Spotlights

Jordan Larsen

OU Major: 
History of Science
Research Mentor: 
Dr. Piers Hale
Describe your undergraduate research or creative project: 
I have been researching the relationship between evolution and spiritualism in Victorian England, particularly through the example of science popularizer and spiritualist Arabella Buckley, with the guidance of Dr. Hale. I think many people have a false conception of science and religion necessarily at war throughout history, and one of my aims is to explore and challenge that conception. Buckley demonstrates how in the Victorian Period, they way people viewed their world was not so simply divided into these categories we create -- similar to today.
Explain what you learned or give advice to fellow students: 
It was not until I mustered the confidence to ask my professor to mentor me in a research project that I learned just how supportive OU is of student research. My research has allowed me not only to explore my favorite questions, but connect with professional scholars, helpful scholarships, and scholarly opportunities to present my work. The support is there -- please take advantage of it!
Published Work: 
Larsen, Jordan. "Arabella Buckley's Epic." The Honors Undergraduate Research Journal, University of Oklahoma 15 (2016): 53.

Benjamin Ignac

OU Major: 
Geography
Research Mentor: 
Dr. Renee McPherson, Aparna Bamzai
Describe your undergraduate research or creative project: 
In collaboration with the South Central Climate Science Center and the Department of Geography and Environmental Sustainability I was conducting a research study titled “Climate Change in the Mind of a College Student - A Survey of Climate Change Perceptions at OU”.
Explain what you learned or give advice to fellow students: 
I learned how OU students are generally more concerned about climate change than the general US adult population. I also learned that religiousness of political affiliation does have an effect on a student's view on climate change.
Published Work: 
I am currently finishing a manuscript that I will submit to the journal Climatic Change.

Nathan Richbourg

OU Major: 
Chemical Engineering: Biotechnology
Research Mentor: 
Vassilios Sikavitsas
Describe your undergraduate research or creative project: 
We designed a process for modifying the surface of a cell-culture tissue scaffold to promote cell attachment. In my work, I improved the process for 2D discs of scaffolding material and characterized and validated the modification process.
Explain what you learned or give advice to fellow students: 
If you think you'd like to pursue research, take every opportunity you get as an undergraduate to do research in at least a related field. Nobody will begrudge you your mistakes at this point, and you can learn before you're committed whether you enjoy research.
Awards and/or presentations: 
Richbourg, N. (2016, April). RGD Surface Modification of 3D Cell Culture Scaffolds. Oral presentation at the University of Oklahoma's Undergraduate Research Day, Norman, OK.
Published Work: 
n/a

Shawntal Brown

OU Major: 
Psychology / Women and Gender Studies
Research Mentor: 
Dr. Mauricio Carvallo
Describe your undergraduate research or creative project: 
Our research was titled, "Symbolic Racism and the Perceptions of Police Brutality." We investigated individuals, who were either high or low symbolic racists, and how those individuals would attribute blame in one of two conditions of vignettes depicting aggression. Overall, these vignettes depicted ambiguous aggression from an interaction between a police officer and motorist. In each conditions, the participants observed the interaction either between a White police officer and a Black motorist or a Black police officer and a White motorist. As a result, we observed high symbolic racists were more likely to attribute blame upon the Black motorist in the condition, justifying the perceived aggressive police force within the vignette.
Explain what you learned or give advice to fellow students: 
Advice I would give to fellow students is deeply invest in the research that you are doing and ensure you are actively working alongside your mentor. Your relationship with you and mentor is important when conducting research and they can provide a vast amount of insight to expand and refine your research. Also, find research that is very interesting to you because it will drive you to invest more into your research topic.
Awards and/or presentations: 
Brown, S. (2016, April). Symbolic Racism and Perceptions of Police Brutality. Oral presentation at the University of Oklahoma's Undergraduate Research Day, Norman, OK.
Published Work: 
N/A

