Villanova Match Research Program for Freshmen

The Villanova Match Research program provides opportunities for motivated freshmen to pursue undergraduate research in the Spring 2014 semester.  Freshmen applicants do not need substantial experience as they will serve as research assistants to faculty mentors. If selected for the Match program, freshmen students will conduct research for 10 hours per week for 10 weeks for which they will receive a $1000 stipend for the Spring 2014 semester.  Funded research projects can be viewed in the table below.

Application Instructions

 To apply for the Villanova Match program, please complete the following steps:

1.       Review the research projects in the table below.

2.       Identify a research project that interests you.

*(If you do not find a project that matches your interest, please search here for more opportunities and/orcontact Jane Morris at for a meeting).

3.       Submit a resume and cover letter directly to the Faculty Research Mentor via the e-mail address provided in the table by February 1

  • Please include in your one page resume your first semester GPA, high school GPA, and SAT/ACT scores in addition to your academic, professional, and relevant experiences and skills.
  • Please include in your one page cover letter your motivations and qualifications for this research assistantship.

4.       The Faculty Research Mentor will review your application materials (resume and cover letter) and will contact you to interview for the position in early February.


Department & Faculty Research Mentor  Project Title & Description  Position Description


Daniel Kraut


ATP-dependent proteases are present in all organisms where they unfold and degrade proteins that are misfolded, damaged, or need to be degraded for regulatory reasons. These proteases all have a barrel-shaped architecture with protease active sites in the middle and a ring of ATP-dependent motor proteins guarding the entrance to the degradation chamber. These motors grab onto substrate proteins and unfold them. We study the processivity of these motor proteins – that is, how likely they are to unfold a protein domain they encounter versus how likely they are to fall off. Most of these proteases seem to have similar processivity moving from either the N- to C-terminus or C- to N-terminus of a protein, but the bacterial protease HslUV seems to be much more processive from the N-terminus than from the C-terminus. The purpose of this project is to establish why this is the case, at the kinetic and ultimately at the molecular level. Doing so will help us better understand how these motor proteins function. The research assistant will learn how to make substrate proteins for use in degradation assays, how to do degradation assays (enzyme kinetics), run and dry protein gels, quantify and analyze data from the degradation assays, and ultimately how to design new experiments based on the results of previous experiments. Research is a significant time commitment. Early on the research assistant will work alongside me, but as he or she masters various techniques, will become increasingly independent.

Chemical Engineering

Jacob Elmer

Inhibition of Foreign DNA Receptors to Enhance Gene Therapy

Gene therapy has the potential to cure hundreds of genetic diseases (e.g. cancer), however, most current gene therapy techniques are not very effective.  One reason for this shortcoming may be TLR9 receptors, which actively bind foreign DNA that enters the cell and activates a set of defense mechanisms that either degrade or neutralize any foreign DNA, including foreign DNA used in gene therapy.  We propose to solve this problem by using inhibitors to block the activity of the TLR9 receptor and several of the downstream enzymes involved in the pathway.  Each of the 5 inhibitors will be tested with 3 different cancer cell lines (prostate, kidney, and bladder) to determine if the inhibitors allow the cells to take up and use more of the foreign DNA.  The luminescent protein luciferase from fireflies will be used to measure DNA uptake and expression.  The toxicity of each inhibitor and combinations of the best inhibitors will also be tested.  Overall, we hope to develop novel methods to enhance gene therapy via co-treatment with these inhibitors.

The freshman research assistant selected for this position will learn and perform the following techniques:

  • Human Cancer Cell Culture
  •  DNA Purification from E. coli
  • Biochemical assays to determine levels of gene expression and toxicity
  • Microscopy (imaging of the cancer cells)

The student will be responsible for maintaining their own cell lines (with the help of other senior students in the lab) and organizing their data to eventually prepare a manuscript for submission to a journal. 

Civil and Environmental Engineering

Seri Park


Investigation of Roundabouts Safety Level in the Context of Time Series

The proposed study will explore the safety level changes at roundabouts from the context of time series in conjunction with design and operation elements. Establishing an understanding of the interaction of design, operations, and crash performance would be a step forward in the development and application of performance-based standards for roundabouts. As part of the specific objective of this study, research will focus on the quantification of the relationship between crash rates and roundabouts implementation time lapse. This research methodology and corresponding results can advance the state of practice closer towards understanding the relationships of roundabouts’ time characteristics and safety metrics which is necessary to in the creation of performance-based standards. In addition, a synthesis that compares standard roundabouts and “circles” will also be investigated. The results of this synthesis will provide insights for practitioner when designing standard roundabouts.

Most of the tasks to be performed will be data search and compiling. More specifically, major tasks include, but not limited to;

1)      Roundabouts geometric feature compiling based on the Google Earth as well as project design plan sets acquired from Department of Transportation (DOT)

2)      Traffic operational parameters search on the DOT website (such as roadway speed limits, traffic volume etc) and database compiling

3)      Crash data filtering and analysis (i.e., categorizing per injury degree, time of day etc)

4)      Major journal and research report referencing

Contact New Jersey DOT as well as Transportation Safety Resource Center at Rutgers University for data query


David Fiorenza


Tax structure for Philadelphia for incoming business

Suburban communities surrounding the City of Philadelphia already enjoy many amenities from lower taxes to less congestion or crime. To attract businesses and residents back to the City of Philadelphia, I was looking for an analysis of the current tax structure plus what tax incentives, abatements, or breaks are available compared to the surrounding suburban communities. This analysis can be useful for the undergraduate Urban Economics course taught every semester in the Economics department. The course is also approved as an elective in the Real Estate Co-Major. The information will be useful for the MBA course entitled Public Sector Economics that I teach every semester.

