Jamie Cassels Undergraduate Research Awards (JCURA)

Jamie Cassels Undergraduate Research Awards (JCURA) recipient Max MacDonald 2015
Jamie Cassels Undergraduate Research Awards (JCURA) recipient Max MacDonald 2015

The Jamie Cassels Undergraduate Research Awards (JCURA) were instituted in 2009-10 as the Undergraduate Research Scholarship program by the Vice-President Academic and Provost.

The program is designed to provide support for exceptional undergraduate students who might otherwise not be able to have direct research experience. The Learning and Teaching Centre (LTC) administers the award nomination process on behalf of the Provost’s Office.

Eligible students include all full-time third and fourth year undergraduate students (normally registered in 12 or more units of study in the winter session) in excellent academic standing (normally this is a minimum sessional GPA requirement of 7.0) who satisfy the general regulations of Student Awards and Financial Aid.

Award recipients will undertake a research investigation in dialogue with—and under the mentorship of—a faculty supervisor. Each academic unit is eligible for one to three student nominations per year, depending on the number of students in the unit.

Successful student applicants receive $1,500 credited directly to their UVic account.

Online Event
(visit our event page for the JCURA Virtual Student Fair, Now Live) 

This year, 100 JCURA research projects will be shared virtually. We hope that you will take the time to explore the students' work, including research posters, video presentations and a Q&A component.

Undergraduate research scholars Greek and Roman Studies


Granirer, Jonathan

Project title: Absolute Power and the Unsustainability of Tyranny: Seneca's Depiction of Nero's power in De Clementia

Department: Greek and Roman Studies

Faculty supervisor: Dr. Gregory Rowe

This research project examines ancient discourses concerning the limits of authoritarianism. Seneca, a Roman philosopher and a senior advisor to the princeps Nero, published the treatise De Clementia circa 55 CE, in which he advises the young princeps to rule with clemency and moderation. Despite the rich body of scholarship which examines this treatise, there is a lack of in-depth analysis that looks beyond the treatise itself by analyzing De Clementia's wider importance to the study of Roman government. In this paper, I argue that Seneca’s political advice contained in De Clementia presents Nero's possession of absolute power as contingent upon his ability to fulfil his obligations to the Roman elite. Further, I argue that this reading provides a nuanced account of the political dynamics between Nero's regime and Rome's political elites that have not been examined sufficiently by previous analyses of this treatise. After providing a brief history of clementia in Roman society, I discuss how Seneca portrays Nero's possession of absolute power as contingent upon his ability to fulfil his obligations as princeps. Next, I lay out the obligations which Seneca tasks Nero with. Then, I discuss the consequences which, according to Seneca, Nero will face if he fails to uphold his obligations. Finally, I set Seneca's advice to Nero alongside instances in Roman history in which principes who failed to uphold their obligations became the targets of plots and revolts in a manner that mirrors Seneca's presentation of the limits of the princeps' power.

Menendez, Elena

Project title: Scribe Mi: Requests in Non-literary Latin Letters

Department: Greek and Roman Studies

Faculty supervisor: Dr. Gregory Rowe

This project examines requests in the non-literary Latin letters, preserved on parchment, tablets, and ostraca, dating from the 1st century BCE to the 4th century CE, in the social dimension of politeness. Requests were one of the core elements of the body of a letter, alongside information-sharing (e.g. advice, personal news). Two main factors determine politeness: the linguistic features of the formulation of the request, and how it is framed and contextualized in the broader letter. The latter is particularly affected by the fragmentary nature of the evidence. Requests were a key component in cultivating reciprocity across distances, and their politeness strategies and implementation in surviving letters reflect that. Together the 192 requests and fragments of requests found in this project can show how people constructed long-distance social bonds, what types of requests used different formulae, and how these politeness strategies changed over time.


Harvey, Mira

Project title: Home is Where the Hearth Is: Post-Palatial Hearths at Ancient Eleon

Department: Greek and Roman Studies

Faculty supervisor: Dr. Trevor Van Damme

"My research focuses on the post-palatial hearths at the site of Ancient Eleon in Greece. Hearths have often been generalized in Greek archeology, especially in regard to what specific practical or daily purposes they would have served. I analysed 54 distinct hearths at 7 different post-palatial households throughout Greece, and tracked trends of construction, size, location and function. I then compared that data to the hearths at the Northwest Complex of Ancient Eleon. Synthesizing both sets together allowed me to make conclusions about dating, hearth construction, room function and daily life at Ancient Eleon during the post-palatial period."

