The Wisconsin Institute for Discovery has been honored to have undergraduate researchers named Hilldale Fellows nearly every year since the institute’s founding in 2010—29 award-winners in total—including three named this month as 2021 Fellows. Hilldale Awards provide research training and support to undergraduates undertaking their own collaborative research projects with UW-Madison faculty or other research staff.
This year’s WID honorees are Josephine Putnam, a microbiology and Spanish major studying in Jo Handelsman’s lab; Hailey Feinzig, a neurobiology major working with Kris Saha; and Amulya Suresh, a genetics and genomics major doing research in Rupa Sridharan’s lab. Each fellow receives a stipend, and each research group may also receive funds to cover research costs. Fellows are selected based on the student’s planned contribution to the research, the significance of the work, the quality of the collaboration between student and faculty, and the quality of the planned research objectives.
“It was super exciting to see that someone thinks my research is interesting and that it should be funded,” says Putnam, whose research is focused on finding new antibiotics in the soil to combat the antibiotic crisis. “I’m feeling really good about searching for new antibiotics.”
Fellows present their findings at the Undergraduate Symposium in April of the year following their award and submit a research report upon completion of the research. “It’s a really cool opportunity for me because I have a lot more independence,” says Putnam, who looks forward to carrying the skills she learns as a Hilldale Fellow into graduate school. “As a scientist, I can design my own experiments while also being in close collaboration with my faculty mentor.”
Past WID Hilldale Fellows have found that the program was an excellent opportunity to engage with genuine research and collaborate with faculty in meaningful and impactful ways. In 2019, Brittany Russell received a Hilldale Award for her research regarding CAR T-cell cancer immunotherapy. “My undergraduate research was one of the most important things from my undergraduate experience and so I was really grateful for that award to kind of supplement that opportunity to continue doing something I was passionate about,” Russell said. “It gave me confidence in my project too, how this was something the committee thought was worth investing time in and exploring.”
Rachel Kabara, another 2019 fellow, acknowledged how the Hilldale Fellowship strengthened her skills. “It made me much more confident in my ability to communicate science both written and verbally,” Kabara said.
Congratulations to the 2021 Hilldale Fellows, especially the next generation of great research scientists honing their skills at WID.
Author: Kim Leadholm