Research Award Eligibility

Who is eligible? Junior or Senior ACE majors.

What research is eligible? The research product must be original research that generates new knowledge (though it need not be a major enough contribution to be published in an actual professional journal). The student must have done enough of the work himself or herself to warrant primary authorship. A student may only submit his or her research for consideration for the award once, and it must be submitted in poster form.

When are submissions due? Submissions are due on Friday, April 7, 2023 to Krystle Simmons, Advising Support Associate.
How do students submit their research for consideration?  Each student should send the following materials via email to the Director of Undergraduate Programs:

(1) A filled-in copy of the Submission Form (doc) for ACE Undergraduate Research Award.
(2) A research poster.

The poster should be accompanied by a brief abstract, included on the Submission Form. References, tables, and figures should be reflected on the poster. Professional presentation of the student’s work is essential. Please contact Caroline Helton for a poster template or with questions.

There will be one first place prize, one second place prize, and as many Honorable Mentions as the committee decides to award in a given year.

Awards will be announced no later than two weeks after the submission deadline and recognized at the final ACE faculty meeting of Spring 2023, which is Friday afternoon, April 21.

If you have done independent research that has generated new knowledge, please submit it for consideration!

Past ACE Undergrad Research Award Recipients

2022 ACE Research Award Winner: Jacopo DeMarinis

Jacopo's research was entitled The History and Effectiveness of Land Transfers: Can They Assist in Achieving Equity and Inclusion in Farming? Professor Jared Hutchins supervised this project. This research project focuses on the history of how land dispossession has established white dominance in agriculture and affected socially disadvantaged farmers in the United States regarding land ownership, dramatically decreasing the number of farmers of color and their landownership. This paper discusses the economics literature about the benefits of diversity and inclusion and the disadvantages of discrimination in the labor and agricultural markets. Furthermore, this paper analyzes case studies of other countries attempting land redistribution and groups them into categories based on whether they advocate for a 1) market-assisted or expropriation approach and 2) a state-centered or decentralized approach. Jacopo uses these case studies and knowledge regarding the United States to explore possible pathways forward to achieve equity in land ownership in the US, including discussing current policies that address the issue such as the Justice for Black Farmers Act. Ultimately, Jacopo advocates for a market-assisted, optimally decentralized approach to land reform in the United States that would compensate “willing sellers” for selling to Black and other minority farmers. Importantly, such a policy’s success is predicated on public buy-in, especially from white farmers, which could be generated through media campaigns educating people about the history of land dispossession and the benefits of diversity in agriculture, as well as government subsidies and tax breaks to farmers- specifically absentee farmers- that sell part of their land.

Jacopo's concentration is Public Policy and Law as an ACE student.  

2021 ACE Research Award Winner: Tyler Swanson

Tyler's research was entitled Observations on the success of Utility Green Pricing Programs in Influencing Renewable Energy Generation.  Dr. Renata Endres supervised this project.  This paper reviews existing literature regarding the interaction of UGPPs with renewable energy markets. Data from the state of Oregon, home to two of the nations best UGPPs, is compared with similar states with UGPP and RPS mandates, along with states with only RPS mandates, and states with no RE mandates. The data suggests that UGPPs may be responsible for higher RE generation as a percentage of total energy, higher RE generation per capita, and higher progress towards RPS targets in states where a UGPP mandate is in effect. Second, data from two utilities in Oregon suggests that while UGPPs allow consumers to satisfy their internal demand for RE, the state may not be capturing these benefits in the form of enhanced RE generation capacity. It is possible that the presence of a UGPP mandate in one state can have spillover effects in surrounding states, a topic for further research. This paper also identifies additional research questions regarding UGPPs and the interaction between compliance and voluntary markets for renewable energy.

Tyler's concentration is Environmental Economics & Policy as an ACE student.  

2021 ACE Research Award Second Prize Winner: Aleksi Knepp

Aleksi's research was entitled Reducing Carbon Emissions from the Agricultural Sector in the Context of the Green New Deal.  Dr. Peter Christensen and Jonathan Coppess, J.D. supervised this project.  By investigating different methods of greenhouse gas emissions reductions and methods of greenhouse gas sequestration through agricultural management, this paper will provide a contextual analysis of the several agronomic, economic, and social barriers facing sustainable agriculture. Should Congress choose to pursue this policy goal in a bill that becomes law, there are some significant and important hurdles facing it. However, there are several methods of practical changes that could reduce emissions, such as reducing tillage, diversifying crops, and utilizing technological advances. These each face their own issues surrounding practicality and farmers’ attitudes. A viable solution to all of these problems could be introducing a carbon credit market in the agriculture sector. While reducing emissions is clearly seen as necessary and important, change must remain practical; it cannot come at the expense of food production and farmers’ livelihoods.

Aleksi's concentration is Environmental Economics & Policy as an ACE student.  

