Celebrating Academic Excellence

Meet the 2024 Undergraduate Library Research Prize Winners

On May 23, 2024, the 18th annual Undergraduate Library Research Prize (ULRP) recipients were honored during an awards ceremony at Geisel Library. This award was established to recognize and reward students demonstrating deep engagement with the Library’s collections, resources and services while producing scholarly work.

Faculty play a crucial role in nominating students for the award, and applicants must have presented their projects at research-focused events — such as the Undergraduate Research Conference and the Summer Research Conference — or submitted their projects for UC San Diego course credit.

All seven students recognized at this year’s ceremony will have a book of their choosing plated in their name, and their research projects will be showcased in eScholarship, the University of California’s open access publishing platform. Additionally, the five first-place winners each received a $1,000 cash award.

Join us in congratulating this year’s awardees!

Jingyi Chen

Social Sciences, Arts & Humanities Winner

Major Political Science and Data Analytics

Project Domestic Abuse and Women’s Legal Consciousness: Cases from Magazines and Newspapers in China in the 1930s

Nominated by Weijing Lu, Ph.D., Professor, Department of History

Faculty Nomination Highlights During the winter of 2024, Jingyi worked under my mentorship in the Faculty Mentor Program. The subject of her study was challenging due to the scarcity of primary sources, but Jingyi was not deterred. To learn about the Library’s resources, she frequently consulted Chinese Studies Librarian Xi Chen. Jingyi managed to utilize a wide range of collections and databases from our Library and accessed additional publications through our interlibrary loan service. Jingyi devoted herself to the project and worked tirelessly throughout the quarter to locate, translate and analyze a wide range of sources, nearly all of which came from or were acquired through the Library. I am immensely impressed by the seriousness and persistence with which she carried out her research.

“This project taught me the importance of meticulousness and determination in library research. I also learned how to creatively leverage untapped primary sources to unveil the agency of historically marginalized groups, which is significant for promoting equity, diversity and inclusion in historical scholarship.” – Jingyi Chen

Rishi Yalamarty

Life and Health Sciences Winner

Major Biology

Project A Blood-Based Diagnostic Approach for Head and Neck Squamous Cell Carcinoma

Nominated by Weg Ongkeko, M.D., Ph.D., Associate Professor, Department of Otolaryngology-Head and Neck Surgery

Faculty Nomination Highlights Rishi joined my laboratory and immediately immersed himself in the Library’s resources, spending countless hours reading textbooks, articles and primary research papers. He played a key role in our lab’s development of a diagnostic test, expertly filtering through thousands of articles on diagnostics, reviewing commercial tests, studying various academic and private websites, and seeking out librarians’ assistance. Rishi’s dedication and initiative were crucial in narrowing our research focus, and his work ethic is a rare quality in a freshman. His contributions are a testament to his ability to complete impactful projects with unmatched fervor, dedication and deftness.

“The resources provided by the Library have been invaluable to my academic career as a researcher and undergraduate student. My project would not have been possible without the Library staff and its resources, and I am immensely thankful to everyone who helped me with this project!” – Rishi Yalamarty

Mia Elliot

Special Collections & Archives Winner

Major History and Literature

Project Uncovering History Through Archival Poetry: Susan Howe’s The Midnight

Nominated by Ameeth Vijay, Ph.D., Associate Professor of Literature, Modern and Contemporary Global Literatures in English

Faculty Nomination Highlights Mia’s essay for my Experimentalism in Modern Anglophone Poetry course extensively utilized the Library’s Special Collections & Archives. As a class, we visited Special Collections to examine concrete and visual poetry examples. For the final project, students could write an essay based on these items, and Mia, undeterred by the extra time and effort needed for archival research, chose this option. Her essay on Susan Howe’s poetry explored the recoverability of lost, forgotten or obscured histories, relying on unique materials only available in Special Collections. Mia engaged deeply with the material, aided by Librarian Nina Mamikunian, whose expertise was crucial. This project highlighted Mia’s research skills and laid the groundwork for her future archival research. Her enthusiasm and dedication were evident in the time spent on this project, showcasing her talent and ability to see it through successfully.

