Undergraduate Research Blog

The Hamel Center for Undergraduate Research accepts blog posts from all UNH undergraduate students currently or recently engaged in research. To submit a piece of writing for consideration or discuss a story idea, please contact the editors.


How to Write a Research Grant Proposal

Emily Pratt

Published June 1, 2022

I learned a lot about writing a proposal for a research grant when I applied for a Summer Undergraduate Research Fellowship (SURF), and there’s a lot I wish I knew before I started. Since writing my first proposal a year ago, I have written two more and want to share some do’s and don’ts that I learned along the way. While my research focus is drug discovery for triple negative breast cancer, these tips can be applied to proposal writing in any field. Read more >>


Moving on from UNH—A Look Back at Undergraduate Research


Published May 19, 2022

As a senior, it’s hard to imagine what will come next after graduation. Some may be looking for a job, others are searching for the right graduate school, and many more may have no idea what their plan is. I spent a lot of time debating what to do next, and in doing so, I looked back on my research experiences at UNH and how they shaped me to be the student that I am today. My research is related to trace gas emissions from wetlands and reservoirs, and I use a lot of the skills that I’ve learned in my marine biology and earth science majors. There are many aspects of my research that I could talk about, but I’ve compiled a list of the three things that stand out to me the most from over the years in hopes of inspiring other undergraduates to get involved in research. Read more >>


Tools for Conducting Undergraduate Research in the Social Sciences

Jaylyn Jewell

Published May 12, 2022

When we as students delve into the world of research, there are a lot of unknowns and foreign grounds to be explored. In my experience, research has brought about a whole new level of in-depth data collection and interpretation, which caused me to feel overwhelmed at times. Some research takes place in labs, but research in the field of social science necessitates a different type of data collection and analysis. In my work with qualitative research in the field of nursing, much of our data is collected from patient experiences, case studies, and surveys. Keeping track of the literature, comparing findings between articles, collaborating with peers and colleagues, sharing your ideas and work, and other organizational tasks can be difficult on your own. When I researched the experiences of sexual and gender minorities in inpatient psychiatric care, five tools in particular helped me to stay organized and efficient. Read more >>


Back-Up Plan Becomes a Passion

Nathaniel Nichols

Published April 29, 2022

When I decided to attend UNH as an undergraduate in 2018, I had no idea that I would eventually end up being accepted to some of the top chemical engineering PhD programs in the country. Although I already had the goal of getting a master’s degree, a PhD seemed unattainable in my mind. Originally, as a first-year student I wanted to focus on joining student organizations and research was my back-up plan. However, after viewing presentations in my introduction to chemical engineering course about the research being conducted in the chemical engineering department, I reached out to Dr. Nan Yi to discuss research opportunities. Dr. Yi recommended that I apply for the Research Experience Apprenticeship Program (REAP) through the Hamel Center for Undergraduate Research.  I did not know it then but REAP was the spark that ignited my path to applying for PhD programs. Read more >>


How To Overcome the Daunting Task of Searching for a Mentor for REAP


Published February 15, 2022

Do you have a great research idea but no mentor?  Are you struggling to find the perfect mentor fit for your project? Here is my story about how I found a mentor only one month prior to the research grant application deadline. The Research Experience and Apprenticeship Program (REAP), a grant program through the Hamel Center for Undergraduate Research, requires that a first-year student be nominated by a faculty member and then work with a faculty mentor on a research project. In the fall of my first year at UNH, one of my professors agreed to nominate me for REAP, and I had a research idea to investigate how the COVID-19 pandemic has impacted women in the workforce. But I lacked just one thing, a faculty mentor to work with me on my research. Read more >>


Gaining Confidence Through Undergraduate Research

Emily Pratt

Published January 31, 2022

Before I participated in undergraduate research, it was difficult for me to fathom it being anything more than just conducting experiments, analyzing data, and gaining technical skills. Yes, these things are important, but you can get so much more out of being an undergraduate researcher. I have learned how to form professional relationships and work in a research team, but most importantly I have gained confidence in myself. My research experience at UNH began the summer after my sophomore year with a Summer Undergraduate Research Fellowship (SURF), funded by the generous donors of the Hamel Center for Undergraduate Research. I am majoring in biochemistry, molecular and cellular biology, and my SURF research, mentored by Dr. Sarah Walker, was on drug repurposing for triple negative breast cancer. Read more >>


So You Want to Do Research. Now What?


