Since 2006, the Wilson Scholar Program has distributed monetary awards to approximately 12 students each semester.  The program consists of single semester Research Scholar awards and full-year Research Fellow awards to support more substantive research projects.

The funding is made possible due to a generous gift from Michael and Susan Angelides, Stonington, Conn., in honor of their good friend and UMF alumnus Michael D. Wilson, class of 1976, who died shortly after graduating. The Michael D. Wilson Fellows and Scholars represent some of UMF’s best students from across all disciplines. The program recognizes UMF student’s tremendous creativity, and expands UMF’s commitment to undergraduate research and faculty mentoring.

This process is competitive and students are recognized as ‘Wilson Scholars’ or ‘Wilson Fellows.’  The typical funding cycle consists of a fall and spring deadline.  The deadline is typically the end of the third week of both academic semesters.  Spring awards may be used to cover work done during the summer.

Fall

Wilson Research Scholar Awards (the number and size of the award is dependent on funding)
Two academic-year-long Wilson Research Fellow Awards (size of the award is dependent on funding) (Students who apply for the fellow award may also request to be considered for the single semester Research Scholar Award.)
Award winners are required to present their research to the UMF community at the Spring Michael D. Wilson Symposium.
Prior Wilson Award winners are eligible.  However, fall awardees are not eligible for spring awards.

Spring

An early January deadline for proposals to fund work during the spring or summer.
Wilson Research Scholar Awards (the number and size of the award is dependent on funding)
Award winners are required to present their research or a progress report to the UMF community at the Michael D. Wilson Symposium.
Summer awardees will be required to present their work at the following year’s MDW Symposium.

Fall Wilson Application

Spring Wilson Application

Evaluation criteria for Wilson Award applications

Undergraduate Research Highlights

Wilson Scholar Creates Innovative Software Program for Radio Stations
By Paul Rees ’09, UMF creative writing major

DerekGilbert

Derek Gilbert ’09 knows far too well the challenges that face low-budget radio stations. In his eight years of working in radio broadcasting around the state of Maine, Gilbert knows firsthand what it is like to work with faulty equipment and the stress and frustration felt when there is no room in the budget to replace or repair it.

With support from the Michael D. Wilson Scholarship Award in 2008, Gilbert has created a software program that will automatically play music, advertisements and public service announcements on the radio after hours, and during other times when DJs are not available—something that many college and low-budget stations are in dire need of.

When the DJs leave the station, music still needs to be played. Gilbert explained that many low-budget radio stations rely on large collections of CDs in a disc changer to automate their station after hours. Not only is this equipment usually old and constantly breaking down, it is illegal. According to Gilbert, there are certain requirements that radio stations are legally bound to meet every hour they are on the air such as public service announcements, advertisements, and legal IDs which identify the radio station at the top and bottom of every hour.

“Modern day equipment and software costs thousands of dollars,” said the computer science major. “Many low-budget radio stations are using equipment from the 60s, which is not practical.” Gilbert’s software is simple and easy to use. It organizes music based on genre and ensures that certain types of music each get equal air time. Additionally, it includes all of the legal requirements and advertisements in the line up. Gilbert says the software is easy to access and is available to anyone who wants to use it, like low-budget stations or other developers. “Just download it right off my website,” he said.

After investing so much time and sacrificing many nights worth of sleep, Gilbert is grateful for the opportunities that this his software project has given him. Feelings of satisfaction, excitement, and relief surrounded him after his presentation to the UMF campus on Symposium Day. “I enjoyed the experience and am thankful to UMF for giving me the opportunity, said Gilbert. “It’s a great feeling, especially towards the end.”

Undergraduate Research at Work on the Appalachian Trail
By Paul Rees ’09, UMF creative writing major

Jacques in lean to

Jacques Rancourt’s ’09 proposal to hike the final 120 miles of the Appalachian Trail in Maine as a platform to write poetry was awarded a Michael D. Wilson Scholarship in 2008. With support from faculty sponsor Jeff Thomson, associate professor of creative writing, Rancourt wrote eight poems based on his experiences on the Trail. “The experience was terrific,” said the creative writing major on becoming a Wilson Scholar and putting his undergraduate research plan to action. “It has been influential on my artistic life, especially these poems.”

Rancourt’s poems draw inspiration from various experiences during his hike–from walking through deep mud and crossing rivers to struggling to build a fire in a wet forest. Summer of ’08 saw a lot of rain, especially in the month of August when Rancourt was on the Trail. Trying to start a fire with nothing but wet wood available was one of his earliest and most difficult challenges. In the poem “Building Fire,” Rancourt presents a memory of his father building a huge fire from kindling with the image of him in the middle of 100-mile woods, unable to start a fire and going to bed hungry because of it.

The poem “Trail Names” draws its inspiration from a hiker’s log Rancourt found in a lean-to. “It’s part of the Appalachian experience to choose a new name when setting off on the trail and some of these names were really interesting,” Rancourt explained. “The poem is a list of these names with some narrative lines connecting them.”

Thomson contributed to the project by offering creative direction and suggesting reading material by people who have completed similar projects. He also worked with Rancourt helping him with the editing process. According to Thomson, “Jacques came up with everything. He is a prominent voice for art and poetry at UMF and this experience is all part of his growth as a writer and a person.”

Since the hike, Rancourt has been able to pull other writing endeavors from this experience, but acknowledges that it all began with the Wilson Scholarship. Through his undergraduate research at UMF, Rancourt has been able to produce an extensive portfolio, which he used to gain acceptance to University of Wisconsin’s MFA Program starting in fall 2009. “It’s great that we have the research initiatives for creative projects,” said Rancourt. “I would never have had the resources or motivation to do this without it.”

Wilson Scholar Travels to Africa to Research Water Quality
By Paul Rees ’09, UMF creative writing major

Abby Taking Water Sample

Abby Pettitt, ’09 biology and psychology major, travelled with David Heroux, UMF assistant professor of chemistry, to Kaoma, Zambia in Southern Africa. As a member of WISE-Zambia, a nonprofit organization dedicated to helping families and communities in developing countries, she conducted an undergraduate research project on drinking water safety, aimed at giving the people of Kaoma a better understanding of healthy drinking water with an ultimate goal of decreasing in water-borne disease.

With support from the Michael D. Wilson Scholarship Award in 2008, Pettitt and Heroux spent a month testing water sources and storage devices for possible contamination and investigated different methods of water treatment and how to use the results to show residents how to treat water prior to consumption.

Heroux also spent time working with the Kaoma Children’s School, a community facility that offers free education to more than 700 area students from grades 1 to 9. His focus was to help increase the school’s science resources and open the world of microscopic study to its students by bringing microscopes into the classroom.

As part of Heroux’s work, he introduced the children to lesson plans on ways to maintain healthy water quality and actions they can take to share what they learned about drinking water safety with their families.

Michaud Poster

Symposium Day