More than 180 Southern Illinois University Edwardsville students from 30 degree programs showcased their Senior Assignments and Undergraduate Research and Creative Activities (URCA) to the campus community during the annual Undergraduate Scholars Showcase held Thursday, April 25 in the Morris University Center (MUC).
The showcase highlighted the depth and variety of SIUE’s Senior Assignment, the culminating undergraduate experience, and URCA programs. Outstanding research and creative activities were shared as performances, demonstrations, presentations, readings and poster displays.
“I was so impressed by our students. They never cease to amaze me” said Jessica Harris, PhD, interim assistant provost and associate professor in the Department of Historical Studies. “Their accomplishments speak to how valuable and rewarding undergraduate research opportunities are and why SIUE is committed to offering more of these experiences for our students.”
In the MUC Conference Center, rows of insightful research posters demonstrated the breadth of experiences SIUE students have as undergraduates. Senior public health majors Amy Baxter, Kaitlen Bruhn, Danielle Begeske, Rosa Flores and Lindsey Douglas described the impact of their project: “X-Stress Yourself: Public Health Project at Belleville East High School.”
“We developed a stress and anxiety program for Belleville East High School, and our target population was freshmen in health classes,” explained Baxter, of Edwardsville. “We wanted to help students understand what stress and anxiety are, explain how they’re different, offer coping techniques, and educate them on resources they can access in the community.”
A team of nursing students, including Grant Herring, Ben Reilly, Allison Buchmiller and Anna Haugnauer, researched hospital protocols for their project, “Taking the Next Step Toward CAUTI (Catheter-Associated Urinary Tract Infections) Prevention.”
“UTI’s are the number one hospital-acquired infections studied today,” said Herring, of O’Fallon. “We considered protocols surrounding insertions and maintenance of catheters to prevent UTI’s in patients. The whole process was eye-opening as to how much more can be done at the professional level to improve outcomes.”
URCA student Claire Iott, a sophomore geography major from Bloomington, asked the question: “Where have Spring and Fall Gone?” As a second-year student, her research experience confirmed and enhanced her interest in climatology.
“If you had asked me in second grade what I wanted to be, I would’ve said a meteorologist or scientist,” Iott recalled. “Since I’ve always been interested in research and am passionate about climate change, this project with Dr. Alan Black stuck out to me. The research process has been absolutely fascinating.”
Fellow URCA student Julia Garard, a freshman economics and finance major from Bloomington, worked with faculty mentor Ari Belasan, PhD, on a research project entitled, “Regulation of Prescription Drug Pricing for Medicare and Medicaid.”
“This was a theoretical project on how to reduce the prices of prescription drugs,” Garard explained. “The URCA program showed me what it’s like to be involved in a real economics project without having to wait four years. As a freshman, I know this was an incredible opportunity.”
Chaya Gopalan, PhD, associate professor in the Departments of Applied Health and Primary Care and Health Systems, viewed all projects related to physiology at the showcase, and selected one that stood out with great potential to make significant contributions to the field. She presented an American Physiological Society recognition certificate to URCA student Jordyn Nimmer, a sophomore double majoring in biology and psychology.
“I’m studying biology, because I would like to pursue medical school and help people,” explained Zimmer, of Crystal Lake. “I am double majoring in psychology, because of my passion for mental health. I want to better understand the way people process things and have different perspectives. I am honored to have received this professional acknowledgement from Dr. Gopalan. I’m honored and motivated.”
Nimmer has conducted her research under the faculty mentorship of Brianne Guilford, PhD. The project is entitled, “Omega-3-Fatty-Acids Prevent Mechanical Hypersensitivity but Do Not Alter Nerve Fiber Density in a High Fat-Fed Murine Model of Prediabetes.”
“The main concept of the project was to see if omega-3-fatty acids, otherwise found in fish oils, could be used to prevent neuropathy in diabetic patients. That is, the painful sensations in their extremities,” Nimmer said. “We found this to be successful in mice, and from that, we can understand that fish oil can be used as a therapeutic treatment for people with diabetes, and it can be used to prevent the development of diabetes.”
Nimmer noted the valuable impact her URCA experience has made in the early stages of her academic career.
“I got involved in URCA the moment I stepped on campus,” she said. “Research allows me to get into the nitty-gritty of the disease states that I learn about in the classroom. I’m able to apply information in a realistic setting, which has shown me just how much work goes into simply identifying certain complications of one specific disease.”
In the Goshen Lounge, senior dance majors Kristen Ahring and Brian Lynch, of Edwardsville, offered a special performance of “Knockturn,” a piece they debuted at SIUE’s spring Dance in Concert.
“It’s a love duet about two people who are going through a relationship over a 10-year period, so the piece describes the ups and downs, using a seven-foot door as a prop,” Ahring explained.
“Dance is a beautiful blend of artistry and athleticism,” added Lynch. Both he and Ahring plan to pursue professional dancing careers following their May graduation.
Each participant in the Undergraduate Scholars Showcase received a certificate of achievement.
Photos: A team of nursing students researched how to reduce the number of hospital-acquired catheter-associated urinary tract infections in patients as their Senior Assignment (L-R) Grant Herring, Allison Buchmiller, Anna Hagnauer and Ben Reilly.
A team of public health students look over their poster presentation highlighting their Senior Assignment.
URCA student Julia Garard, a freshman economics and finance major, describes her research on prescription drug prices to a fellow student.
Dr. Chaya Gopalan (right) presented a recognition award from the American Physiological Society to sophomore URCA student Jordyn Nimmer (left).
Senior dance majors Kristen Ahring and Btian Lynch perform “Knockturn” during the Undergraduate Scholars Showcase at SIUE.