Students present research projects that merge academic and personal interests during annual symposiums

Featured photoThe 19th Annual Graduate Student Research Symposium and Exhibit and the 10th Annual Poster Symposium for Undergraduate Research and Creativity were held on back-to-back days in the University Student Commons. Photos by Pat Kane, University Public Affairs.

Virginia Patterson believes exercise saved her life. With that in mind, she often finds herself considering how it can help save the lives of others. Patterson, a Ph.D. student in the Department of Kinesiology and Health Sciences, part of the College of Humanities and Sciences, searches for ways to help people find the kind of reward in physical fitness that has enriched her own life.

Before she embraced serious exercise, Patterson said, she was unmotivated and directionless. As she became more devoted to a regular exercise regimen, she found her mood improved substantially, particularly when she was pushing herself.

Virginia Patterson, a Kinesiology and Health Sciences student, presents her poster Tuesday, April 19 during the 19th Annual Graduate Research Symposium and Exhibit at the University Student Commons.
Virginia Patterson, a Kinesiology and Health Sciences student, presents her poster Tuesday, April 19 during the 19th Annual Graduate Research Symposium and Exhibit at the University Student Commons.

“Exercise really helped me sink my teeth into that move forward,” she said. “I could see that I could keep getting better.”

Patterson is studying the cognitive effects of intense periods of exercise, particularly on those who are generally sedentary and inactive. She wants to know if people benefit mentally and emotionally in the immediate aftermath of serious exercise, even if they feel preoccupied with their physical pain.

Patterson said her research so far has indicated that intense exercise amounts to “good stress,” whether the subjects are feeling physically ill from it or not. “It doesn’t care how you feel,” she said. “You’re getting benefits from it whether you like it or not.”

Patterson was one of hundreds of students who showcased their ongoing and completed research projects during the 19th Annual Graduate Student Research Symposium and Exhibit and the 10th Annual Poster Symposium for Undergraduate Research and Creativity, held on back-to-back days in the University Student Commons last week. Students from both campuses and a diverse range of disciplines presented their research, mingling with each other among poster boards to explain their work to visitors and to learn about the efforts of their peers. Some of the students conducted solo research projects, while others were parts of teams that included other students and faculty members.

Engineering student Arzan Dotivala chats with others about his poster at the 10th Annual Poster Symposium for Undergraduate Research and Creativity, held Wednesday, April 20 at the University Student Commons.
Click to view slideshow.Engineering student Arzan Dotivala chats with others about his poster at the 10th Annual Poster Symposium for Undergraduate Research and Creativity, held Wednesday, April 20 at the University Student Commons.

The symposiums, which are central components of the annual Research Weeks at VCU, provide students at all levels of their education — from freshmen to Ph.D. candidates — with the opportunity to present and explain their research to a captive audience.

In line with Patterson’s experience, students frequently had both personal and academic foundations for their research projects. Diana Naidoo, an undergraduate student in the School of Nursing, was born prematurely and has always been interested in the topic of preterm labor. She was part of a team examining the effects of guided imagery stress management on pregnant African-American women. Guided imagery uses words and music to create positive mental images for subjects.

Stress is considered a major factor in negative birth outcomes, including premature births, and black women are particularly susceptible. Naidoo, an Undergraduate Research Opportunities Program scholar, said her research indicated that guided imagery did reduce stress in the women involved, suggesting that it is a possible low-cost option that deserves more study.

Naidoo said she hopes to continue to conduct research during her nursing career. As a nurse, she said, you interact closely with patients and “can tease out how their lives relate to their medical situation.” Naidoo would like to be able to take what she learns from her patients and pursue research that relates to the issues they are facing.

Candace Moore discusses her research on the impact of student employment during the 10th Annual Poster Symposium for Undergraduate Research and Creativity, held Wednesday, April 20 at the University Student Commons.
Candace Moore discusses her research on the impact of student employment during the 10th Annual Poster Symposium for Undergraduate Research and Creativity, held Wednesday, April 20 at the University Student Commons.

