WellStar College of Health and Human Services 2020-2021 Projects

Click here to return to the main project listings page.  Questions: Email our@kennesaw.edu.

  •  2020-2021 First-Year Scholar: Catherine Akins, industrial and systems engineering

    • Exploring the Role of Schools in Mandatory Fitness Assessments of Students in Georgia

      The state of Georgia requires public schools to conduct and report annual fitness assessments of students. Data were collected from in-person interviews of Principals and PE Teachers at 82 schools across the state regarding barriers and facilitators to fitness assessment implementation. In this project, the student will participate in analyzing these data and preparing abstracts/publications for dissemination to a broad public health audience. 

    • Students will learn how to conduct qualitative data analysis using nVivo software. Students will be involved in data input, data cleaning, data analysis, and literature reviews.

    • Student will meet with faculty for 1 hour per week, and can work remotely otherwise.
  • 2020-2021 First-Year Scholar: Jacqueline Roman Soto, exercise science

    • Performance Fatigue: The Muscle, Brain and Beyond

      Performance fatigue, the decrease in force production during exercise, can result from changes in skeletal muscle or in areas of the central nervous system such as the motor neurons or brain. It is unclear if fast and slow muscle contractions cause unique physiological changes in these areas of the body. Our current research focuses on answering the following questions: 1) Is maximal and rapid force production affected differently by fast and slow fatiguing muscle contractions? 2) What muscle and central nervous system factors are involved? Participants of this research will perform fast and slow fatiguing muscle contractions of the quadriceps muscles on separate days. We will assess the reductions in maximal and rapid force capacity caused by fatigue, and the recovery of these measurements for 10 minutes after the fatiguing exercise. Non-invasive stimulation of the brain (motor cortex) and femoral nerve will be used to elicit involuntary contractions of the quadriceps while assessing muscle activation using electromyography. These techniques will be used to determine if physiological changes in skeletal muscle, motor neurons, or brain differ after fast and slow fatiguing muscle contractions. We will also assess body composition of the participants. The findings from this research has implications for exercise and rehabilitation program design, as it may be indicated that muscle fatigue and the associated mechanisms are unique for different types of muscle contractions.

      • Collaborate in a team setting with exercise science master's and undergraduate students
      • Become familiar with body composition, ultrasound, as well as muscle strength and power assessments in the Exercise Physiology laboratory
      • Become familiar with nervous system control of muscle and factors affecting muscle fatigue
      • Improve skills related to data processing, calculations, and figure making in Microsoft Excel
      • Upon exceptional progress, be invited to present at the regional American College of Sports Medicine conference
      • Assist with data collection using the tools previously mentioned above
      • Assist with lab equipment preparation and breakdown
      • Assist with verbal motivation during fatiguing exercise protocols
      • Operate Microsoft Excel and other computer software to conduct data entry and processing
  •  2020-2021 First-Year Scholar: Genesis Weever, biology

    • Immigrant Integration: A Litmus Test for Community Well-being (Phase 2)

      Currently there is minimal crossover between the fields of public health and immigrant integration; this is an ideal space for intersectional research from a health equity framework. Such a framework allows communities to recognize and address factors that can stand in the way of immigrants leading healthy lives, including the physical environment, health care, health behaviors, and social and economic opportunity. To advance the conversation on how communities could bridge the gap between health equity work and immigrant inclusion, we will collaborate with Welcoming America, a nonprofit organization that seeks to reduce the barriers that immigrants face by working with institutions from all sectors to build bridges between newcomers and long-time residents.

      As part of the research team, the undergraduate researcher will be working with faculty, staff, and students in a long-standing partnership with Welcoming America and their affiliates. Our prior research has had health and community wellbeing at the periphery of our work, now we seek to make health equity a central component of our research agenda. We believe that health equity is "social justice in health" (Braverman, 2014). According to Grantmakers in Health (2012), healthy equity is something we should strive for and it has been identified by leaders as field requiring applied research. According to Dr. Camara Jones, the Research Director on Social Determinants of Health and Equity, achieving health equity requires valuing all individuals and populations equally, recognizing and rectifying historical injustices, and addressing contemporary injustices by providing resources according to need.

      This understanding of health equity compels those working in the public, private, and nonprofit sectors to look at both immediate causes of poor health and social determinants of health, the underlying causes of poor health. Social determinants such as income and education can affect health in a variety of ways, by making people more likely to engage in unhealthy behaviors or risk exposure to environmental hazards or higher levels of stress (Woolf and Braverman, 2011). Several social determinants of health, including immigration status, language, and race, underlie the health inequities experienced by immigrants (Castaeda, Holmes, Madrigal, DeTrinidad, Young, Beyeler, and Quesada, 2015).

