Spring 2020 Symposium of Student Scholars Live Blog

KENNESAW, Ga. (Apr 16, 2020) — The Office of Undergraduate Research at Kennesaw State University hosted the 2020 Symposium of Student Scholars on April 16, a daylong university-wide conference where undergraduate and graduate researchers presented their projects. The event, held virtually via Microsoft Teams, featured over 160 presentations taking place between 9:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. Students were assigned unique access codes and timeslots for their virtual presentations. Anyone, ranging from the KSU community to the general public, could join a presentation by clicking on the access link located in the program.  

This live blog, updated throughout the day, took a look inside the conference as KSU presenters and attendees experienced the first virtual edition of the Symposium of Student Scholars in its 24-year history.  Prizes were awarded for the top presentations by undergraduate and graduate researchers, including the inaugural Outstanding Undergraduate Research Mentor Award

– Geena Lawrence and Landon Mion

4/16/2020, 4:35 p.m.

Adeyemi Fagbemi, a senior computer engineering major from Nigeria is presenting his research for the first time, on expanding Li-Fi system distance and highlighting security issues within the system. Li-Fi, created in 2011, is a method of data transfer using light sources which has 1000 more times the bandwidth than typical Wi-Fi.

Fagbemi hopes this research will act as a starting point to increase the distance of Li-Fi transmission. “This research experience has allowed me to gain new skills, explore my interests and further pursue a career in software engineering,” said Fagbemi.

“Adeyemi is a dutiful student researcher,” said Dr. Billy Kihei, an assistant professor of computer engineering. “His contribution will provide a foundation for others to build upon, and hopefully one day save more lives on the roadways using visible light communications between traffic lights and autonomous vehicles equipped with computer vision systems.”

Adeyemi Fagbemi

4/16/2020, 4:24 p.m. 

Harshada Dani is majoring in integrative studies, focusing on both the natural sciences and social sciences, especially as they pertain to health.

Harshada Dani“I got involved in research because I was able to apply myself outside of the classroom,” said Dani.  “The knowledge that I had learned in school and all the tough classes was being applied to real-life experiences.  Dr. Evelina Sterling gave me this great opportunity to participate in the community.”

While conducting research with Sterling, an assistant professor of sociology, Dani desired increased understanding of how health promotion involving exercise and physical activity can be influenced by race and ethnicity, culture, gender, socio-economic status, and geography among vulnerable populations.

In this study, focus groups were conducted with low-income African American men, their family members, and healthcare providers to describe lived experiences and identify opportunities and challenges regarding exercise and physical activity as well as key elements influencing participation and engagement.

“It was a real pleasure working with Harshada,” said Sterling, also director of research development and strategic initiatives in the Office of Research.  “Harshada is very interested in pursuing a career in healthcare so it was great to work with her on important research regarding the barriers vulnerable populations face when trying to stay healthy.”

4/16/2020, 4:16 p.m.

Mary Jones and Naomi Katz presented their research project on understanding how instructors Mary Jonesinterpret students’ use of GroupMe, an instant messaging app that facilitates group messaging, and their possible experience with student misconduct via GroupMe.

“The potential results of our research would help to create an academic policy that mandates how students are required to behave when interacting with a class GroupMe thread,” said Jones. “Additionally, it brings awareness to the academic community with regards to how to facilitate GroupMe within their classes.”

Jones began conducting research when she was looking to be more involved at KSU and she became a research assistant in Dr. Jennifer Willard’s psychology lab. Willard, a professor of psychology and associate chair of the Department of Psychological Science, encouraged Jones to explore and conduct her own research.

“I was considering taking psychology into the criminal justice field,” said Jones. “Dr. Willard was running research that attracted me and allowed me to do just that.”

4/16/2020, 4:03 p.m.

Samantha Thompson, who is pursuing a master’s degree in integrative biology, first became involved in research during her last year as an undergraduate. While Thompson has presented her research at a few conferences before, it is her first time presenting at a virtual conference. Just like many of the other researchers, she is learning how to navigate in this new medium.

“My experience conducting research at KSU has solidified my career decision to go into research,” said Thompson. “I was able to see what I can expect from a future in research and it has sharpened my critical thinking and problem-solving skills.”

Thompson, alongside Dr. Jean Lu, an associate professor of biology, has been examining the isolation, characterization, and effectiveness of bacteriophages (natural bacteria killers) against Enterobacter cloacae, a bacterium that causes fermentation defects such as bloater defect (hollow cavities) during cucumber fermentation.

