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UC San Diego Announces 2020 Undergraduate Library Research Prize Winners

Four students recognized for strategically leveraging UC San Diego Library resources and services to produce groundbreaking research

From left to right: Garrett Martin, Ashley Amaladhas, Syreeta Nolan, and Jack Whiteley.


  • April Green

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  • April Green

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Today, the UC San Diego Library, which is ranked among the nation's top 25 public academic libraries, announced the 2020 recipients of the Undergraduate Library Research Prize (ULRP), an annual scholarship program that enriches the undergraduate student experience at UC San Diego by promoting innovative and collaborative research. Now in its 14th year, this annual award recognizes the outstanding scholarly work of undergraduates who demonstrate critical thinking, problem-solving, and strategic use of Library services, resources, and expertise in support of the university’s mission.

“Every year, the Undergraduate Research Prize shows the innumerable ways the Library is at the center of student research, regardless of academic discipline,” said David Artis, dean of Undergraduate Research Advancement and director of Academic Enrichment Programs (AEP) at UC San Diego. “This year, the Library has been even more vital to undergraduate research as students found access to physical research materials limited. The resources the Library provides, including access to its virtual holdings and temporary emergency access to other holdings, were always available along with their dedicated staff.”

Awards are given in two categories: Social Sciences, Arts, and Humanities and Life Sciences, Physical Sciences, and Engineering. They include a cash award of $1,000 and $500 for first and second place, respectively. To be considered for the prize, students must be nominated by a faculty member and participate in either the annual UC San Diego Undergraduate Research Conference (hosted by AEP), or in other university programs that foster and recognize student research and scholarship. This year, due to the campus closure, AEP transitioned the Undergraduate Research Conference to a virtual environment with the creation of the Online Undergraduate Research Symposium (OURS).

“This year's winners have shown exceptional persistence, resilience, creativity, and commitment as they pursued their studies in the face of extraordinary obstacles,” Artis added. “Their success is admirable and also demonstrates the Library, faculty mentors, and Academic Enrichment Program staff are dependable partners even in difficult times.”

The UC San Diego students receiving the 2020 Undergraduate Library Research Prize are Garrett Martin, a Sociology major with a concentration in Social Inequality at Earl Warren College; Ashley Amaladhas, a Global Health and Psychology double major at Thurgood Marshall College; Syreeta Nolan, a Psychology major specializing in Human Health at Earl Warren College; and Jack Whiteley, a Physiology and Neuroscience major at Revelle College.

Social Sciences | Arts | Humanities

  • First Place | Garrett Martin

Garrett Martin won first prize in the Social Sciences, Arts, and Humanities category for his honors thesis, “Leveraging Death: Violence, Language, and History in the Conceptualization of Mortality Salient Activism.” Under the guidance of Christena Turner, PhD, director of the Japanese Studies Program and adjunct associate professor at the School of Global Policy and Strategy (GPS), and Jeff Haydu, PhD, professor in the Department of Sociology, Martin sought to establish a new form of social activism called “Mortality Salient Activism.” This new form of activism is one in which participants’ perceptions of risk are absolute, meaning they accept that their life may be compromised in pursuit of their goal.

Martin drew from two main case groups for this research, armed Jewish resistance groups during the Holocaust and violent religious cults. He was able to leverage multiple Library resources, including Roger (the Library’s online catalog), which gained him access to academic journals, articles, and databases that allowed him to gain a better understanding of the two resistance groups and draw compelling conclusions. “Receiving this award is a great honor,” said Martin. “I want to thank the Library and its staff for readily and consistently providing the support and resources students need to succeed.”

  • Second Place | Ashley Amaladhas

Nominated by Ellen Kozelka, PhD, psychological and medical anthropologist in the Department of Anthropology, Ashley Amaladhas took second place in the Social Sciences, Arts, and Humanities category for her thesis, “Birds and Bees: The Effects of Comprehensive Sexual Health Education on Adolescents.” This research is firmly rooted in public health, specifically within the areas of education and policy.

“Through the use of the Global Health Senior Capstone Library Guide and A-Z online databases, I was able to access journals that allowed me to gauge the success levels of intervention programs and reformed programs in educating adolescents in the United States on key sexual health topics,” Amaladhas explained. This led to further research on the political and policy-based reasons as to why comprehensive sexual education (CSE) is not more widely adopted in the U.S. Amaladhas also met with librarians to optimize her search results and utilized the Writing Center at the Teaching + Learning Commons to craft a strong argument and final paper that met both her and her mentors’ expectations.

Life Sciences | Physical Sciences | Engineering

  • First Place | Syreeta Nolan

Syreeta Nolan won first place in the Life Sciences, Physical Sciences, and Engineering category. Mentored by Francesca Telese, PhD, assistant professor in the Department of Medicine, and Sara Browne, PhD, associate professor of clinical medicine in the Department of Medicine, Nolan serves as project manager on this research project overseeing two fellow UC San Diego students, Ana Boisvert and Sabraé O’connell. In their paper entitled, “A Systematic Review of Methamphetamine Use Disorder Considering Syndemic Factors in HIV,” the team seeks to explore the synergistic effects between HIV and methamphetamine (meth) use disorder.

This summer marks the beginning of their research, which will be conducted as a systematic review over the next year. The systematic review is being overseen by Subject Specialist for Medicine Karen Heskett, who is considered a co-author on this project due to her efforts in supporting this research. “Without Library resources, this project would not have been possible,” Nolan stated. “The Library’s Systematic Review Service allowed our team to set the foundation for a thesis we think will make an impact on the medical field, especially in the lives of those affected by meth, which has no FDA-approved pharmaceutical treatment.”

  • Second Place | Jack Whiteley

Jack Whiteley took second place in the Life Sciences, Physical Sciences, and Engineering category for his research project entitled, “Potassium Chloride-Dependent Activation of Immediate Early Genes in an Induced Neuron Model.” Working alongside advisor Carol Marchetto, PhD, senior staff scientist at the Salk Institute, Whiteley investigated a model to examine differentially expressed genes in Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD).

To better understand the experimental background, methodology, and goals of his project, Whiteley accessed several Library resources, including PubMed, Google Scholar, JSTOR, and National Center for Biotechnology Information (NCBI). He attributes his success to his ability to easily access articles in the public domain through UC San Diego’s VPN. “This unlocked a treasure trove of resources that were relevant to my research,” Whiteley said. “The completion of this project and its high-quality outcome would not have been possible without access to the wide array of materials the Library provides.”

“Creating a safe, accessible, and inspirational space for information sharing is our primary charge,” said University Librarian Erik Mitchell. “We are deeply committed to ensuring each student has access to the materials they need to explore their areas of study. Through their masterful use of the Library’s resources, this year’s ULRP winners have demonstrated their vigorous pursuit of their respective academic interests. I am honored to congratulate and recognize each of them for their efforts and look forward to seeing what they do next.”

The Undergraduate Library Research Prize is co-sponsored by the UC San Diego Library, Office of the Vice Chancellor for Student Affairs, and UC San Diego Alumni. For more information about the Undergraduate Library Research Prize, visit

About the UC San Diego Library:

The UC San Diego Library, ranked among the nation's top 25 public academic libraries, plays a critical role in advancing and supporting the university's research, teaching, patient care, and public service missions. The world-renowned research for which UC San Diego is known starts at the UC San Diego Library, which provides the foundation of knowledge needed to advance cutting-edge discoveries in a wide range of disciplines, from healthcare and science to public policy and the arts.

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