Honoring Holster Scholars


John Buckley Hall, the default freshman honors housing. (File photo/Daily Campus)

John Buckley Hall, the default freshman honors housing. (File photo/Daily Campus)

Few high school students are able to come into their first semester of college and churn out a research project proposal worthy of being awarded a $4,000 grant, yet the Honors Program offers an opportunity for first-year students to do just that. With the generosity of UConn alumni Robert (‘68) and Carlotta (‘68), about 11 first-year Honors students were awarded funding to pursue their own independent summer research project after beginning the arduous process in November. This year’s cohort of Holster Scholars, ranging in areas from study of genetics to economics to political science, were notified on Monday of their grant. 

From STEM-based research projects to social studies and even fine arts, first-year Honors students were encouraged to be creative with their proposed projects to serve as in-depth, individualized learning experiences. Applicants were required to submit preliminary applications in the fall, including brief overviews of their project ideas. From there, 14 finalists were chosen to take a proposal development and research preparation course in the spring semester.  

“Coming up with a research study of my own design based on my personal interests and curiosities, and then developing and refining it with the support of university faculty into a fully-fledged research proposal has been an incredibly validating scholastic experience,” Arman Chowdhury, a second-semester undecided student, said. “The amount of freedom given to me throughout this process has made it unlike anything I’ve done before, and has really helped me come into my own as a student.” 

Chowdhury’s project, titled “Focus and Intonation in Heritage Hindi Speakers,” will be looking at how the American-born children of native Hindi speakers use pitch to indicate emphasis when speaking Hindi. He is working with Professor Lillo-Martin from the linguistics department. 

The Thursday before spring break, final applications were due, including a four-page research proposal, personal statement, budget and timeline. The finalist pool had to be narrowed down with panel interviews conducted by an interdisciplinary council of faculty. 

“The Holster Scholar program has given me opportunities that I wouldn’t have had otherwise,” Sai Manasani, a second-semester actuarial sciences and finance major, said. While trying to complete the project in a nontraditional research-based field I found that I was able to learn more about myself and gain a more global understanding of my subject.” 

Manasani’s project, titled “Cost-Benefit Analysis of Use of Technology in Life Insurance Underwriting,” uses cost-benefit analysis to see “what the trade-off between mortality and increased sales is for big healthcare companies due to the recent incorporation of emerging technologies in underwriting processes, such as neural networks and automation,” Manasani explained. “I’m doing that to see if healthcare companies are being ethical by introducing such technologies because sometimes they aren’t as precise and can make mistakes.” 

As a Holster Scholar myself, I can definitely say the process has been arduous, but also rewarding. There’s no better way to learn and develop your skills then consulting with others and continuing to research so that you can present the best possible form of your idea. I look forward to investigating the social media styles of women and minority political candidates on Twitter, and exploring how the intersection of the two may affect a candidate’s style as well. 

“The Holster journey is one that I’ve truly come to appreciate over the last eight months,” Shreya Sreenivas, a second-semester physiology and neurobiology and computer science double major, said. “I have met some incredible and passionate faculty, and peers who are willing to support my ideas and perspectives. Being a first year student, I think Holster got me more involved on campus than I expected and it allowed me to step out of my comfort zone and put myself out there.” 

Sreenivas will be researching specific nucleotide regions within a gene and comparing that gene deficit relationship with the reading ability of individuals who have dyslexia.  

Being a finalist in the process required a lot of work from the students, but also allowed them to develop their projects by consulting with their mentors, as well as the program’s advisor, Dr. Moscardelli, the Director of National Scholarships and Fellowships. Students also enjoyed collaborating and bonding with fellow finalists as they sought to present the best version of their projects. After working on the projects over the summer, chosen Holster Scholars will get to present their findings in the fall at a symposium. 

Hollie Lao is a staff writer for The Daily Campus. She can be reached via email at hollianne.lao@uconn.edu.

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