Research fellows seek out summer donations

With three weeks left to donate to the honors fellowship fund, honors fellows at the College of William and Mary are hoping that donors will contribute the final amounts to fund each of their $6,000 summer research projects.

The fellowship website, set up like a micro-financed kickstarter, relies on individual donations to fund each student’s project.

This year, the Charles Center received two $25,000 gifts from anonymous donors to match the amount of money people donate. Director of the Charles Center Joel Schwartz said these gifts were depleted in a matter of hours.

“In this case, the dollar-for-dollar match goes to the specific student that you’ve chosen at the specific amount that you’ve given,” Schwartz said. “We’ve learned from experience that it really does motivate these micro-financing donors.”

Last year the Charles Center hosted 60 honors fellows and fully funded 42. This year, 66 honors fellows seek donations.Seven projects have been fully funded.

“[The money] means a lot,” Honors Fellow Jacob Lisi ’15 said. “It allows me to pretty much stay here this summer. … It just makes life a lot easier and allows me to focus on my research rather than try to find an extra job beyond the 9 to 5 that research entails over the summer.”

Lisi is researching the carbon-to-oxygen ratio in the functionalized grapheme used in oil pipes. Lisi researches the carbon to oxygen ratio in the functionalized grapheme used in oil pipes.

Besides funding living expenses and the cost of not working another job, Honors Fellow Naomi Parr ’15 said the money would fund her project that examines maternal responses to children’s negative emotions. Parr’s research will investigate how mothers’ emotional responses can influence social phobia in children.

“In psych studies like the one we’re doing, it’s really expensive to recruit because you have to offer monetary incentive to everybody,” Parr said. “In this particular study, we offer $10 to every child who participates. Multiply that by the 200 kids we have so far, that’s a lot of money. And we’re planning to recruit as many as possible.”

The Charles Center has the internal money to fully fund six projects. They will use this money to top off students’ projects at the end of the donation period.

“Funding is a very important thing when you get beyond undergraduate education,” Lisi said. “To prove that you can get it is a very important asset when you’re applying to graduate school. This is a very good intro to that.”

Lisi and Parr said they spread the word by posting on Reddit and Facebook.

“I’m hoping that some generous donor will stumble across my page at some point and think this is a cool project,” Parr said. “Obviously, I’d like to get money based on merit.”

Most donors are first-time givers to the College, according to Schwartz.

“Honors fellowships — a faculty member and a student working on a serious piece of research together — kind of distills what we value most about a William and Mary education, that kind of mentor relationship,” Schwartz said. “It’s satisfying to be able to portray that to the world, to put an actual face on it in these students’ videos, and to see how receptive people are.”


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