Summer Research Fuels Growth in and Outside the Classroom

Twenty-six students are hard at work this summer on research that covers a broad range of subjects, from biofuel production to comparative religious ethics.

These students are tackling 18 different projects with the help of faculty mentors from a variety of disciplines. Their research is made possible by funding from the Shepard K. Halsch Endowment for Undergraduate Research and the Jessie Ball duPont Fund, a new research and mentorship initiativethat partners Meredith with the Wake Young Women’s Leadership Academy, an early college high school in Raleigh.

The culminating event for all summer research students is “A Taste of Research,” to be held in September, at which they will present their projects.

“The biggest value for students who engage in summer research is learning how to collaborate on teams in developing a very sophisticated project,” said Paul Winterhoff, Meredith director of undergraduate research. “A clear benefit, we believe, is that they gain an advantage in both their academic progress toward graduate school or in their careers. They’re also honing their critical-thinking and planning skills, learning how to make presentations, and advancing both oral and writing skills. On top of all this, they gain confidence, which is a tremendous outcome in itself.”

Winterhoff and his team provide workshops throughout the summer for the students to fine-tune their presentation skills or, for the duPont Scholars, to learn how to be effective mentors. Many of the students engaged in summer research will continue their projects throughout the academic year.

Here is a sample of the research projects underway this summer:

Building a Better Antibiotic
Nicole DeNaeyer, ’17, biology
Faculty mentor: Sasha Ormond, assistant professor of chemistry
A notable rise in bacterial resistance to Ciprofloxacin, an antibiotic, has been observed as use of the drug increases. Nicole DeNaeyer is modifying the antibiotics Ciprofloxacin and Norfloxacin (a derivative of Ciprofloxacin) in order to stabilize the drugs and improve their antibacterial properties.

“The goal of my research is to synthesize a derivative with similar or better antibacterial properties than the original drugs, thus providing an alternative therapy in cases where Ciprofloxacin has been rendered useless because of bacterial resistance,” DeNaeyer said.

“Getting funded to do summer research has given me the experience of working in a fully functioning laboratory and doing research that is relevant to my field of study. The skill set that I have acquired this summer is unparalleled, and I am so grateful that Meredith allows students like me the chance to remain here over the summer to explore our passions and feed our curiosity.”

Helping Children Improve Motor Skills
Stacie Wiggins, ’17, psychology
Faculty mentor: Doreen Fairbank, professor of psychology
Stacie Wiggins is testing the immediate effects of Interactive Metronome (IM) on bilateral (the ability to use both sides of the body at once) and upper-limb coordination of children. IM is a training that requires participants to perform various repeated movements in time with a beat, while the IM technology provides feedback on performance.

Research has shown that over time IM improves motor coordination, attention, upper-limb speed and coordination, and motor control. However, there has not been a study to test if there are any immediate effects on bilateral or upper-limb coordination. If a statistical significance is found in Wiggins’ study, her research will provide new evidence of the immediate benefits of IM on bilateral and upper-limb coordination in children who are receiving occupational therapy services.

“After graduating from Meredith, my goal is to obtain a master’s degree in occupational therapy,” Wiggins said. “Through my time spent learning from occupational therapists, I have been able to observe many different treatment and assessment methods. These educational experiences have strengthened my understanding of occupational therapy, and this research project is a rare opportunity for me to better understand this aspect of pediatric occupational therapy.”

Connecting Communities
Elizabeth Leon, ’18, social work, and Dielle McMillan, ’17, social work
Faculty mentor: Joy Learman, assistant professor of social work
Elizabeth Leon and Dielle McMillan are conducting an asset-based community development plan for a Latino community in Raleigh, N.C., by researching community members and key stakeholders to discover strengths as well as areas where resources are needed.

“We hope to gain more knowledge about the Latino community in Raleigh and how Meredith College can build a relationship with the community and help it gain valuable resources by utilizing its strengths,” McMillan said.

Leon, who has lived in Mexico, said, “I am so grateful to be bilingual and be able to assist others when needed. I also love that my partner and I are mentoring two young women who are attending Wake Young Women’s Leadership Academy. This is a great opportunity for them to see what undergraduate research consists of. They will enhance the skills they have and create new ones while we work on this research project.”

Taking Stock of Turtles
Abbie Sargent, ’18, biology, and Josie Sargent, ’18, biology
Faculty mentor: Erin Lindquist, associate professor of biological sciences
Sisters Abbie and Josie Sargent are examining how the Common Musk turtle’s anatomy influences its everyday behavior in comparison to other freshwater turtle species. They have performed several observation cycles at the Meredith lake and are using the data gathered to conduct a statistical analysis.

“Summer research is unlike any opportunity you will ever receive in the classroom,” Abbie said. “During the summer students have more time to commit to their study and can focus on doing the best research possible on their topic of interest. This opportunity not only gives you experience that will remain useful throughout future career choices, but also brings you closer to a faculty member at Meredith.”

Examining the Impact of Women in Office
Mary Kolisnichenko, ’19, mathematics
Faculty mentors: Whitney Manzo, assistant professor of political science, and David McLennan, visiting professor of political science
Mary Kolisnichenko is examining all of North Carolina’s 100 county budgets and the accompanying composition of the boards of county commissioners. She is collecting baseline data on other factors impacting budgeting decisions (such as crime rates) for a 15-year period (2000-15) to determine if women must, indeed, make up the majority of the seats on a board of county commissioners in order for policy preferences to be different.

“I believe that discovering if and when women truly have an impact on policy has many real-world implications, like motivating women to run for office and convincing voters that electing women is important,” Kolisnichenko said. “This is critical, as women are underrepresented in political offices in North Carolina and the United States.

“In addition to learning a lot about the field of study, I’m definitely improving my time management, communication, and research skills,” she said. “These are vital both in the classroom and the workplace.”

Learn more about undergraduate research at Meredith»

Melyssa Allen

News Director
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