Spotlights

Shelby Ranger

OU Major: 
International Area Studies
Research Mentor: 
D. Gershon Lewental
Describe your undergraduate research or creative project: 
I did my research for a final paper for the Arab Israeli Conflict class. I spent many hours and weeks looking for various book and article sources in the OU library and on the library website and reading them for relevant information. It was very hard work but I felt accomplished afterward.
Explain what you learned or give advice to fellow students: 
It is important to give oneself time to do the best work possible, rather than waiting until the last minute to look for materials. Time management is key. Make use of the library and read as much as possible, because you might find yourself interested in a subject you hadn't known existed before!
Awards and/or presentations: 
I presented my paper at the 66th Annual Conference of Oklahoma Association of Professional Historians and Regional Conference of Phi Alpha Theta Oklahoma in March 2014.
Published Work: 
Ranger, Shelby. "Sephardi Identity in Greater Syria in the Late Ottoman Period." OU Historical Journal, 4 (2015).

Jesse Coker

OU Major: 
Biochemistry and Economics
Research Mentor: 
Adam Duerfeldt
Describe your undergraduate research or creative project: 
I am an Undergraduate Research Assistant with the Duerfeldt Lab, a member of the Institute for Natural Products Applications and Research Technologies (INPART) and the OU Department of Chemistry and Biochemistry. The Duerfeldt Lab focuses on designing, by synthetic methodology, and discovering, by natural product screening, novel therapeutic compounds against both human and bacterial targets. My project consisted of screening a diverse library of natural compounds derived from soil samples from all over the world (collected by the Cichewicz Lab, also a member of INPART at OU) in an effort to discover new antibiotics. Bacterial resistance to current therapies has grown into a major concern, making the development of unique and potent antibiotics extremely important. I worked on targeting a bacterial protease, a type of protein that eats other proteins. By over-activating this protease with an antibiotic compound, the protease becomes permanently switched on and consumes the bacteria from the inside out. I used multiple screening assays to uncover a never before reported natural product activator of this protease which has exciting antibiotic potential. Our lab continues to optimize this compound, alongside many others, and is optimistic about the potential of this new style of antibiotic.
Explain what you learned or give advice to fellow students: 
When taken as a challenge rather than a defeat, failures are actually critical to propelling yourself forward. Science is slow; sometimes painfully, frustratingly so, and setbacks are ever-present. However, I’ve learned that overcoming these challenges defines the heart of science. Research takes time, energy, and a lot of determination, but the struggle of science, while sometimes demoralizing, has challenged and redefined my attitude about failure. And, when a daunting obstacle is finally defeated, the victory tastes that much sweeter. Do it. Research is exciting and extremely rewarding—there is something fundamentally incredible about making a discovery. I would strongly encourage every undergraduate, in every discipline, to undertake research. Find a professor whose work sounds interesting and reach out to them; the faculty at OU is extremely enthusiastic about undergraduate research. Send an email, make a phone call, stop into someone’s office—be bothersome and persistent, and very soon you’ll find an amazing opportunity. Research is something you need to do at OU. As Nike would say, just do it.
Awards and/or presentations: 
I gave an oral presentation detailing my antibiotic research at the 2015 OU Undergraduate Research Day and received, along with my partner Cici Zhou, an Honors Undergraduate Research Opportunities Program (UROP) grant.
Published Work: 
n/a

Martin Koch

OU Major: 
Environmental Sustainability
Research Mentor: 
Travis Gliedt
Describe your undergraduate research or creative project: 
I currently work as a research assistant in the Department of Geography and Environmental Sustainability. My position is funded by the Honors College’s Honors Research Assistant Program, and additional project funding is provided by the Southern Climate Impacts Planning Program. I began in the fall of 2014 by assisting a graduate student, Preston Hartman, with his research project. I developed a contact database of Oklahoma water utility managers, and booked appointments for Preston to interview them and gather data. After gaining experience working on Preston’s project, I had the opportunity to conduct my own. During the spring semester, with the help of mentorship from Dr. Gliedt, I created a research project from the ground up. I developed a research question, wrote an abstract, and surveyed water utility managers in three states. My project examines the perception of statewide water conservation goals among local utility managers. It uses both qualitative and quantitative data to study how utilities are working to conserve water, and measure the degree to which conservation efforts are motivated by statewide goals. Additionally, a matrix will be generated that compares water conservation strategies based upon their cost-effectiveness, popularity, and ease of implementation. Climate change is projected to create additional challenges for water utilities in the years to come.
Explain what you learned or give advice to fellow students: 
In prior undergraduate courses, I read and cited journal articles. However, during my research experience, I went beyond simply reading research to discover what steps are required to produce it. I learned how to write abstracts, proposals, and literature reviews. I also learned about conducting an effective survey, and identifying a useful question that will advance the field one is working in. Research is no longer something I idly consume; rather, it is now something I have the capacity to contribute to. Through my research, I aim to learn from the expertise of utility managers to determine how statewide policies can most effectively protect vital water resources by spurring community conservation. I would advise aspiring undergraduate researchers to be persistent about seeking out sources of mentorship and funding. Staying in contact with professors who inspire you is helpful, as they are good sources of information regarding conferences and journals. It is also helpful to research Honors College programs (such as HRAP, UROP, and FYRE) that support undergraduate research. Learning about current challenges in your field is useful for creating a relevant project. Finally, it is important to be dedicated to answering your research question. Conducting a research project requires effort, but provides a feeling of accomplishment not just in advancing your career, but in generating knowledge that can help solve real-world challenges.
Awards and/or presentations: 
In April 2015, I will present my project at the Texas State Geography Student Research Symposium. Later that month, I will present at the Association of American Geographers Annual Meeting in Chicago. Funding for both presentations will be provided by the Department of Geography and Environmental Sustainability.
Published Work: 
n/a
Poster: 

