Twenty-two UC Berkeley students were awarded the second annual Undergraduate Merit Scholarship by the Institute of International Studies at a reception Thursday.
The $2,000 merit scholarships were awarded to students who conducted or will conduct research in countries across the globe through independent travel and the UC Education Abroad Program.
This year’s winners come from a broad spectrum of disciplines, representing 21 campus departments and conducting research in 21 different countries, with topics ranging from French Polynesian spiders and international birthing models to the influence of Korean pop music in Japan.
Amy Gurowitz, a political science lecturer and director of education programs at the institute, said this year’s scholars are “truly interdisciplinary.” She said the goal of the scholarship is to provide as many undergraduates as possible on campus with the funding to conduct fieldwork and partake in interdisciplinary international relations research domestically and abroad.
Shannon Rieger, a senior majoring in peace and conflict studies, used her scholarship to conduct research on the changing structure of transborder cities by visiting places like Tijuana, Mexico. Rieger’s research was part of year-long process, and she said she plans to use her research in her senior thesis.
“I wouldn’t have been able to go down there without it,” Rieger said. “I could do all the research I wanted, but after a certain point, I had to go down there and talk to people.”
Applicants are asked to submit a research proposal, unofficial transcripts and a letter of recommendation in December. A faculty panel from the institute then reviews applications and selects the institute’s junior scholars within three weeks. Most recipients conduct their research during the following spring or summer, either through the program or independently.
Scholars then present their findings in research papers and on posters. The faculty panel awards an additional $1,000 prize to the strongest research papers each year. Senior business administration and economics major Michael Midling was awarded the additional $1,000 for his research in microfinance in China.
Director of the institute Pradeep Chhibber, who is a professor of political science, said they recognized that there were not enough opportunities to recognize undergraduate researchers and decided to create the program as a means of supporting international research.
“Research is an integral part to a Berkeley education,” Chhibber said. “We’d like to see even more applicants in the years to come.”
Vice Chancellor and Provost George Breslauer — who spoke at the award ceremony and presented the scholarships — said the university has been making great strides in the last decade in encouraging undergraduate research.
“This is very exciting,” Breslauer said. “The love of research and the exhilaration of finding interesting results you may not have expected — it’s the very ideal of a research university.”