Scholarly Undergraduate Research Experience (SURE) Award

Azusa Pacific University’s Scholarly Undergraduate Research Experience (SURE) Award—which requires a dean’s nomination—funds competitive research grant proposals written by undergraduates to work under the guidance of full-time faculty-mentors. For the purposes of this award, the Council on Undergraduate Research defines undergraduate research as “an inquiry or investigation conducted by an undergraduate student that makes an original intellectual or creative contribution to the discipline.”1 The goal of SURE is to foster a culture of undergraduate research by:

  • Promoting undergraduate student/faculty research dyads
  • Encouraging the undergraduate research experience
  • Supporting the undergraduate grant writing process
  • Providing an opportunity for undergraduate students to finesse their research findings for presentation at an academic conference and/or for publication

Since its inception in 2013, SURE has funded 58 student/faculty dyads from across the disciplines, resulting in multiple professional conference presentations, several peer-reviewed publications, participation in APU’s Undergraduate Research Showcases, and at least one national award (2016 SURE recipient Tess Scherkenback received an American Enterprise Institute grant). This important funding opportunity has significantly increased the quantity and quality of APU’s vibrant undergraduate research efforts.

For more information, see our SURE promotional video.

2023 SURE Award application (MS Word)

Past Recipients


Exploring the Therapeutic Potential of Spirocyclic Small Molecules as Anticancer Drugs
Cheyenne Woon, Biochemistry (Mentor: Kevin Huang, PhD, Associate Professor, Department of Biology and Chemistry)

Addressing Barriers to Health Care and Public Health Interventions Among Vulnerable Populations in Mae Sot, Thailand, and Ensenada, Mexico
Julia Michaella Mercado, Nursing (Mentor: Koy Parada, PhD, Assistant Professor, School of Nursing)

Interpersonal Violence: Capturing the Voices of Students at a Faith-Based Institution
Sara Delfina Posadas, Criminal Justice and Spanish (Mentor: Candice Williams, PhD, Chair and Assistant Professor, Department of Criminal Justice


Automatically Classifying Stochastic Functions Using Deep Learning
Will Cook, Engineering (Mentor: James Yeh, PhD, Professor and Chair, Department of Engineering and Computer Science

Investigation into the SmMAK16 protein and its role in rRNA through a zinc finger motif
Hannah Kersemeier, Biochemistry and Honors Humanities (Mentor: Jon Milhon, PhD, Professor, Department of Biology and Chemistry

Exploring the rational drug design process in the synthesis and evaluation of novel spirocyclic small molecules
Ye Seong (Dave) Koo, Biochemistry; Psychology minor (Mentor: Kevin Huang, Associate Professor, Department of Biology and Chemistry

Our Backs to Eden: Toward an Eschatology Informed by Darwin
Emmalyn Morgan, Psychology and Honors Humanities (Mentor: Joshua Morris, PhD, Professor, Honors College)

Metabolic studies in Gromphadorhina portentosa
Justin Soliman, Biology and Honors Humanities (Mentor: Kenneth Sossa, PhD, Professor, Department of Biology and Chemistry)

The Making of The Uses of the University
Cade Wallrath, History (Mentor: Ethan Schrum, Associate Professor of History, Department of History and Political Science)


Deterrence and Mutually Assured Destruction in the Age of Ballistic Missile Defense Systems
Abigail Brown, International Relations and Honors Humanities (Mentor: Daniel Palm, PhD, Chair, Department of History and Political Science)

Philosophical Tension: The Apprenticeship/Mentorship Model of Learning vs. the Democratization of Learning Environments
Peter Cooley, Music Education and Honors Humanities (Mentor: John Burdett, EdD, Department of Music Studies)

Undergraduate Social Work Students’ Attitudes Toward Diverse Gender and Sexual Identities at Azusa Pacific University: Implications for BSW Education
Chloé DePledge, Social Work, (Mentor: Anupama Jacob, PhD, Department of Social Work)

The Church, Abortion, and Reproductive Injustice: Reframing Abortion Rhetoric
Anna Disser, Social Work (Mentor: Jennifer Buck, PhD, Department of Practical Theology)

Systems Engineering for a Satellite Network Alternative to Black Boxes for Aircraft
Karina Gray, Engineering (Mentor: George Thomas, PhD, Chair, Department of Engineering and Computer Science)

The Impact of Christian Parents’ Attitudes on Their Homosexual Children’s Faith Development
Mudi Li, Psychology; Honors Humanities minor (Mentors: Andrew Shelton, PhD, and Kathryn Ecklund, PhD, Chair, Department of Psychology

Kinesiophobia Prevalence among College Athletes
Lindsey McNeely, Kinesiology (Mentor: Robert Dudley, PhD (Cand) Department of Kinesiology)

Race/Ethnicity, Social Class, and Cultural Variables on Mental Health Effects of COVID-19
Karmanjeet Singh, Psychology (Mentor: Andrew Shelton, PhD, Department of Psychology)


SURE Awards canceled due to COVID-19.


