Centre students share research with peers at annual Kentucky Academy of Science meeting
Centre College’s holistic approach to undergraduate research ensures that students are deeply involved in every stage of the research process, from designing experiments and collecting data, to reporting results and sharing their findings in a professional setting. Culminating a semester of productive and engaging research, several students were invited to present their work at the 100th annual meeting of the Kentucky Academy of Science (KAS), which took place Nov. 14-16 at the Lexington Convention Center.
The Kentucky Academy of Sciences is an affiliate of the American Association for the Advancement of Science and the National Association of Academies of Science. The organization encourages scientific research, promotes the diffusion of scientific knowledge and unifies the scientific interests of the Commonwealth of Kentucky. With more than 700 members, the organization funds multiple grants, including one for undergraduate research. Many of Centre’s faculty are active within the Academy, including Assistant Professor of Psychology and Behavioral Neuroscience KatieAnn Skogsberg (pictured below, middle), the incoming president for the psychology division, and H.W. Stodghill, Jr. and Adele H. Stodghill Professor of Psychology Mykol Hamilton, the division’s incoming secretary.
According to Skogsberg, KAS’s annual meeting is a chance for students to experience the professional world of science firsthand.
“The Academy allows students to get out there and show off their work,” she says. “It is a really great opportunity for students to get feedback and see science applied in the real world, not in some controlled experiment out of a textbook.”
Two of Skogsberg’s students, Allison Chumbley ’15 (pictured above, right) and Erika Ripperger ’15 presented their research entitled “Shake it Off! College Students and Concussion Reporting,” and won third place in the undergraduate oral presentation competition in the psychology division. Their research, which was a continuation of a study conducted by Skogsberg and Gordon Duren ’14 this past spring, measured concussion knowledge and attitudes in college students.
For Chumbley and Ripperger, the competition challenged them to use their oral presentation skills in a new environment.
“It was the first time Erika or I had done a presentation outside of the classroom setting,” she explains. “The experience made me even more thankful for all of the opportunities Centre provides. Being able to share all of our hard work with others was really rewarding.”
Visiting Assistant Professor of Biology Scott Shreve notes that it is often also fulfilling for participants to learn about their peers’ research endeavors.
“Not only is it beneficial for students to present their own research but also the Academy’s wide variety exposes them to research in several other disciplines with which they might not be familiar,” he says.
“The breadth of research being conducted by students across Kentucky is really amazing,” agrees Andrea Merchak ’15, who won first place in the psychology oral presentation competition for her research examining the neural mechanism responsible for forming pair bonds in ring neck doves. “For me, speaking with graduate students about the similar experiences, obstacles and successes in their own research gave me perspective on the work that I am doing and made me excited for what is to come.”
Bryce McCoy ’15 (pictured above, left) and Carter Baughman ’16 also attended the meeting, and presented a study the two began this fall concerning data interference with EEG/ERP, machines that track and measure brain activity.
“We do a lot of EEG/ERP research in our lab, and one problem we had was that people were blinking so often in our study that it began to interfere with the integrity of our data,” Baughman explains.
Baughman and McCoy ran experiments and found that by simply suggesting the participant blink a few times between measurement sets, the negative effects on data were drastically reduced.
Their hard work paid off: Baughman and McCoy managed to make future experiments more reliable, and were awarded second place in KAS’s psychology poster presentation competition.
While the students certainly appreciate such recognition, it is by no means their main motivation.
“Winning second place was a great way to end a semester of hard work, but, more importantly, it was thrilling to be able to find significant data that we can contribute to the scientific community and that can be used in EEG/ERP studies worldwide,” says Baughman.
Daniel Graham ’16 won second place in the chemistry division’s oral presentation competition and believes he and his classmates’ accomplishments reflect well on the College.
“I think in addition to gaining experience presenting at a conference, we all demonstrated the strength of our science program,” says Graham.
Moreover, events like KAS’s annual meeting highlight the way in which the College empowers students to take the lead in their own education.
“Here at Centre, my experience has been that you are able to take charge of a project,” says Merchak. “Students are able to ask the question, design the experiment and then present on the findings. The project becomes your own—and that’s an amazing opportunity.”
The following faculty participated in the 100th annual meeting of the Kentucky Academy of Science:
Steve Asmus, H.W. Stodghill, Jr. and Adele H. Stodghill Professor of Biology and Biochemistry & Molecular Biology
Melissa Burns-Cusato, Elizabeth Molloy Dowling Associate Professor of Behavioral Neuroscience
Brian Cusato, Associate Professor of Psychology and Behavioral Neuroscience
Leonard Demoranville, Assistant Professor of Chemistry
Aaron Godlaski, Assistant Professor of Psychology
Mykol Hamilton, H.W. Stodghill, Jr. and Adele H. Stodghill Professor of Psychology
H. Edward Montgomery, Jr., Professor of Chemistry
Jennifer Muzyka, Professor of Chemistry
Marie Nydam, Assistant Professor of Biology
Scott Shreve, Visiting Assistant Professor of Biology
The following students participated in the meeting:
Carter Baughman ’16, Eric Beyerle ’15, Ethan Campbell ’17, Allison Chumbley ’15, Mary Cundiff ’16, Kirsten Giesbrecht ’17, Daniel Graham ’16, Grace Anne Martin ’15, Bryce McCoy ’15, Courtney McKernan ’15, Andrea Merchak ’15, Hillary Moore ’15, Luke Presson ’16, Nick Rauh ’15, Erika Ripperger ’15, Kyle Ritter ’16, Louis Rogers ’15, Amber Ustinovich ’15 and Alexander Williams ’16.
by John Ross Wyatt ’15 and Caitlan Cole