Spring 2021 Symposium of Student Scholars Live Blog

KENNESAW, Ga. (April 29, 2021) — The Office of Undergraduate Research at Kennesaw State University hosted the spring edition of the Symposium of Student Scholars on Thursday, April 29, 2021 from 9:30 a.m. to 5 p.m. Now in its 25th year, the spring edition is a university-wide celebration of the research efforts of KSU's undergraduate and graduate students. Just like the fall 2020 symposium, student presenters were assigned unique access codes and timeslots for their virtual presentations. Please click here for the full schedule and list of research presentations. 

Entries were posted throughout the day on this live blog, giving a snapshot of the variety of disciplines represented and the research journeys undertaken by KSU's undergraduate and graduate student researchers.   

– Dorothy Corbett and Jacob Segura

4/29/2021, 5:00 p.m.

Sara ClementSara Clement (pictured left), a sophomore architecture major from Marietta, conducted research in a team of architecture students, including Cole Curry and Javier Molina to explore the disconnect between student engagement and performance as a result of less interaction within design studio education environments as a result of COVID-19. 

“I think my research can make an impact on society because COVID-19 has affected all of us, in many ways. Being an architecture student, it’s extremely different not being in the studio environment as much as I used to be,” Clement explained. “This research not only serves as a platform for showcasing how much the environment has changed, but also gives me hope for the future of design studio education.”

Clement has been able to conduct research that has a real-world application for architecture students like herself, and she is inspired by the impact her team’s research can have on the community.

“One of my friend encouraged me to attend an Undergraduate Research Club meeting so I decided to check it out, and I remember President Whitten was the guest speaker that day. Hearing her talk about her research really inspired me,” Clement reflected. “The ability to make a tangible impact, connect with your community, and learn something new really made me want to get involved.”

4/29/2021, 4:48 p.m.

Francisco OrozcoFor Francisco Orozco, a first-year student from Douglasville, the symposium offers an opportunity to demonstrate his hard work and dedication to university student professional development. Orozco’s project studies the effects of the pandemic on student internship outcomes and how the adjustment to remote work has impacted the lives of students.

“By analyzing these changes, we can better understand the strengths and weaknesses of remote work,” said Orozco, a political science major. “With this, we can forecast major changes in the workplace based on projected efficiency, effectiveness, and overall employee impact.”

4/29/2021, 4:40 p.m.

Civil engineering major Sean Sadler (pictured left) and architecture major Moritz Meditz are undergraduates whose research shows the practical impacts of research on humanity. The pair’s research involves the Sean Sadlerstrengthening of concrete forms in building construction.

“During casting, concrete takes the shape of its formwork; traditionally, these formworks are made of rigid materials like steel or wood,” Sadler said. “The results are prismatic members, which are not optimized for material usage but only for simplicity in construction. In this study, we investigated the structural capacity of reinforced concrete members built with non-rigid forms along with the necessary solutions to perform better casts.”

Their results show that flexible forms can create more environmentally friendly concrete structures. The pair hopes that with this research, further improvements can be made on traditional construction conventions that will ensure the safety of the buildings’ users.

4/29/2021, 4:25 p.m. 

Schuyler Gentry (pictured below), a graduate student in integrative biology, and Will Clark, a senior biology major, are conducting research on cell-penetrating peptides (CPPs) that can effectively transport macromolecules across the cellular membrane and into the cell’s interior. CPPs are short chains of amino acids, which allow various molecules such as DNA or therapeutic proteins to enter cells to fight infection.

Schuyler Gentry“The research utilizes a calcium dependent cell-penetrating peptide to enhance endosomal escape of its associated protein cargo,” Gentry explained. “We employ confocal microscopy to visualize the difference between our CPP technology and its covalently bound CPP-cargo counterpart. This CPP delivery system solves the main rate-limiting step of CPP-mediated cargo delivery, which is known as endosomal entrapment.” 

Gentry said that his research experiences will play a vital role in his future career. 

“This experience has helped me to develop as a person and improve my skills in innovative problem solving and thinking clearly and critically about complex problems,” he said. “I have grown into a well-rounded scientist, and I plan to utilize this experience in my future endeavors. I am interested in research in the biomedical field and clinical research coordination.” 

Clark is excited for the opportunity to be a first-time presenter at the symposium. He also said that this research experience will help prepare him for his future career goals, which include medical school. 

“This research is extremely relevant to the design and delivery of various medications as it relates directly to the effective delivery of cargo into a cell,” he said. “The first time we imaged our product, I was in shock at the ability we have to watch cells move and absorb molecular-level cargo in real time. It really painted the processes of life in a new light.” 

4/29/2021, 4:15 p.m.