Connor Sullivan

OU Major: 
Bachelor of Science in Multidisciplinary Studies
Graduation Year: 
2014
Current Occupation: 
Graduate Student in the OUHSC Audiology Program
Research Mentor(s): 
Dr. Carole Johnson
Describe your undergraduate research/creative experience: 
As part of my degree, I achieved 6 hours of Independent Study at the HSC campus under Dr. Carole Johnson. I also opted to utilize the ability to have Internship Credit through the College of Arts and Sciences for an internship under Mary Delaney. Because of that opportunity, I obtained an Internship at Hearts for Hearing. Hearts for Hearing is a clinic where I worked for several semesters. I also used the Internship Credit opportunity to be an intern for the Hearing, Evaluation, Research, and Outcomes Lab in Oklahoma City under Dr. Johnson. While working at that lab, I opted to begin doing research as an undergraduate because of my experiences in life. I was born with a rather unique form of hearing loss, Large Vestibular Aqueduct Syndrome. When I met Dr. Johnson, we realized that there was only 13 articles published TOTAL on the subject… We also realized that there was a lot of discrepancy on how the disorder was being handled across the field. Large Vestibular Aqueduct Syndrome (LVAS) is a disorder that impacts up to 15% of patients with Sensorineural Hearing Loss. It’s most common symptoms are fluctuating hearing, dizziness, headaches, and vision difficulties. What’s sad is, is that the only way to truly diagnose LVAS is with a CT scan, which doesn’t always happen. What we are working on is establishing a standard for the field on an appropriate treatment method for patients with LVAS who are having these hearing fluctuations. We are trying to use a combination of my personal story alongside previous articles as well as data we have accumulated to make a strong case to bring LVAS to the attention of the clinicians that are treating the patients daily.
What was the most important thing you learned during your project, or what advice would you give to current undergraduates?: 
My participation in research as an undergraduate was instrumental to my successes as a student. Not only did it help me become a well-rounded student and graduate school applicant, but it also helped me to establish some contacts in the field that otherwise wouldn’t have been possible.
Do you use any of the skills or perspectives gained doing research in your current occupation?: 
Yes
Many undergraduate researchers are making decisions about what to do after they graduate. Having been in those shoes, what do yo: 
To never burn any bridges. Always make sure to keep your options open and to make as many connections as you can.
Do you have anything else you would like to share about your research or creative project experience?: 
Sullivan JC, Johnson CE, Danhauer JL, Jilla AM, Winkler, K. (2015). A Survey of Parents on Their Experiences with, Knowledge of, and Attitudes toward Large Vestibular Aqueduct Syndrome (LVAS). Paper accepted for presentation at American Auditory Society 2015. Scottsdale, AZ. March 5-7, 2015.Sullivan JC, Johnson CE, Danhauer JL, Jilla AM, Winkler, K. (2015). Parents of Children with LVAS: Learning from their Journeys. Paper accepted for presentation at American Auditory Society 2015. Scottsdale, AZ. March 5-7, 2015.Sullivan JC, Johnson CE, Danhauer JL, & Wolfe J. (2014). Large vestibular aqueduct syndrome and cochlear implantation: Scientific, clinical, and personal perspectives. Paper presented at the Hearing Across the Lifespan Conference in Cernobbio, Italy, June 5, 2014.*Paper also presented as a poster at AudiologyNOW!, Orlando FL*Paper also presented as a poster at Graduate Research, Education, and Technology Day OUHSC*Paper also presented as a poster at the College of Allied Health Research Day

