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Since 2017, the Global Change Center at Virginia Tech and Hollins University have maintained a unique partnership and graduate student recruitment model.  The program provides summer research experiences at Virginia Tech for select Hollins undergraduate students, with the explicit goal of identifying possible mentor-mentee connections/relationships for their future graduate training. 

Hollins undergraduate students spend the summer on the Virginia Tech campus working with one or more of our GCC faculty mentors.  Students are fully embedded in the broader undergraduate research community, to include weekly activities with undergraduates visiting from around the nation. In addition to gaining practical research experience, students build life long professional relationships, develop science communication skills, and receive guidance on other professional proficiencies critical to success in graduate school. 

Hollins undergraduate students interested in this program should contact Dr. Courtney F. Chenette, Esq. at


Hollins Undergraduate Student Summer 2022

Aqsa Fazal

Aqsa is a rising senior majoring in chemistry with a concentration in biochemistry and a minor in biology and physics. She will be working Dr. Chloé Lahondère‘s Lab on a project dealing with mosquito-borne diseases. More specifically, she will focus on Culex territans mosquitoes which feed primarily on amphibians and will study the pathogens they carry and transmit to these animals. Aqsa is excited to grow her research experience and skillset at Virginia Tech this summer to aide in her ambition to pursue graduate studies in the future.


Hollins Undergraduate Student Summer 2022

Olivia Sacci

Olivia is a rising junior, biology major, and chemistry minor on the pre-veterinary track at Hollins University. Building on experience working with amphibians in both a clinical and zoological setting, her  research with Dr. Lisa Belden will focus on the symbiotic microbial communities that reside on amphibian skin as well as the microbiome-parasite interactions in honey bees. With aspirations to enroll in a dual DVM/Ph.D. program after her undergraduate studies, Olivia is excited to grow her skillset to support veterinary-based research.


Hollins Undergraduate Student Summer 2022

Jessica Willebeek-LeMair

As a rising senior majoring in Environmental Science, Jessica has recently spent the spring 2022 semester studying abroad in Tanzania through the Hollin’s Field Studies program. She is very excited to work in Dr. Ashley Dayer’s Human Dimensions Lab this summer where she will assist in utilizing data from wildlife viewer surveys to write scientific reports.  In addition to growing data analysis and scientific writing skills, this research opportunity will provide Jessica a different social perspective on environmental conservation issues relevant to the Appalachian region. 


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Udipta Bohara

As a rising junior majoring in biology with minors in mathematics and chemistry, Udipta worked with two mentors, Dr. Dana Hawley and Dr. Kendra Sewall from the Department of Biological Sciences. Udipta worked on a project seeking to understand the differences in how long the bacterial pathogen Mycoplasma gallisepticum stays active in different environments. She gained hands-on experience in a lab setting, something she hopes will be a core part of her future career in evolutionary biology.

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Grishma Bhattarai

Grishma participated in the 2019 summer research program as a rising senior, with a double major in economics and mathematics with a data science concentration. She worked with Dr. Kelly Coburn (Department of Forest Resources and Environmental Conservation) and studied environmental economics, development economics, and focused on how women play a role in the valuation and conservation of public goods in developing communities. She greatly expanded her research skills, especially in how to ask the right questions with large data sets.

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Elaine Metz

As a rising junior studying Biology at Hollins University, Elaine Metz worked in Dr. Scott Salom’s Forest Entomology Lab with graduate student mentor, Rachel Brooks. They tested species of native fungi as possible bio-controls for the invasive tree-of-heaven (Ailanthus altissima). Elaine envisioned the summer research opportunity as a first step to advance a future career in research and conservation. She expanded her knowledge about experimental design, data collection & analysis, and what life as a graduate student might be like.

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Shannen Kelly

As a rising junior studying Environmental Science and Spanish at Hollins University, Shannen Kelly worked in Dr. Jacob Barney’s Invasive Plant Ecology Lab with graduate student mentor, Becky Fletcher. The team investigated the intraspecific diversity and adaptability of Johnsongrass, a noxious invasive, by measuring photosynthetic differences between populations. Shannen viewed the summer opportunity as a way to hone her research skills in the field, as well as gain technical competency in the lab.

Women at Symposium

Presenting at the Research Symposium

A final Research Symposium is the highpoint of the Summer Undergraduate Research Fellowship (SURF) Program. After dedicating ten weeks to the planning, execution, and analysis of a research project, SURF undergrads have had the chance to become authentic members of research teams by working side-by-side with faculty, graduate students, and research staff.

The research symposium gives these students an opportunity to synthesize their experiences and present their findings via scientific talks and posters. Elaine did a presentation about her research related to biological control using fungi, and Shannen had a poster about her research on the invasive weed called Johnson grass.