Symphony Williams, an integrative studies major and participant in the First-Year Scholars Program, investigated college student’s knowledge of the Korean War and their experiences throughout their education learning about the subject. She also completed a project exploring the need for education on mental health and illness in elementary aged students. Through her research, Williams has challenged herself to grow academically with the help of her faculty mentor Sohyun An, associate professor of social studies education in the Bagwell College of Education.

“Dr. Sohyun An has made a huge impact on me as an individual and student. She has given me constant encouragement and feedback throughout my research process. She lit a spark in me that grew to a passion for research and academics,” Williams said. “She has taught me to be independent, while giving me guidance. She is truly an amazing person and serves as a strong role model for me.”

In addition to developing academic and professional skills, Williams has found that her KSU research experience has opened up a realm of possibilities for her to explore her many interests.

“Research allows for discovery, challenging old theories, and strengthening ideas. Research to me is all about learning and using what you’ve learned to improve upon something,” Williams said.

4/29/2021, 3:30 p.m.

Paola RattuThe virtual format of the symposium has allowed students as far away as Europe the opportunity to present their research. Paola Rattu, an MBA student, originally from Sardinia, Italy, is currently living in Switzerland.

“I am delighted to be presenting at the virtual symposium,” she said. “I believe research should be spread out as much as possible, so I am glad to share my findings during the event.”

Rattu, who also holds several master’s degrees and a Ph.D. in geography, is conducting research that involves the marketing of a mobile internet service known as i-mode, which was popular in Japan.

“The i-mode technology, which proved extremely successful in Japan between 1999 and the late 2000s, can be seen as an ancestor to the smart phone,” Rattu said. “My research tries to understand why the i-mode technology failed to succeed beyond Japan. This research can help society by enabling businesses to avoid making similar mistakes that doomed the export of i-mode in Western markets.”

4/29/2021, 2:56 p.m.

For students like Brandon Portalatin of Dallas and Katie Kosowski of Macon, research meansKatie Kosowski paving the way for a new perspective in a field like the arts. The pair’s research strives to expand the incorporated musical repertoire in college music programs.

“Our research is focused on broadening the repertoire and composers used in collegiate music theory and aural skills curriculum,” said Kosowski, a music performance major. “Currently, a select handful of prominent white, male composers are used as the main examples for the skills taught in these courses, leaving little room for BIPOC and women composers to get their chance in the spotlight.”

The pair hopes that, in conducting this research, there will be more options for music students of the future. Research is important to the pair because it offers a way to change and improve the future.

“It directly influences how the future theorist, educators, and any music student for truth would teach the future of music theory and aural skills,” said Portalatin. “It’s almost like creating a part of the future, and that’s incredible to me.”

4/29/2021, 2:25 p.m.

A team of undergraduate students has teamed with faculty mentor Katherine Ingram to analyze the impact of exercise on gestational diabetes and baby birthweight. The aim of their study was to determine how the frequency and intensity of exercise during pregnancy impact both gestational diabetes and baby birthweight using data collected via a self-reported survey from women who have given birth within the past two years.

Ami EhoAmi Eho, a biochemistry major from Dallas-Hiram, is happy to work toward a project that directly relates to her future career goals.

“In the future, I plan to pursue an M.D. or M.D./Ph.D. track as a career and become a pediatrician, but I hope to stay involved in research pertaining to maternal and neonatal health as well as hypertension in young people,” Eho shared. “My involvement with Dr. Ingram’s research team studying the impact of gestational diabetes, obesity, and physical inactivity on maternal metabolic health is reinforcing that desire.”

Haley WrightHaley Wright, a Dawsonville native and nursing interest major participating in the First-Year Scholars Program, is the co-presenter for this research project and agrees that their work will be beneficial for her long-term career plans.

“I strive to work in the neonatal care unit of a hospital in the future, and undergraduate research experiences will be extremely useful in my career,” Wright said. “There may be times when a patient has a special case that may require heavy research, and my experience will allow me to be successful in solving the issue.”

Raine Morris

Raine Morris, a recent biology graduate and aspiring dentist, assisted in creating the survey used for the study. She shared that she’s proud to see the work she completed continue to be used for other student projects.

Morris had already been involved in undergraduate research before joining the Ingram lab when she was searching for new opportunities. 

“I thoroughly enjoyed getting hands-on experience in the field, so I continued to search for more research experiences, that’s when I discovered Dr. Ingram’s team and I reached out,” she said. “Her research intrigued me because it was using methods and other things I learned in class in real situations.” 

4/29/2021, 1:36 p.m.

Kathryn Bacon

For Kathryn Bacon, a December 2020 graduate of psychology and aspiring school counselor, the symposium offers an opportunity to demonstrate her hard work and dedication to bringing awareness to the child life field.