“I have often conducted archival research online; thus, entering the physical archive to conduct my self-directed research felt empowering and affirming of my interests and future pursuits. As it was my first time conducting real-life archival research and with the help of the kind staff, I learned about archival procedures and felt encouraged by their assistance and care.” -Mia Elliot

Aashi Patel

Special Collections & Archives Honorable Mention Awardee

Major Biochemistry

Project The Circle of Violence: Eigner’s Poetry Amid the Socio-Political Unrest of the 1960s

Nominated by Ameeth Vijay, Ph.D., Associate Professor of Literature, Modern and Contemporary Global Literatures in English

Faculty Nomination Highlights Aashi’s paper for my Experimentalism in Anglophone Poetry course focused on American poet Larry Eigner, using resources from the Library’s Special Collections & Archives. She located correspondence between Eigner and his contemporaries to explore the socio-political stakes of his work. Librarian Nina Mamikunian was an essential resource as she helped Aashi locate and scan some of these relevant pieces from the archives. Through this project, Aashi learned important skills as a researcher. She learned how to use archival library resources, access librarians’ expertise, and bring together disparate primary texts to form a convincing argument grounded in Eigner’s historical and literary contexts.

“I saw the importance of great mentorship in the research process, leaving me with lessons I will carry forward. This research experience has deepened my appreciation for the power of using the right resources and the transformative potential of archival research in shaping our understanding of literature, art and history.” -Aashi Patel

Srianusha Nandula and Saachi Shenoy

Data & GIS Lab Winners

Major Data Science

Project Enhancing Historical Understanding with Retrieval Augmented Generation

Nominated by Colin Jemmott, Lecturer, Halicio´glu Data Science Institute

Faculty Nomination Highlights Anusha and Sacchi’s senior capstone project in Data Science 180 used retrieval augmented generation, combining semantic search and a large language model, to answer historical questions using primary sources. Their research demonstrated a high level of understanding and ability to apply complex concepts. Inspired by data guides curated by Data Science Librarian Stephanie Labou, their original topic was too broad, so they scoured the Library website for primary datasets and settled on utilizing historical archives of newspaper articles. Despite complications, they consulted with Labou and negotiated dataset use with lawyers. Anusha and Sacchi excelled in grasping the bigger picture and translating abstract ideas into functional, clean code. Their analytical approach to problem-solving shows a deep understanding of the practical implications and potential of data science.

“This project substantially enhanced our understanding of effective research methodologies. We learned the importance of accurate data curation and the critical role of library resources in providing reliable information.” Srianusha Nandula and Saachi Shenoy

Annie Do

Data & GIS Lab Honorable Mention Awardee

Major Human Biology

Project tRNA-Derived Fragments as Post-Transcriptional Regulators of Oncogenes and Tumor Suppressor Genes in Papillary Thyroid Carcinoma

Nominated by Weg Ongkeko, M.D., Ph.D., Associate Professor, Department of Otolaryngology-Head and Neck Surgery

Faculty Nomination Highlights Annie, a first-generation student, has displayed commendable resilience and perseverance in her research on transfer RNA-derived fragments in papillary thyroid carcinoma. She has faced common challenges in basic science and bioinformatics research and used them as opportunities for growth and leadership. Using the Library’s Data & GIS resources, Annie methodically determined the most appropriate tests to use, giving her the critical data she needed. With the assistance of a librarian, she identified the best plotting methods to visualize and present her data. Unlike many undergraduate researchers, Annie takes agency in her research and strives to improve her skill set through new challenges. This trait led to her co-presenting at the American Association for Cancer Research conference in April 2024, and I have no doubt it will continue to bring her success.

“As a beginning programmer, I believe the most valuable aspect of the Data & GIS Lab is the wealth of knowledge its librarians offer. I am grateful for the support the Lab and its librarians have provided in my project; thanks to them, I am a more confident and capable bioinformatician today.” – Annie Do

Thank you to the 2024 ULRP jury members:

  • Lynda Claassen, Director of Special Collections & Archives
  • Christina Mayberry, Engineering Librarian
  • Jin Moon, Subject Specialist for Japanese Studies and Korean Studies
  • Zemirah Ngow, Subject Specialist for Psychiatry and Bioinformatics
  • Mike Smith, Subject Specialist for Maps, Philosophy, Religion and Jewish Studies
  • Farshad Sonboldel, World History and Cultures Librarian
  • Teri Vogel, Subject Specialist for Chemistry and Biochemistry, Materials Science, Chemical Engineering and NanoEngineering

Interested in sponsoring the 2025 Undergraduate Library Research Prize? Contact Jennifer Brown at jgbrown@ucsd.edu.