news-category: Summer Enrichment Programs

Eight Gardner-Webb Students Receive Grants for Focused Research

A collage featuring Blake Henkel on the left and Mia Carlson on the right.
Blake Henkel, left, is researching eugenol, and Mia Carlson is studying changes in the small mammal species at Broad River Greenway.

Summer Scholars Work with Faculty Mentor on Topics They Choose

By Brandon Richmond, ’24, Intern for University Communications

BOILING SPRINGS, N.C.—Eight new scholars received grants from the Summer Undergraduate Research Scholars Program, one of Gardner-Webb University’s academic enrichment opportunities. Every year, the initiative allows a student to spend 40 hours a week working on a project for five weeks with the assistance of a Gardner-Webb professor. The students learn more in their fields and help advance the field itself. They also tap into the professors’ knowledge and experience on how to conduct and complete a scholarly project.  

Summer Scholars started after Professor of English Dr. June Hobbs assumed the position of Director of Undergraduate Research. She wanted to figure out a way for students to focus on full-time research. As she pondered what to do, Hobbs was in an airport and saw a student from a different university wearing a shirt that said, “Summer Scholarships.” From there, the dream was born.  

“I had an epiphany that the thing to do was to have this time of uninterrupted work during the summer,” remarked Hobbs.  

In 2012, the program started with scholar Jeremy Griffin, who went on to become Dr. Jeremy Griffin, whose research has been published in one of the most prestigious chemistry journals in the world, the “Journal of the American Chemical Society.” Griffin received the Stefka Eddins Undergraduate Research award from Gardner-Webb for his Summer Scholars project.  

a photo of Jeremy Griffin when he was working in the lab at Gardner-Webb. He is holding a test tube and there are bottles of ginger ale in the background
Jeremy Griffin, ’13, was the first student to receive a grant from the GWU Undergraduate Research Scholar Program. Working with his mentor, Professor of Biology Dr. David Judge, Griffin compared two methods of extracting the chemicals from ginger ales.

Since then, the program has grown with more students researching a variety of “extraordinary and very successful projects,” Hobbs said. She would love to see the Department of Undergraduate Research develop further into an effort that helps students apply for large scholarships that have a research component.  

After choosing the 2023 Summer Scholars, Hobbs stepped down from the position of director of Undergraduate Research and passed the title onto Dr. Elizabeth Amato, associate professor of political science and international relations.  

Reflecting on why she accepted the new position, Amato said, “I am excited for the opportunity to guide students towards high-impact and high-quality projects and undertakings. I believe it is through something like undergraduate research where students transition from students in the proper sense to experts.”  

Amato believes that one-on-one mentoring is key to the success of the program. “Mentorships are important because they keep you from being lonely in the research process (and) build a relationship between a student and a professor,” she explained.  

The 2023 scholars and their mentors are as follows:  

  • A biblical studies major, Rebecca Majorel, of Winston-Salem, N.C., is studying the positive and negative images of chaos in the Biblical narrative using Mujerista Hermeneutics with the help of her mentor Dr. Anna Sieges-Beal.
a student holds up a paper with fingerprints on it
Savannah Ward
  • Studying biology, Marissa DiMatteo, of Granite Falls, N.C., is working with Dr. Venita Totten to study the chemistry behind false positive tests used in both clinical and forensic fields.
  • Majoring in biology, Savannah Ward, a resident of Conover, N.C., is working with Dr. Venita Totten to observe fingerprints from the perspective of what is similar among family members rather than what is different.
  • Biology major, Mia Carlson, of Mooresville, N.C., is studying changes in the small mammal species composition within the Broad River Greenway with the help of Dr. Joseph Oyugi. She is building off of work done by previous Summer Scholar Christopher Lile.
  • Studying biology, Blake Henkel, of Granite Falls, N.C., with the aid of Dr. Ben Brooks is researching the extraction and characterization of the perfume and food product compound known as eugenol.
  • Majoring in both political science and communication, Emily Cox, a resident of Shelby, N.C., is combining her fields to develop a model for interpreting the effectiveness of framing and/or agenda-setting in the context of Middle East media. She is doing this with the assistance of Dr. Lisa Luedeman.
  • Psychology major, Brenda Manning, of Polkville, N.C., with the aid of Dr. David Carscaddon, is doing a correlational study between adverse childhood experiences and coping skills later in life.
  • Studying world languages, Nehemiah Broadie, of Concord, N.C., is focusing on a correlation study on how one’s eschatological orientations in terms of death, the afterlife, and humankind’s destiny influence mental health. His mentor is Dr. David Carscaddon.

Gardner-Webb University is North Carolina’s recognized leader in private, Christian higher education. A Carnegie-Classified Doctoral/Professional University, GWU is home to nine colleges and schools, more than 80 undergraduate and graduate majors, and a world-class faculty. Located on a beautiful 225-acre campus in Boiling Springs, N.C., Gardner-Webb prepares graduates to impact their chosen professions, equips them with the skills to advance the frontiers of knowledge, and inspires them to make a positive and lasting difference in the lives of others. Ignite your future at

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