Mieasha Research

Senior microbiology major Mieasha Hicks (left) talks with senior Julie Gompers about her research into the effects of PCBs on pituitary tumor-derived adrenocorticoptropic cells.

Quality of undergraduate research best ever, symposium shows

From communication disorders to suspected racism in online games to the possible role of PCBs in autism, BGSU undergraduates are engaged in primary research in a range of disciplines.

Many of them presented their work at the third annual Spring Symposium on Undergraduate Research April 16. The event, sponsored by the Office of Undergraduate Research, celebrates their achievements and provides a venue for them to share their work with others.

This year, more than 50 posters were presented, showing the work of about 70 undergraduates. The president of the Bowling Green chapter of Sigma Xi, the scientific research society that awards book scholarships and honorable mention certificates at the event, said, “We’ve had the same four judges each year, and we agree that the quality was good the first year and it has continued to improve. This year is the best yet.” 

Amanda Stewart (left) discusses differences in synchronization performance with fellow student Travis Beckwith during the Undergraduate Research Symposium.

Winning book scholarships were:

• Biology major Todd Koch, for his study with Dr. Sheryl Coombs, biological sciences, of mirror-image stimulation in fish;
• Psychology and sociology major Courtney Ciesinski for her study with Dr. Dara Musher-Eizenman, psychology, of parental feeding practices and the developing child;
• Psychology major Amanda Stewart, for her work with Drs. J. Devin McAuley, psychology, and Steven Seubert, mathematics and statistics, on individual differences in the synchronization behavior of children and adults;
• Biology major Trang Tran, for her work with Drs. Lee Meserve, biological sciences, and Casey Cromwell, psychology, on “Perinatal Polychlorinated Biphenyl Exposure Disrupts Developing Motor Skills and Hormonal Regulation: A Possible Model for Autism”;
• Biology major Joshua Waldman, for his work with Christopher Winslow and Dr. Jeffrey Miner, biological sciences, on an analysis of mechanisms that may have facilitated the spread of the invasive round goby in Lake Erie.

Sigma Xi presented honorable mention awards to 14 other students, including those majoring in human movement, sport and leisure studies; food and nutrition; physics, geology, biological sciences, chemistry and communication disorders. “Some of them work in collaborative teams” with students from other disciplines, said Sigma Xi representatives.

Joshua Waldman (left) confers with Tristan Ula, also a biology major, about his analysis of causes of the spread of the invasive round goby fish in Lake Erie.

Help for those with communication disorders

Kenneth Kozlosky, a senior from Mentor-on-the-Lake majoring in communication disorders, presented the results of a study on self-perception of the voice in people with Parkinson’s disease. “There are three facets to the study,” he said. “We wanted to learn the way they perceive their voice, would they be aware of their deficits, and would they be willing to seek treatment.” With help from a grant last summer from the Office of Undergraduate Research, he asked people with Parkinson’s to read a paragraph, which he recorded, and then asked both the reader and his or her primary caregiver to assess the quality of the voice for pitch, volume and clarity. Surprisingly, “the caregivers tended to rate the voice better than they (those with Parkinson’s) did and than we would have expected,” Kozlosky said. “It was kind of a backwards twist.” Working with Dr. Alex Goberman, communication disorders, Kozlosky is seeking to extend the study to 10-15 additional subjects.

The results of an ongoing study into perceptions about people who stutter were presented by Adam Schlagheck, a senior from Genoa and also a communication disorders major. All the people who stutter who were surveyed reported problems with employment, Schlagheck said, but the key to how others felt about their suitability for various jobs seemed to lie in personal experience. “Anyone who had known someone who stutters said they (people who stutter) should do anything they want,” he reported, including being an attorney or doing any other job that requires communication skills. Working with Dr. Rodney Gabel, Schlagheck and others in the department are conducting an awareness campaign to educate people about the realities of stuttering. “It’s a fascinating problem,” he said. “I’m thinking about doing a thesis on what’s going on in the brain of someone who stutters and why some people grow out of it.”

A look into a virtual world

The virtual world of online gaming may reflect some aspects of the real world, reported Melinda Jacobs, a popular culture major from Ashland. She looked into the Mafia-themed game Omertà, in which players compete against others elsewhere. In some cases, Turkish players have been refused admission into the game, causing international consternation. Jacobs’ study sought to determine whether this was truly racism or simply a defensive move based on the perception that the Turkish players would be more loyal to their own national groups than to their “virtual” family group.

High school participant

New to the symposium this year was the inclusion of the high school winner of the Arts and Sciences Award from the District Science Day. Taylor Braun, a junior at Sylvania Southview High School, presented the results of her study into fertilizer’s effects on the production of lycopene in tomatoes. Lycopene is a phytochemical known for its antioxidant properties. “I found that organic fertilizer produces significantly higher amounts of lycopene,” Braun said. “That was interesting to me because I had expected it to be the other way around.” Calling the study “very timely” because of current public interest in antioxidants and healthy eating, she said, “Now people will know that if they want more lycopene and healthier plants, they should go for the organic fertilizer.”

April 30, 2007