Honors students enjoy variety of academic, extra-curricular challenges
(April 19, 1999)
Photos by Peter Morenus
Whitlatch makes discoveries through research
Being an honors student "opened the door to smaller
and more challenging courses, especially in my first two years,"
recalls molecular and cell biology major Hilary Whitlatch,
who is also a Nutmeg Scholar. "It also helped me to meet and
interact with people who share my interests, people who
could help me advance. That's often difficult at a big university."
The other thing it did was quickly get her into a laboratory
setting, where she has excelled. Following an internship at the
Connecticut State Museum of Natural History at UConn the
summer after her freshman year, Whitlatch began working in
Professor Carol Teschke's laboratory, where, by the end
of her sophomore year, she had defined the research that would
occupy her for the next two years and lead to her honors
thesis "The Search for Temperature-Sensitive and
Cold-Sensitive P22 Coat Protein Mutants."
The research explores the mechanism through which
a primary amino acid directs the three-dimension folding of a
polypeptide chain. Using two mutant classes of a virus called
P22, Whitlatch has made discoveries that help to clarify the
roles of specific amino acids in protein folding and assembly.
The research has implications for better understanding human
diseases that involved unfolded proteins, such as
Creutzfeldt-Jakob disease and cystic fibrosis.
Whitlatch has been accepted at two medical schools
and is currently weighing her options.
Fleischer values small classes, faculty interaction
"Being an honors student has been a fantastic experience
for me," says Amy Fleischer, a senior majoring in English and
sociology. "It has meant smaller classes and greater
opportunities to meet with professors and form a connection with
Fleischer's undergraduate experience has also afforded
her room to explore a growing interest in community service.
Having volunteered with UConnPIRG and Habitat for Humanity,
she says that no matter what career she ends up pursuing,
she expects to continue finding opportunities to make a
contribution to the community.
As part of the University Scholar program, Fleischer
has spent the past two years working closely with the National
Coalition Against Censorship on a project exploring the
reasons why materials are censored in public high schools. Her
honors thesis, based on visits to high schools in both
Connecticut and Massachusetts, reaches the conclusion that
censorship is often insidious. "A deselection process
often happens, in which teachers decide against using
based on non-academic criteria," she says. "Teachers
may avoid using materials that would be academically appropriate,
because they are unwilling to risk the repercussions."
Day of Pride scholar tackles triple major
Maria Sanabria packs a lot into her day, but that's
the way she likes it. She has a triple major -- chemistry, chemical
engineering and metallurgy/materials engineering -- does
catalysis research in the chemistry department and is a tutor in the
Engineering Diversity Office.
"I like living a busy life," Sanabria says. She also likes
a challenge. "I didn't like chemistry in high school," she says. "But it
was a challenge and I worked hard at it and became good at it."
Now Sanabria, who has held a four-year Day of
Pride Scholarship at UConn, one of fifteen awarded annually to
outstanding Connecticut high school seniors, plans to
continue her studies in graduate school. She is considering working in
industry after that. "Everything we use is somehow touched
by chemistry or chemical engineering applications," she says.
A University Scholar, Sanabria says her UConn
education compares favorably with that at any other top school. She
appreciates the accessibility of faculty, noting in
particular chemistry professor Steven Suib, who is also her adviser. "He
has been a great influence on me, supportive and
encouraging," she notes. When, for instance, Sanabria was concerned
about adding metallurgy and materials engineering to a
dual major, she says Suib's response was, "Oh, you can do it."
Sanabria had the opportunity to apply what she's
learned through a co-op at Chesebrough Ponds and a summer job at
"The more I have to do, the better grades I get"
When Vincent Southerland graduates in May, he
will take with him lifelong friendships, a well- rounded education and a
sense of accomplishment. Southerland, who came to
UConn as a Day of Pride Scholar, is majoring in political science and
sociology. Planning a career in law, he is interested in
issues that challenge peoples' civil liberties. He will attend law school
in the fall.
Meanwhile, he continues to write commentaries on
social issues for his column in the Daily Campus newspaper, where he is
also on the editorial board. His work in a community
service fraternity has taken him to Willimantic to tutor first- and
second-graders in reading and math, and to Stowe
Village public housing complex in Hartford to play football with
underprivileged youngsters. He has also volunteered
for Habitat for Humanity and for the Windham Aids Program. "I find
the more I have to do, the better grades I get," he says.
An honors scholar, Southerland has enjoyed the
variety of people he has met at the University. "Its interesting to see
different attitudes, different ideas, and different types
of people," he says. He has also "had a lot of good professors to help
me along the way," he says, citing Kenneth Neubeck,
an associate professor in sociology, Daryl Harris, an assistant
professor of political science, and Howard Reiter, a
professor of political science. "Their classes were stimulating, I liked
their teaching styles and their outlook on the world,"
he says. A member of the Student Coalition for Undergraduate
Diversity, Southerland also plays intramural sports.