Highlander Highlights: Week of April 17
Every two weeks, Highlander Highlights shares with readers some of the extraordinary research happening on campus through the tireless work and curiosity of our students and faculty. This week, we have stories of students who are working to help save honeybees; examining mental health in Black communities through music therapy;, and looking at multiple visualizations of the Pythagorean Theorem.
Student Research Forum is happening this week
Radford University is hosting its 32nd Annual Student Engagement Forum this week and Monday. The forum showcases student research from a variety of disciplines across campus.
“We get to see the tangible results of our faculty’s high level of engagement with students, investing in them as future colleagues in various forms of experiential learning, research and creative inquiry,” said Joe Wirgau, Ph.D., director of the Office of Undergraduate Research and Scholarship (OURS.) “It is inspiring to see students rise to the occasion when given the chance for leadership roles; to represent the university and departments with their work.”
The forum began Sunday, April 16, with Honors College capstone project presentations and wraps up Monday with an occupational therapy virtual session. In between, forum-goers had an opportunity to walk through various academic buildings and hear firsthand from students about their research that touched on a variety of topics, including poetry and art, criminal justice and forensic science, health and human performance, as well as archaeology, biology, chemistry, geology and physics.
“As an undergraduate student at Radford University, I believe research provides an excellent basis of knowledge and hands-on experience,” said Hayat Khan, a sophomore chemistry major from Farmville, Virginia. “Research allows students to not only have an academic extracurricular activity but also allows students to make great connections with some of our inspiring faculty mentors.”
Khan, who presented his research Wednesday on “Assessing the Role of Neuropeptide Y in Cannabinoid-Exposed Adolescent Rats,” said the forum allows students “to really highlight the key learning points of our research and teach others a little bit too!”
During the week, OURS presented its 2023 Outstanding Mentor Award to faculty members Jeff Aspelmeier, Ph.D., professor and chair of the Department of Psychology, and James Robey, professor and chair of the Department of Dance.
Music therapy student examines ‘mental health needs of Black individuals’
Music therapy major Ashley Glover was among the many students who presented their work at this week’s forum. Through her research, “Scoping Review on Music Therapy and the Mental Health of African Americans,” Glover is examining ways to better serve the mental health needs of Black individuals.
“As a Black woman entering into the music therapy space, I understand how mental health and receiving professional help in the Black community is stigmatized and even looked down upon,” the freshman from Midlothian, Virginia, said. “I wanted to see what information was out there in the music therapy literature for Black/African American individuals for mental health.”
Music is an “important part of our culture,” Glover continued, “and has historically been vital to storytelling, fighting for justice, self-expression, and embracing our culture. I was curious to see if there was literature and interventions/genres catered to the Black/African American community and hopefully find gaps in the literature in order to better serve Black individuals.”
In addition to presenting at the forum, Glover spoke about her work recently to members of the Radford University Board of Visitors and President Bret Danilowicz. She also is an OURS Student Undergraduate Research Fellowship recipient.
Save the honeybees!
Radford University nursing major Tom Ausburne and alumnus Kaung S. Lin ‘22 presented their research, “First report on molecular detection of Nosema spp. in honeybees (Apis mellifera) of Nepal” at the Entomological Society of America (ESA)-eastern branch annual meeting in Providence, Rhode Island, on March 18-20.
“Extracting DNA of honeybees’ gut and amplifying the specific genes found only in the honeybees and specific genes found in the Nosema parasite allows us to detect and confirm the presence of Nosema infection,” Ausburne said, explaining the research he and Lin conducted alongside Chet Bhatta, Ph.D., an assistant professor of biology.
It’s important research, Ausburne said, “because honeybees are one of the main pollinators to our environment. and without them, we would not be able to enjoy certain type of fruits and vegetables.”
Ausburne, a sophomore from Ferrum, Virginia, took second place in the undergraduate poster competition session.
Getting the opportunity to work on research as an undergraduate was important to Ausburne, he said, “to help me hone my already existing laboratory skills, as well as learn and hone new ones. But while working under and alongside a faculty member, not only did I learn and perfect new skills, I was taught the professionalisms that go hand in hand with working alongside someone who is not only your superior but also, at the same time, your equal.”
Ausburne’s work has garnered much attention on campus. He was awarded the Biology Research Award 2023 and is an OURS Student Undergraduate Research Fellowship recipient.
Math students explore ‘Multiple Visualizations of the Pythagorean Theorem’
A group of Radford University students delivered their first professional presentation in late March, and “they did a fantastic job,” said Agida Manizade, Ph.D., professor in the Department of Mathematics and Statistics.
Donovan English, Thomas Houck, Elizabeth Newman, Matthew Ross and Sarah Sadler presented their project, “Multiple Visualizations of the Pythagorean Theorem,” at the Virginia Council of Teachers of Mathematics Conference at George Mason University.
“Presenting at the conference was an incredible opportunity that allowed me as a preservice teacher to not only attend a professional conference, but also to present on a mathematics topic to teachers from across Virginia,” Sadler said. “Following the VCTM conference, I feel that my presentation skills have grown significantly, and I was able to make connections for possible future employment.”
As for their presentation topic, Sadler said the group “demonstrated four visual and dynamic approaches to prove the Pythagorean Theorem and applied the theorem in a real-world context appropriate for middle and high school students. Our presentation showcased strategies of building thinking classrooms to help students understand the Pythagorean Theorem through their own mathematical exploration.”
The Radford undergraduate students “made a wonderful contribution by presenting their original scholarly work at the state-level annual conference,” said Manizade, the president of the Virginia Council of Teachers of Mathematics. “They developed the presentation during their undergraduate mathematics course at Radford. These students were so impressive that they were asked by the audience members to apply for jobs in several school divisions across the state."