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Tag: research (page 2 of 3)

In the [research] Trenches 10.31.2012

This week, Jock Gilchrist, Chris Hartung and Patrick Byrd talk about how their investigations into human thought and behavior.

Jock Gilchrist: “Sustainable Progress: Human Behavior and Methods of Social Change”

“I’m hoping to learn how we can achieve the most effective social change that betters society in a permanent, sustainable way so that we can continue to subsist on earth without facing major environmental, governmental, or economic meltdowns–even, dare I say–not just avoid catastrophe, but inspire a healthful and beneficial way of existing.

For me, the thing most exciting about doing research for a senior thesis is being able to pursue a topic I’m personally interested in without the fetters of a typical academic course. The most challenging part of my research is compiling the important ideas from different sources and synthesizing them into something coherent.

I want my career to be based around spreading the concepts of real sustainability to the wider public, whether that means through environmental organizing, journalism, or teaching. If I go for a Masters or PhD I want it to be in Climate Science, Religious Studies, or Sustainable Development. My thesis is providing a solid basis to pursue one of those fields”

Chris Hartung: “Thomas Aquinas on Free Will”

“The most exciting thing [about writing a thesis] is finding elements of Aquinas’s thought which no one else seems to have noticed before. The most challenging part is finding all of the relevant secondary sources, especially since some of them have never been translated from the original Latin/French/Italian. I’m hoping to learn more about the philosophy of St. Thomas, since he is probably the greatest Christian philosopher of all time. I’m planning to go into seminary next year. Writing this thesis will give me a head start on the philosophy courses, since they put so much emphasis on St. Thomas.”

Patrick Byrd: “How Do We Talk About Vagueness”

“The most enjoyable thing about research, particularly with philosophy, is seeing the myriad of viewpoints that others have. Some are common ones, while others can be really off the wall at times. Over time, though, one begins to see a conversation form with individuals responding in articles and referencing one another.

I guess the most challenging part of the research is trying to find support for my view. At times I have been a staunch supporter of one stance, but am forced to change my mind based upon a very good argument, even if I don’t like it. But I guess that’s the goal in research.

In doing this research I set out one goal to maintain. I wanted my “solution” about vagueness to reflect how the “folk” feel about the issue. Basically I wanted to understand why do we have the normal opinions one could have on vagueness, and try to support that. My inclination is that the way we commonly use our language is done so for a reason, and that reasoning needs to be taken into consideration. However, I need to find support for that inclination, which has always been important to the way I think about philosophy.

I plan on entering a doctoral program in philosophy. These can be quite competitive, thus having the senior thesis project would be an asset in such.”

Honors Students Reflect on a Summer of Scholarship

by Katie Galgano

With the stress of spring semester and final exams behind them, most students at the University of Delaware packed their things to return home for a relaxing summer, but for the participants in the Summer Scholars Program, their academic pursuits were only just beginning. As their peers made their way to the beaches, the Summer Scholars made their way into labs, classrooms, and the field to conduct original research alongside distinguished faculty in their various departments. Though the program is open to students across campus, its rigor makes it particularly attractive to Honors students like Kevin Chang, a junior biomedical engineering and computer science student. He calls it “an experience that you can’t replicate anywhere else.” Kelly Burke, a junior music education major with minors in disability studies and math, expressed some initial reservations about participating in the program: “I was really hesitant, because it meant that I wouldn’t be able to go home for the summer, but I’m so glad I did it.” Her research, under Professor of Music Suzanne Burton brought her into classrooms of infants and toddlers to analyze how music affects vocalization in those with speech and language disorders. “Working with the infants and toddlers was so much fun. Every class they’d find a new way to impress me with their progress,” she reminisces.

The insight that Kelly and the other scholars gained expanded far beyond the confines of their specific focus areas into the practice of conducting research as a whole. As Kevin Chang explains, his research on using jello-like hydrogels to control the growth of blood vessel cells under Professor of Materials Science and Deputy Dean of Engineering Kristi Kiick taught him “much more than just lab techniques; it also [taught him] how to ask the right questions so that [he] could find out what [he wanted] to know.”

