Undergraduate Research Awardees

UWM Undergrad Research Awardees standing in front of sign saying "We are R1"
Nicholas Urban-Michalak (top row third from left) and Sophia Najwa Hamdan (bottom row third from right)

As an undergraduate student at an R-1 institute, the opportunities can be infinite if you are willing to reach outside of your comfort area. In Spring 2022, UW-Milwaukee’s Office of Undergraduate Research hosted the annual undergraduate research symposium where two students, working with nursing scientists, received accolades for their participation and efforts.  Under the direction of Dr. Murad Taani and Dr. Sandra Millon-Underwood, the students are actively working on projects and grants related to their interest areas.

Nicholas Urban-Michalak, BBA

Nicholas, a second-degree nursing student from Milwaukee, Wisconsin with a bachelor’s degree in business administration from Texas A&M. During his time at Texas A&M he played baseball and many in his friends’ group were nursing and pre-med students who often shared intriguing stories of their experiences and what they had been learning in class.

As a business major, during a pandemic, Nicholas and his classmates worked with a social service agency reviewing benchmark data with a goal to recruit more families and parents into foster care. After 15 weeks the group presented data on how to recruit more future foster parents.  Through this very difficult process, of remote data review, he found a passion in something that wasn’t baseball… but rather in helping people.

After enrolling at UW-Milwaukee, Nicholas took the course, Perspectives in Healthcare Systems, taught by Dr. Murad Taani, UWM Associate Professor and Ovation Jewish Home Joint Research Professor in Aging.  As a returning student, Nicholas wasn’t afraid to ask questions and Dr. Taani took notice.  After one discussion, Nicholas followed up with Dr. Taani and offered to help him with the research he was doing in partnership with Ovation Communities. Nicholas began working with Dr. Taani in January 2022, on the project “Achieving Better Lung Health,” by implementing non-pharmacological interventions to address Restrictive Ventilatory Patterns (RVPs) in older adults.

Sophia Najwa Hamdan

Sophia, an undergraduate in the College of Letters & Sciences, Journalism, Advertising and Media Studies program is working alongside Dr. Sandra Millon-Underwood, Professor of Nursing, Emerita. Sophia had connected to Dr. Underwood in Fall 2021 as there was a need for writing and communications in support of the Healthy Eating Active Living Collaboration.  Then in January 2022, Dr. Underwood wanted to gather perspectives of a younger generation, in relation to the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic.  We felt it was very important that students get the support they need in drastic times as this generation missed out on many opportunities over the last several years.

In early 2022, Sophia began talking and interviewing students regarding their feelings and experiences from the beginning of the pandemic versus now.  Many students in the beginning, shared they were unprepared and had feelings of nervousness, anxiety, fear from isolation which lead to depression.  Sophia shared, “restarting as a junior this year was like being a new freshman all over again as my entire sophomore year was online.”

Sophia hopes to continue this research with Dr. Underwood and track perceptions as things continue to change and the world reopens. 

Research Awards

In Spring 2022, both Nicholas and Sophia were part of the 280 UWM undergraduate students presenting research at the 14th annual Undergraduate Research Symposium. Nicholas and Sophia both were presented with “Outstanding Presentation Awards” for their contributions to science.  The students presentations are available online for viewing at: https://sites.uwm.edu/undergrad-research-symposium-2022/category/awards/.