      Each of these determinants may subject immigrants to discrimination in employment and housing and may lead to isolation, depression, and other mental health challenges. Residential segregation places people of color and immigrants at higher risk of living in neighborhoods with poorer conditions such as higher levels of violence and environmental hazards. Therefore, place-based strategies are key to advancing health equity, and the field of immigrant inclusion has already made great strides to working within communities.

      Our working hypothesis is communities that are receptive and welcoming to immigrants have improved community health. Our aim is to identify if this is true and implement place-based strategies to examine their effectiveness. In doing so, the undergraduate researcher will learn about an evolving area of applied scholarship as well as how to craft a literature review matrix, gather and analyze data, present work for print and oral presentation in a multi-disciplinary team environment.

    • The research team has had a long-standing practice of supervising and mentoring undergraduate and graduate students from a variety of disciplines and backgrounds. Former student researchers have consistently stated that the level of support and new skills gained as a result of being part of one or more of the multi-phase Atlanta's Immigrant Crossroads Project has not only aided them in their own academic studies, but has prepared them well to continue into graduate school or help them solidify their career goals.

      Therefore at the end of this experience student researchers would have experienced several of the following aspects related to applied research:

      • designing a research study,
      • searching databases to identify relevant research, reading and evaluating research articles,
        developing a literature review matrix,
      • preparing research materials (e.g., designing questionnaires, vignettes),
      • assisting in the completion of IRB proposals and completing online training in ethics,
      • facilitating data collection in the field with community stakeholders,
      • coding and/or entering data for data analysis and performing data analyses, and
      • assisting in the reporting of results (e.g., poster presentation, manuscript development, grant proposal).

      The depth of the experience will depend on the specific aspects of the project the student researcher will work on. Since we define community health broadly, our work will intersect with one or more of these areas:

      • Government Leadership
      • Civic Engagement
      • Equitable Access
      • Education
      • Connected Communities
      • Economic Development
      • Safe Communities

      From a personal development standpoint, student researchers will also make progress towards the following:

      • A professional development goal of their choosing (e.g., exploring career plans, writing resume/CV),
      • Develop skills related to time management and planning, communication, and team work,
      • Work with stakeholders and scholars at KSU and in the larger community,
      • Assist in proposal development for grant funding, manuscript preparation for publication, and/or presentation of findings at community gatherings or conferences, and
        developing lasting mentoring relationships with faculty and community leaders.

      To learn more about the overall project --- and if other aspects of the larger project better meet your research goals, please visit this site:


    • Student research tasks are organized on a two-week cycle so that one can balance out their home, school, and other work responsibilities. Hence, at the start of the mentoring process an initial interview is conducted to learn more about the student to determine where best their interests and needs align with where we are in our current project phase. As such, duties will be determined based on the student researcher's personal and professional goals as well as their current and desired knowledge, skills, and abilities.

      • Check-ins occur on a weekly basis via email and face-to-face meetings every two weeks to coincide when a research task is to be completed.
      • Tasks often have a practice round, the first week, with feedback and recommendations that allow the student researcher to continue during the second week on their own.
      • Students will be asked to complete a reflection of their experience at the midpoint and at the end of the term/year.
      • When research team meetings are held with faculty colleagues, other student researchers, and/or community partners that may enhance the student researcher's personal or professional development, they will be invited to participate.
      • Students who thoughtfully and thoroughly participate as part of the team will be acknowledged in work products and receive letters of support/recommendation.
      • Those who are exceptional will be included as co-presenters or co-authors on work products.
  • 2020-2021 First-Year Scholar: Josephine (Josie) Meade, nursing

    • Postpartum Health and Well-Being

      Georgia has the second-highest maternal mortality rate in the U.S., with the postpartum period as the time of highest risk when often unpredictable life-threatening complications can occur. Mothers usually receive information on the warning signs of postpartum complications right after childbirth during the hospital discharge process. The team will measure women's state of mind associated with stress, arousal, and high mental effort during this time to understand how these factors may contribute to the women's comprehension and long-term retention of this critical postpartum knowledge.

      • Students will complete a literature review on postpartum care among black mothers.
      • Students will assist with basic study design conceptualization.
      • Students will help pilot survey instrument.
      • Students will assist with developing recruitment material for the study
      • The student selected will meet with the project team weekly.
      • The student will conduct library searches for current literature.
      • The student will help create marketing material, and possibly assist with focus groups. 
  • 2020-2021 First-Year Scholar: Haley Wright, nursing

    • Gestational Diabetes: A Condition of Abdominal Fatness or Sedentariness?

      Our research team studies the influence of abdominal obesity, physical activity/inactivity, diet, and other factors on metabolic health and risk for diabetes. This research is an ideal program for students preparing for healthcare-related fields. Student assistants on our team gain experience with all parts of research - from planning studies and acquiring approvals to working directly with human participants and biological samples in the laboratory. Students spend time working both independently and with other students and faculty to collect and interpret data for our studies and to develop projects for presentation.

