Support for Scholars 

CURCE grants help students with cost of research and creative pursuits

Students explore research opportunities at last fall's CURCE Fair in the Campus Center Ballroom. (Photo by Patrick Dodson) 

New research awards from Damian Bazadona, left, and Sorrell Chesin are designed to cover some of the miscellaneous costs of student independent study projects.

ALBANY, N.Y. (Feb. 19, 2019) — Ask any student working on a research or creative project, and they’ll let you know there are surprise costs involved. Materials. Printing. Computer programs. Travel to workshops.

CURCE, the Center for Undergraduate Research and Creative Engagement, has grants available to help students with their projects.

The Situation Prize for Research offers $500 grants to nine undergraduates who are “actively engaged in a research, scholarship or creative activity.” Applicants can be full- or part-time, in any class year, and in any academic field. The award, instituted last year, comes from a commitment by Damian Bazadona ’98, the founder of the New York City-based digital marketing agency Situation Interactive.

The Sorrell Chesin Research Award, established in 2018, offers grants of $250 or $500 to full-time juniors and seniors engaged in Life Sciences research under the direction or mentorship of a UAlbany faculty member. Funding comes from a commitment from Sorrell Chesin, whose affiliation with the University began in Student Affairs in 1965. Chesin held numerous leadership positions in University Advancement, including director of planned giving and executive director of the University Foundation, and is on the board of directors of the Emeritus Center.

“Both prizes celebrate and reward students doing experiential learning and research-focused work,” said Casey Kohler, assistant to the vice provost and dean for undergraduate education. “Students can apply for one or both – and even get both.”

JoAnne Malatesta, interim vice provost and dean for undergraduate education, said the funds are emblematic of CURCE’s mission.

“The Center for Undergraduate Research and Creative Engagement was established to support students as they explore research, scholarship and creative activities across campus,” she said. “We are thrilled that the Center is able to provide financial support to our developing scholars as they pursue unique research opportunities and we encourage all students engaged in these activities to apply.”

One of the inaugural winners of the Situation prize was Robin Lieb, an international student from Germany who graduated in 2018. Lieb was juggling his interests in politics and finance when he came up with an honors thesis topic that incorporated both.

A business major and a political science minor, Lieb did research for two years at Rockefeller College’s BAAD (Big Allied and Dangerous) database, which tracks terrorism globally, and then interned with Arch Capital, an multinational insurance corporation.

“While at Arch Capital I wrote a white paper that got published in the “Journal of Reinsurance,” which was a great transition and motivation boost to switch over to finance around the end of my junior year,” Lieb said.

“At that point, I didn’t want to drop politics completely so I was trying to combine politics, being international, and finance into one topic, which is how I came up with my thesis topic that I received the grant for, “The Impact of Labor Rights on Equity Returns: A Cross-Country Analysis.”

Lieb’s project analyzed labor and corporate data from 125 countries to show the impact that labor rights have on working people and on company stakeholders.

Lieb got plenty of direction and encouragement from his faculty advisor, Rita Biswas, an associate professor in the School of Business. And there was data available from free sites, particularly for countries from the developed world. But for developing countries, Lieb had to pay for access to databanks, and that’s where the Situation prize money came in handy. Lieb said he used half the grant for data, and the other half for software needed to analyze the data. He’s still working on the project with Biswas, and hopes to publish his findings.

“Looking back at my career as an undergraduate student, I realize that I was lucky to have had the opportunity to work in research,” said Lieb, who now works at Ayco/Goldman Sachs in Latham as a financial analyst. “Research enriches the experience of students and challenges you on a different level. … You decide what you want to spend time with. If you pick a topic that is interesting to you then you will never have a feeling that you’re ‘wasting your time.’”

Students can apply for the Situation Interactive Prize and the Sorrell Chesin Research Award through March 8. Submissions for CURCE’s 16th annual Undergraduate Conference are due March 15.

CURCE has other opportunities for funding student research: The Undergraduate Conference Travel Grant and Undergraduate Research Grant both provide direct financial support to students who are presenting at conferences and in need of supplies and materials to complete projects. These two grants are funded through the first-year Accelerator funds as part of the University’s Strategic Plan.

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A comprehensive public research university, the University at Albany-SUNY offers more than 120 undergraduate majors and minors and 125 master's, doctoral, and graduate certificate programs. UAlbany is a leader among all New York State colleges and universities in such diverse fields as atmospheric and environmental sciencesbusiness, public health, health sciences, criminal justice, emergency preparedness, engineering and applied sciences, informatics, public administration, social welfare, and sociology taught by an extensive roster of faculty experts. It also offers expanded academic and research opportunities for students through an affiliation with Albany Law School. With a curriculum enhanced by 600 study-abroad opportunities, UAlbany launches great careers.