Casey Callahan

OU Major: 
Visual Communication
Graduation Year: 
2016
Current Occupation: 
Designer at Publicis Seattle
Research Mentor(s): 
Tom Davie
Describe your undergraduate research/creative experience: 
My undergraduate creative research experience was called an independent study. I met with a professor 30 minutes a week and besides that - the project was highly individually driven. If you had told me what I would create at the end of this experience when I first started, I wouldn't have believed you. That project pushed me, grew me, and made me a more compassionate, self-driven designer. For this study, I created 20 Days 20 Creatives - a documentary-based project where I highlighted 20 different creatives, the relationships they share, and what inspires them on a daily basis. These visionaries - artists, designers, writers, dancers, filmmakers, singers, photographers, creators - all have something unique and valuable to contribute to the world. 20 Days 20 Creatives reminds you to satisfy your curiosity and make your process, your relationships, and your work more meaningful. It's our experiences and the people we surround ourselves with - that gives our work life.
What was the most important thing you learned during your project, or what advice would you give to current undergraduates?: 
I learned a lot about myself and how I work. For the first time in my major, I was creating something that took a lot of personal motivation and drive. I didn't have someone over me all the time telling me what to do, I had to solve my own problems and trust myself. My advice would be to take that risk and do or create something that puts you outside your comfort zone. It will be challenging and uncomfortable, but so worth it in the end.
Do you use any of the skills or perspectives gained doing research in your current occupation?: 
Absolutely, yes. Now I have created multiple projects on my own, I'm much more comfortable in creating my own style, I communicate with people in a deeper way, and I use technical skills in video and design with much more ease.
Many undergraduate researchers are making decisions about what to do after they graduate. Having been in those shoes, what do yo: 
My biggest advice is to make sure to keep doing the things you care about even if you're not sure you will have enough time. Keep allowing the things you're inspired by and that make you happy be a big part of your life and eventually that will benefit your career path.
Do you have anything else you would like to share about your research or creative project experience?: 
I'm still growing everyday and 20 Days 20 Creatives was a big part of that - it's given me the courage and the drive to create things bigger than myself.

 

20 Days 20 Creatives website: 20days20creatives.com

My personal website: www.casey-callahan.com

Brianne Robbins

OU Major: 
Psychology
Research Mentor: 
Dr. Jennifer Barnes
Describe your undergraduate research or creative project: 
I used an anonymous online survey to investigate the association between lifetime exposure to Romantic Fiction and endorsement of unrealistic relationship beliefs. Contrary to my hypothesis, I found that participants who had more lifetime exposure to Romantic Fiction were less likely to endorse the belief that Mindreading is Expected. That is, these participants were less likely to believe that romantic partners should be easily able to know what they were thinking and feeling without having to verbally communicate.
Explain what you learned or give advice to fellow students: 
Results that are the opposite of your hypothesis can be even more interesting!
Awards and/or presentations: 
2016 OU Vice-President for Research Award for Best Social Science and Humanities Research Poster Presentation at Undergraduate Research Day for “The Impact of Reading Romance on the Expectation of Mindreading from a Romantic Partner”
Published Work: 
n/a

