Fall Symposium of Student Scholars Drew Record Number of Participants

More than 250 undergraduate and graduate researchers showcased at hybrid event

Marietta, GA (Nov 30, 2021) — Kennesaw State University has held the Symposium of Student Scholars for the past 25 years. The continuation of the symposium over the years has accommodated the growing enrollment and increased student engagement in research at KSU. On November 18, the fall edition of the event was held in a hybrid format, allowing students to present their research virtually or, for the first time since the COVID-19 pandemic, in person.

"This was the first hybrid Symposium of Student Scholars we've ever held where students could present in one of three ways: in person, virtually, or through a pre-recorded presentation,” said Amy Buddie, the director of the Office of Undergraduate Research. “It was amazing to see all these different kinds of presentations throughout the day. KSU students never fail to deliver at the Symposium; they are poised and professional, and they are engaged in cutting-edge research with relevance."

This year was also the debut of the symposium on the Marietta campus, and Scrappy made his way there to show his support for undergraduate research and posed for pictures with students and faculty members.

More than 250 KSU undergraduate and graduate students from all disciplines and 7 different colleges showcased nearly 160 research projects at the event. These students were mentored by 65 faculty, staff, and postdoctoral researchers.

Throughout the day, a live blog was kept and updated by the Office of Research; here are some samples:

Blake Wilson is looking to further the understanding of power inverters through research involving total harmonic distortion. Blake is an electrical engineering major and will start working as an electrical distribution engineer at Pike Engineering in Marietta upon graduation.

This is the first time Blake is presenting in the virtual symposium, but is unfazed, having experience in public speaking. Blake recommends students attempt to understand professors as people because it can lead to new and exciting opportunities.

“I would advise students to reach out to their professors to see what they are up to outside of the classroom,” Blake said. “As an engineering student, I have gotten to discover a lot of really cool opportunities from my professors, and it feels great to get to learn and assist with actual application outside of class.”

Ryan Lowhorn is a computer science major from Canton, Georgia, whose research with his mentor, Mohammed Chowdhury, seeks to identify the various clinical characteristics and risk factors associated with COVID-19 mortality in Mexico. For Ryan, conducting research is not without challenge, though the pursuit for knowledge pushes him forward through times of difficulty.

“I recall when we chose to update our data and had to repeat all of our previous analyses,” Ryan explained. “Throughout that week, I recall feeling frustrated and incapable of doing what I set out to do. However, I have been inspired ever since by the unwavering support of my research mentor, Dr. Chowdhury, and the study of these unanswered questions.”

Breauna Strawder and James Stewart are seeking therapeutic peptides which may serve as drugs for the treatment of illness caused by SARS-CoV-2 under the supervision of Dr. Mohammad Halim. Breauna is an undergraduate student studying biology with a focus in pre-med, and James is a graduate student in the Master of Science in Chemical Sciences program.

Breauna is focusing on investigating snake venom peptides for inhibitory activity against the SARS-CoV-2 3-chymotrypsin-like protease. Breauna’s research is complementary to James’ thesis research, which focuses more generally on identifying and designing peptide inhibitors of the same enzyme. 

“I recently began my portion of this research, so I am currently in the process of creating memories,” Breauna said. “James has helped me to better understand my project by explaining the information he’s gathered for his own project.”

Breauna’s and James’ efforts alongside the nine other undergraduates in the lab will certainly allow them to overcome any challenges they will face as they will be able to rely on each other and the support and feedback of their mentor.

Awards were given to several students at the end of the symposium, and the winners were as follows:

  • Top Presentation, Undergraduate: Using a Motion Compensating Tracking System to Study the Behavior of Fire Ants
    • Undergraduate Students: Kevin Le and Todd Morgan; Research Mentor: Dal Hyung Kim

  • First Runner-Up, Undergraduate: Corrosion Prevention on Aluminum Alloy
    • Undergraduate Students: Andrea Brenner; Research Mentor: Bharat Baruah

  • Second Runner-Up, Undergraduate: Analysis of Unplanned Perioperative Hypothermia Effects on Post-Operative Delirium through the Use of Biomarkers
    • Undergraduate Students: Justin Machado, Benjamin Ryle, Nicolle Sorto-Reyna, and Taniyah Wright; Research Mentors: Doreen Wagner, Sharon Pearcey, and Susan M.E. Smith