Kyle Tucker, a junior in chemical engineering and computer science conducted research with Chemical Engineering Professor and Interim Dean of Engineering Babatunde Ogunnaike. Kyle, who focused on improving wind turbine efficiency by predicting future wind speeds, learned that “things hardly ever work out the first time,” and that you should “be prepared to fail before you succeed.”

Neuroscience and psychology student Erin McKenna reflects Kyle’s sentiments as she recalls a particular day when she was left with no option but to turn away all her subjects. In the midst of an intense July heat wave, Erin was slated to gather data for her studies on emotion-induced blindness only to discover that the air conditioning in Wolf Hall was not working. “We had to send subjects home because sweat interferes with the signal picked up by the electrode cap,” she describes. “Essentially, we had to send people home because they would’ve been too sweaty in our lab and our equipment wouldn’t have worked properly as a result.” For Erin, working with Psychology Professor James Hoffman, the Summer Scholars Program taught her not only how to roll with the punches, but the importance of anticipating as many of those punches as possible when designing experiments. “I was surprised by how much thought and preparation goes into designing each experiment. With strict ethical standards and the cost of running an experiment, professors need to be sure that each experiment will draw some type of conclusion, whether supporting or not supporting the hypothesis.”

The Summer Scholars Program offers a doorway into research that many of its participants eagerly pursue during the rest of their undergraduate careers and perhaps even beyond. While Kevin’s research over the summer focused primarily on the impact that the stiffness of the hydrogels had on cell viability, he will next explore the effects of other hydrogel properties on viability to ensure that the hydrogels can most effectively aid in blood vessel cell replacement. For junior ecology and biology student Samantha Nestory, her work on re-vegetating a disturbed industrial landscape with Professor Judith Hough-Goldestein in the Department of Entomology and Wildlife Ecology introduced her to restoration ecology, which she now is considering as a possible career path. Each of these students will also produce a senior thesis, earning them the Honors Degree with Distinction come graduation.

As the Summer Scholars came together to present their finding at the research symposium on August 9, they were able to reflect on a truly remarkable journey of discovery. Perhaps one of the greatest strengths of the Summer Scholars Program, though, is not the field experience, but the bonding and close sense of community that forms when a group of highly motivated, intellectually curious students come together to work in close conjunction with leading experts in their departments. “I became close with the members of my lab and the department, so UD feels even more like a family for me,” Samantha explains.

Summer Plans for UDHP Students

For some, the summer is a time to relax and take a break. But we found some Honors students who are taking on some interesting projects, internships, and trips this summer.

Lauren Cutajar-Wynne
Class of 2012
Major: Political Science
Hometown: Long Island, NY

Summer plans: I am currently a Legislative Fellow at the Delaware General Assembly. I work for the House Majority Caucus. Once my fellowship concludes at the end of the legislative session on June 30th, I will be interning for Senator Carper in his Wilmington Office for the rest of the summer. I am on the left in the photo in the yellow shirt. To my right is Shannon Marshall (Class of 2010) who came back to UD to visit to support UDANCE 2011.


Gabriel Di Gennaro
Class of 2011
Dean’s Scholar Concentrations in Music Education, Vocal Performance, and Theatre Performance
Hometown: Woodbury Heights, NJ

Summer plans: I was accepted into the Emerging Artist Program of OperaWorks in Los Angeles, CA this summer. From the website: This two-week program was created specifically for exceptionally talented young singers who want to build strong stage skills. OperaWorks provides the tools for life-long learning that will benefit singers throughout their careers. The program culminates in two public performances on June 18 and 19 of an original work incorporating opera, improvisation and physical theater. I was fortunate enough to be one of 30 students accepted out of a pool of over 300 applicants.

Daniel Faber
Class of 2012
Major: Vocal Music Education, Music Theory/Composition minor
Hometown: Cherry Hill, NJ

Summer plans: I will be spending my summer in the Dallas/Fort Worth area working with a professional musical theater company called Texas Family Musicals. I auditioned in Boston at the New England Theater Conference and was hired as a contracted performer in two productions in four major theaters. I’ll be spending June and July there, and then I plan to travel to Bangalore, India for a cultural exchange in August.

