Plant & Pollinator Center Receives Funding from the Dorothy Levis Munroe Research Fund

GREENSBORO, NC – JUNE 13, 2024 – In the 2023-24 academic year, the College of Arts & Sciences Office of Research supported 20 UNCG students with nearly $20,000 in grants from the Dorothy Levis Munroe Research Fund. The fund was endowed by alumna Dorothy Levis Munroe ‘44 to support student research in the “natural and mathematical sciences.”

All 20 students conducted research in STEM departments: twelve in Biology, four in Chemistry and Biochemistry, two in Computer Science, and one each in Mathematics and Nanoscience. Students won support by submitting a research proposal and project budget up to $1000, depending on their project needs. Five Munroe grant recipients were undergraduate students, fourteen were graduate students, and one was a post-bacc student.

The list of items purchased with Munroe funds shows the diversity of research undertaken by these student scientists. They used award funds to purchase:

  • 250 Pine seedlings, 144 bluestem grass plugs, potting soil, and pots
  • Dissecting scissors, nets, an aquarium bubbler, and a heavy-duty wagon to haul these and other tools needed for collecting and tagging fish in streams across central NC
  • Carbon nanotubes to study DNA uptake of duckweed
  • Fluorescent Yellow Particles and Fetal Bovine Serum for research into the uptake of microplastics by human endothelial cells, which line the inside of our blood vessels.
  • Kits for genetic analysis in experiments with the drought-resistant grain tef
  • Chemical reagents and organic solvents
  • Lab supplies such as Erlenmeyer Flasks and well plates.

Munroe grants also supported travel by students to conduct research and attend conferences and scientific meetings. Their work took them to places near and far, including:

  • Fieldwork in Morganton and Elizabeth City, NC to study the ecology of chigger mites.
  • Fieldwork in South Africa’s Kruger National Park to study the effects of drought, fire, and extreme grazing on grasslands.
  • Fieldwork in the Gateway Research Park and at UNCG’s Plant and Pollinator Center.  The UNCG Plant & Pollinator is located at the 75-acre Gateway Research Park located on Summit Avenue in northeast Greensboro.  
  • Fieldwork at the Konza Prairie Biological Station in Kansas to study grassland recovery following nitrogen cessation in areas previously subject to chronic nitrogen addition.
  • NVIDIA’s GTC 2024, one of the top Artificial Intelligence conferences, to gain insights to improve a project developing new processes for clinical trial recruitment.
  • The Wildlife Society’s annual conference, to present a poster on phylogeography and flea community ecology of the long-tailed ground squirrel.
  • The International Computing and Combinatorics Conference, to share a paper titled “Improved Sourcewise Roundtrip Spanners with Constant Stretch.”
  • The Joint Mathematics Meetings, to share mathematical research into ecological models of species interactions.
  • The North Carolina Academy of Science annual meeting, where the student won the John Bowley Derieux Research Award.

Many of the students also participated in UNC Greensboro’s Graduate Research & Creativity Showcase of Scholarship or in the Thomas Undergraduate Research & Creativity Expo, where they presented posters or gave oral presentations.

Dorothy Levis Munroe graduated as a chemistry major from UNCG in 1944, along with her twin sister Katheryne Levis McCormick. Munroe went on to earn a master’s in chemistry, teach high school mathematics for many years, and become the first woman to serve on the board of education in Newark, Delaware. By endowing this fund at UNCG, Munroe hoped to encourage students to pursue the sciences by providing resources for their research.

Source:  UNCG Office of Research and Engagement

Gateway UNCG MRI Center Stimulates Nursing Student’s Interest in Critical Care, Research

JUNE 13, 2024 – GREENSBORO, NC – UNCG rising third-year Sebastian Rodriguez learned early on to give himself – and his dreams – space to evolve.

In high school, Rodriguez was one of the top tennis players in North Carolina and on track to become a professional, but he was also a standout student. An interest in health care led him to Harvard’s C-Chan Public Health Summit just before his senior year in high school.

“I learned more about the practice professions, including nursing,” Rodriguez says. “As a nurse, you’re able to directly engage with patients and make sure they’re getting the care they need. I was really interested in the profession and decided nursing was what I wanted to do.”

Rodriguez chose UNCG because of its strong School of Nursing. Now, the Blue & Gold Merit Scholarship recipient is excelling both in and outside the classroom, from studying abroad to conducting brain injury research in the School of Health and Human Sciences with support from a UNCG Thomas Undergraduate Research and Creativity Award.