Bacon’s project studies the attitudes of Certified Child Life Specialists (CCLS) towards telehealth and how they used telehealth during the COVID-19 pandemic.

“Recently, this technology has been used more frequently by CCLS, who are healthcare workers who provide coping strategies and support for children in medical settings,” Bacon said. “Our findings highlight the importance of telehealth in child life during times of isolation and give us a better understanding of these services which are critical to children and their families.”

4/29/2021, 12:35 p.m.

Adam MeachamAs a first-time symposium participant, Adam Meacham could not wait to present his graduate research in social work.

“This is my first time presenting research in any format at all, so I am super excited. It feels like the big leagues,” said Meacham, who is from Monterey, CA. “I interviewed for the graduate research assistant position with Dr. Monica Nandan over the summer and am so grateful to have been selected. I wanted to immerse myself in the graduate school experience and workingAdam Meacham presentation with Dr. Nandan has been an honor.”

Meacham’s research involves the use of strategic prevention frameworks (SPF) in two local schools, North Cobb High School and Marietta Alternative School. The goal of these frameworks is to expand the implementation of substance abuse prevention measures within these schools.

4/29/2021, 11:51 p.m.

Nakia Salam is currently working on her Ed.D. in Secondary Education with a concentration in mathematics. Her research aims to enhance student retention of mathematical concepts by modeling functional relationships with a traditional falling ladder scenario.

Nakia Salam“The analysis of functional relationships is important to students’ overall ability to reason mathematically. By modeling functional relationships, students can focus on conceptual understanding instead of falling victim to the predictable nature of procedural mathematics,” Salam said. “This research study provides a real-life modeling opportunity for students to explore topics ranging from Geometry to Calculus.”

Salam reflected that by trying to promote student learning through this exercise, she has been able to challenge her own ways of thinking and learn more about the research process.

“One challenge with graduate research has been accepting the unknown. As a mathematics teacher, I am comfortable with definite answers,” Salam explained. “This research experience has shown me that the ambiguous nature of qualitative research is what makes the collaborative efforts of a research team meaningful.”

4/29/2021, 10:48 a.m.

Emily Velarde, a chemistry major from Cumming, conducted research involving the use of electrochemistry and spectroscopy techniques to detect the presence of cerium metal in nanoceria glass particles. The glass particles were then studied to determine if they can be used in conjunction with biomolecules. 

Emily Velarde“I have a long-term goal of becoming a chemical engineer, with interests in working in the fields of agriculture, biomedicine, or even energy development,” explained Velarde. “This research project directly relates to the biomedical field, because the nanoceria glass particles can be used to create a new biochemical development.”

Velarde remains excited for the opportunity to gain applicable experience in her field and shares that one of her favorite memories from her experience was learning how to use a potentiostat, the instrument she used to conduct her research.

“A piece of advice I would give to someone looking to do undergraduate research is to talk to any of your former or current professors who are in your major, specifically if you enjoyed their class. Many of them are working on some sort of project in addition to lecturing and would love for you to contribute to their work,” Velarde encouraged.

4/29/2021, 10:06 a.m.

Bryanna Willis of Griffin and Zoe Crisp of Marietta are conducting research on a topic in university student recruitment and success. The pair’s research is concerned with analyzing the performance of female and minority students in STEM, more specifically engineering.

engineering field“Our research examines the gap in female and minority engineer majors locally by studying KSU and Marietta High School, one of KSU’s feeder schools,” said Crisp, a mechanical engineering major. “The purpose of this research is to examine what we at KSU can do to help increase retention and graduation rates for female and minority engineers.”

They hope that their results will help to create a blueprint of a support system for these students as they pursue these high-demand majors.

“I also wanted to do research on something that was important to me and that is why I got involved,” added Willis, a computer engineering major. “The research that you do can also help create meaningful solutions to everyday problems, and it can really show you that you are very capable of great things.”

4/29/2021, 9:30 p.m.

Thaide Huichapa, a graduate student studying software engineering, is conducting research that analyzes user engagement during interviews using machine learning technology.

“In my research, I predict users’ engagement during requirements elicitation interviews using biofeedback and voice features through supervised machine learning algorithms,” explained Huichapa. “What I have developed can support a requirements analyst in maintaining users’ engagement during the collection of requirements for new software. This can have a huge impact on the quality of the developed software and on all its users.”

Huichapa shared that conducting this research has allowed her to gain unique experiences that have had a lasting impact on her academic and professional development.

“I have been able to work and learn from amazing people from all around the world such as Alessio Ferrari, Nicole Novielli, and Daniela Girardi who work in different parts of Italy, as well as Davide Fucci, a researcher in Sweden,” she said. “I have also participated in two international conferences and had the chance to listen to interesting talks and (virtually) meet international researchers. All of these opportunities motivated me to push forward.”