As head of MTSU’s Undergraduate Research Center, Jamie Burriss loves her role supporting undergraduates undertaking research and creative activity projects, especially when they have their opportunity to shine at events like the center’s recent annual fall open house.
“It’s their opportunity to come here and share their research with their classmates, with other students who might want to get involved in research and with their mentors and other faculty who come to learn about their projects,” Burriss said. “It’s just a really great experience for them to showcase their work on a broader stage.”
Through the center and university, MTSU undergraduates can earn funding through the Undergraduate Research Experience and Creative Activity, or URECA, grant and faculty-mentor support for their academic passion projects. The center hosts multiple events throughout the year for students to then showcase their hard work and hone their presentation skills.
Burriss said projects at this year’s open house ranged from “dance and English to animal science and psychology — the whole gamut.”
Student presenters also shared about language acquisition, climate change, pediatric neurology, food safety, virtual reality, interactive novellas and more.
“When you hear the word ‘research,’ most people think of the sciences like chemistry and biology, but the URECA grant committee is always eager to support unique projects from diverse academic backgrounds,” Burriss said.
Garrett Tonos, a senior recording industry major, created music using sounds he captured in nature, a genre known as “biomusic.”
“I’ve seen people do similar stuff with biomusic and that was inspiring, but I wanted to do my own take on it,” Tonos said. “I wanted to really incorporate something, do a project that incorporates all of my passions.”
Department of Recording Industry professor Michael Fleming mentored Tonos. Tonos said the mentorship and URECA grant funding made his project possible.
“I was able to … acquire some really vital pieces of equipment for this project, such as the field recorder, and I used that almost every day working on this project.”
Tonos added that completing the project gave him skills that he can take into his career in audio and music.
“The fields of production audio, TV and film are really interesting to me, and all of the field recording techniques and equipment that I learned about throughout this process are very important to that as well as the musical side of things,” he said.
“Learning that I can experiment and create with any sound that I hear and record with the field recorder or any kind of field recording equipment was really inspiring and opened so many doors creatively.”
Senior speech language pathology students Garrick McGee, Autumn Hubbard and Alden McGinnis collaborated with associate professor Kathryn Blankenship to research whether speech language pathology students learned new vocabulary better from a textbook or a computer.
McGee said the project was applicable to their real lives, teaching them how to better learn new vocabulary themselves in their speech language pathology courses.
“All the stuff we’re doing here (in this research) almost applies to our own program, to how we can use it ourselves,” McGee said. “A lot of the stuff we do here helps us figure out these new words, how we can use them (and) how we can help other people use them as well.”
Hubbard said the research and experience they gained wouldn’t be possible without the center’s support.
“They helped us with funding, giving us the opportunity for paid participants,” Hubbard said. “They helped us with materials, and they’ve also been there for me personally when answering any (of my) questions about the research.”
McGinnis added that having research experience in their field is very important.
“The speech language pathology field is heavily research-based, so having experience in this is going to help us in graduate school and in our careers,” McGinnis said. “The material we learned as well is going to help us with our future education, because everything that we’ve studied applies to us as students.”
To learn more about the opportunities at the Undergraduate Research Center, visit the website at www.mtsu.edu/urc.
— Stephanie Wagner (Stephanie.Wagner@mtsu.edu)