“Samantha is a hard-working and dedicated student with a clear career goal,” said Lu. “Her research project is involved in using a novel approach to prevent bloater damage during cucumber fermentation, thereby minimizing the economic loss to the pickle industry.”

Samantha Thompson

4/16/2020, 3:33 p.m.Preston Eldridge

Junior chemistry major Preston Eldridge took the initiative in getting involved in research as he sought out research mentors working on projects that interested him. 

Eldridge, who is investigating how to combat a pathogen that affects cystic fibrosis patients, has a high level of interest in research, desiring a career in a research lab at a university or in industry research.

“Research has prepared me for a future career mostly by making sure I know what I want to do," he said. "I came into research thinking I wanted to go to medical school, but now I know that I would prefer the lab environment and research is what I want to do with my future.”

Jeremy Wolfe
4/16/2020, 2:38 p.m.

Jeremy Wolfe’s project focuses on the use of kill zones at the Battle of Pickett’s Mill during the American Civil War.

The anthropology major worked with faculty mentor Dr. Terry Powis, an associate professor of anthropology, on this project. 

Wolfe took part in an archaeological review of the areas of concentrated gunfire by Confederate troops during the battle.

Through the use of archaeological data and historical texts and accounts, he is studying whether these areas of concentrated gunfire occurred out of circumstance, or if they were preplanned occurrences.



 4/16/2020, 2:00 p.m.

Jasmine Little understands the importance of a good faculty mentor.  Her mentor encourages her to push herself as both a scientist and as a person.  Little said that working alongside Dr. Sarah Jasmine LittleGuindre-Parker has been a truly rewarding experience as she has learned about animal behavior and statistics.

“Research has given me a chance to gain a lot of experience in my field of interest, as well as a chance to work with someone passionate about the growth of the whole student,” she said.

“Working with Jasmine has been a real treat,” added Guindre-Parker, an assistant professor of biology.  “Jasmine approached me with very clear research goals early on.  She was teaching herself how to use the statistical program R,and wanted to perform research that would allow her to combine using R and animal behavior.”

Now Little, majoring in environmental science with a minor in applied statistics and data analysis, is researching how African starlings change their parental behavior in response to varying levels of rainfall.  She explained that researching what factors impact the fitness of these social birds can lead to the development of more effective conservation measures and can help scientists predict their population dynamics in the future.

African starling

4/16/2020, 1:32 p.m.

Hala Alfalih, whose research aims to design a small habitat on the surface of Mars, said that in theHala Alfalih field of design, research has high importance.  Alfalih, an architecture major, said design cannot always be applied in different environments and result in the same outcomes.

“Being educated in design does not make you informed with things like climate change, politics, and economics, but that should not stop us from using what we do know to collaborate with other disciplines and apply innovative and creative solutions together,” she said.  “This requires an immense amount of research.”

In her field, Alfalih has received numerous honors, including the CRIT Scholar Award from the American Institute of Architecture Students – one of only eight recipients nationwide.

“Not only highly intelligent, Hala is also uniquely self-motivated, and a devoted student of architecture, design, and – frankly – all things that are of interest to her,” said faculty mentor Dr. Jeffrey Collins, an assistant professor of architecture.  “Furthermore, I have also observed Hala to be an effective advocate for fellow students, supporting colleagues and encouraging younger students’ work in inspiring and meaningful ways.”

KJUR session
4/16/2020, 1:04 p.m.

Director of Undergraduate Research Dr. Amy Buddie hosted a Lunch and Learn session, highlighting different aspects of the Kennesaw Journal of Undergraduate Research (KJUR).  

KJUR is a peer-reviewed scholarly journal dedicated to promoting academic study and achievement among undergraduate students at Kennesaw State University. 

Buddie conducted a walkthrough of the process of submitting a research paper to KJUR, including the steps to resubmit a paper.  She encouraged students to still submit their research papers even after they graduate from KSU as long as they conducted their research as an undergraduate. 


4/16/2020, 12:30 p.m.

The officers for the Undergraduate Research Club - Robbie Cronin (President), Kaelyn Ireland (Vice President), Matthew Fenner (Treasurer), Brooke Bentley (Secretary), and Patrick Kielly (Marketing Director) - hosted a Lunch and Learn session, discussing the benefits of joining the club. 

The Undergraduate Research Club is a registered student organization, which promotes undergraduate research and creative activity at KSU through team-based research projects. Each club officer led a team through a research project this year and are participating today in the symposium. 

"I found this club and it gave me the opportunity to connect with other researchers," said Ireland, who is a double major in psychology and modern language and culture. "I started out with no experience and now I feel like I have a lot under my belt because of the research club."

