Eight UNLV Students Honored With 2020 Lance and Elena Calvert Awards For Undergraduate Research

The University Libraries are honoring eight UNLV undergraduate students as the winners of the 2020 Lance and Elena Calvert Awards for Undergraduate Research. The awards, funded through an endowment established by donors Lance and Elena Calvert, encourage undergraduate UNLV students to master the art of research to become successful, self-sufficient, lifelong learners.

“We are so pleased to be able to present this year’s Calvert Awards and honor the work of undergraduate students at UNLV,” said Maggie Farrell, dean of libraries. “Though we are unable to be together on campus for an awards ceremony, I am pleased that technology enables us to honor these outstanding UNLV students, who have demonstrated exceptional use of libraries resources and critical application of information in their research papers and class projects.”

Applicants submit a reflective essay on their research, and a letter of support from a faculty member as part of the application process. Winners receive a cash prize and have their work published in Digital Scholarship@UNLV, the institutional repository for university research.

“I’m so pleased that we are able to recognize the work of these exemplary students, as well as their faculty mentors,” said Rosan Mitola, outreach librarian and interim head of educational initiatives in the libraries. “Since the Calverts endowed this program in 2006, we have recognized the work of 50 student researchers, plus our eight winners this year. These awards are truly meaningful to students, and make a difference to their future.”

Here are each of the winners, and their projects as they describe them.

Emerging Scholar 

Vanessa Booth

Nevada's Secret Killer: Opioid Deaths” 
Brookings Public Policy minor, Greenspun College of Urban Affairs
Nominated by Caitlin J. Saladino, director of strategic development and operations for The Lincy Institute and Brookings Mountain West

Presented in this study is an analysis of the Nevada opioid crisis and how a viable solution can impact its severity. It does so in a public policy environment while synthesizing outside sources to support the presented claims. The scope of this study is how to solve this policy problem. This study also takes into consideration Nevada’s current economic state amid the coronavirus pandemic. In addition, this analysis also addresses the history behind the opioid epidemic across the United States and how it is impacting Nevada in present times. The research findings of this study indicate that if inadequate treatment centers is a critical policy problem, and if poorly allocated federal funds is the cause of this problem, then the solution is for Nevada to expand federal funds to all opioid treatment centers across the state.

Creative Works

Lauren Paljusaj and Anne Savage 

Intimate Nevada, Artists Respond
Department of art, College of Fine Arts
Nominated by Susanna Newberry, assistant professor of art

Most of us know Nevada beyond the Strip. It’s a place of houses, of shopping plazas, of movie theaters, and grocery stores. A place of hotels that are also places of work. A place of basins, ranges, vistas, and nature. A place of personal history. For Intimate Nevada: Artists Respond, curators Lauren Paljusaj and Anne Savage draw on photographs found in UNLV Special Collections and Archives to uncover the Nevada of the past century. The exhibition focuses on how images of the built environment of early 20th century Southern Nevada and personal snapshots of 1910s Las Vegas allow us to interpret the past in light of who we are today. 

Advanced Undergraduate Category

Michelle “Meg” Brown

Politicizing a Private Choice” 
Department of history, College of Liberal Arts
Nominated by Cian McMahon, associate professor of history

This paper examines the history of abortion politics, explaining the origins of pro-life, conservative Christian identity as part of a deliberate interest group agenda. For most of the 19th century, abortions were legal and governed by English common law. As inherently private procedures, abortions were not discussed in public life, nor were they considered a political concern. 

The first anti-abortion campaign was led by professionally motivated physicians who succeeded in making abortion illegal by 1900. Powerful, nationwide pro-life initiatives rooted in a moral concern for human life formalized only after the 1973 decision in Roe v. Wade. Modern Christian conservatism was linked to anti-abortion ideology through three institutions in American life: the Republican Party, evangelicalism, and the Roman Catholic Church. The complicated, oft-forgotten history of the pro-life movement emerges from an analysis of first-hand accounts – i.e., newspapers, political handbooks, medical journals, laws, church decrees, visual sources, and statistical info. 

Santiago Gudiño-Rosales

Factors Associated with PrEP and PEP Uptake Among the Latinx Population” 
Honors College and School of Public Health
Nominated by Melva Thompson-Robinson, professor and director of the Center for Health Disparities Research

Use of PrEP, which stands for preexposure prophylaxis, and PEP, or post-exposure prophylaxis, amongst Latino population has been low, despite being a population disproportionately affected by HIV. Systemic barriers and cultural factors affect general Latino approaches to health care and may affect how many people take these medications. 

In this cross-sectional study, survey data was collected from 169 Latinos. The survey examined the following four factors associated with PrEP and PEP use: talking about sex, culture and sexual identity, sexual health care and safer sex, and spirituality. The findings contribute to the literature regarding the barriers to more Latinos taking these medications.. The results suggest that Latinos must become better informed of these prevention strategies and lessen possible worries regarding drug expenses and side-effects.

Joanie Lange

Art and Terror: Vergangenheitsbewältigung in Relation to the Red Army Faction” 
Department of history, College of Liberal Arts
Nominated by Paul Werth, professor of history

The German left-wing terrorist organization Red Army Faction has had a significant impact upon German culture and art since the 1970s, but few American students had ever heard of them. 

Lange started studying terrorism after having a family member injured in the Oct. 1 shooting.

Alex Newsom 

Analysis of Cryptotephra at Whitney Mesa Nature Preserve, Henderson, Nevada” 
Honors College and department of geoscience
Nominated by Eugene Smith, emeritus professor of geology

Cryptotephra (small volcanic shards ranging 20-80 microns in size) were discovered within Unit X of the Las Vegas Formation at Whitney Mesa Nature Preserve in Henderson. Cryptotephra are deposited soon after a volcanic eruption and can be used as a dating tool to create narrow time constraints for surrounding sediments. Cryptotephra have many applications but are mainly useful as a dating tool. Their study has important implications for the understanding of the timing of palaeoclimatological and paleoenvironmental events as well as for archaeological studies to date important events in human history.

The Whitney Mesa cryptotephra were correlated with the Bishop Tuff. The discovery of cryptotephra and correlation with Bishop Tuff provide the first precise date for Las Vegas Formation Unit X. 

Elia Del Carmen Solano-Patricio

A City on the Front Lines of an Epidemic: the Opioid Crisis in Las Vegas
School of Public Policy and Leadership, Greenspun College of Urban Affairs
Nominated by Caitlin J. Saladino, director of strategic development and operations for The Lincy Institute and Brookings Mountain West

While addiction to opioids kills more Americans every year, the purpose of this report is to assess the extent of the problem in the Las Vegas metropolitan area, and to propound ways in which local policy can help. An analysis of opioid demand nationally, regionally, and locally explains how the epidemic is diffusing, where divides exist in terms of access to treatment, and the differential effects of opioids driving this crisis. By tracking opioid-related prescriptions, hospital admissions, and deaths, the results show that opioid demand in the Las Vegas metro has decreased but remains well above the national average.

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