Expanding Horizons through Summer Research

Aug 11th, 2014

Expanding Horizons through Summer Research

Envision “research.” What images come to mind? Most likely the common notion of a scientist peering into a microscope and swirling frothy chemicals in a beaker.

In reality, research expands across many horizons. Dr. Joanne Altman, director of Undergraduate Research and Creative Works, has shown students that the skills of gathering, analyzing and presenting research are not only relevant to all majors, but also invaluable when launching careers.

“Employers are looking for people who can ‘communicate within and beyond their organization,’” says Altman. “That means students need to explain their work in broad and basic terms so that anyone can understand it. By meeting with fellow researchers in diverse fields, the students learn to do that.”

The URCW held the university’s first Summer Research Institute in 2014, where all of the preconceived ideas about research were discarded. From May through August, students explored the following:

Becca chairA Twist on Textiles: Becca Rowan has put a modern twist on a classic design. The interior design major was challenged to create an original textile design for a French Empire Style chair. The project is designed to not only showcase Becca’s talent, but her understanding of the historic design as well.

Rowan hand-painted her design onto the chair, which is now on display at HPU’s Sechrest Art Gallery as part of the “Art of Seating” exhibit.

“I am extremely honored to have been asked to create a textile to be on display in an exhibit beside many amazing artists,” says Rowan. “I feel so blessed to have been given this opportunity to work more in the field that I love so much and learn more from Ms. Maxine Campbell, an amazing professor in interior design.”

DSC_1785Animal Minds: Rachel Thiets is working alongside Altman and zookeepers at the Greensboro Science Center to test the cognitive abilities of lemurs. They’re using an app designed by HPU student Jared Oakes and Brian Heagney, instructor of communication. They hope to determine if prosimian primates have the ability to match cards based on different rules. For example, if the rule is color, matching a red circle to a red square; and then switching to match the red circle to a different color circle when the rule is shape. They say most animals can be taught to match colors or shapes, but no non-human animal has been tested to demonstrate this complicated human ability to make decisions about constantly changing rules.

“I’m grateful to go to a school where I have opportunities to connect with professors outside of the classroom who are willing to mentor me in their own research,” says Thiets. “For an undergraduate student, that opportunity is rare and will help me stick out in a sea of med school applicants.”

Oakes plans to make the Kindle app available to zoos around the country.

Econ AppApps for Education: Reza Moghtaderi Esfahani and Thomas Douglas, along with their mentors Dr. Daniel Hall, assistant professor of economics, and Roger Shore, associate professor of math and computer science, have developed an iOS application that allows iPads to talk to each other without an internet connection, which opens up new possibilities for technology in all classrooms. They are specifically expounding on iPad apps previously designed by HPU students to increase understanding of economic concepts.

“This experience has positively influenced my understanding of object-oriented programming, socket-based networking and database management,” says Moghtaderi. “I feel more prepared than ever to take on the challenges of a similar opportunity in the real world.”

This project is supported by several grants from the Charles Koch Foundation and a High Point University Think BIG! Grant. The app will eventually be released on the Apple app store to give students all over the world access.

Cleat Research 1Adidas Cleat Design: Andrea Baellow, Allison Arpante and Kaitlyn Wright are performing research for one of the most well-known shoe retailers in the world – adidas International, Inc. Alongside Dr. Kevin Ford, associate professor of physical therapy, Dr. Jeff Taylor, assistant professor of physical therapy, and Dr. Yum Nguyen, assistant professor of athletic training, they are working to better understand how common foot injuries occur when football players are on the field.

The project, funded by adidas, involves testing multiple styles of innovative football cleats with advanced instrumentation available in the Human Biomechanics and Physiology Lab. HPU students test high school, college and professional level football players as they go through tasks that mimic motions they would make on the field, and those motions are tracked and recorded on high-speed cameras and analyzed.

The researchers hope to determine if different cleats will help reduce injury risk and improve performance.

“This research could lead to a better understanding of common injuries and a possible solution for many athletes,” says Arpante. “I feel very fortunate to work with these professors and peers because they all have something different to offer and something I can learn from.”