Watts-Wooldridge, Ben

Project title: Greeks Bearing Gifts: Ancient Greek Gift Inscriptions in Context

Department: Greek and Roman Studies

Faculty supervisor: Dr. Trevor Van Damme

"In the epigraphical record of ancient Greece, gift inscriptions found on vases have not been considered as a discreet corpus, in part due to the rarity of examples scattered across many publications. Yet gifting inscriptions offer important information, including the names of both the gifter and the recipient, allowing me to reconstruct ancient social networks and shed light on human actors in the past. Using a dataset of approximately 20 vases with inscriptions from the Archaic and Classical periods of Greece, this project will aim to identify the form and use of gift inscriptions through analysis of their grammatical syntax to add further context to the process of gifting in the ancient world. In defining a language specific to gifting, I will investigate the relationship between language and imagery featured on these vases in an attempt to distinguish them from other more general classes of inscribed Greek pottery. Additionally, the project will examine the areas in which gift exchange intersects with gender and social stratification, focusing on the relationship between sender and recipient, as well as any observable trends concerning the objects on which the inscriptions are placed."


Hostrawser-Cranfield, Selayna

Project title: Female Sex Work in the Roman World

Department: Greek and Roman Studies

Faculty supervisor: Dr. Mark Nugent

"This exploratory study will focus on the female experience of sex work in the Roman world. Roman literature offers a dehumanizing and heavily patriarchal perspective on female sex workers, prostitution, and sex slavery. Elite male authors like Ovid and Livy can provide evidence about practices of sex work in Roman society, but these sources lack the perspective of the voiceless: women, the lower classes, and slaves. Contemporary scholarship has recently begun investigating what a female sex worker’s social role and daily life was like in Roman society. My project will build on the work of Thomas A. McGinn, Anise K. Strong, and Sarah Levin-Richardson, who have examined the social function of prostitution in the Roman world and have attempted to give a voice to women exploited in the ancient sex trade. By analyzing Roman law, examining imagery in Roman art, and exploring graffiti, personal items, and sex institutions like brothels in the archaeological record, my project will seek to conceptualize the female experience of prostitution in the ancient world and will offer a narrative for sex workers left voiceless for over two millennia."

Montgomery, Luke

Project title: The European Wolf: Representation of Wolves in Roman and Norse Mythology

Department: Greek and Roman Studies

Faculty supervisor: Dr. Laurel Bowman

"I would like to examine and find some connections between the Roman and Scandanavian myths that prominently feature wolves in them. In doing so I would like to learn why these cultures came to understand the wolf in this manner, what about the wolf’s role in the ecosystem influenced these portrayals in myth."


Braun, Graham

Project title: Defiant Maidens: The Social Role of Medusa and Gorgons in Art and Literature

Department: Greek and Roman Studies

Faculty supervisor: Dr. Brendan Burke and Dr. Trevor Van Damme

"In this comprehensive analysis, the monstrous gorgons that appear in Ancient Greek art and literature are analyzed and placed into their social context and roles in society. With Medusa and the myth of Perseus as a template, this project aims to present a new definition to the word “gorgon,” suggesting that gorgons represented women who refused to be objectified and treated like property in their patrilineal traditions. As a result, they were vilified and demonized because of their threat to the patriarchal system in Greece. With this definition in mind, I inquire about the gorgon’s connection to various other figures, especially Artemis, Apollo, and Athena, specifically looking at the archaeology of important sanctuaries and temples. By comparing archaeological find contexts, typological styles, and the development of gorgon images in Archaic Greece with certain literary sources and evidence, this holistic study of the gorgon around the 7th and 6th Centuries BC shows that Medusa and gorgons represented more than just monsters but demonized social actors. As a result, their connection to other mythological characters can be rationalized by examining their qualities and attributes based on this new definition."


Engstrom, Jacob

Project title: Inclusion in Exclusivity: Burial Practices in the Social and Political Developments of the Prepalatial Greek Mainland (MH I - LH II). With a Preliminary Case Study of Tomb 11 at Ancient Eleon, Central Greece

Department: Greek and Roman Studies

Faculty supervisor: Dr. Brendan Burke

"This project will investigate the changing burial practices of the Middle Helladic and Early Mycenaean (Late Helladic I - Late Helladic II) periods in the context of the social and political developments which led to the eventual institution of the Mycenaean palaces in LH II (ca. 1500 BCE). Focusing on the concepts of inclusion and exclusion in the burial practices of these periods, I will explore the meaning and utilization of these features in the forging of social stratification and emerging power and prestige in the Early Mycenaean period.  The newly excavated Tomb 11 at ancient Eleon in Boeotia, which was uncovered during the 2018 season of the Eastern Boeotia Archaeological Project, will provide an original case study by which to consider these practices." 


