Centre students win Kentucky Academy of Science awards
Nine Centre students recently won top awards at the annual meeting of the Kentucky Academy of Science (KAS), holding their own against students from big research universities across the state.
Students who received KAS awards include:
• Emily Madden ’15, who won first place for her poster presentation in zoology, which she completed research for with Professor of Biology Michael Barton;
• Vanessa Song ’14, who won first place for her oral presentation in chemistry, which she completed research for with Professor of Chemistry Jennifer Muzyka;
• Kary Stivers ’14 and Emily Robbins ’14, who won first place for their oral presentation in psychology, which they completed research for with Professor of Psychology Mykol Hamilton;
• Chelsea Benham ’13 and Gwynne Rose ’14, who won second place for their oral presentation in psychology, which they completed research for with Assistant Professor of Psychology and Behavioral Neuroscience KatieAnn Skogsberg;
• Julia Fleming ’13 and Annie Wigginton ’13, who won third place for their poster presentation in psychology, which they completed research for with Assistant Professor of Psychology Jan Wertz;
• Nicki Frost ’15, who won third place for her oral presentation in physiology and biochemistry, which she completed research for with Assistant Professor of Chemistry and Biochemistry & Molecular Biology January Haile.
The honored students were very excited to be rewarded for the hard work they put into their projects.
“We won first place presenting on judicial practices and juror biases in the voir dire process and we examined potential jurors for the Trayvon Martin murder case. Winning an award at KAS was awesome,” Stivers says. “It showed that all the time and hard work we put in to our research really paid off.”
“We won second place presenting our research on ‘The effect of energy drinks on visual attention task performance.’ It was an honor to place at KAS because there was such great research and presenters competing with us,” says Benham. “There were multiple presenters from Centre along with presenters from Berea College and Morehead State University. Gwynne and I knew there was tough competition there and we just focused on presenting our information to the best of our abilities and it paid off.”
The professors students worked with on their research were equally proud.
“They did a really great job. They were so clear and polished in the presentation,” says Hamilton of Stivers and Robbins. “This was an experiment we did in our experimental psychology class, which is unusual. They spent several weeks digging deeper and analyzing it further, redoing background research and reading. They did all this for no credit.”
“Chelsea has been working on this project for over two years now, and I am proud of her mastery of the material and ability to present it in a way that was scientific enough to satisfy the judges, yet accessible to the other attendees at the conference who may not have had the same background,” Skogsberg says. “Gwynne just recently joined our lab, but she was able to quickly pick up on the subtleties of what can be a very complex process, analyzing brain waves. Together they make a great team.”
Although the KAS awards are appreciated, the students and professors involved with undergraduate research at Centre value it for more than that—it gives everyone involved opportunities to look more closely at interesting topics and to collaborate as a team.
“Doing research at Centre has given me a chance to see my coursework applied to a real-life situation. All of the research methods I learned in my experimental psychology class were extremely useful,” says Stivers. “Working with Dr. Hamilton gave me an opportunity to work with a professional and see how interesting it is to find significant results on a theory we only hypothesized about.”
“At large research institutions, undergraduates usually get stuck working with a graduate student or post-doc. Here at Centre, there is no middleman,” Skogsberg says. “Our students are getting a first row seat to learning about research that others usually don’t get until after they are accepted to graduate school. It’s one of the things that I absolutely love about working here.”
“Undergraduate research is an important way for students to develop problem-solving skills that will benefit them in their future careers,” says Muzyka.
“I started working with Dr. Skogsberg my sophomore year and have completely seen a project through and started up a new one since then,” Benham says. “I owe so much to Dr. Skogsberg for giving me the opportunity to work in her lab—it has really opened my eyes to the realm of research and I love it! It gives me the opportunity to explore new ideas outside of the classroom and expand my knowledge past the textbooks.”