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Four students win USC Libraries' Award for Undergraduate Research


Congratulations to the winners of the 2013-2014 University Libraries' Award for Undergraduate Research. They are, from left in the photo, Jake Tyler Smolinsky, Ashley Pittman, Steven Vanderlip and Kari Benson.

The University Libraries Award for Undergraduate Research rewards excellence in undergraduate use of library resources and services, and demonstrates the contribution of the Libraries to student learning. It highlights the value of information literacy by requiring students to describe their research process as part of the application procedures, and encourages faculty to create assignments that engage students in the use of library resources.

Here is a closer look at this year’s winning projects:

Garnet Track for juniors and seniors

Kari Benson

Hometown: Ellicott City, Maryland

Garnet Track Top Prize $500

Misuse of Stimulant Medication among College Students:  A Comprehensive Review of the Literature

A psychology major from Maryland, Benson received Exploration and Magellan grants to work with Dr. Kate Flory.  Benson knew she wanted to investigate misuse of stimulant medication by college students and she knew she wanted to survey students at Carolina.  Her first step was reviewing the literature to gain a deeper understanding of the topic and identify surveys that had already been developed. In her letter of support Dr. Flory wrote, “Kari learned a great deal during this process, including how to read and evaluate existing research literature, how to select a topic for a review paper, and how to synthesize information from many research studies. The review article has been submitted to Clinical Child and Family Psychology Review for publication consideration.

Steven Vanderlip

Hometown: Clover, South Carolina

Garnet Track Top Prize $500

The Euphradian Society Antebellum Debate Resolutions with Commentary

A political science and English major from Clover, SC, Vanderlip’s project took focus as he worked with his material; microfilm of the minutes of the Euphradian Society at the University of South Carolina.  Vanderlip ended up compiling the debate topics during the antebellum period, representing over 2,000 debate resolutions.  He didn’t stop there.  For his Honors College Senior Thesis, Vanderlip used secondary sources to write two commentaries that place the Euphradian Society within the larger context of the University and Southern society during the antebellum years.

In his letter of support, Dr. Patrick Scott commented that when Vanderlip’s South Carolina Honors College thesis is put online as part Scholar Commons, the university’s institutional repository, it will “soon attract substantial interest from a variety of historical researchers.”  Vanderlip’s project aids in furthering access to the collection of the South Caroliniana Library and the history of the University.

Ashley Pittman

Hometown: Greenville, South Carolina

Garnet Track Honorable Mention $250

La Mujer Varonil in Spanish Golden Age Theatre

A theatre major from Greenville, SC, Pittman’s research into this theatrical tradition led her to browse the stacks of the Thomas Cooper Library.  As she put it, “a great way to find unexpected sources is to use the catalog search to find one book on the topic, then go to that book in the shelves and spend some time perusing the books around it.”  After reading, she narrowed her topic to a discussion of a character type in Spanish Golden Age theatre.  It was while working further with the material that she honed her topic further and went back to find more sources online, even late into the night as her thinking developed


Black Track for sophomores and first-year students

Jake Tyler Smolinsky      

Hometown:  Clinton Township, New Jersey

First Prize, $150

The Effects of Stigma on Posttraumatic Stress Disorder in the Military

Paper written for fall semester PSYC 410, Abnormal Psychology taught by Dr. Rhea Merck

The military culture in South Carolina has made a huge impact on Smolinsky, a psychology major from New Jersey.  He combined his ongoing interest in stigma and the military for a paper in PSYC 410 taught by Dr. Rhea Merck.  Dr. Merck always assigns a research paper so that her students can gain the skills of finding, reading and summarizing studies in an area of interest. 

In his award essay, Smolinsky noted he initially found Thomas Cooper Library intimidating but by the end of his experience he had discovered the library had a key resource online and not just on the shelves in the Reference Department; learned what to do when the full text of an article isn’t in a database; and absorbed the writing style and language of academic articles to help him stylize his own paper.

Smolinsky is interested in furthering his undergraduate research with an eye towards attending graduate school.


For more information about the USC Libraries’ Undergraduate Research Award, including past winners, visit