Highlander Highlights: Week of May 1, 2023

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 examining ways to make transportation safer in rural Appalachia; preparing for the next research journey to Alaska; and evaluating cardiac and vascular responses when students play violent versus non-violent virtual reality games.  

Geology students present their research at forum focused on geohazards

Two Radford University geology majors presented their research recently at the 2023 Annual Technical Forum on Geohazards Impacting Transportation in Appalachia.

Garrett O’Hara’s research explored the use of photogrammetry software techniques in the context of cave mapping. “Our mapping focuses on the creation of 3D models representative of cave features within Southwest Virginia,” the senior said. “These 3D scans were used to produce high-definition models representing the inside of caves, with the goal of gathering structural information.”

Kendra Bolen presented on her research into the use of unmanned aerial systems in investigations into structure data, which allows geoscientists and engineers to calculate structure data without performing extensive field surveys.

You can read more here about the two students’ work in Radford University’s Geohazards and Unmanned Systems Research Center.

Radford students Katie Harris and Jacob Moye also attended the conference, held April 12-14 in Harrisonburg, Virginia.


Garrett O' Hara (left) and Kendra Bolen inside Radford University's Geohazards and Unmanned Systems Research Center.

Physical therapy students examine video games and cardiovascular health

Throughout the spring semester, Doctor of Physical Therapy (D.P.T.) students Stephanie Pham, Jason Webster and Alayna Meleason have been “working on an exciting research project” in the Radford Esports Center in Cook Hall, said Adrian Aron, Ph.D., a professor and director of the Applied Cardiopulmonary Physiology Laboratory in the Department of Physical Therapy at Radford University.

The three students tested undergraduate student gamers to evaluate cardiac and vascular responses to playing violent versus non-violent virtual reality games.  

“About 66% of Americans play video games daily, and the average video gamer in America plays for about 13 hours per week. Several longitudinal studies have shown that reactivity to regular video games is predictive of elevations of blood pressure and development of hypertension,” explained Aron, who is mentoring the student researchers. “It has been suggested that the violent content within video games can predict even larger stress responses and can create internal aggressive states that are deleterious to health.

Aron noted that “ventricular changes, along with vascular peripheral responses, could delineate the extent of cardiovascular complications and raise the awareness for cardiac screening in habitual video game players.”

The study will continue in the summer and throughout the fall semester with some testing sessions scheduled to take place in the D.P.T. lab at Radford University Carilion in Roanoke.

How do you prepare for research in sub-zero temperatures?

It’s still nearly a year away, but 12 students are already working with Professor of Physics Rhett Herman to prepare for the February and March 2024 research trip to Utqiagvik, Alaska. Every two years, Herman and a group of students enrolled in the Arctic Geophysics research course trek to the northernmost city in the United States to conduct their own research projects. Many of the students will be working in labs over the summer to begin constructing their projects, tools and materials.

The students are Meghan Brown, Nathan Cadle, Ayden Child, Dom Del Grosso, Daniel Leyes, Kaleb Martin, Garrett O'Hara, Bryce Pappas, Athena Smith, Jamie Stipes, Eniko Szabad and Michael Ziegenfus.

Joining the trip to Utqiagvik, where the average high temperature in March is -6 degrees Fahrenheit, will be two students and a math instructor from the Southwest Virginia Governor’s School.


In February and March of 2022, students conducted research on Artic sea ice sites near Utqiagvik, Alaska. Twelve more Radford students are now preparing for their own research journey in 2024.

Students win top award at Wildlife Society meeting

Three Radford University students won Best Undergraduate Student Poster for their research on ectoparasites of American robins on campus. Liliana Dailey, Tessa Harmon and Bianca Plowman were selected as winners among 17 submissions at The Wildlife Society state chapter annual meeting in Martinsville, Virginia, earlier this year.

Ten Radford students attended the meeting, and eight presented their independent research projects.

  • Tori Raulerson and Acalia Carter-Martin presented on their examination of the influence of vegetation and window aspect on bird-window collisions on campus.
  • Trey Harris and Justine McLaughlin spoke about their research on a newly designated species, the Blacksburg salamander, at Radford’s Selu Conservancy.
  • Victoria Fisk and Katie Wheeler presented on microplastics in American robins on the Radford campus.

May 5, 2023
Chad Osborne
(540) 831-7761