Sara Gartland
Class of 2012
Major: Math Education and History
Hometown: Cochranville, PA

Summer plans: I will be riding horses all day every day this summer! I currently compete my own horse at the highest level of national competition in my sport of Three Day Eventing, and have just started to do international competitions. This summer I will be training with my horse to prepare for the Plantation Field Advanced Horse Trials and the Fair Hill International CCI in the fall. I will also be exercising racehorses and dressage horses, and teaching riding lessons.

Katherine Gloede
Class of 2012
Major: Instrumental Music Education – Flute, Applied Voice minor
Hometown: Morganville, NJ

Summer plans: This summer I will be the flutist for The College Light Opera Company on Cape Cod in Falmouth, Massachusetts. Each week we will perform a different musical or operetta, while learning and rehearsing the next week’s work. In addition to room and board, the orchestra members are awarded a scholarship.

Amanda Hoffman
Class of 2013
Major: Food Science, Nutrition and Chemistry minor
Hometown: Deer Park, NY

Summer plans: This summer I will be working as an intern at TIC Gums located in White Marsh, MD. TIC Gum’s provides edible texturizers and stabilizers to the food industry. As an intern at TIC Gum’s I will be working on research and development in the Texture Innovation Department.

Hilary Kerchner
Class of 2013
Major: Chemistry
Hometown: East Petersburg, PA

Summer plans: I am a recipient of a GlaxoSmithKline Summer Fellowship where I will be able to continue participating in research on my very own project with the Mary Watson’s Group here at Delaware for ten weeks in the summer.

Shane Palkovitz
Class of 2012
Major: English: Ethic & Cultural Studies Human Services: Administration and Family Policy
Hometown: Kamblesville, PA

Summer plans: I will be conducting research in the Summer Scholars Program for the Humanities at UDel. I will be working under the supervision of Dr. McKay Jenkins to study human displacement. The brunt of the research work will be done by reading. However, a short trip in July and a one-month trip to Southern Africa in January ’12 will provide me with opportunities to do qualitative investigations and gain material for a nonfiction Honors Thesis in a related area of study. Also, I plan to be writing and recording folk music in my spare time.

Jonathan Saddler
Class of 2012
Major: Chemistry
Hometown: Glenwood, IA

Summer plans: I’ll be visiting friends across Europe from Poland to Bulgaria, before spending a few weeks teaching English at a children’s summer camp on the coast of the Black Sea in Ukraine. After that, I’ll be travelling around Turkey and India visiting more friends before meeting up with a buddy to go hiking in the mountains of Malaysia and Indonesia…after 5 weeks overseas, I’ll wrap up the summer with some good cooking back home and a few U.S. road trips with friends and family….a great way to enjoy my last summer before the real world!

Andrew Tremblay
Class of 2011
Major: Music
Hometown: Somerset, MA

Summer plans: I will be starting as a Performing Arts Intern at the Longwood Gardens in Chester County, PA. I’ll spend a year with the organization working on the administrative end of all of their music and theatre events, doing everything from marketing and publicity to operations and production management. I’m looking forward to gaining some great work experience in the arts administration field and enjoying lunch breaks amongst the beautiful plants and flowers in the conservatory!

Kevin K. Zhang
Class of 2014
Major: Neuroscience
Hometown: Hockessin, DE

Summer plans: I will be interning in the dental clinic at Esperanza Health Center in inner-city Philadelphia as part of Intervarsity Christian Fellowship’s Gateway program. I will serve the people who come to the clinic and learn about issues of social justice and how my faith impacts my career.

Reproductive Physiology of Domestic Animals

by Michelle Shumate

Honors students in Dr. Robert Dyer’s Animal and Food Science class, “Reproductive Physiology of Domestic Animals,” participated in a unique learning experience. Dr. Dyer’s course topics included issues involving animal reproduction, and more specifically, new management practices used for enhancing production. The five students enrolled in the Honors section were tasked with taking the coursework to another level and an opportunity to put their lessons to practical use. The project included using ten cows from the UD herd, and giving them shots of hormones at specific times so that they all get on the same cycle and come into heat (ovulate) together. “In this way, the farmers can be relatively sure that when they artificially inseminate them (inject semen) on the same day, the cows are at the optimal time to get pregnant,” says Stephanie Doran, Honors Student and Animal Science major.