Candace Moore hopes to use her research experiences as a springboard in her academic career. Moore is one of the researchers on the project “Balancing Work and School: Evaluating the Experiences of Students Who Work While Enrolled.” The study examines the effects of part-time work on job and academic performance.

Moore, who said 76 percent of college students work at least one part-time job, volunteers as a caregiver for a disabled veteran, serving approximately 25 hours per week, and knows how outside responsibilities can threaten to hinder school performance. The study incorporated a survey of students’ supervisors at work, and it revealed, among other findings, that a supportive supervisor proves critical to a student’s academic performance.

Moore said research projects are rewarding experiences that require teamwork, creativity, curiosity and attention to detail. She is majoring in psychology and science, with a concentration in health preparation/professional science, and minoring in biology and chemistry. Although not scheduled to graduate until 2018, Moore has already participated in multiple research studies. She hopes to attend medical school one day and will be transitioning to working on biomedical research at VCU with her remaining undergraduate experience.

Jessica Greenlee’s research, “Relations Between Social Skills and Bullying Behaviors Among Students with Disabilities: The Role of Effective Nonviolent Behaviors,” examines the experiences of students with disabilities in an urban public middle school. Greenlee is pursuing a Ph.D. in developmental psychology.

“I’m really interested in kids with disabilities and how they handle social challenges,” she said.

Presenting it here is a real highlight for me.

Greenlee’s study will help illuminate how well certain strategies work for children who are at risk of bullying. She said she found strong mentorship and collaborative instincts within her department to support her research pursuits, and she plans to use the study she presented at the graduate symposium as the starting point for her dissertation. However, it was also its own reward.

“Presenting it here is a real highlight for me,” she said.

Anson Blanks, who is pursuing a Ph.D. in kinesiology and health, conducted his research in the same lab as Patterson. He examined the use of the exercise recovery index as an assessment of cardiovascular disease risk. Blanks said the study was not a direct match for the lines of research he hopes to pursue in the future, but navigating the process of designing and implementing the study and managing its results and presentation were invaluable.

Mounica Bevara presented a poster on music and aromatherapy for stroke patients at the 10th Annual Poster Symposium for Undergraduate Research and Creativity, held Wednesday, April 20 at the University Student Commons.
Mounica Bevara presented a poster on music and aromatherapy for stroke patients at the 10th Annual Poster Symposium for Undergraduate Research and Creativity, held Wednesday, April 20 at the University Student Commons.

“Even if the topic isn’t exactly what I plan to do, the experience of going through it was very helpful to me,” he said.

Mounica Bevara, a biology major, played violin for eight years and that background informed her study, “Combination of Music and Aromatherapy to Improve the Efficiency of Motor Functions and Speech in Patients Paralyzed From Stroke.” Bevara said physiotherapy treatments for patients who were paralyzed following a stroke are long and rigorous — and expensive. Bevara explored whether music therapy and aromatherapy could aid the process.

Bevara, who is just a freshman, conducted the research for a class. She did not expect to enjoy the process as much as she did.

“I definitely think it has been a great opportunity for me to expand my knowledge,” she said. “Before this, I wouldn’t have considered doing research.”

 

Subscribe for free to the weekly VCU News email newsletter at http://newsletter.news.vcu.edu/ and receive a selection of stories, videos, photos, news clips and event listings in your inbox every Thursday.

Congratulations to our 2016 VCU Undergraduate Research Summer Fellows!

The Undergraduate Research Opportunities Program with the Virginia Commonwealth University Office of Research and Innovation is happy to announce the 2016 VCU Undergraduate Research Summer Fellows.

The fellowship provides the opportunity for faculty and students to partner on a funded research project of their choice. The fellowship is designed to provide outstanding undergraduates the chance to make significant progress on a formal, structured research endeavor during the summer in collaboration with a faculty mentor.

