Double major presents two projects at NCUR

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    Jenna Cantrell with Dr. Eric Marland, left and Dr. John Whitehead.

Jenna Cantrell ’12 had her pick of graduate programs as she prepared for graduation from Appalachian State University. By commencement, seven programs had accepted her, including N.C. State’s Ph.D. program in economics.

“She’s motivated and qualified to do Ph.D. level work,” said Dr. Eric Marland, one of two professors mentoring Cantrell, a double major in economics and math.

The May graduate was among 29 students from Appalachian selected to present at the National Conference for Undergraduate Research this spring. Cantrell presented two research projects, one in each discipline. Her math research, mentored by Marland, focused on managing the cost of carbon emissions. The economics project, mentored by Dr. John Whitehead, included a benefit-cost analysis based on surveys she conducted of people who use Boone’s greenway trail and their perceived usage if the trail were extended.

Her faculty mentors “are very passionate about what they do and that’s rubbed off on me, in my classes and in my research,” Cantrell said.

As an Honors College student, Cantrell had to complete a senior thesis. She combined her majors for a thesis that explores the optimal rotation time for managed forests. “This topic is very practical, especially in the future as states adopt policy related to carbon emissions,” she said.

“Many people perceive advanced math as difficult, but it’s so applicable to practical uses. You’d lose perspective of why math is needed if you didn’t do research like this,” she said.

Marland said undergraduate research and independent study are critical for top students who want to differentiate themselves from their peers. “By their senior year, students need two good letters of recommendation from their professors, and they can’t get that by just doing well in class,” he said.

“You get out of education what you put into it,” said Cantrell, who is from Beech Mountain. “There are opportunities at Appalachian for people to get involved in that fully prepare them for graduate school or whatever they want to do.”

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