MacIlroy, Alycia

Project title: Gendered Medicine: Exploring Female and Male Anatomy in Ancient Medical Texts

Department: Greek and Roman Studies

Faculty supervisor: Dr. Mark Nugent

"This project will center on the genderization of male and female anatomy in ancient Greek and Roman medical practices. This will primarily focus on the theorizations and philosophies of the Hippocratic Corpus, Celsus, Soranus, and Galen, all prevalent medical theorists of their respective eras. Through the textual and material evidence surrounding these medical practitioners, this study will focus on how genderization of the body impacted the study of anatomy in the ancient Mediterranean."       



Charlie Kocurek

Money Talks: An Epigraphical Study of Legends on Hellenistic Greek and Roman Republican Coinage

"My project will begin by building on Greg Woolf’s 2015 theory in which he discusses ancient literacy as a technology rather than simple representation of speech. The overarching goal of my research is to explore how numismatic material can be placed within an epigraphical context by tracking and making observations on various aspects of numismatic legends - letter forms, letter placements in relation to the image, which language and case is being used, etc. I will evaluate a selection of Hellenistic Greek coinage, dating between 323 and 31 BC, as a miniature form of monumental records of the various states that arose in the post-Alexander age. In addition, this will allow me to create a standardized and comparable baseline against which to re-examine Michael H. Crawford’s original 1975 interpretation and publication of legends inscribed upon Roman Republican coinage, dating between 280 and 31 BC."

Novella Nicchitta

The purpose of my research is to explore the violent world of gladiatorial games in Roman society through Pompeian epigraphic inscriptions. In order to investigate the social importance of such practices in C1 AD Italy, both official dipinti and the more colourful graffiti will be explored, thus giving voice also to ordinary people. Furthermore, in a broader territorial perspective, my analysis will try to focus on the local chauvinism that such contests fostered, and the spread of violence outside of the arena, as occurred in 59 AD.


Simon Mollard


Arnoldus van Roessel

"I intend to investigate the context of a series of metamorphoses in Ovid's Metamorphoses.  I am interested in how Ovid's Metamorphoses engages with the canonical epics of the Greek author Homer and the Latin author Virgil, in addition to Ovid's interaction with other poetic genres. I will focus on Metamorphoses 12, in which Ovid employs numerous Iliadic references to explore the concept of change within a literary tradition."

Evelyn Feldman

"To research and write a thesis on ancient Roman libraries, to examine the Roman library and the ways Romans interacted with books for both education and leisure."

Jeremy Thomsen

"The Hymn to Demeter tells the story of the abduction and rape of Persephone by Hades, and Demeter's heart-wrenching search for, and ultimate reunion with, her lost daughter. The Eleusinian Mysteries are one of the oldest and perhaps most famous of the ancient Greek mystery religions. In my research, I intend to demonstrate how the Hymn to Demeter provides many valuable insights into the Eleusinian Mysteries, its core rites, and its understanding and expression of birth, love, sex, death, and the afterlife."


Elliott Fuller

"History of the Safety Pin
Why are fibulae, ancient “safety pins,” so well represented both in votive deposits in sanctuaries and in burials in Greece and the Near East in the 9-7th B.C.? This is the foundation for my intended thesis. I plan to examine fibulae as they are found in religious, funereal and artistic contexts to determine what importance these objects held to their owners. Fibulae are often found in great quantities in sanctuaries across the Greek world and yet the reason for their dedication is unclear. Certainly they are often elaborate, as many examples from Boeotia and Phrygia show us; but there are few artistic representations of these small items actually being worn. In the Near East however there are a number of representations that may suggest a religious context for these items. I intend to use a comparative approach to assess the context in which fibulae are found in both areas to further illuminate why specific votive objects are dedicated and the particular meaning they may have had to the Greeks and their eastern neighbours. In order to achieve this I would like to create a map outlining the chronology and the geographical extent of the use of fibulae in votive contexts.”