In addition to the awards supported by UROP, fellowships were funded by the Global Education Office, Division for Inclusive Excellence, Division of Community Engagement and the Center for Clinical and Translational Research. These projects are focused on global learning and research, issues of diversity, community-engaged research and clinical research into advancing human health.

The 2016 VCU Undergraduate Research Summer Fellows include:

cropped-new-urop1.jpg

Undergraduate Research and Creative Scholarship Summer Fellowship – Awardees

Sarah Algino, Department of Biomedical Engineering, VCU Honors College, with Dr. Raj Rao, Department of Chemical and Life Science EngineeringDefined scaffolds for propagation of human pluripotent stem cells

Bethany Allen, Department of Sculpture, with Mr. Matthew Warren, Photography and Film: Can Augmented Reality Technology can be Artfully used to Challenge Conventional Modes of Perception?

Niraja Bohidar, Department of Biomedical Engineering, VCU Honors College, with Dr. Rebecca Heise, Department of Biomedical Engineering: Using Vitamin C to Attenuate Stretch Induced ER Stress in Aged Murine ATII Cells

Abigail Burns, Departments of Economics (CHS) and Political Science, VCU Honors College, with Dr. Carol Scotese, Department of Economics: Modeling Demographic Transitions: The Role of Technology Gaps

Quy-Hien Dang, Clinical Lab Sciences, with Dr. Jenica Harrison, Clinical Lab Sciences: Development of a Mixing Study Protocol and a Factor Assay Protocol for the Assessment of Factor VIII Activity in Human Plasma Using the STart®4 Analyzer 

Nicholas Donnelly, Department of Psychology, with Dr. Marcia Winter, Department of Psychology: Young Children’s Sensory Sensitivity & Cognitive Flexibility: Research & Education in the Children’s Museum

Arzan Dotivala, Department of Chemical and Life Science Engineering, with Dr. Christina Tang, Department of Chemical and Life Science Engineering: Synthesis and Characterization of Superhydrophobic Fibrous Membranes

Nicole Duggan, Department Biomedical Engineering, with Dr. Daniel Conway, Department of Biomedical Engineering: Measurement of Mechanical Force on Cardiomyocyte Desmosomes

Marwa Eltaib, Departments of Biology and Sociology, VCU Honors College, with Dr. Susan Bodnar-Deren, Department of Sociology: Depression and Health of Refugees in Central Virginia

Andrew Harris, BA, School of Nursing, with Dr. Patricia Kinser, School of Nursing:  Exploring Barriers and Facilitators to Sustaining Mindfulness Practice in Healthcare Professionals

Lohitha Kethu, Scientific and Preparatory Medical Illustration, with Dr. Carmen Rodriguez, Department of Biology: The Graphic Novel as an Aid to Type 1 Diabetes Diagnoses

SungHo Kim, School of Nursing, with Dr. Alison Montpetit, Adult Health and Nursing Systems: Exploring Relationships Between Airway Acidity and Sepsis in Mechanically Ventilated Adults

Elisabeth McConnell, VCU School of Nursing, with Dr. Clarence Biddle, Departments of Anesthesiology & Nurse Anesthesia: Translation of Hypoxic Pulmonary Vasoconstriction Research Into Educational Publication for Anesthesia Practitioners

Jaime McGinthy, School of Nursing, with Dr. Leigh Small, Family and Community Health Nursing: Visceral Indicators of Risk or Growth: VIGoR

Sameen Meshkin, Department of Biology, VCU Honors College, with Dr. Susan Bodnar-Deren, Department of Sociology: Preserving a Sense of Honor, Conscience, and Dignity during Medical School for the Physician-Patient Relationship

Inyoung Park, Departments of Political Science and Economics, VCU Honors College, with Dr. Laura Razzolini, Department of Economics: Warm Glow versus Cold prickle: The Effect of Feeling of Ownership on Cooperation and Altruism

Heather Parker, School of World Studies (Anthropology), with Dr. Bernard Means, School of World Studies: Connecting Cultures: Mining India’s Rich Cultural Heritage through Virtual Technology

Huy Phan, Environmental Studies, with Dr. Lesley Bulluck, Department of Biology and Center for Environmental Studies: Does aquatic insect emergence correlate with the breeding time and nestling condition of the Prothonotary Warbler (Protonotaria citrea)?

