MTSU students present research to legislators at s...

MTSU students present research to legislators at state Capitol

Sixty-one scholars from across the state of Tennessee gathered Feb. 8 in the Legislative Plaza at the Tennessee State Capitol to present their innovative scientific research to legislators.

Each of these individuals had spent countless hours to produce work that could effectively change lives. Perhaps even more impressive is that the presentations came from people who have yet to receive their college degrees.

In 2006, Tennessee became the 13th state to participate in “Posters at the Capitol,” an annual event that showcases the most significant research by undergraduate students.

The Council on Undergraduate Research, an organization that promotes faculty research with undergraduates, created Posters at the Capitol. The council encourages individual states to participate in the program, which is based on the national event held annually in Washington, D.C.

In 2005, Tom Cheatham, dean of the College of Basic and Applied Sciences, and his committee organized the first Tennessee Posters event.

“It’s a real pleasure for me, a labor of love,” Cheatham explained. “I believe in undergraduate research, and this is a way to showcase that to our state Legislature.”

This year, MTSU was represented by seven student presenters.

Emily Shields’ study, “Individual Differences in Embodiment,” focused on education and the techniques and methods for more effective teaching and learning.

“Anything that we can do to facilitate the learning process for people is a positive thing, and embodiment might have something to do with that,” said Shields, who plans to continue her research as she pursues her graduate degree.

Physics major Daniel Bonior initially began the research process for his project, “Spectral and Polarization Entanglement Swapping in Two Pairs of Twin Photons,” when his professor asked for research help from any interested students.

While only a junior, Bonior plans to further his education in graduate school, though he’s already receiving job offers from companies and organizations interested in his research.

Aline Pellizzaro began her research more than a year ago for her project, “Response to Optical Trapping by Red Blood Cells from a Transfused Sickle Cell Patient.” She is currently a biology major and says her work at MTSU has prepared her to continue her education in medical school.

“All my professors have been very encouraging,” said Pellizzaro.

Courtney Shaw has been working on her research for more than two years. “The Relationship Between Intimate Partner Violence and Mental Health Status Among Tennessee High School Students” explores abusive relationships occurring between high-school students ages 14 to 18.

“The numbers are so high for intimate partner violence. It’s not something that people think happens in high school, so it’s often overlooked,” Shaw said in explaining the importance of her research.

Children are our future. We tell them to get their education and to stay in school, but these things are happening in school and there’s no education for it. These are things as a community we need to address. I wanted to submit this research (to Posters at the Capitol) because I wanted our legislators to see what’s going on. This is such an honor.”

Shaw said her goals include creating a nonprofit organization for first-time mothers-to-be to help reduce the infant mortality rate in Shelby County, which is among the highest in the nation.

Also presented during Posters at the Capitol was work from Niguel Hurtado on “Conversion of Kenaf Pulp to Glucose for the Production of Bioethanol”; Ethan Khazali’s “Isolation of Adenosine Deaminase from Alaska Pea Seeds”; and Eric Limbird’s “Variation in Rhododendron Calendulaceum Germination Behavior Influenced by Seed Morphology and Site Specific Characteristics.”

Along with MTSU, the Feb. 8 event showcased the work of other students from all the Tennessee Board of Regents universities—including Austin Peay, East Tennessee, Tennessee State, Tennessee Tech and the University of Memphis—and the three University of Tennessee campuses at Knoxville, Chattanooga and Martin.

Work by MTSU students William Hamilton, Rae’Shundra Brown, Brittany Oliver, Amanda Cole, Poliala Mahoney-Dickson, Samuel Sowah, Gabriel Welker, Omar Mohammed, Benjamin Bunnel, John Bentley, Hanna Norris, Andrew Jones, Tyler Hubbard and Dallas Swindell also was featured. Faculty advisors include Daniel Erenso, Beng Guat Ooi, Paul Kline, Dr. Nathan C. Phillips, Andrew Owusu and William Langston, who all collaborated with the presenters’ research.

To learn more about MTSU’s Posters at the Capitol program, you can watch a video about the day’s events below.

— Lauren Price (