Max MacDonald

"Death in the Landscape: Ceramics and Society at Tanagra
The ancient remains of Tanagra lie within eyesight of the Late Bronze Age settlement of Eleon in Boeotia, Greece where I have spent the past three summers participating in the Eastern Boeotia Archeological Project. The project surveyed the area around the site of the famous Tanagra tombs between 2007 and 2009 and collected surface material that could hopefully answer many questions that were left unanswered by previous archaeologists. The Tanagra tombs are important because they contained many impressive and unique larnakes, painted coffins with funerary scenes painted on the exterior. The larnakes date to a period known as Late Helladic III A and B (1350-1250BCE), a period well attested at Eleon. Due to the minimal publications from the excavation of the area, it is unclear whether there was a Bronze Age settlement at Tanagra; perhaps the tombs were a product of the settlement of Eleon, the largest Mycenaean site in the region. My goal is to examine the findings from survey of Tanagra, and the surrounding area, and combine the findings with what has already been published about this area. I will also compare the survey styles of EBAP and other survey projects that have taken place that have employed different archaeological methods in order to enrich the understanding of this important Bronze Age site.”


Nick Falzon

“My research project centers on Late Bronze Age or, ‘Mycenaean’ Crete. Scholars disagree as to whether or not Greek speaking peoples conquered the island of Crete during the Late Bronze Age. Taking into account all forms of available archaeological evidence, my goal is to determine the validity of various scholarly positions concerning the material culture of this time period. I would look at language, architecture, mortuary culture, and ceramics from Crete in order to discern if, or in what manner, cultural change occurs on the island of Crete during the Late Bronze Age. Cultural change will be an ever present theme, as I examine the terms ‘Mycenaean’ and ‘Minoan’ as modern constructs of cultural identity.”

Rose Pappas-Acreman

“How are female prostitutes depicted in Classical Athenian law? What can these depictions reveal about the realities of these individual’s lives? My research project will explore these questions through an assessment of the historical and thematic representations of female prostitutes in extant forensic oratory from Classical Athens. This research will first involve assessing legal arguments presented in court cases dating to approximately 480-323 B.C.E. (such as Demosthenes and Lysias). Through this assessment I aim to identify thematic connections relating to gender and status in the various case studies which I will develop with further research on the secondary sources of women in ancient Greek law. In addition, I intend to contrast the examples of female prostitutes in law with case studies of wives and male prostitutes. This contrast will highlight differences in the treatment of women from distinct social stations and differences between the sexes working as prostitutes. These differences will emphasize the unique situation of female prostitutes in ancient Greek law. In conclusion, the purpose of this research project is to explore the legal status of female prostitutes from Classical Athens through an assessment of extant forensic evidence.”


Glenn Beauvais

“As it emerged from its long Dark Age, Greece entered the Archaic Age with rapid changes which separated it radically from its past. Once overshadowed by the celebrated Classical period, the Archaic period is now appreciated as the vital source of those later achievements.

Great leaps of innovation and experimentation were made in literature as creative energies shifted from traditional epic to the shorter and more personal lyric poems in a plethora of genres and meters. Greeks began to redefine themselves and lyric poetry was ‘the primary vehicle for the contest of paradigms’.

The aim of my research will be to identify various ways archaic poets challenge and transgress early Homeric traditions on such topics as love, war, and death. I propose to include the poetry of Archilochus, who was said to have been banned in Sparta for his flippant disregard for standards of excellence, as well as Sappho who provided a valuable female perspective on the nature of eros, relationship and longing. In addition, I will examine fragments from Mimnermus, Simonides, Anacreon and Hipponax as some of the voices of this very dynamic period in Greek history.”

Susana Reyes

“This research project focuses on the production and distribution of gold technology in the Bronze Age Aegean, separated into three sections. The first section will discuss raw materials and its acquisition by looking at locations of known gold mines as well as trade routes.

The second section will examine the gold artefacts from various sites to determine similarities and/or differences in styles, patterns, symbols and methods of production. This section will also contain a study of the role of the goldsmith and the tools that were used.

The third section, which will rely on findings from section two, will attempt to answer the question of whether gold technology began as an indigenous, Greek development that spread outwards or if it was knowledge brought into the Aegean along with the raw materials. This will require some analysis of gold items from sites outside of the Aegean, such Egypt or Asia Minor.

While priority will be given to gold jewellery, other artefacts such as knives, gold sheets and foils, cups, signet rings and other inlaid items will also be included.”


