New Research Traditions

Symposium of Student Scholars expanded to include fall edition

KENNESAW, Ga. (Dec 10, 2020) — The Symposium of Student Scholars has been held at Fall Symposium of Student ScholarsKennesaw State University for the past 24 years. A fall virtual edition was held for the first time in early December to accommodate the growing enrollment and increased student engagement in research at KSU.

“Student research has grown so much at KSU that it became necessary to add a fall Symposium of Student Scholars,” said Amy Buddie, director of undergraduate research and symposium organizer. “The students did a great job - there were nearly 100 presentations by both undergraduate and graduate students.”

Ninety-five projects, ranging in disciplines from music to electrical engineering, were shared by a total of 124 undergraduate student participants and 22 graduate student presenters. The 63 faculty mentors represented 20 different departments across the university including nursing, social work and human services, and molecular and cellular biology.

“The symposium is a lot of work,” said Tsai-Tien Tseng, associate director of undergraduate research. “It is, however, a very rewarding experience, especially under Dr. Buddie's leadership. The effectiveness of our faculty's collective mentorship is well demonstrated by our students' scholarship productivity.”

Tseng was a research mentor for two projects presented at the symposium. Daisy McGrath, who studied in Tseng’s lab as an undergraduate, was part of the research team for both projects as she is now pursuing a master’s degree in integrative biology at KSU.

One project, presented by undergraduate anthropology major Ariel Owens, was focused on detecting bacterial species derived from ancient human skeletal samples using next-generation sequencing technology.

Cynney Walters, an undergraduate biology major, shared the other project focused on identifying novel phages (virus that infect bacteria) from fermented food products, specifically within the kimchi microbiome, a historic side dish of Korean culture. Novel phages can have the capacity to serve as biocontrol agents that could potentially be used in food safety applications.

“As a project mentor, I am very proud of my students' efforts in the world of academic research,” said Tseng.

The symposium brought in a sizable crowd, with over 1,000 visits to the 15-minute presentations that took place during the half-day virtual event.

“The students were prepared and understood how to use the technology effectively,” said Buddie. “The virtual format allowed people to attend more sessions than otherwise possible at a face-to-face event, providing the participants an opportunity to visit different presentations. We will continue to have a hybrid element given all the benefits of both formats.”

During the symposium, the Office of Undergraduate Research hosted a live blog featuring several projects. Here is a sampling of the undergraduate and graduate student presenters from the live blog:

Computer Science

Songqiao Yu, a graduate student studying computer science, presented one of his projects which involved using virtual reality game applications to enhance medical students’ empathy level for patients with Parkinson’s disease.

Yu conducted the research with Joy Li, an assistant professor of computer game design and development, during his second year pursuing a master’s degree.

Theatre and Performance Studies

Sarah Joseph, who presented her research for the first time, was focused on creating more opportunities for collaborations in the arts community at Kennesaw State University that will foster strong learning, networking, and mutual respect.

Joseph is a senior theatre and performance studies major with a concentration in musical theatre. Thomas Fish, assistant professor of theatre and research mentor, encouraged her to present at the symposium.

Social Work and Human Services

Andi Edwards, a human services major, presented the research she conducted with her mentor for the first time virtually. Edwards, graduating this month, began working with Jennifer Wade-Berg, associate professor of human services, during her capstone course.  

Her research focused on creating a volunteer management manual for use by the Cherokee family violence center. “Funding for charitable agencies is consistently decreasing as needs increase; utilizing volunteers effectively is key to increasing nonprofit agency capacity to meet the needs of the future,” she said.

Exercise Science and Sport Management

Collectively, Gwyneth Johnson, Mara Bryan, Andreana Henry, and Grace Alexander presented their research at the symposium which focuses on plant-based versus animal-based diets and their association with metabolic function. The research team is trying to determine if higher plant-based diets correlate with better metabolic function.

Their research has focused on the health and wellbeing of pregnant women at risk for Gestational Diabetes Mellitus (GDM), a condition in which a hormone made by the placenta prevents the body from using insulin effectively. Studies show women can make lifestyle changes to improve their metabolic health, which includes a better start for their child, so it is important to detect early signs of GDM in pregnancy.

Several students received awards for their research at the conclusion of the symposium. These awards included:

  • Top Presentation, Undergraduate: The Evolution of Shostakovich’s Compositional Style in his String Quartets (Undergraduate student: Garrett Clay; Research Mentor: Edward Eanes, School of Music)
  • First Runner-Up, Undergraduate: Detecting Bacterial Species from Next Generation Sequencing Data Derived from Ancient Human Skeletal Samples (Undergraduate Student: Ariel Owens; Research Mentor: Tsai-Tien Tseng, Department of Molecular and Cellular Biology)
  • Second Runner-Up, Undergraduate: Community Level Physiological Profiling of the Longleaf Pine Savannah Microbiome (Undergraduate Student: Gavin Treadaway; Research Mentor: Ramya Rajagopalan, Department of Molecular and Cellular Biology)
  • Third Runner-Up, Undergraduate: Do Urbanization and Weather Shape the Timing of Breeding in European Starlings? (Undergraduate Student: Emma Maltos; Research Mentor: Sarah Guindre-Parker, Department of Ecology, Evolution, and Organismal Biology)
  • Top Presentation, Graduate: The Contribution of the Body, Pectoral Fins, and the Ribbon Fin to Turning Maneuvers of a Gymnotiform Swimmer (Graduate Student: Olivia Hawkins; Research Mentor: Christopher Sanford, Department of Ecology, Evolution, and Organismal Biology)
  • First Runner-Up, Graduate: r-LSTM: Time Series Forecasting for COVID-19 Confirmed Cases with LSTM-based Framework (Graduate Student: Mohammad Masum; Research Mentor: Hossain Shahriar, Department of Information Technology)
  • Second Runner-Up – Tie, Graduate: Parkinson Symptom Simulation in Virtual Reality for Empathy in Medical Education (Graduate Student: Songqiao Yu; Research Mentor: Joy Li, Department of Software Engineering and Game Design)
  • Second Runner-Up – Tie, Graduate: A Review of Grey and Academic Literature on Program Evaluations for Public, Private, and Nonprofit Sector Agency Use (Graduate Student: Eliza Galvez; Research Mentor: Darlene Xiomara Rodriguez,  Department of Social Work and Human Services)

— Geena Lawrence and Landon Mion