Student Research: On Campus and Beyond

Appalachian lauds opportunities for student research
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Are bridges in Watauga County structurally sound? What effect does waste water treatment effluent have on fish? Can adding music to pre-school activities better engage children in learning?

These are among the questions student researchers ask at Appalachian State University, which values academic inquiry because of the opportunities it provides for learning, faculty/student collaboration and career development. What better way to apply classroom knowledge than to conduct actual experiments and other forms of scholarship?

Appalachian believes students who understand how discoveries are made in their chosen fields today are well-prepared to address the unsolved problems of the future. To underscore its commitment to student research, the university awards about $100,000 to student projects each year. This includes Prestigious Scholars Grants, a competitive award for currently enrolled Appalachian undergraduates who have a minimum 3.75 grade point average.

Student research and mentored scholarship can be utilized in just about any academic discipline, and Appalachian students frequently present their research at professional meetings across the country. About 100 students presented during the 2007-08 academic year, and nearly 400 students since 2005. Some also publish their research in peer review journals in collaboration with their faculty mentors.

Events at which students have presented their research in 2007-08 include:

  • U.S. Environmental Protection Agency's P3 Award Competition in Washington, D.C.
  • 108th General Meeting of the American Society for Microbiology Meeting in Boston
  • 55th Annual Southeastern Conference on Latin American Studies in Tampa, Fla.
  • National Conference on Undergraduate Research, Salisbury, Md.
  • Southeastern Region American Music Therapy Association Conference in New Orleans
  • National Association of School Psychologists Annual Convention in New Orleans
  • Southeast Chapter of the American College of Sports Medicine Meeting in Birmingham, Ala.
  • Association of Information Technology Professionals' National Collegiate Conference, Memphis, Tenn.
  • 32nd annual National Association for Developmental Education Conference in Boston

In April, Appalachian hosted its 11th Annual Celebration of Student Research and Creative Endeavors in Plemmons Student Union. The day-long event featured 125 students sharing their knowledge through oral presentations, poster presentations, creative performances and technology showcases.

This celebration is a highlight of the campus community. "Learning through involvement in research and/or creative endeavors is one of the most meaningful experiences in our students' education," says Alan Utter, director of Appalachian's Office of Student Research and a professor in the Department of Health, Leisure and Exercise Science.

"Many students find that engagement in research provides a context and meaning to their academic program. They also learn about their personal strengths and interests, making future career choices easier. In addition, students who engage in research and creative endeavors persist in their pursuit of an undergraduate degree at a higher rate than comparison groups."

 

Some of the 125 presenters at Appalachian's 11th Annual Celebration of Student Research and Creative Endeavors


Julia FondrenJulia Fondren
Senior
Psychology

Needs assessment of a group therapy program for post-abortion issues on Appalachian State University's campus

"My research was very relevant to my field in that it taught me how to design a research study, how to carry it out, how to analyze data and then make a presentation of those results."

- Julia Fondren

Project Title: Needs assessment of a group therapy program for post-abortion issues on Appalachian State University's campus—conducted for the Boone Hope Pregnancy Resource Center as a Public Service Research Project, which pairs students and community agencies to solve an actual social problem.


Sara Kim
Master's Candidate
Nutrition
Effectiveness of the Western N.C. Folic Acid Campaign in Watauga County

"My research study has expanded my knowledge about the research process. I now have a greater appreciation for what goes into the research articles I read in professional journals."

- Sara Kim

Project Title: Effectiveness of the Western N.C. Folic Acid Campaign in Watauga County—first-place winner for the graduate research award presented by the N.C. Dietetic Association


Jonathan Mitchell
Sophomore
Geology
Taxonomic analysis of upper Triassic lungfish (osteichthyes:dipnoi) tooth plates, with specific reference to the first specimens from North Carolina

"I want to do more research with fossils, and this study has helped me learn how to systematically identify fossils. This summer I will be interning at the Smithsonian Institution, working with the curator of dinosaurs to look at eggshells and determine what kind of dinosaur they came from. I'm really excited about that."

- Jonathan Mitchell

Project Title: Taxonomic analysis of upper Triassic lungfish (osteichthyes:dipnoi) tooth plates, with specific reference to the first specimens from North Carolina—presented at the Southeast Geological Society of America conference


Bethany Carter
Senior
Chemistry
Effects of estrogenic compounds in waste water treatment plant effluent on fish vitellogenesis

"I've learned a lot by finding stuff out on my own. The more involved you are in your department and its research opportunities, you realize what career options are out there. I want to go to graduate school and eventually work in industry."

- Bethany Carter

Project Title: Effects of estrogenic compounds in waste water treatment plant effluent on fish vitellogenesis


Emily Steinbaugh
Senior
Psychology
A Healthy Start: The relationship between controlling maternal feeding practices and child health status among siblings

"This has been a unique experience because my results weren't what I expected, but because of that, I have gleaned so much from this study. It gave me new insight into the complexity of research."

- Emily Steinbaugh

Project Title: A Healthy Start: The relationship between controlling maternal feeding practices and child health status among siblings


Kathryn Yeager
Senior
Music
Music therapy with preschoolers at risk for school failure

"This was my first solo study, and it gave me a chance to develop my own responsibilities and my own identity as a music therapist. The experience of writing a research project allowed me to work more closely with my advisor, which was incredible."

- Kathryn Yeager

Project Title: Music therapy with preschoolers at risk for school failure—presented at the Southeastern Region Music Therapy Association conference.


Naomi Eckerd
Sophomore
Physics
A survey of bridge structural and functional conditions in Watauga County

"I plan to go to engineering school and become a civil engineer to build bridges, so if I have a background of what a bridge's purpose is and how to achieve that, I can build bridges with a longer life span."

- Naomi Eckerd

Project Title: A survey of bridge structural and functional conditions in Watauga County


Giovanni Modica
Freshman
A new look at the Iraq War

"Growing up in a military town and being a member of the N.C. National Guard, I had preset opinions about the Iraq war. After taking this class, I now want to serve in the military for a different reason: to become an officer who can directly affect change for his soldiers and for his nation. The class changed how I learn, from just memorizing facts to really questioning, being involved in the learning process, and deepening my understanding."

- Giovanni Modica

Project Title: A new look at the Iraq War—a video summary of a Watauga College class that investigated why America is at war in Iraq. The class included a Washington, D.C., trip to interview government leaders.


Drew Scott
Senior
Biology
Bottle sampling for shrews and other small mammals focusing on morphological features useful in identification

"This is my foot in the door to what I'll be doing the rest of my life. Finding and analyzing data is your whole world in biology."

- Drew Scott

Project Title: Bottle sampling for shrews and other small mammals focusing on morphological features useful in identification