Charlotte Dawe

"The Quality of Mercy

I propose to examine how various rulers of Ancient Rome from the 1st C BC to the 1st C AD used the virtue of clementia (mercy, forgiveness) in imperial propaganda. I will compare how clementia was admired as an abstract idea to how it was used in practice, from Julius Caesar’s styling himself as a leader merciful even to those who wished to kill him, to the famed mercilessness of Nero which prompted his tutor, Seneca the Younger, to write him a lengthy lecture on the subject of clemency and how it should be considered one of the most necessary virtues of a good ruler.

My ultimate goal is to determine whether the idea of clementia was used merely as a propaganda ploy by the Julio-Claudian rulers, or if it was sincerely practiced by some – and if the latter, then were those practitioners generally deemed successful rulers, or was Roman culture such that it could not truly be ruled with

Melissa Mann

"The Minoans (people of Bronze Age Crete) and Mycenaeans (people of the Bronze Age Greek mainland) had different languages, customs, religions, and artistic styles. Some scholars group these cultures together, ignoring or minimizing the cultural differences between these two distinct peoples. My research will focus on the differences between Minoan and Mycenaean material remains, and on the differences in cultural practices that can be determined from this evidence. Changes in material culture over the Bronze Age will also indicate the influence that these two cultures had on one another.”

Ana Wagner

"The purpose of my research will be to examine Bronze Age Aegean chronology by analyzing Minoan, Egyptian, Mycenaean and Cycladic relative chronologies and evaluating how they are interrelated to each other and to absolute dates. I will focus on the eruption of the volcano on Thera, which preserved the Late Bronze Age site of Akrotiri.

The original excavation on Akrotiri in the 1970s placed the date of the eruption circa 1450 B.C.E. In the Minoan relative chronology, based on ceramic sequences mainly from Crete, the eruption was dated to LM IA period due to the distinctive style of the ceramics. When this chronology was compared to the firmly dated chronologies of Egypt and Mesopotamia, the relative and absolute dates were accepted.

In recent years, however, the date has been contested by scientific evidence using dendrochronology and radiocarbon dating. The scientific data provided a new date for the eruption of 1625 B.C.E. Although the absolute date is contested, scholars continue to agree on the LM IA date for the eruption in the relative chronology.

In addition to the prominent Egyptian and Minoan evidence, my project will also examine Cycladic and Mycenaean evidence. Although much research has been done on this subject, new evidence and data is continuously emerging. My research will include the most recent evidence from both conventional and scientific dating methods in order to establish a link between the relative chronologies of the Aegean, to reconcile the LM IA relative date with an absolute date.”


Diotima Coad

"The proposed research is an analysis of Pauline Christianity which Judaism understood as Greek philosophy. The framing consists of the general phenomenon of Hellenizing Jews and Judaising Hellenes and the content will examine the figures that allow us to fill in the landscape of philosophical exchange and interaction. The aim is to create a new model for viewing the intellectual and philosophical environment of Paul and his communities."

Ruben Post

"Following a series of historical milestones beginning with their defeat by the Macedonian king Philip II, father of Alexander the Great, in 338 BC, the states of Greece were forced to adapt the core of their militaries, the infantry, which had not changed substantially for centuries, to new ways of war. They were slow in doing so, however, and despite the evident martial superiority of their Macedonian opponents, they did not adopt Macedonian tactics for almost a century after 338 BC, instead adopting other tactics first. I will employ literary, inscriptional, and archaeological evidence to explain why major Greek states responded to defeat by first turning to non-Macedonian tactics, how those tactics affected their military capability, and what led to their relatively quick shift to the Macedonian way of war after this experiment."


Carly Malloch

I am currently engaged in a project to produce an interactive graphic geographic database of events in the Library of Apollodorus, for publication as a searchable map on the web. Ms. Malloch will assist in the compilation of the database of events and characters, and will be assisting in the design, coding and production of the website, under my supervision.

Trevor Van Damme

The project focuses on Bronze Age Aegean (circa 1600-1200 BC) populations of SW Anatolia, which are examined to show how changes here reflect what is happening in other parts of Greece.

The archaeological research employs methods with specific reference to mortuary practices, prehistoric Aegean scripts, and ceramic evidence. Skills developed by the student through mapping tombs in Tanagra (Greece) and by walking survey tracts are put to use.

Trevor’s research project looks at cultural change in SW Anatolia in a way comparable to Dr. Burke's research questions in Boeotia, central Greece. The results of his work should complement on-going work in Boeotia.