  • Top Presentation, Graduate: Joint Latency-Energy Optimization Scheme for Offloading in Mobile Edge Computing Environment Based in Deep Reinforcement Learning
    • Graduate Student: Jui Mhatre; Research Mentor: Ahyoung Lee

  • First Runner-Up, Graduate: Guest Who - An Analysis of For Your Consideration by Christopher Guest
    • Graduate Student: Will Amato; Research Mentor: Anna Weinstein

  • Second Runner-Up, Graduate: Knockdown of the PRC2 Complex Rescues Developmental Defects Caused by Inappropriate Inheritance of Histone Methylation in C. Elegans
    • Graduate Student: Sydney Morgan; Research Mentor: Brandon Carpenter

Following the awards ceremony for the symposium, the winners of The Art of Science & the Science of Art Interdisciplinary Research Art Competition were announced as well. This university-wide competition, sponsored by the Office of Undergraduate Research in fall 2021, was designed to showcase undergraduate scholars and artists through their creative expression depicting the energy and emotions of the interdisciplinary research experience at KSU. 

Undergraduate student teams from all disciplines and across colleges were invited to create original works encompassing the connections between the arts and sciences under one of two themes:

  • The Art of Science: Through an artistic lens, how do you visualize the sciences? 
    The Science of Art: Through a scientific perspective, how do you express the arts? 

Cash prizes (to be split amongst winning team members) were given out as follows: 

  • First Place ($2500): Schrödinger’s Sour, by Sarah Muncy (Biology), Kaiti Craven (Biology), and Anish Patel (Finance and Marketing)
    • Artist Statement: Beer - the ultimate nexus of art and science. For most of the history of microbiology, alcoholic fermentations were the drivers of innovation. From Pasteur to Emil Christian Hansen, the quest to understand and engineer the sensory characteristics of beer and wine pushed the boundaries of science. Now, science is pushing the boundaries of beer, utilizing diverse microorganisms in a controlled manner to develop unique sensory characteristics. The culinary arts may well be the most connected creative discipline to the biological sciences, and we hope that connection is experienced in our submission of a versatile fermented beverage that makes a day of judging so much sweeter-or should we say sour? The BioInnovation Lab's Lager Ladies (Kaiti Craven and Sarah Muncy) proudly submit the Schrödinger's Sour. 

One beer is fruited (red cap) while the other is kettle soured (silver cap). Lactobacillus was added via organic, pasteurized yogurt to half of the mashed batch to convert sugars to lactic acid. Then, after 48 hours, the boiling process continued, similar to the fruited version. Pomegranate juice and blueberry juice were added to both batches to give a sweet, fruity aroma and a beautiful purple hue. Both brews are light, sweet, and just the right amount of tart.

Spent grains were utilized to make home-baked bread and coffee cake. A savory appetizer that pairs nicely with both beers... It also gives the ability to drink more than one. The label contains microscopy images that were taken at 40x of cheerful Bavarian Wheat yeasts enjoying the brew, and it is hoped you appreciate it as much as the yeast did!

  • Second Place ($1500): Journey of a Neutrophil, by Mackenzie Holbrook (Illustration and Ceramics major), Christopher Boon (Mathematics major), Jasmine Carter (Biology major), and Linh Luong (Mechanical Engineering major)
    • Artist Statement: Biological cells of mammals migrate through diverse micro-environments, the mechanisms they use to move depend on their environment. In this sequential artwork, we describe the picture of a white-blood cell responding to infectious bacteria. The cell drifts through blood vessels and infiltrates tissue to reach its destination, ultimately neutralizing the threat of infection.

  • Third Place ($1000): The Dance of Translation, by Ariel Owens (Anthropology major) and Alexis Rumbaugh (Biochemistry major)
    • Artist Statement: The circle of life is a common artistic theme that's also been studied by anthropologists and biologists throughout history. We observed similarities between the processes of protein synthesis and The Three Fates' circle of life to create "The Dance of Translation". The Fates are Greek Goddesses who were believed to control the cycle of life. The first fate spun the yarn of life at birth, the second elongated life by unwinding the thread, and the third ended life by cutting the yarn. Protein synthesization can be personified through this story; tRNA holds a new amino acid at the A site (birth). The amino acid is added to the peptide chain (elongation of life), and lastly, the tRNA without an amino acid is discarded (death).The growing peptide chain represents the thread of life, and each bead is an amino acid. This is The Three Fates in the dance of translation.

The winning entries will also be on display in the Academic Learning Center, the new headquarters for the Office of Undergraduate Research in spring 2022.  

Alyssa Ozment