Undergraduate Student Showcase - Alex Hatch

 Celebrating Undergraduate Research at the Student Showcase

Student Showcase, a celebration of undergraduate research, scholarship and creative activity, was the highlight of USU’s Undergraduate Research Day.  Students gave oral presentations and displayed posters throughout the day, offering audience members the opportunity to ask questions and learn more about each student’s individual research topic.
This day also marked the celebration of the Undergraduate Research Program’s 35th anniversary. The day was celebrated with a guest speaker who gave a tribute to undergraduate researcher, and, of course, cupcakes were served.
A new undergraduate award was also presented for the first time at this year’s awards ceremony. The Joyce Kinkead Outstanding Honors Scholar was announced and awarded to Katie Fredrickson, and English major under the mentorship of Joyce Kinkead. David and Terry Peak have made this award possible, which will be given annually to a graduating Honors student who has made significant progress on an Honors thesis of merit.

“We are so pleased to be celebrating 35 years of undergraduate research,” said Joyce Kinkead, associate vice president for research. “The Undergraduate Research Program began back in 1975 when President Glenn L. Taggart implemented his vision for the Undergraduate Research and Creative Opportunity (URCO) grant program. Since its inception, hundreds of students have enhanced their research experience through the URCO program.” The Undergraduate Research Program is one of the earliest undergraduate research efforts in the nation, second only to MIT.

Undergraduate researchers from all disciplines presented their research at the Student Showcase and gave one-on-one information to interested observers passing through the TSC International Lounge.  In all, 127 students participated in the Student Showcase with oral and poster presentations. Faculty judges selected top awards for posters in four categories:

Engineering Poster: Andrew Hobson – Civil & Environmental Engineering

Humanities, Arts, and Social Sciences Poster:  Jeremy Nelson – Landscape Architecture & Environmental Planning

Life Sciences Poster: Jeremy Crook – Plants, Soils, and Climate

Physical Sciences Poster: Jeffrey Goodrich – Physics
Part of Undergraduate Research Day is the awards ceremony for outstanding undergraduate researchers. Student researchers of the year were honored with the “Peak Prize,” an endowment established in honor of Dr. David Peak, professor of physics, and Dr. Terry Peak, associate professor of social work.

The Peak Prize was presented to one student from each of the seven academic colleges at Utah State University, as well as one student from a regional campus.
“Learning about and honoring these students’ research is absolutely inspirational, and it would not have happened had it not been for the Peaks’ generous contribution to the undergraduate research program,” said Brent Miller, vice president for research.
The following students received the Peak Prize for their outstanding research:
Jeremy Crook, researcher in the department of plants, soils, and climate major in the College of Agriculture, is studying the propagation of chokecherry trees in the Intermountain west. He hopes to eventually find a suitable method of propagating these trees so that chokecherry trees can become a substantial crop in Utah. Jeremy plans to begin a PhD program in Plant and Environmental Science at Clemson University in South Carolina this summer.

Darcy Stewart, researcher in the department of entrepreneurship in the Jon M. Huntsman School of Business, is studying the influence of cultural characteristics on entrepreneurship. As entrepreneurial activity grows around the world, development of also grows, but at varying rates. This study is meant to better understand the characteristics and relationships that affect that growth in order to know where investment funds might be placed to gain the greatest impact on economic development. Darcy is a Huntsman and Koch Scholar as well as an Honors student.
Aubree Nielsen VanTienderen, researcher in the department of elementary education in the Emma Eccles Jones College of Education and Human Services, is working on the Advanced Readers at Risk project. This program focuses on helping students who read above their grade level continue to move ahead with their reading skills.  She gathered data and trained other students in running test proctors and protocols. Aubree is a Presidential Scholar and Research Fellow. She will be graduating in May 2010.
Alex Hatch, research in the department of Biological Engineering in the College of Engineering, is studying algal species in the Logan Wastewater Lagoons as a potential source for fuel production. He is analyzing the makeup of algae found in the lagoons to determine if they contain sufficient amounts of lipids in order to be used for fuels. Along with his research, Alex recently won a national bioethics essay competition and will be presenting his essay in Cambridge, Mass. He is a Hansen, Lillywhite, and A-pin Scholar. Upon graduation, Alex intends to attend medical school and become a medical scientist.
Kayla Woodring, researcher in the department of political science in the College of HASS, is studying the reality of “liberal media” and “conservative bias” in major news network broadcasts. She and her fellow researchers discovered patterns of media bias in thousands of news stories and broadcasts. She completed an internships in Washington D.C. at the VFW where she was able to study politics and share her ideas on women’s issues. Kayla plans to have a career in foreign service, focusing on women’s issues.
Danielle Babbel, researcher in the department of anthropology & geography in the College of Natural Resources, distributed a survey to evaluate the interpreting program at Logan Regional Hospital. The survey indicated whether language related issues affected patients choices whether to seek medical attention or not. Dani has studied people and medical facilities all over the globe and hopes to continue her international study after graduation. She plans to go into a medical practice that caters to the needs of Latino populations who do not receive sufficient care.
Sherry Baker, researcher in the department of biology & public health in the College of Science, is studying breast cancer metastasis in order to understand the role of certain genes in the suppression of tumors. She has already published one article on this research and has two manuscripts in the works. She is the recipient of a number of research fellowships and is active in the Honors Program. Sherry hopes to pursue a career in preventative medicine focusing on infectious diseases that affect the world population.
Carrie Young, a Regional Campus & Distance Education research in the biology department, is studying the genetic structure of two geographically separate groups of white-tailed prairie dogs in Utah. She is using the genetic results to show that these groups of prairie dogs are genetically related. Carrie is passionate about her research, which has led her to make discoveries in biology using ribosomal RNA gene sequence comparison. She is currently working to publish a paper on her new discoveries.

The eight college undergraduate researchers of the year make up the pool from which the USU Undergraduate Researcher of the Year will be selected. That person will be announced at USU’s Robins Awards on April 16.

Undergraduate research mentors—faculty recognized for their efforts in working with students—were also selected from each college and received an award and cash prize during the awards ceremony. The award winners are:

College of Agriculture: Lee Rickords (Animal, Dairy, & Veterinary Sciences)

Jon M. Huntsman School of Business: Chad Albrecht (Management)

Emma Eccles Jones College of Education and Human Services: Lori Roggman (Center for Persons with Disabilities)

College of Engineering: Charles Miller (Biological & Irrigation Engineering)

College of Humanities, Arts, and Social Sciences: Cacilda Rêgo (Language, Philosophy, & Speech Communication)

College of Natural Resources: Frank Howe (Wildland Resources)

College of Science: Anne Anderson (Biology)

Regional Campuses and Distance Education: Emily Jones (Anthropology)
Undergraduate Research Day is part of USU’s Research Week. Now in its sixth year, Research Week highlights and honors the accomplishments of faculty, undergraduates, and graduate students. For more information about the week’s events, visit Listen to Alan Jenkins on Utah Public Radio.
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Writer: Kinsey Love,