Fall 2020 Symposium of Student Scholars Live Blog

KENNESAW, Ga. (Dec 3, 2020) — The Office of Undergraduate Research at Kennesaw State University hosted the first fall edition of the Symposium of Student Scholars on Dec. 3, 2020, a half-day university-wide conference in which undergraduate and graduate researchers presented their projects. The event, held virtually via Microsoft Teams, featured nearly 100 presentations taking place from 1-5 p.m.  Just like the spring 2020 symposium, students were assigned unique access codes and timeslots for their virtual presentations. 

This live blog, updated throughout the afternoon, gave a snapshot of the variety of disciplines represented and the research journeys undertaken by KSU undergraduate and graduate students.   

– Geena Lawrence and Landon Mion

12/03/2020, 4:54 p.m. [Please note that all these students are working on the same project.]

Mara Bryan, an applied exercise and health sciences master’s student, became involved in researchMara Bryan at KSU because she believes that understanding health is more important now than ever before. She desired involvement with the proliferation of academic-based knowledge on significant subjects such as physical and mental health.

“I am currently most interested in the gut and its microbiome,” she said. “This faucet of research includes aspects of nutrition, organic chemistry, immunology, neurology, and overlaps with many other disciplines in the health sciences that are important to many populations.”

Bryan, who plans on pursuing a Ph.D. upon completion of her master’s degree, said her experience on Dr. Katherine Ingram’s exercise science research team helped sharpen her research skills, craft her presentations skills to improve her public speaking skills, and allowed her to gain valuable experience in working on an academic research team.

As a senior in the magnet STEM program at Kennesaw Mountain High School, Gwyneth Johnson Gwyneth Johnsonwas offered the opportunity to join Katherine Ingram’s research team for a semester internship. 

“Research gives us a new perspective into several worlds,” Johnson said. “Some studies can be like Alice in Wonderland, resulting in a trip down a rabbit hole with several new possibilities. No matter what the journey is, you always discover an impactful destination.”

Working with Bryan, Grace Alexander, and Andreana Henry, Johnson looked into 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. She said their research can make an impact on society by identifying types of foods and diets that can improve a person’s metabolic health. 

“Through research we can develop new medicines, find new ways to protect our environment, and/or just learn about an event we are unfamiliar with,” Johnson said. “Research is eye-opening and will always contribute important knowledge to society.”

Johnson, who plans on majoring in film and television production as well as a potential double major in media communications, hopes to one day work in the film industry. She said that every aspect of the film industry captivates her and that she has a dream of winning an Oscar for directing.

Grace AlexanderGraduate student Grace Alexander said that the research team she is a part of has provided a wonderful learning opportunity for herself and her peers. She said that research is a great way to explore science and communicate findings with the public. 

“Our research has focused on the health and well being 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,” Alexander said. “It is important to detect early signs of GDM in pregnancy because studies show women can make lifestyle changes to improve their metabolic health, which includes a better start for their child.”

After graduating with a master’s degree in applied exercise and health science, Alexander’s goals include pursuing a Ph.D. in exercise physiology, with a potential focus on nutrition.

Additionally, she will be pursuing a professional triathlon career in spring 2021.  

Andreana Henry, a recent psychology graduate, decided during her senior year that she wanted to get involved in research to ensure that she would be an ideal graduate school candidate. “Being a part of a team gives you a different type of social skills that can be very useful in the professional work setting,” Henry said. 

Andreana HenryWith the passion to learn and an interest in research, Dr. Katherine Ingram, associate professor of exercise science, encouraged Henry to join her undergraduate research team. “I was attending a meeting that Dr. Ingram was hosting for  her community outreach program, KSU for FitKids, and I became interested in her other research programs based around fitness,” said Henry.

Ingram’s research on gestational diabetes, nutrition, visceral fat, and insulin resistance has the potential to evaluate independent factors that are all related to reducing one’s chances of gestational diabetes. 

“Our team aims to bring more awareness to the population mentioned above and others who are interested in understanding the things that can be done to reduce one’s chances of gestational diabetes,” said Henry. 

Although psychology is her passion, being an effective and knowledgeable researcher in any field is what Henry aims to accomplish. In the future Henry would like to pursue a career in counseling in a hospital setting and eventually in private practice. 

“Being  a part of Team Ingram during these unprecedented times has really opened my eyes to how important science is to our society,” said Henry. “Without research, we would all continue to stay the same.” 

12/03/2020, 4:33 p.m.

Senior electrical engineering major Sarah Peters said her research mentor, Dr. Bill Diong, has impacted her by helping her expand her skills on methods of collecting data. He also gave her useful tips on how to effectively record her investigations and their results for not only herself, but for others to understand her work. 

Diong, professor of electrical engineering, also provided her with helpful feedback and some freedom in how she implemented the research she conducted, focused on assessing women’s glucose and insulin levels during pregnancy. 

Sarah Peters“This research is to develop a computer program of the oral minimal model, which can be used to estimate a person’s insulin sensitivity from an oral glucose tolerance test in which plasma glucose and insulin levels are determined from blood samples collected from subjects,” she said. “This research will help develop a detailed understanding of the effectiveness of noninvasive diabetes control, for example, when woman are pregnant.”

