Radford student academic endeavors featured at Student Engagement Forum
Campus scholars and their mentors gathered April 19-21 for the 25th annual Student Engagement Forum (SEF) to continue Radford University's tradition of exploration and discovery.
Undergraduate and graduate students from all of Radford’s colleges made both oral and poster presentations. Twenty-four Honors Academy students presented capstone projects to open the forum and 29 students from the Accelerated Research Opportunities program presented on topics ranging from geophysics technology to literary interpretation to an electronic way to teach piano. Eighteen Scholar-Citizens showcased ePortfolios and 29 graduating Highlander Scholars were recognized.
Almost 400 presentations were featured in the campuswide celebration of original research and faculty/student collaboration. The SEF included a student choreography showcase, an evening of exploratory dance in the Albig Studio Theater; a presentation by the RU Makers and a session devoted to research done on arctic sea ice thickness during the 2016 Maymester. The showcase of inquiry featured sessions devoted to diverse disciplines such as health and human performance, biology, history, chemistry, geospatial sciences, information technology and psychology.
For Crenna Taylor, a senior who is double major in geospatial sciences and psychology, the forum was a challenge. Taylor presented a poster of her research into modern American migration on Wednesday and on Thursday, she presented a poster on her research into job stress.
“I want to be a human geographer,” said Taylor. “From data, I need to interpret the numbers and then identify trends. I had to back up my results, show consistency and explain the reasons for my conclusion.”
Both of Taylor’s projects took a full semester, or about three and a half months. Along the way, she formed ideas, identified variables, selected and ran computer programs, interpreted the data and validated her hypotheses with data for conclusions. She also produced two display posters, practiced her presentations and wrote accompanying papers – while taking 21 credit hours.
“The highlight is being able to look back and see the results of my work,” Taylor said.
Lindsey Lesure, a senior chemistry major, made an oral presentation, titled “The role of F365 in inhibitor binding by Escherichia coli betaglucuronadase” that capped her two years as part of a team working with Chemistry Professor Kim Lane to minimize the impact of a chemotherapy drug on patients.
“I spent all day in the lab and got to experience life in the lab. I know now I want to do more. I was able to explore, sharpen my problem-solving skills and immerse myself in a project that could better society,” said Lesure, who after graduation will enter a Ph.D. program in chemistry at Wake Forest University.
At Radford, Lesure was a Student Undergraduate Research Fellow and her project, done with research partner Charles Folsom, was also presented at the recent American Chemical Society national meeting in San Diego.
“What made Radford work for me was getting into my major and becoming fully engaged,” Lesure said. “I found teachers who were enthusiastic and had high expectations to challenge me.”
Patricia Atkinson, a senior graphic design major, presented her honors capstone titled “Beauty of the Bay” - two paintings of the Chesapeake Bay.
“I had to refine myself as a painter,” said Atkinson. “I wanted my paintings to show my full potential.”
Atkinson noted parallels between the capstone project and her future as a graphic designer. In both, she said, there is a process of finding inspiration and choosing which techniques to employ.
“I enjoyed the process because in the real world, my work would have to be approved by my client. They will tell me what changes the need made to my work,” Atkinson said. “It was nice to be my own client and create a product I completely envisioned.”
At the SEF, Tommy Morgan, senior public relations major, reviewed his project to study the effects of public relations on philanthropy efforts. Morgan, president of the university’s chapter Phi Sigma Pi National Honor fraternity, teamed his organization with Roanoke’s Project Discovery and assessed the results.
Morgan found that public relations could have a positive impact on philanthropic efforts, but he said that it can be a very bumpy road.
“The real world is not like in the textbooks,” Morgan said. “Things don’t always work out.”
The team of Adrianne Reeder, Shannon Knutson and Anna Nicholas went beyond the textbooks in their presentation during the Accelerated Research Opportunities (ARO) session. ARO helps incoming students make connections with faculty and conduct original research as freshmen. The threesome teamed up to look at the evolution of the depiction of female characters in comics. The team sought to characterize the perceptions of femininity that women comic readers saw as industry estimates indicate that women make up nearly half of modern comic readership.
“Not only am I in love with comics now, but I think this is research that can impact industries and encourage them to stray away from one-dimension, over-sexualized females,” said Reeder, who had never read a comic before embarking on the survey.
Samantha Rubush, a sophomore anthropological science major, presented her study, "An Analysis of the Effect of Shape on Fluvial Transport of Articulated Units" during the ARO session. Fluvial systems, or rivers, alter the processes at work on human remains. Rubush’s research focused on the rate and speed at which human remains traveled through a river system.
“It was difficult but I enjoyed finding so many new data bases,” Rubush said. “There’s so little research done and I’m glad I can contribute to it.”