Malachi Philips

OU Major: 
Chemical Engineering
Research Mentor: 
Dr. Ulrich H.E. Hansmann, Erik Alred
Describe your undergraduate research or creative project: 
Alzheimer’s Disease is characterized by the formation of Amyloid beta (A beta) fibril plaques in the brain. Solid state NMR (ssNMR) allows one to resolve the structure of these fibrils but, instead of a single structure, leads to an ensemble of configurations that are compatible with the NMR signals. Typically, only the lowest energy conformer is considered in computer simulations that probe the stability of fibrils and their binding with drug candidates. However, this practice may produce data that are not physiologically relevant if the NMR entries differ significantly in stability or binding affinities. For this reason, we have investigated the stability differences in the NMR ensembles of a patient-derived fibril model and two in-vitro models that allow also the comparison of different staggering patterns. We observe significant variations in molecular flexibility, compactness, and secondary structure which suggest that the complete NMR ensemble must be considered for a physiologically relevant description of Abeta fibrils.
Explain what you learned or give advice to fellow students: 
As a postdoc once described to me, there are few experiences as satisfying or as rewarding as discovering that one thing that essentially no one else knows. The sense of accomplishment from producing research that no one else has ever ventured to do alone is worth the difficulty and tedium involved in research. My recommendation is that more people, especially undergraduates, partake in this same experience. Regardless of major, type of research, or field, I recommend everyone be involved in research.
Awards and/or presentations: 
Poster Presentation Oklahoma Supercomputing Conference 2015, "Differences in Amyloid Fibril Models of Alzheimer's Disease" given at University of Oklahoma Stephenson Technology Center. Work Supported by NID-NIDDK STEP-UP program, Penn State Coordinators, Oklahoma Center for Advancement of Science and Technology grant #HR14-129, National Science Foundation grant #CHE-1266256, OSCER Boomer compute time.
Poster and Oral Presentation NIH-NIDDK STEP-UP Symposium 2015, "Differences in Amyloid Fibril Models of Alzheimer's Disease" given at NIH-NIDDK Nascher Center. Work Supported by NID-NIDDK STEP-UP program, Penn State Coordinators, Oklahoma Center for Advancement of Science and Technology grant #HR14-129, National Science Foundation grant #CHE-1266256, OSCER Boomer compute time.
Phillips, M. (2016, April). Differences in Amyloid Fibril Models of Alzheimer's Disease. Poster session presented at the University of Oklahoma's Undergraduate Research Day, Norman, OK.
Published Work: 
"On the lack of polymorphism in Aβ‐peptide aggregates derived from patient brains." Protein Science 24, no. 6 (2015): 923-935.

2016 Nancy Mergler Undergraduate Research Mentor award given to Dr. Misha Klein

Misha Klein, the 2016 Nancy L. Mergler Faculty Mentor Award for Undergraduate Research recipient, is an Associate Professor in Anthropology. She is also an affiliate faculty member in the Women’s and Gender Studies program and the Center for Social Justice. She earned her PhD from UC-Berkeley in 2002. Focused primarily in Brazil, Dr. Klein’s research examines identity, ethnicity, and race; transnationalism; globalization; and the Jewish diaspora. Her 2012 ethnography, Kosher Feijoada and Other Paradoxes of Jewish Life in São Paulo, describes the complexities of identity and ethnicity in Jewish communities in Brazil. Her undergraduate courses include Cultures of Latin America; Anthropological Perspectives on Globalization; Anthropology of Jews and Jewishness; Cross-Cultural Study of Sex, Gender and Sexuality; Global Cultural Diversity; and Introduction to Sociocultural Anthropology.

Dr. Klein has mentored undergraduate students in research related to her areas of interest, but also through using those same social constructs in projects of the students’ own interest and design. Since coming to OU in 2005, she has mentored many undergraduate students as they completed honors and other independent research projects. She has taught almost 1000 additional undergraduates, working closely with them on class research papers and other projects.

Dr. Klein was awarded a Graduate Research Guide for a new course, Race and Ethnicity in Brazil for Spring 2016, but was unable to accept the award as the course was cancelled.

In nominating Dr. Klein for this award, her students detailed her commitment to individualized attention, guidance, and mentorship, her focus on nurturing their growth as scholars and students, and her encouragement for their reaching for opportunities, goals, and awards. Although her selection was based on this nomination, it also serves as recognition of her history of undergraduate mentorship.

Student comments included:

“… the process of beginning my research in the field has been riddled with self-doubt. Dr. Klein does not let me dwell on these thoughts, and reaffirms me in my intelligence and capabilities to ask important questions and develop as a researcher and student. … After every meeting that I have had with Dr. Klein, I leave feeling encouraged. The belief that she has in my ability strengthens my resolve to firmly have faith in myself.”

"Dr. Klein takes the time to go through my writing with me, prodding me to support my assertions with more evidence and clarity, and ultimately to grow in depth of understanding. Feedback from Dr. Klein is always constructive and she will take any amount of time to discuss a concept until I comprehend it clearly.”