Undergraduate Research Club

4/16/2020, 11:44 a.m.

As early childhood education majors, Natasha Dossani and Haley Ward emphasize how research will have a great impact on their students. They noted that research is necessary in bringing change to the world of teaching and learning.

“Our research experience has led us to become not only more informed and educated students, but it will also allow us to become more equitable educators when we have our own classrooms,” said Dossani.

The research they presented today was part of a final project to make a children's book on unsung Muslim-American women heroes in Dr. Sohyun An’s class.

“I am so proud of Natasha and Haley who went above and beyond for their final project,” said An, their faculty mentor and a professor of social studies education.  “Their passion and rigor for research on how to bring unsung Muslim-American stories into elementary curriculum was inspiring!  I am sure their research will inform so many children and teachers on Muslim-American history in the United States.”

Natasha Dossani

Natasha Dossani

Haley Ward

Haley Ward

4/16/2020, 11:14 a.m.

Music performance major, Jessica Bell, became involved in research because she wanted to explore broader topics in music.

Bell’s research explores the effects that clarinet production has on Tanzanian locals from a socio-economic standpoint. The trees used to create clarinets, mpingo, is native to Tanzania and is endangered. Therefore, the goal of her research is to connect Western classical music to East African culture while bringing awareness to the sustainable ways of making clarinets.

“My KSU research experience has helped me find new careers and areas untouched in the discipline of music,” said Bell, who traveled to Tanzania for her project. “My future career plans include playing the clarinet professionally and continuing research with the hopes of becoming a sustainable clarinet manufacturer.”

Jessica Bell

4/16/2020, 10:51 a.m.

Agazeet Haile, who is studying anthopologry, presented her research for the first time at a conference. She is excited to share her research on U.S. curriculum standards for social studies/history with a wider audience and describes the virtual symposium as a great opportunity to experience an e-conference.

Haile is working with Dr. Sohyun An, a professor of social studies education in the Bagwell College of Education, as a participant in the First-Year Scholars Program, a new initiative launched in the fall to give first-year students an introduction to research through an immersive experience.

“It has been a very exciting process for me. Agazeet is a brilliant, passionate, and justice-oriented first-year student,” said An. “Mentoring Agazeet on the research process while also supporting her to embark on her own research has been a pleasure.”

Haile’s future career plans consist of being in the Peace Corps, graduate school, and hopefully becoming a field researcher for an institution or business.

Agazeet Haile

4/16/2020, 10:30 a.m.

Joshua Hooper, a senior mechanical engineering major, presented his research on bio-inspired monolithically designed compliant swimming robots. Compliant mechanisms or flexible components are used to achieve the same motion and movement of traditionally designed mechanical systems.  

His research focuses on showing the ability, as technology advances, to design and realize complex systems using new materials and manufacturing methods, such as a 3D printer. Hooper works under the mentorship of Dr. Ayse Tekes, an assistant professor of mechanical engineering. 

“Once I heard about Dr. Tekes’ research in compliant mechanisms and how her lab used 3D printers to make unique projects I wanted to be a part of what she was doing,” Hooper said. “This research has challenged me outside my classes and allowed me to work with others in a very different way than a classroom setting.” 

He also had the opportunity to present this research at the Posters at the Georgia State Capitol (pictured below) in February.   

Josh Hooper

4/16/2020, 9:50 a.m.

Luan Joubert will be finishing up his bachelor’s degree in English in a virtual manner, but that does not take the thrill away from his research experience.  He is excited to present his research in the comfort of his own home, taking a lot of the pressure off his shoulders.   

Joubert performs his academic research by analyzing poetry and prose, applying modern, post-modern, and existential theory to contemporary works and classic literature. 

“After graduating this semester, I am taking a year off before moving on to graduate school.  I will be studying Marxism, Soviet history, and the literary output of Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn in order to develop an expertise, as well as to focus on the potential for narratives to affect lives and nations.” 

Luan Joubert

4/15/2020, 11:04 a.m.

It's the day before the Symposium of Student Scholars, the most important day of the year for Dr. Amy Buddie, director of undergraduate research and organizer of this event. Each year, she spends time carefully thinking about what she'll wear. This year she's torn between the pajama bottoms that have little sleeping foxes on them and the pajama bottoms that say "Guitar Hero" (reader, she is not in fact a Guitar Hero). We'll find out tomorrow. 

Hooty hoo, Symposium presenters and mentors! See you in Teams tomorrow!