2020 ACE Research Award Winner: Hanlong (Eric) Zhang

Eric’s research was entitled Estimating Willingness to Pay for Native Plants in the UIUC Community.  Dr. Amy W. Ando supervised the research.  This research estimates people's willingness to pay (WTP) for more use of native plant species on the campus of the University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign (UIUC). This paper uses a contingent valuation survey to elicit the range of dollar values that contains a respondent’s maximum WTP for replacing some non-native plants with native plants on the university campus. The survey also asks people about their knowledge of native plant species to see if understanding of native plants is correlated with WTP. The result showed that average WTP for expanding native plant species on the UIUC campus is $21.44. In addition, people's field of study and knowledge of native plant species is correlated with the value they place on expanding native plants on the UIUC campus. The ultimate purpose for this study is to estimate the benefits of native plants to see if the WTP for them exceeds the cost of converting landscapes to have and maintain them. Besides, it indirectly tested that if government’s funds that spent on propagating the benefits of native plants have positive impacts on people’s WTP for them. 

Eric concentrated in Environmental Economics & Policy as an ACE student.  

2019 ACE Research Award Winner: Vivian (Ziwei) Zhang

Vivian's research was entitled Agroforestry in ChinaProfessor Daniel Miller supervised her research.  This paper mainly examines the agroforestry in China. China has a long history in agriculture.  22 agroforestry studies published from 2000 to 2018 which used different practices and have different outcomes were collected and analyzed. Most studies are tested in West China because these provinces have the unique advantages compared to other parts of China. Conclusions found were that, in order to develop the agroforestry in China, policy and funding support is necessary and agricultural policy has several problems and needs to be improved.  Suggestions for solving these issues were made.

Vivian concentrated in Environmental Economics and Policy as an ACE student.  Vivian is currently studying abroad in Copenhagen, Denmark and will be returning for her senior year this fall.

2018 ACE Research Award Winner: Anna Kanfer

Anna Kanfer’s research was entitled Impact of Senior Community Service Employment Program on Health of Older AdultsProfessor Amy Ando supervised her research.  The purpose of Anna’s paper was to determine whether the Senior Community Service Employment Program (SCSEP), a program that has been matching older adults in low socioeconomic groups with community service employment opportunities since 1965,  is leading to better health outcomes in older adult participants. By using a fixed effects regression model with panel data of SCSEP participants and yearly hospitalization of this population, this research evaluated the significance of a relationship between the SCSEP and the health outcomes of its participants.

Anna concentrated in Public Policy and Law as an ACE student and minored in Adult Development.  Following graduation Anna’s first position is working as a Client Specialist for Alight Solutions in Lincolnshire, IL.  She ultimately plans to pursue graduate school. Anna is from Champaign, IL.

2017 ACE Research Award Winner: Zicheng Jin

Zhicheng Jin’s research was entitled Real Estate Versus Consumption: Empirical Research on China’s Urbana Areas. Professor Amy Ando supervised his research.  His paper used cross-sectional data from 45 major Chinese cities to examine the relationship between the real estate market and household consumption in China. The result showed that growth in real estate prices negatively affected consumption in the 15 largest cities.  The relationship remained unclear for the other 30 cities in his study.

Zhicheng concentrated in Agribusiness Marketing and Management as an ACE student.  Following graduation Zicheng received a $25,000 scholarship to continue his studies at Tufts University in Massachusetts where he is pursing a graduate degree in Economics.       

2016 ACE Research Award Winner: Kolten Postin

Kolten Postin's award-winning research was entitled The Effects of Varying Grain Rental Agreement on a Central Illinois Grain Farm. Professor Gary Schnitkey supervised his research and Brad Zwilling of FBFM also provided helpful assistance. Kolten concentrated in Agribusiness Markets and Management as an ACE student. His first position following graduation is working in a commodity trading position with Archer Daniels Midland (ADM). Kolten is from Moweaqua, IL.

2015 ACE Research Award Winner: Jacqueline Douglas

Jacqueline Douglas's research was entitled What Factors Influence the Allocation of Chicago's Stormwater Management Spending Amongst Wards? She is from Lockport, IL and concentrated in Public Policy and Law while a student in the ACE Department. Her faculty supervisor was Professor Amy Ando. Following graduation Jacqueline enrolled in law school at Elon University of Law in Greensboro, NC.

2014 ACE Research Award Winner: Angela Hamann

Angela Hamann of Homewood, IL was the first undergraduate to be the recipient of the prestigious award. Angela studied Environmental Economics and Policy in the Department of ACE. The faculty member that supervised Angela's research was Professor Brenna Ellison. Angela's research was entitled  Consumers' Willingness to Pay for Cleaning Products Containing Environmentally-Friendly Claims.

Angela continued her studies at the graduate level at the University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign in the ACE Department.  She earned her Master's Degree in Agricultural and Consumer Economics in 2016 and is now working for her Ph.D. at the University of Illinois at the Ph.D. level.