Danarubini Ramanan, Department of Chemistry, with Dr. Matthew Hartman, Department of Chemistry: Using FRET and GST Fusion Proteins to Assess Protein Binding Activity with Peptide Inhibitors

Hanqiu Tan, Department of Mathematics, with Dr. Marco Aldi, Department of Mathematics: A Prime Hypergraph Theorem

Nilan Vaghjiani, Department of Biomedical Engineering, VCU Honors College, with Dr. Indika Arachchige, Department of Chemistry: Metal Aerogels as High Efficiency Surface Enhance Raman Scattering Substrates for Detection of Chronic Biomolecules

Morgan Van Driest, Department of Bioinformatics, with Dr. Amanda Dickinson, Department of Biology: Desmosomal Gene Expression During Embryological Development In Xenopus laevis

Anna Webster, Department of English, with Mr. Brian McTague, VCU Writing Center: Digital Tales of Shining Sea and Rising Sun:   an examination of cultural storytelling in the genre of horror via the medium of video games

Auburn Wilborn, Department of Psychology, with Dr. Heather Jones, Department of Psychology: Parenting and Cognitions in African American Families of Children with ADHD

Elaine Williams, School of Social Work, with Dr. Alex Wagaman, School of Social Work: Exploring the Experiences and Services Needs of Non-Traditional Homeless Youth in Richmond

Ruxandra Zait, Department of Information Systems, with Dr. Manoj Thomas, Department of Information Systems: Assistive Technologies for Continuing Medical Education (CME) in Nepal

 

GlobalEdLogo_st_4c

Global Education Undergraduate Research Fellowship – Awardees

Elyse Duani, Department of Sociology, with Dr. Joann Richardson, Kinesiology and Health Sciences: Impacting knowledge, attitudes and behaviors for the prevention and control of hypertension and diabetes among rural, medically underserved Jamaican women of childbearing age

Caitlin Lange, School of Social Work, with Dr. Hyojin Im, School of Social Work: Multifaceted Health Analysis of Effects of Acculturation on Bhutanese Refugees

Hannah Foster, School of World Studies (French and International Studies), with Dr. Lionel Mathieu, School of World Studies: World Language French Curation Project

bm_CommEngag_st_4cUndergraduate Fellowships for Community Engaged and Translational Research – Awardees

Anthony Kormos, Departments of Information Systems and Economics, with Dr. Elena Olson, Department of Information Systems: Early Computing Education Competition

Colleen Parker, School of Social Work, with Dr. Shelby McDonald, School of Social Work: A mixed-methods study to inform a coordinated community response to the intersection of interpersonal and animal-directed violence

Katharine Pyle, Public Relations, with Dr. Rowena Briones, Robertson School of Media and Culture: Striving Toward Evidence-Based Social Media Communication: An Exploration of Enhancing the Red Flag Campaign

bm_WrightCCTR_st_4c

 

Undergraduate Fellowship for Clinical and Translational Research – Awardees

 Daniel Mohammadi, Department of Forensic Science, VCU Honors College, with Dr. Robert Tombes, Departments of Biology and Biochemistry: The Role of CaMK-II in Zebrafish Acute Myeloid Leukemia Development

  bm_Excellence_st_4c

Undergraduate Research Fellowship for Inclusive Excellence – Awardees

Ksenia Dombo, School of Social Work, with Dr. Shelby McDonald, School of Social Work: Race, Ethnicity, and Trauma Symptomology among Children Exposed to Family Violence

Sasha Spruill, Departments of Political Science and African American Studies, with Dr. Mignonne Guy, Department of African American Studies: Exploring the discipline experiences of black females in inner city public schools by examining the inequitable practices of exclusionary discipline