Debbi Maury

Debbi Maury explains her research into the role of sound and the hippocampus in memory to President Sidney Ribeau at the Symposium on Undergraduate Research.

Spirit of inquiry, discovery on view at undergraduate research symposium

BGSU students demonstrated once again this year that undergraduate research is thriving at the University. The second annual Symposium on Undergraduate Research April 20 drew faculty, staff and visiting members of the Ohio Board of Regents to view and discuss about 50 projects currently under way.

“It is truly inspiring to see and to hear firsthand the scholarly creative activities of our undergraduate students,” said Dr. John Farver, director of the Office of Undergraduate Research. “It speaks volumes to the caliber of our students and the dedication of our faculty mentors. We more than doubled—from 32 to 69—the number of student participants in this the second annual symposium, and I anticipate continued growth as more students take advantage of the many opportunities for undergraduate research and creative activities at BGSU.”

Winning the Sigma Xi individual Outstanding Presentation awards this year were Laren Conklin, Debbi Maury and James Verhoff.

Conklin, a senior psychology major from Massillon, works with Dr. Devin McAuley, who addresses basic research questions about the nature of human time and rhythm perception and normal developmental changes that occur across the lifespan. Conklin’s project looks at the phenomenon known as “change deafness,” in which listeners are unable to detect changes in speakers, to see if it also occurs when listening to melodies. The results of the study will provide insight into the similarities between speech and music perception.

Maury is a senior psychology/neuroscience major from Celina studying with Dr. Vern Bingman, who is exploring the role of the brain’s hippocampus region in memory and spatial navigation. Maury’s research, with collaborator Thomas Fuchs, looks at whether auditory events are registered and encoded in the hippocampuses of homing pigeons, becoming part of the memory. The results suggest that avian memory may be more similar to human memory than thought, and could hold clues to how information becomes stored in the brain.

Verhoff, a senior from Columbus Grove majoring in geology with an emphasis in paleobiology, is correlating modern lobsters’ form and structure to their diet and the depth of their habitat in an effort to determine what caused the dramatic drop-off of lobster diversity at the end of the Cretaceous period. He is the student of Dr. Peg Yacobucci.

Jennifer Marlin, a senior from Antwerp majoring in music education, was among those receiving honorable mention from Sigma Xi, the scientific research honorary. She is working with Dr. Joyce Eastlund Gromko, music education, on a study of aural perception that could have implications for early reading skills. She tested the ways in which a group of elementary school children perceived pitch, rhythm and discrete sounds—such as the “p” in pin—as well as nonsense word fluency, and found a correlation between pitch discrimination and reading tests.

“It’s the most exciting finding so far,” Marlin said, adding she hopes to continue her research in graduate school here next year.

Team awards presented
Sigma Xi also presented team awards to two groups. The first comprises students Matthew Brinkman, Jessica Heintzelman, Jill Laisure, Ann Szczepanik and Cynthia Toth, all working in the lab of Dr. Ron Woodruff. They are looking for possible genetic damage caused by the drug Ritalin®, which is widely used to treat Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder. So far, no significant increase in damage to genes has been found in the Drosophilia Melanogaster, or fruit flies, in the study.

The second team is made up of neurobiology majors Brittany Raburn and Jon Patterson, who work with Dr. Paul Moore, biological sciences. Their study focuses on the relationship between serotonin in the systems of crayfish and aggression and dominance. While the research showed that the presence of serotonin definitely increased the crustaceans’ aggressiveness, it has not led to their being more dominant.

Historical perspective
The social sciences were also well represented at the symposium. Among the presenters was senior Theresa Tesno, a German/Russian major with a minor in political science. She analyzed and compared U.S. and Soviet newspaper accounts of the Nuremberg trials of Nazi war criminals.

“People forget that the main judge at the trials was from the Soviet Union,” said Tesno. The Soviets, who had suffered occupation by the Germans and tremendous losses during the war, followed the trials closely, she found, and newspapers reported on both the morning and evening sessions of the proceedings. However, unlike the New York Times, which tended to propagandize the events in its articles, “the Soviet papers were very factual in their coverage and seemed to have more weight due to their restraint,” she found. Tesno, from Montezuma, Ohio, hopes to teach English in Japan after graduation.

To find out more about undergraduate research at BGSU, visit
May 1, 2006