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Lauren Oliver '14 among Elite Group Selected for  Sociology Research Program

Providence College sociology major Lauren Oliver ’14 (Braintree, Mass.) was one of only eight students nationwide chosen for a grant from the National Science Foundation (NSF) to conduct research on race, crime, and demography.

Oliver was selected for an REU, a Summer Research Experience for Undergraduates,  which was  funded by the NSF and provided her with valuable experience and a $4,000 summer stipend.

She faced tough competition, contesting for one of the REU’s eight positions with students from renowned research universities, especially those from sociology research programs at schools such as the University of North Carolina and the University of Michigan.

The Spanish and business studies double minor applied for the program while studying abroad last semester in Barcelona, Spain. She worked closely with her professor and advisor, Dr. Eve Veliz, assistant professor of sociology.

“PC is not the norm in these programs,” Veliz said. “We’re like a small, independent film maker who just went up against Steven Spielberg and won. This is huge.”

Oliver, who was doing her research at the University of Texas at Austin , is not the only PC student busy with summer research on other campuses. Among those students, James O’Brien '15 (Fairfield, Conn.), a biology major, is studying cancer metabolism at the Vander Heiden Lab at MIT, and Kristen D’Elia ’15 (Plainview, N.Y.), a double major in biology and psychology with a neuroscience certificate, is studying axon guidance signaling mechanisms through her neuroscience REU at the University of Vermont.

“I feel very lucky. Three out of eight of my peers are McNair scholars, first-generation students who are extremely intelligent, so I feel honored to be working with these students,” Oliver said. The federally funded Ronald E. McNair Postbaccalaureate Achievement Program is designed to help first-generation undergraduates who plan to pursue graduate study, particularly at the doctoral level.

Oliver was in Austin, Texas, studying a topic which interests her with people who share her passion. And, she is provided with room and board on the University of Texas campus for the two months of her REU.

“Each year the program chooses a theme,” she explained. “This year they chose the demography of crime and punishment.”

While attending a daily class, as well as labs throughout the week, Oliver focused her attention on a central research paper on a crime-related topic of her choice. Students will present their papersat a national criminology conference.

“I am interested in matters concerning family and immigration,” Oliver said. “So I am doing my research on Latino immigrants and domestic violence.”

After completing her undergraduate studies at PC, Oliver plans on going to graduate school. She will study either public policy or an area within sociology. She feels fortunate to have the opportunity to conduct research as an undergraduate and gain experience before graduate school.

— Nick Tavares ’16

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