Music Fundamentals for Children with Disabilities
Miguel Álvarez-Díaz III (Mentor: Alexander Koops, DMA (Department of Music Studies)

American Christianity and the Concept of the Secular in the Mid-Twentieth Century
Elissabeth Buckles (Mentor: Ethan Schrum, PhD, Department of History and Political Science)

Identifying Common and Unique Factors of Math Performance Using 2015 PISA Data: A Cross-cultural Comparison by Big Data Analytics
Lydia Gaid (Mentor: Chong Ho (Alex) Yu, PhD, Department of Psychology)

Progress Towards an Efficient Synthesis of Allicin
Amelia Gray (Mentor: Kevin S. Huang, PhD, Department of Biology and Chemistry)

Music of Hispanic Influence: Compositions for School Instrumental Music Ensembles
Olivia Huizar (Mentor: John Burdett, EdD, Department of Music Studies)

A Theological Case Against Fast Fashion
Moriah Lorris (Mentor: Jennifer Buck, PhD, Department of Practical Theology)

The Religious Origins of the Mixtec Transnational Community (withdrew)
Kevin McDaniel (Mentor: Bryan Lamkin, PhD, Department of History and Political Science)

The Conscious Machine
Bell’aria Sarian (Mentor: Joshua Rasmussen, PhD, Department of Philosophy)


Emotional Suppression Between College Roommates
Sierra Bridge and Anna Dickinson (Mentor: Courtney Davis, PhD, Department of Communication Studies)

Cultural Competence in the Special Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Infants, and Children (WIC) in Azusa, California
Juliana D’Aoust (Mentors: Priscila Díaz Castañeda, PhD, and Kathryn Ecklund, PhD, Department of Psychology)

Bridging the Research-Practice Divide: Barrier Identification to Field-based Research Implementation in Social Work Practice
Martha Floyd (Mentors: Anupama Jacob, PhD, and Amy Tauati, MSW, Department of Social Work)

Saving the Secular Mystic: Charles Taylor on the Romantics
Jensen A. Kirkendall (Mentor: Adam Green, PhD, Department of Philosophy)

Spirocyclic Heterocycles as Potential Drug Candidates for the Treatment of Cancer Cells
Jordan Mar (Mentor: Kevin S. Huang, PhD, Department of Biology and Chemistry)

Chief Health Complaints and Barriers to Follow-up Care in Los Angeles County’s Diverse Homeless Populations of Skid Row, Pasadena, East San Gabriel Valley, and Hollywood (Withdrew)
Diane Lexi Neypes (Mentor: Koy Parada, MPH, PhD(c), School of Nursing)

Exploring Complex Religious Responses to Trauma: Associations between Religious Coping, Posttraumatic Stress, and Posttraumatic Growth
Emma Steele (Mentor: Curtis Lehmann, PhD, Department of Psychology)

All Hail King Killmonger: A Study of the Construction of Black Identity in Popular Culture (Withdrew)
Lee Vaugh (Mentor: Christopher Noble, PhD, Department of English/High Sierra Program)


Measuring the Effects of Nature and Urban Sounds on Directed Attention
Bri Askew (Mentor: Teresa Pegors, PhD, Department of Psychology)

10GHz and 24GHz Doppler Radars for Automobile Traffic Flow Optimization
Ryan Brown (Mentor: Rick Sturdivant, PhD, Department of Engineering and Computer Science)

Genetic Engineering of Immune Cells with Costimulatory Chimeras for Enhanced Anti-tumor Targeting
Abel de Castro (Mentor: Megan Prosser, PhD, Department of Biology and Chemistry)

Quaker Peacemaker? Richard Nixon and the Strategic Arms Limitations Treaty with the Soviet Union
Zachary Fuhr (Mentor: Ethan Schrum, PhD, Department of History and Political Science)

  • Published: Fuhr, Zachary. “Hot Line Ring: Richard Nixon and the Hot Line Modernization Agreement of 1971,” History Matters: An Undergraduate Journal of Historical Research (Appalachian State University): Volume 15 (May 2018)

Investigating the Epistemology of Testimony as it Relates to Self-worth
Cherrish Hardy (Mentors: Rico Vitz, PhD, and Teri Merrick, PhD, Department of Philosophy)

Ultrasonographic Assessment of Femoral Cartilage Thickness in Ultramarathon Runners
Rachel Lundblom (Mentor: Robert Dudley, MS, Department of Exercise and Sport Science)

Opportunities at Freedom: Victims of Human Trafficking and Development of Psychological Capital (PSYCap)
Peter John Nishimoto (Mentor: Cheryl Boyd, PhD, APRN, Department of Nursing)

Neuroprotective Effects of 15-Deoxy-Δ12,14-prostaglandin J2 on Human Pericytes or Human Astrocytes Using Oxygen Glucose Deprivation (OGD)
Austin Santiago (Mentor: Kathleen Tallman, PhD, Department of Biology and Chemistry)