Marissa Dick, a junior Pre-Vet Medicine major and Honors student, gained a new level of appreciation and understanding for dairy farmers from her work in this course. “Many people don’t realize that a dairy cow must be pregnant prior to producing milk,” she said. “Since dairy farmers use programs like ours all the time and are only getting about a 30% pregnancy rate in their herds, it really opens your eyes to the great challenge faced by the dairy industry in terms of effective management and maintaining profitability.” In the end, the students achieved much success with their project, successfully impregnating six of the ten cows – far exceeding the percentage that usually get pregnant with these types of programs. “What we learned here is something that can be conceptually applied in many other species to understand cyclicity better,” said fellow Honor student Meghan Fitzpatrick, junior Pre-Vet Medicine major. “Anyone can read a textbook and write a paper on what they learned, but working with cows, we learned a new skill that could not have been learned anywhere else,” she said.

Doran enjoyed the hands-on experience the project provided. “As an animal science major I get to say that I have done a lot of things not many people do in their lifetime,” she said. “Now I get to add getting six cows pregnant to that list.”

Dr. Dyer wasn’t surprised at the success of his students. “I think this could be marked in a success column because their learning experience extended far beyond the scope of reproductive biology,” he said. “These guys did exactly what we all knew they could do and in the process amazed themselves… I know I set the expectations for academic accomplishment very high for students. However, one of the greatest rewards in this position is to witness how most students inevitably rise to the challenge and surpass their own expectations. The reward is knowing students – who thought they lacked the intelligence, the work ethic and the drive to become high achievers – witness, through their own accomplishments, that they indeed can rise to any challenge.”

Students of Our Environment: Learning About and From Nature

by Katie Bonanno

This summer, as an incoming Honors material culture preservation major envisioning my first semester at the University of Delaware, I never imagined that I would spend it collecting insect samples, watching birds, counting plants, or learning to effectively teach middle school students. However, my first-year Honors colloquium, “Students of Our Environment,” taught by Professor Sue Barton, gives me the unique opportunity to experience each of these activities in rapid succession.

Clearly, the colloquium demands a wide range of expertise; lessons are taught by Dr. Barton, plant and soil sciences; Dr. Hough-Goldstein, entomology and wildlife ecology; Dr. Shriver, entomology and wildlife ecology; and Dr. Ford, elementary education. This course not only expertly encapsulates the interdisciplinary intention of Honors colloquia – “Students of Our Environment” combines environmental science, education techniques, and challenging writing assignments – but it also has brought to light one of the most pressing issues of our generation: nature-deficit disorder.

The course was formulated on the premise that people have lost their connection with nature, much to their disadvantage. This condition has been called “nature-deficit disorder” by Richard Louv, author of Last Child in the Woods. In order to encourage society’s re-immersion in nature, the culminating project for the class is to create a middle school curriculum that gets children interested in nature, hence the projects our class has completed thus far.

The University of Delaware houses five environmental study sites: a suburban landscape, a corn field, a wetland, a meadow, and a woodlot. From each of the sites, we have collected insects, counted plants, and observed birds; we are currently in the process of analyzing our data and writing research reports. However, the class also emphasizes our personal connections with nature, and we have read, discussed, and written reflection papers on different aspects of this connection.

Above all, “Students of Our Environment” is a hands-on course. In order to experience firsthand what it is like to teach young children about nature, our class traveled to NorthBay Adventure Camp, an environmental center located about forty minutes from campus in North East, Maryland. Through collaboration with NorthBay’s Dean of Educators, Mary Reichley, our class was able to shadow different groups of students and their NorthBay educators, learning about ways to present nature and science to groups of students in an engaging and effective manner. Each group of students focused on different subject matter, ranging from vultures to clams, yet all of the educators approached the material in an appealing and functional fashion. Ideally, the techniques we learned at NorthBay will be applied to our own curricula, which will work to combat nature-deficit disorder in society today.

Trips like my class’ excursion to NorthBay Adventure Camp add substantially to the splendid and enriching experience of the Honors Program’s first-year Honors colloquia. As I near the end of my first semester at the University of Delaware, I maintain that I never expected to take a class like “Students of Our Environment.” However, I consider myself lucky to have been given the opportunity to experience a class where discussions, lecture, hands-on activity, and a culminating community outreach project simultaneously, seamlessly come into play.

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