Published December 15, 2021

When you think of research, most of the time you think of master’s or PhD programs. But what about undergraduates? UNH has several opportunities for undergrads to conduct their own research, which is one of the reasons I chose to come here. Having the opportunity to create your own research project as an undergraduate is a great way to get involved with a subject you’re interested in and learn more about that specific field. It also allows you to make lasting connections with professors and other students, as well as opens the door to graduate programs or jobs. All of this may sound fantastic, but how do you even start to come up with a project? Read more >>


How I Got Involved with Research and What It Meant to Me

Quinn Beek

Published December 7, 2021

When I came to UNH I knew I wanted to pursue a degree in biochemistry but I had no idea what direction I wanted to take for that degree. I loved science labs in high school and was fascinated by the topics I was learning about. These topics included how cells function and what jobs different parts of the cell do. Chemical reactions also really fascinated me. I liked figuring out the steps of a reaction and what caused them. Being able to figure out an unknown and work as a team to solve problems was exciting and new to me. Once I got to UNH I decided that I needed to see what career options were available for me to pursue. I had heard a lot of people talking about research being such a large and important field within biochemistry. I took the lab portion of Introductory Biology: Molecular and Cellular in the fall of 2020 and I thoroughly enjoyed it, so I knew that I wanted to try working in a lab. Read more >>

Reaching Out to Find a Research Mentor

Jaylyn Jewell

Published December 6, 2021

Undergraduate research can seem incredibly daunting, especially when you are first exploring the opportunities here at UNH. When I started to get into undergraduate research in my field of nursing, I was excited but struggled with finding my worth as a potential researcher. The hardest part for me was reaching out to mentors. I was worried that I would not be able to contribute anything, that I would be more of a hindrance than a help. However, I could not have been more wrong. If anyone else is feeling this way, I promise it is not as scary as it seems, and UNH makes it simple to find a mentor and begin participating in research. You might be surprised at how passionate scholars here at UNH are about helping students get involved in undergraduate research. Read more >>


A Week in the Catalysis Lab

Jaxon Boudreau

Published December 1, 2021

As with most research, building an understanding of ideas and theories begins long before you enter the lab. This was true of my research in the catalysis lab last summer. I spent hours reading and analyzing research articles pertaining to similar projects and outcomes, looking for opportunities to apply a different perspective, my perspective, to improve or re-design what has previously been done. I entered Kingsbury Hall each day with a loosely configured plan, or recipe, much like a chef who makes wonderful creations from ingredients that have been painstakingly measured and synthesized multiple times until perfection. I wanted to help make the methane conversion process better, more efficient in cost and production, and for the outcome to have a greater impact. So, what is it that I did each week? Read more >>


A Day in the Wetlands of Southern New Hampshire

Maeve Kelley

Published September 7, 2021

Since majoring in Wildlife and Conservation Biology at UNH, I’ve always pictured myself spending days in the field. I assumed that spending each day handling and researching animals was unrealistic, but that maybe on occasion I could pick up a species or look at an individual from afar. This assumption was proved wrong so quickly and so pleasantly when I began my Summer Undergraduate Research Fellowship (SURF). Each week of my project consisted of turtle trapping and research in the computer lab working with a Geographic Information System (GIS). Another field technician and I joined a graduate student at UNH, who is leading a long-term research project on the freshwater turtles of New Hampshire. Each week we would head to a set of three ponds where we collected turtles on Mondays, Tuesdays and Wednesdays. We would then move traps on Wednesdays to three new ponds that would be visited on Thursdays and Fridays. Read more >>

If You Didn’t Know, Research Is More Than Math

Paige O’Neil

Published September 6, 2021

In every incoming student campus tour, UNH boasts its prestigious research opportunities. When I was at the dinner for prospective Hamel Scholars class of 2024, I shook a lot of hands with faculty who were eager to tell me what exciting research was being conducted in their department. Those conversations often ended with me saying something like, “That is wonderful, but I don’t think research is for me,” and because I didn’t want to hurt any feelings, I would add, “but I’ll keep this in mind in case I would like to explore research!” At that point, to me, research was math, stats, reports, and experiments. As a communication major, none of that was appealing to me—all I knew was that I never wanted to take another science class again. Read more >>

nichols and mentor

Mentorship and First Drafts Are Pivotal to Undergraduate Research

Johanne Nichols

Published August 31, 2021

This summer, I have been conducting research on the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on women’s lives as well as finding and pursuing solutions to solve inequities in society that were exasperated by the pandemic. I took my first week of research to focus on an overview of problems which primarily impacted women during the pandemic. This required finding different articles through the UNH library as well as reading those suggested by my mentor. I conducted this research primarily from my computer at home.  I was slowly able to grasp an understanding of the connections that tied many of these inequalities  together.  I then narrowed my focus on the background conditions that allowed these problems to manifest themselves into society for decades leading up to the pandemic. (Pictured: Johanne Nicholes (left) with mentor, Nina Windgaetter.Read more >>


Searching for the Holy Grail of Catalysis

Samuel Mercer

Published August 30, 2021

Methane conversion, the process of converting methane to desirable products such as methanol or syngas, has garnered the title as the holy grail of catalysis. As the primary component of natural gas, the complex chemistry of methane has limited its potential for sustainable utilization, perplexing researchers for over a century with countless methods and experimental approaches attempted to develop an economically viable process for chemical production. Like finding the holy grail (although without the mythos and eternal life), the rewards of finding a solution to this challenging process could potentially turn methane into a viable alternative fuel.  My research, funded by a Summer Undergraduate Research Fellowship (SURF), uses a photocatalytic approach (accelerating a chemical reaction by using light) for selective methane conversion to methanol and syngas through oxidation by hydrogen peroxide. Read more >>