Peters said that her KSU research experience has impacted her by allowing her to understand that the theory she learns in class is a simplified and approximate version of what occurs in real life. She said research is important because it helps tackle important issues such as the one she presented today. 

12/03/2020, 4:03 p.m.

Songqiao YuSongqiao Yu, who is studying computer science, became involved in research with the hopes of gaining experience for his future career. One of the projects he is presenting involves using virtual reality game applications to enhance medical students' empathy level for patients with Parkinson’s disease.

“My research project is based on psychological applications of virtual reality gamification,” Yu explained. “Providing empathy training to caregivers of those with Parkinson’s disease will help improve the level of care given and enhance prosocial interactions between healthcare providers and their patients,” said Yu.

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


Songqiao Yu“This research experience at KSU is essential as it has broadened my horizons while also enabling me to further develop my analytic and critical thinking skill sets,” said Yu. “After I graduate with this hands-on experience, I would love to work for a leading technology company and then start my own company focusing on education technologies.”

12/03/2020, 3:15 p.m.

Andi EdwardsAndi Edwards has had a long-time desire to learn about nonprofit management. Now as a human services major, engaging in research has given her that outlet.

“My research project focuses on the volunteers who make up an increasing portion of nonprofit sector staff,” said Edwards. “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.”

Edwards began working with Dr. Jennifer Wade-Berg, associate professor of human services, during her capstone course and presented the research they conducted together for the first time virtually. As a result of Wade-Berg’s mentorship, Edwards was inspired to improve and elevate her research ability. 

Graduating this month, Edwards has already been hired and started work at Nardone Consulting Group, an Atlanta-based association management company specializing in managing professional and trade associations. “I’m enjoying learning about association management from the best in the business,” she said. 

12/03/2020, 2:26 p.m.

“This is my first time presenting at a conference, and I am grateful to my theatre professor Dr. Thomas Fish for encouraging me to do so and am looking forward to tuning into the other virtual presentations,” said Sarah Joseph, a senior theatre and performance studies major with a concentration in musical theatre

Sarah JosephHer research is focused on creating more opportunities for collaborations in the arts community at Kennesaw State University that will foster strong learning, networking, and mutual respect.

“The initial driving factor in my pursuit of this research was my experience as a transfer student to a new school coupled with my involvement in both the Department of Theatre and Performance Studies and the School of Music,” Joseph said. “This research has shown me that the possibilities for creativity and exciting work really are limitless when you work together.”

After her experience, Joseph hopes more students will seek out cross-training in the College of the Arts departments and schools. She wants collaborations to not only be encouraged but more accessible for students.

“I am looking forward to continuing a career in performance both on the stage and in film and am grateful for all the professors and students who help me to grow and who inspire me,” she said. 

12/03/2020, 1:43 p.m.

Azeeza Abdulrauf chose to get involved with research so that she could receive proper training for her future Ph.D. program as well as her career. Her research project investigates autism associatedAzeeza Abulrauf genes in great apes, such as bonobos, chimpanzees, and gorillas. They are the model for this research since they are the closest relatives in the animal kingdom capable of understanding complex communication.

“The goal is to observe their behavior once their DNA is sequenced to learn about how these genes affect socio-communication,” said Abdulrauf. “My findings would impact the way we research and develop therapeutics for autistic individuals.”

As a second-year graduate student working towards her master’s degree in integrative biology, Abdulrauf completed this project with mentors Dr. Martin Hudson and Dr. Susan M.E. Smith from the Department of Molecular and Cellular Biology and Dr. Jared Taglialatela from the Department of Ecology, Evolution, and Organismal Biology.

“My mentors have helped me to understand the importance of great ape research because they are the key to developing new therapeutics for autistic individuals,” said Abdulrauf. “I hope that this research will increase awareness, so that there will be additional assistance and research completed on autism.”

Her future aspirations include obtaining her Ph.D. in neuroengineering or biomedical informatics and then, going into the industry to develop assistive or therapeutical medical devices for the autism community.

“Thanks to KSU, I have been able to hone my research interests for my future work,” she said. “Now I know that autism drives my passion for research.”

12/03/2020, 1:01 p.m.

Dorothy Corbett, a senior majoring in public relations, said her research mentor, Dr. Laura Beth Daws, encouraged her to pursue research and take her skills to the next level. Daws, associate professor of communication, also wanted Corbett to explore options for future work in academia and conveyed the value of research skills in professional roles. 

Corbett said that having the opportunity to research a topic that has lasting implications has been a rewarding experience. 

“My research analyzes the impact that social media has on young people engaging in celebrity worship,” Corbett said. “I found that extreme fandom online impacts consumerism, body image, Dorothy Corbettmental health, and social hierarchies within fan communities.”

“Because fan communities impact the prevailing attitudes of the masses through popular culture, this research is extremely important to understand what forces are influencing an entire generation of young people,” she explained.

While this is the first time Corbett presented her research, her experience in conducting research at KSU has helped to expand her skill set in applicable job skills such as researching, writing, and interviewing.