I am looking to compare various taxes in the City of Philadelphia with the surrounding suburban communities and show there are many tax incentives available to residents and the business community for having their business or residence within city limits.

Some Excel and data base construction is needed to complete this assignment. The student is able to receive this information from various suburban municipal websites and the City of Philadelphia website. Also, I can show the student how to complete any Right to Know forms for the municipalities if the information is not available.


Megan Quigley

Modernist Fiction and Vagueness: Philosophy, Language, and Form

Having worked in book publishing before my academic career, I believe this research project, which combines scholarly research with learning the tricks of the trade of book publishing, could provide a unique opportunity for a liberal arts student. 

Modernist Fiction and Vagueness: Philosophy, Language, and Form, is a book manuscript that investigates the intertwined history of philosophy and literature in the modern British novel.  The final book manuscript is due to the editor at Cambridge University Press on April 15, 2014, though substantial publishing work will continue after that date.  The project argues that we would better understand modernist fiction if we appreciated its connections to early twentieth-century Anglo-American philosophy.  Building on recent interest in the connections among analytic philosophy, pragmatism, and modernist literature, I offer new readings of novels by Henry James, Virginia Woolf, and James Joyce that link aesthetic and philosophical vagueness.  Overall, I maintain that debates about vagueness instigated the transition in the form and language of the modernist novel.  The question of vagueness—how precise language can possibly be and how it can match up with our experience of the world—is still a thriving topic in philosophy, computer science, and linguistics.  I argue that we should read vagueness—whether it be indefinability, fuzziness, or the reconceptualization of literary realism—not as an aesthetic deficiency but as a defining attribute of much modernist fiction.

This research position would help a freshman student to learn the skills necessary for researching, editing, proofreading and, finally, publishing an interdisciplinary liberal arts book.  Specifically the tasks would include:


  • Tracking down literary and philosophical texts for citations, including complex primary source treasure hunting.
  • Helping with work on permissions (contacting researching libraries, etc.).
  • Proofreading and learning to use the Chicago Manual of Style.


  • Learning about the publishing business: author bios, blurbs, industry standards.
  • Researching competitive works on philosophy and literature.
  • Drafting book jacket copy.


Tina Yang


Due to recent corporate scandals and financial crisis, there is a growing focus and an urgent need to understand the relation between ethical education and its impact on students’ behaviors. I propose to study whether a CEO’s education background affects his or her firm’s behavior. Specifically, I want to test when a CEO has a degree from a private institution, whether his or her firm behaves more ethically, e.g., less earnings management, higher social ratings for the firm, and fewer lawsuits. The responsibilities include collecting data on CEO education background and literature review.


Elizabeth Dowdell

Self-Exploitation and Electronic Aggression: High Risk Internet Behaviors

Internet safety is a growing global concern, especially for adolescents who are living in an “instant messaging” world of technological communication and social networks.  The primary goal of this research project is to examine the relationship(s) between a range of risk-related and Internet-related behaviors. This grant surveyed high school students about participation in electronic aggression, self-exploitative behaviors and risky social networking behaviors (e.g. cyber bullying, aggressive text messaging, auto-pornography, “sexting”, Face Roulette).  Questions asked were specific to electronic aggression, about what differentiates students who use the Internet to embarrass, harass, or bully others from the student victims. 

A total sample of 5,453 high school students was obtained and the project is currently in the process of final data analysis and final report development.  Attention will be given to identifying specific risk behaviors in addition to answering the research questions. Review of literatures, use of Excel worksheets and Word documentation will be required as the preparation for the final report dissemination.

Seeking a freshman student who possesses high personal motivation, self-management, and detail-orientation to perform the following duties that include:

Being able to handle and protect confidential and sensitive data with integrity.

To conduct literature and database searches,

To contribute to the planning and production of reports and publications.

Assistance with the preparation of papers for the US Department of Justice, law enforcement, and health care organizations as well as professionals.

To be a strong member of the current research team.

Assist professor in design of the final report which will include preparing print documents, and other graphics using Word and Excel.


Melissa O'Connor

Identifying Critical Factors in Determining Readiness for Discharge from Skilled Home Health Services

In 2011, 3.4 million Medicare beneficiaries received approximately 6.9 million skilled home health episodes costing Medicare 18.4 billion dollars. Medicare relies upon home health clinicians and physicians to evaluate beneficiary needs and to decide to discharge from skilled home health or recertify patients for an additional 60-day episode of care. However, there are no national, empirically derived decision support tools to assist in making these important decisions regarding determining readiness for discharge. Decision support in nursing is an understudied but emerging area of science and as evidence-based practice develops, research based methods to support decision making will become more common.

A lack of readiness for discharge from home health could also result in poor outcomes such as hospitalization, emergency department use, increased physician visits, potential for medical errors, shorter time to death, decline in functional status and reduced quality of life. The purpose of this study is to elicit interdisciplinary home health clinician and physician knowledge about the factors considered important to determine readiness for discharge among older adults vulnerable for poor outcomes. This pilot is the first step in using this knowledge to build a decision model associated with experts’ recommendations for discharge from skilled home health services.

Seeking a highly-motivated freshman student who is detailed oriented with excellent time-management skills to perform the following duties with my assistance:  

  • Conduct literature searches
  • Manuscript preparation for publication
  • Organize and code qualitative interview data

A working knowledge of Word and Excel is preferred