Rodriguez commutes from Durham to Greensboro for his courses and extracurriculars, but he wouldn’t choose to be anywhere else.

“I love UNCG. I like the relatively small size of the campus,” he says. “I’ve been able to make so many great connections with professors. At a bigger school with more students, it can be harder to interact with professors.”

In the first two years of his undergraduate studies, Rodriquez connected with multiple faculty members, including microbiology instructor Robin Maxwell who brought the basic science material to life.

“Professor Maxwell was incredible,” he says. “Our lectures were often filled with personal stories she would use to enhance how we would learn and ingrain concepts.”

Outside of the classroom – and across the world – Rodriguez has put his academics into action.

Through UNCG Volunteers Around the World , he learned about a medical internship opportunity in Bocas del Toro, Panama, where he spent two weeks shadowing physicians and interacting with patients. He says it has been a highlight of his college experience.

Closer to home, Rodriguez invests in cultivating his nursing skill set. He is now certified as a phlebotomist and nurse aide, the latter recommended by his cousin and grandmother who are both nurses.

“They’re always telling me that getting your CNA is really helpful for patient experience because you learn to handle a large number of patients, help with coordinating behind-the-scenes, and talk with providers,” he says.


Another highlight of Rodriguez’s time at UNCG: getting involved with undergraduate research.

In his first year, he worked with Dr. Stephanie Pickett, an associate professor in the School of Nursing, on psychosocial stressors among minoritized women. He also co-authored a post for the Medical Care Blog of the American Public Health Association.  As part of his research in Monroe’s laboratory, Rodriguez worked in the Gateway UNCG MRI Center, located at the 75-acre Gateway Research Park in east Greensboro.  The research park is a joint partnership between UNCG and North Carolina A&T State University.

“These experiences increased my curiosity about research, but I knew I wanted something more hands-on in terms of data collection or data analysis,” he says.

His next steps into research brought him to a mixed martial arts arena and Gateway UNCG MRI center, where he was part of a 10-person research team led by Dr. Derek Monroe. While scientists have investigated concussions among mixed martial arts athletes, less is known about subconcussive impacts: the focal topic for the team of researchers.

Using mouthguard sensors, they collected data about the frequency, type, and magnitude of impacts experienced by the athletes during sparring. The team logged 1,000 impacts for nine athletes over 50 training sessions. The athletes also came to the Gateway UNCG MRI Center for baseline and specialized scans.

“Watching these athletes, I can really appreciate the amount of work ethic they put in every time they step on the mat,” Rodriguez says. “It was a lot of fun watching it and a great environment to be in.”

With their data, the team can better understand what types of impacts – such as linear versus angular – these athletes most frequently experience and then link these injuries to brain anatomy.

Rodriguez is especially interested in how a diffusion MRI – which tracks water movement within the brain – might indicate trauma.

“The multi-modal approach of Dr. Monroe’s lab emphasized the importance of a holistic perspective in neuroimaging research,” he says.

Diving into research projects gave Rodriguez strengths he can bring to his nursing career, including skills in collaboration and proficiency with scientific terminology.

“Reading scientific articles is definitely a skill and a muscle that you grow over time,” he says. “I enjoy diving into the rabbit hole to answer whatever question I have.”


Rodriguez’s experience in Monroe’s laboratory has expanded his career goals: now, he wants to become a critical care nurse actively involved in research.

“I’m passionate about the critical care field,” he says. “I want to learn how to be that provider who can keep calm during a critical situation and really help patients that are in need while dealing with fatigue and minimizing errors. This is one skill I can bring from my tennis training and would like to hone in a health care context.”

In the upcoming school year, Rodriguez will focus on pediatric populations and patients with neurobehavioral challenges across the lifespan.

“I anticipate that these nursing-related courses and experiences will not only deepen my understanding of neurobehavioral problems and pediatric health but also equip me with the knowledge and skills needed to deliver evidence-based and compassionate care to pediatric populations,” he says. “This will help me become a more competent and empathetic nurse.”

Rodriguez realizes he may gravitate to different aspects of health care as he moves through his career, and he hopes a career in nursing will give him this flexibility to adapt his work to his evolving passions.

“Experiences can change perspectives. The path of nursing allows me to have the opportunity to change perspective and passion as I go,” he says. “There’s also a big need for this profession. Nurses are essential.”

Story by Rachel Damiani
Photography by Sean Norona, University Communications