Latest News

Arts and Letters Students Receive Undergraduate Library Research Awards

Author: Jessica Trobaugh Temple

Four University of Notre Dame students—including three from the College of Arts and Letters—received an Undergraduate Library Research Award (ULRA) for their exemplary research skills during a special event at the eighth annual Undergraduate Scholars Conference on May 1. More than 80 undergraduate research and scholarship projects were showcased at the conference.

The Undergraduate Library Research Award is presented to students who demonstrate excellent research skills through their broad use of library resources, collections, services and expertise for their scholarly and creative projects. The winners summarized their research processes and projects in a written essay and in five-minute “lightning talk” videos, both of which were highlighted during the awards presentations.

Sponsored by the Hesburgh Libraries and the Center for Undergraduate Scholarly Engagement (CUSE), the ULRA competition honors those who conduct original research and highlights the extensive sources, types and methods of inquiry that modern-age research libraries provide today’s students. The network of support between the Hesburgh Libraries, CUSE and other campus partners also offers inspiration to students who are beginning original research or capstone projects but are not sure how to get started.

“The University is committed to advancing undergraduate research in every discipline. Ensuring that all of our students have access to a broad range of specialized research tools, services and expertise is an important part of supporting that commitment," said Diane Walker, Edward H. Arnold University Librarian. “Helping to build these skills is critical not only to achieving academic success but also to preparing students for challenges in the world beyond Notre Dame.”

Meet the winners:

Madelynn Green, College of Arts and Letters, Political Science

Madelynn Green Madelynn Green

Madelynn Green won first prize for utilizing research skills throughout her senior thesis, “From Decay to Cool: Street Art and Urban Renewal in Kreuzberg, Berlin and the East End of London.” Her adviser was Ricardo Ramirez, associate professor of political science. Green, a political science major, wrote her thesis on street art, or images and text that are illegally painted on public and private property. Her work explored the relationship between street art, which conveys a sociopolitical message, and the economic renewal of the urban areas where it appeared in Kreuzberg, Berlin, and London’s East End.

She gathered research during travels to both regions, and from Hesburgh Libraries resources, such as print sources, electronic journals, subject librarians, and research specialists. The 2014 Fall Senior Thesis Camp, she said, “was invaluable to my research process.” The 40-hour research and writing session in the Hesburgh Library “helped me organize my research into manageable chunks, streamline the academic language of my argument and successfully access and integrate information I found on shelves, in electronic journals, and from my interviews and observations.”

Emily Mediate, College of Arts and Letters, Africana studies and Arts and Letters pre-health

Emily Mediate Emily Mediate

Honorable mention in the same category was awarded to Emily Mediate, an Africana studies and Arts and Letters pre-health major. Advised by Terence McDonnell, Kellogg Assistant Professor of Sociology, Mediate’s work is titled, “Disabling Donor Demands: The Coercion of the International HIV/AIDS Agenda.” Her work analyzes how international funding has constrained local efforts to address AIDS in Uganda. In relationship to her minor in international development studies, she focuses on foreign policy and directs specific attention toward the United States’ PEPFAR (President’s Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief) funding.

Mediate initiated her research while studying in the Notre Dame London program. From there, she consulted electronic resources, databases, articles, and e-books to explore her broad topic and also received assistance from a Notre Dame London Undergraduate Program librarian, Alice Tyrell.

“She showed me how to request and receive documents from campus through the interlibrary loan electronic delivery system and chat with a librarian on the Hesburgh Libraries’ website,” Mediate said.

Later, she tapped into offerings provided through the Center for Digital Scholarship in the Hesburgh Library.

“From the text-mining course that allowed me to extract as much meaning as possible from my interviews to the Stata course that helped me to generate statistics from my Excel document of foreign medical personnel, the CDS was invaluable in the data synthesis and analysis process,” she said.

Nicholas Turner, College of Engineering, mechanical engineering

Nicholas Turner Nicholas Turner

Nicholas Turner, who is enrolled in the University’s dual MBA/engineering program, took first place in the 20000–40000 level of the ULRA awards. His work, “A Review of Origami and its Applications in Mechanical Engineering,” provides an overview of current research on the subject. Professors Mihir Sen and Bill Goodwine of the Department of Aerospace and Mechanical Engineering served as his advisers. The goal of his review, said Turner, is to introduce the subject of origami—the ancient Japanese art of paper folding—to mechanical engineers “to encourage future origami-based design and applications.” In the last 50 years, he noted, origami has been applied to the development of surgical tools and stents as well as solar panels in outer space.

He initiated his research at the Engineering Library, where he referenced textbooks, electronic journals, online searches and video lectures to study the foundations of mathematical origami, “which is the theoretical basis for engineering applications,” he said.

From there he compiled his comprehensive origami engineering review, which also serves as a catalog and readers’ guide to major resources on the subject. During this process, he said, “The library staff encouraged my work and was always very eager to provide assistance and offer advice.”

Julia Banasikowski, Mendoza College of Business, accountancy, and College of Arts and Letters, minor in European studies

Julia Banasikowski Julia Banasikowski

In the 20000-40000 level, senior Julia Banasikowski garnered honorable mention for her capstone paper, “Slaughter, Suit, and Sorrow: The Experience of Witomiła Wołk-Jezierska and the Katyń Massacre.” Professor of history Alexander M. Martin advised her work. Her paper relays the historical account of the Katyń Massacre, the mass executions of more than 21,000 Polish nationals and intellectual leaders by the Soviet secret police during 1940. For her work, Banasikowski traveled to Poland and interviewed Witomiła Wołk-Jezierska, whose father was murdered in the massacre. She also examines how the suppression of facts about the event—Russia’s government is still withholding documents concerning the location of victims’ remains—have shaped Polish culture and the attitudes of its people.

Banasikowski conducted the bulk of her original research on the Hesburgh Library’s 11th floor, which houses the History of the Eastern Hemisphere collections.

“The Hesburgh Library has an impressive physical collection of Polish materials, ranging from books to articles to microfilms, which I incorporated into all stages of my research,” she said. Through additional library resources, she also was able to successfully prepare a proposal for a grant to complete her project in Warsaw, where she conducted the critical interviews for her paper.

To learn more about the sixth annual Undergraduate Library Research Awards and the 2015 award winners, visit

Originally published at