Identifying Facilitators and Barriers to Health Care in Victims and Survivors of Human Sex Trafficking in America
Sarah Corr (Mentor: Cheryl Boyd, PhD, APRN, Department of Nursing)

  • Presented at:
    • Western Institute of Nursing, Denver, Colorado (April 2017)
    • APU School of Nursing Research Symposium (March 2017)
    • APU Common Day of Learning as “Sex Trafficking: What To Know and What To Do” (March 2017)

Two-dimensional Discrete Solitons in a Lattice with Embedded PT-symmetric Defect
Kevin Frank (Mentor: Edwin Ding, PhD, Department of Mathematics and Physics)

Art or Propaganda: The Use of Words during the Harlem Renaissance
Gabrielle Lawrence-Cormier (Mentor: Patricia Andujo, PhD, Department of English)

  • Co-presented (with Patricia Andujo) at:
    • Conference on Christianity and Literature, California Baptist University, Riverside, California (May 2016)

Creating Culture-specific False Memories
Hyun Seo Lee (Mentor: Benjamin Marsh, PhD, Department of Undergraduate Psychology)

Minding the ‘Unbridgeable Gap’: The Future of Conscientious Objection in a Secular Age
Alain León (Mentor: Rico Vitz, PhD, Department of Philosophy)

  • Published: Alain Julian León and Rico Vitz. Christian Bioethics Journal: Non-Ecumenical Studies in Medical Morality (Oxford University Press): Volume 23, Issue 2, pp. 149-168 (August 2017)

Overexpression of GFP-tagged KAP3 in Cell Culture Shows Specific Subcellular Localization Patterns and Effects on Cell Morphology Involving Disruption of the Actin Cytoskeleton
James Macatangay (Mentor: Matthew Berezuk, PhD, Department of Biology and Chemistry)

Helping the Homeless: A Model of Public and Private Sector Partnership in Los Angeles County
Tess Scherkenback (Mentor: Abbylin Sellers, PhD, Department of History and Political Science)

  • Awarded:
    • Values & Capitalism Young Scholar Award, American Enterprise Institute, 2016-2017
    • Outstanding Political Science Major 2017
  • Presented at:
    • Glendora City Council (Spring 2017)
    • Glendora Chamber of Commerce Legislative Action Committee (Spring 2017)
    • Project defense before a panel of policy experts on homelessness and poverty at the American Enterprise Institute, Washington, DC (April 2017)
  • Published: Scherkenback, Tess. “Helping the Homeless: A Model of Public- and Private-Sector Partnership in Los Angeles County,” Values & Capitalism (American Enterprise Institute): pp. 107-144 (Spring 2017)

Transfiguration on Forked River Mountain
Megan Wood (Mentor: Brent Everett Dickinson, MFA, Department of Art)


Special Olympics—Reach Up
Eric Alirez (Mentor: Warren Koch, PhD, School of Visual and Performing Arts)

Using Spiritual Assessment Questionnaires in Clinical Practice
Katrina Donato (Mentor: Connie Brehm, PhD, FNP, PHN, RN, Department of Nursing)

The Divine Energies and the End of Human Life
Marissa Espinoza (Mentor Rico Vitz, PhD, Department of Philosophy)

Determinants of Labor Participation and Wages Before and After Cancer: Evidence from Structural Break Estimation
Austin Fleming (Mentor: Elwin Tobing, PhD, Business and Management)

Co-precipitation of SmMAK16 and Alpha Importin from Schistosoma Mansoni
Amanda Iavasile (Mentor: Jon Milhon, PhD, Department of Biology and Chemistry)

At the Heart of Morality Lies Neuro-Visceral Integration: Lower Cardiac Vagal Tone Predicts Utilitarian Moral Judgment
Matthew Kriege (Mentor: Gewnhi Park, PhD, Department of Undergraduate Psychology)

Graphs with Small Zero-diagonal Minimum Rank Over Z3
Josiah Lehman-Schletewitz (Mentors: Johannes André Harmse, PhD, and Sharon McCathern, PhD, Department of Mathematics and Physics)

Appropriating Shakespeare: Coleridge’s Reception of Shakespeare as Criticism
Elizabeth McIntosh (Mentor: Michael Smith, MFA, EdD, Department of English)


Réflexion Fatale
Carolyn Albaugh (Mentor: Bill Catling, MFA, Department of Art)

Evaluation of Anti-CXCR2 Small Molecule Inhibitors as Novel Chemotherapy Targeting the Interleukin-8 Pathway in Colorectal Cancer
Yinghui (Jane) Huang (Mentor: Melissa LaBonte Wilson, PhD, Department of Biology and Chemistry)

Against Indifference: The Me’am Lo’ez and Compassion for the Other
Andrew Soria (Mentor: Carole Lambert, PhD, Department of English)

Home and Career for Men and Women: An Analysis of Career Aspiration, Religiosity, and Gender Role Ideology
Samuel Vaudrey (Annie Tsai, PhD, Department of Undergraduate Psychology)


  1. Based on the Council on Undergraduate Research’s definition of undergraduate research.
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