"Dr. Klein has been the most supportive and encouraging professor I have known throughout my undergraduate degree. She is constantly bringing my attention to opportunities that are available for me to further my development as a budding scholar of anthropology.”

Laura Kincaide

OU Major: 
Economics, Letters
Research Mentor: 
Dr. Robin Grier, Dr. Janet Ward
Describe your undergraduate research or creative project: 
My main research focus is international development and comparative economic systems, and I specifically look at the development of post Soviet states and their relationships with Western Europe. I completed a year-long research project under the mentorship of Dr. Robin Grier as a part of the McNair Scholars. In my paper I compare the use of a monetary regime called a Currency Board Arrangement (CBA) in Estonia and Lithuania after regaining independence in 1991, analyzing motives for initial CBA adoption, the impact of the CBAs on restructuring, cultural and political factors contributing to adherence to CBA regulations, and the influence the CBAs had on alignment with Western integration as evidenced by EU membership and EU adoption.In an unrelated project, I wrote a paper on the influence of Christianity on the White Rose, a student led resistance program against the Nazis that originated at the University of Munich in 1942.
Explain what you learned or give advice to fellow students: 
The most important thing I learned during my research experience is the importance of having a good working relationship with your faculty mentor. Occasionally you will run into roadblocks or slumps in your research, and having someone experienced and inspiring to help you find your way again is invaluable.In addition, I learned that it is impossible to completely finish a research project because there will always be more information to look through and new ideas to consider. I thought my topic was narrow at first, but quickly had to focus my essay even more to include sufficient detail to make a meaningful argument and contribution. In the end, it is important to remember that your work does not end with one project. Even now that I am done with my paper I keep finding things that relate to my research and that I hope to work on in the future. I highly recommend that everyone who is interested become involved in undergraduate research. In addition to learning more than you can imagine, contributing to your field is extremely fulfilling and exciting, and will undoubtedly change the course of your career.
Awards and/or presentations: 
I presented my CBA research at the 2014 McNair Heartland Research Conference in Kansas City, Missouri.
Published Work: 
Kincaide, Laura. “Religion and Resistance: An Analysis on the Influence of Christianity on the White Rose Resistance Movement."

Elizabeth Knapp

OU Major: 
Classical Languages and Letters
Research Mentor: 
Dr. Kyle Harper
Describe your undergraduate research or creative project: 
As a Classics student, I have had the opportunity to work on ancient manuscripts with Dr. Kyle Harper. I have studied published ancient papyri, particularly magical papyri, to understand ancient beliefs about magic and religion in Greek-speaking Egypt, and I am working on transcribing and translating an unpublished Greek papyrus that I hope to publish within the next year.I am also a Research Assistant for the Digital Latin Library (DLL) in the Department of Classics and Letters, which has given me the opportunity to work with manuscripts from another perspective, considering all of the variations in manuscripts and the work that goes into creating a published edition, as well as coding for the future DLL website and contributing to the growing field of Digital Humanities.
Explain what you learned or give advice to fellow students: 
I would like to be a professor of Classics, and my research experiences in Classics have given me confidence that I will enjoy and succeed in this field. I have learned that interesting research that contributes new information to my field requires a lot of dedication, but there is nothing more rewarding than completing this process, and I would like to devote my life to Classics research. Be confident! I believe that any university student with passion for their subject area and dedication to their work can successfully perform research that will contribute to their field. Research is, in my opinion, the most rewarding thing that an undergraduate student can do. If you see a need for research in your field, find a professor who can mentor you, and devote a significant amount of time to your project. Even working with a professor on a project that he or she is already working on is rewarding and can be a great way to begin to get involved in your field's research.
Awards and/or presentations: 
I presented my work at the 2015 OU Undergraduate Research Day.I received a fellowship to study at Oxford University for two weeks this summer as a Logos Fellow.
Published Work: 
[In press]

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