funding,"
said Lundberg, "until we run out of money."
The fund's budget is about $8,600, and they have awarded
the bulk of the money fall semester not leaving much
for spring semester.
"We are trying to establish some private funds to
be able to fund everything we want," said Lundberg.
"The committee has a hard time giving all the funds
someone asks for knowing that someone else will need
them next semester."
"We are bursting at our seams," said Kinkead. "We'd
love to find some private money to help the fund." She
and Lundberg have been trying to find private funding
for the AOF. If they are able to obtain extra funding
the committe will continue to give students academic
opportunities for spring semester.
"Our University is known for its research," said Lundberg,
"We really hope that we are helping build that reputation
while reaching out to the undergraduates who want to
participate in academics."
Webb said, "This opportunity was great and I really
felt that I understood what it meant to be part of university
"We're lucky to have an advisor that pushes us to
achieve more; when we attend these types of events we
actually present very well in comparison to other universities.
It's nice to hear people say, 'Utah State? you guys
have a very strong mechanical engineering program, right?'"