      Currently, we are completing several small studies and are preparing to launch a 3-year, NIH-funded research study in Spring 2021 on women during pregnancy. For this research study, participants will visit the lab and the research team will test them for body composition, fitness, nutrition, and glucose metabolism. We will also analyze their blood for certain proteins. This Fall 2020 semester, we will be getting ready behind-the-scenes: applying for research approvals, creating the survey documents, determining and purchasing supplies, training in laboratory techniques, and preparing our recruitment strategy. We are also working on publishing and presenting the findings from our recent pilot studies. Because of Covid-19, most of our writing tasks and meetings are completed remotely this fall. In Spring 2020, our team will be working in the lab, training in laboratory techniques and practicing assessments.

      Our team includes faculty from Exercise Science and Nursing and both graduate and undergraduate students from Exercise Science, Biology, and Psychology. We would love to include a First-Year Scholar who is enthusiastic about science and interested in learning about research!

      More information about our research can be found here: https://research.kennesaw.edu/roc/researchwithrelevance/spring2020/transgenerational-health.php

    • Student assistants on our team gain experience with all parts of research - from planning studies and acquiring approvals to working directly with human participants and biological samples in the laboratory. In this program, you will work with a team to learn and contribute to the research process; conduct literature searches and reviews; prepare and practice research presentations; learn new laboratory techniques; and gain a deeper understanding of the associations among body fat, physical activity, diet, and metabolic health.

    • Students spend time working both independently and with other students and faculty to collect and interpret data for our research program and to develop projects for presentation. Students can expect to spend approximately 10-12 hours per week, between research team meetings, small group meetings, and research tasks. Our meetings will be mostly virtual during Fall 2020 and will transition to laboratory testing during Spring 2021. Students on our team are expected to contribute to a student research project that they can present at a virtual conference within the year.

      Thank you for taking the time to read about our research program. We wish you terrific success in finding the perfect research experience to enhance your learning at KSU!

  • 2020-2021 First-Year Scholar: Mercy Kuffuor, undecided

    • Who Gets to Play: A Study of the Impact of Club Sports on Varsity and Junior Varsity High School Sports Programs

      The opportunity to play a club sports exists in many areas including volleyball, soccer, cheerleading, football, and baseball. Many parents/guardians view it as a way to get their youth involved in a sport they show an interest in early in life. However, the costs of participation can be high mentally, monetarily, and on the growth and development of the child athlete.

      Additionally, as club sport athletes mature, they often want to play for their high school teams and find they may be at an advantage since they have years of experience competing competitively already. This fact in turn disadvantages the kid who is trying out without club sport experience. The purpose of this study is develop baseline information needed to seek a larger grant to study the impact of club sports on kids and the types of inequity that are created as these athletes seek to play for organized teams on the high school level. This is a new project so the First-Year Scholar can see how research begins at the beginning.

    • Students will learn to: 

      1. Map a network of the participants needed for this study by assisting with the creation of a database.
      2. Review the literature for relevant studies in order to craft a literature review.
      3. Collect baseline data needed to inform a grant application.
      4. Read and understand the types of information needed for a research grant application.
      5. Understand the Institutional Review Board process (IRB) on campus.
    • Weekly duties are assigned based on the portion of the project we are working on. The duties will include: 

      1. Identifying contacts of club sports teams and high schools.
      2. Gathering articles for a literature review.
      3. Assisting with the crafting of research survey and interview protocol for an IRB application.
      4. Learning how to write a grant.
  • 2020-2021 First-Year Scholar: Tyler Robertson, nursing

    • Improving Cardiovascular Health among College Students

      College students typically experience unique characteristics such as leaving parental home to attend college, having financial independence, and making important decisions without parental guidance for the first time. While such independence is exciting and can be rewarding, college students are at significant risk for behaviors that compromise their cardiovascular health such as physical inactivity, unhealthy earing, smoking.

      This project will examine college students' cardiovascular health status according to American Heart Association's seven indicators and identify effective strategies to help college student improve their cardiovascular health. The student will participate in all aspects of the project including review of the relevant literature, study subject recruitment and screening, identification of effective cardiovascular health strategies, data collection and analysis, and preparation of conference abstract(s) and/or journal article(s).

    • The student will learn the entire process of conducting research, from literature review to study design and implementation, data collection and data analysis, and dissemination of study results in the forms of conference presentation and/or scholar journal articles.

    • The student will:

      • Assist with the review of the relevant literature.
      • Assist with recruiting and screening study subjects.
      • Assist with identifying strategies/programs that improve cardiovascular health.
      • Assist with data collection and data entry using Microsoft Excel.
      • Assist with data analysis using SPSS.
      • Assist with preparing conference abstract and/or journal article.