Tara Rodgers

OU Major: 
Geography
Research Mentor: 
Mark Shafer
Describe your undergraduate research or creative project: 
I worked with the Gulf Coast Joint Venture in Lafayette, LA through a research opportunity with the Southern Climate Impact Planning Program (SCIPP). I examined the weather effects on wintering waterfowl habitat in the Gulf Coast region. The main goal of my research was to identify indices that would be able to help predict the acreage of flooded habitat each year. My initial research only focused on the coast of Texas, but I'm currently expanding my research to encompass the whole Gulf Coast region. I initially found that some drought indices were significant, but I would like to see if that would differ in another part of the Gulf Coast. This particular project combined a variety of climatic and weather indices to help determine the most significant index. The overall experience was a great one. I moved to Lafayette, LA, and experienced a different state for a little bit. It was really nice to also work in a government building, and see how possibly working for the government might feel. The people there were really nice, and walked me through any road blocks I might have come across in my research. SCIPP was also a tremendous resource as they guided me to what would benefit me the most through this research process.
Explain what you learned or give advice to fellow students: 
I learned a lot about climatic data, and how to compile it into a form that is easier to understand. I also learned how to collaborate with people that are in different fields of discipline than I am. Finally, I learned how to present my work, and organize it so that it made sense to people that had no idea what my research consisted of.Students that might be interested in doing research should have an open mind about projects, and different subjects other than their current field. I learned a lot about a field that I was not necessarily interest in, and it provided me an experience that I would not have normally had.
Awards and/or presentations: 
I have presented my work as a poster at the 2014 Southwest Association of American Geographers in Albuquerque, NM. I also presented my work at as an oral presentation at the 2015 The American Meteorological Society Conference in Phoenix, AZ. I will also present my research again at the Association of American Geographers in April in Chicago, IL.
Published Work: 
n/a

Marisa Brumfield

OU Major: 
Environmental Sustainability, Science & Natural Resources
Research Mentor: 
Mark Shafer
Describe your undergraduate research or creative project: 
During the summer of 2014, I was chosen as a research intern through the Southern Climate Impacts Planning Program under Oklahoma meteorologist Mark Shafer. My internship took place in Lafayette, Louisiana at the USGS National Wetland's Research Center where I worked closely with Michael Osland and Richard Day. I assisted them with their research by locating, analyzing, and interpreting historical climate data that could help explain the evident expansion of black mangrove into native salt marsh along the gulf coast of Louisiana and neighboring states. I utilized three different organizations to attain climate data. I looked solely at daily minimum temperature records for multiple cities, forts, and co-op stations along the coast of Louisiana, primarily along a 25 KM gradient running from Port Fourchon inland. Over time, there have been periods of expansion and contraction of the mangrove, and my research on the local major freeze events over the last 200 years was conducted in an attempt to express the growth/dieback of mangroves as an effect of climate change. By pinpointing specific freeze events dating back to the 1820s, I was able to create tables and graphs that can now be used alongside aerial imagery from the same time periods. Doing so will allow Michael and others to visually analyze the expansion and contraction as it reacts to extreme weather events.
Explain what you learned or give advice to fellow students: 
Perhaps the most important thing I learned while interning at the National Wetland's Research Center is how incredibly diverse the field of environmental studies is and how much it has to offer. Thanks to my supervisors and co-interns, I was introduced to a wide variety of career fields within the NWRC alone. It was extremely refreshing to witness a large group of individuals in one building, most of whom research extremely different topics but all truly enjoy their professions. In addition, I acquired better analyzation, communication, and writing skills through my research.My advice would be to always apply for any and all educational opportunities that interest you no matter how confident you feel regarding your credentials/experience. Everybody has to start somewhere, and you will never know unless you go for it!
Awards and/or presentations: 
I traveled to Phoenix, Arizona in January 2015 to present a poster of my research at the American Meteorological Society Annual Meeting. The trip was funded through SCIPP.
Published Work: 
n/a
Poster: 

2015 Nancy Mergler Undergraduate Research Mentor award given to Dr. Llyod Bumm

The Nancy Mergler Undergraduate Research Mentor award was given to Dr. Llyod Bumm during the Faculty Tribute Award reception this past Thursday afternoon.  Dr. Bumm’s students gave him a very strong nomination by detailing his commitment to individualized attention, guidance, and mentorship, his focus on nurturing their growth as scholars and students, and his encouragement for their reaching for opportunities, goals, and awards.  Although the selection was based on the nominations, Dr. Susan Walden, Director of the Office of Undergraduate Research, believes the award “also serves as a recognition of [Dr. Bumm’s] history of undergraduate mentorship.”

Dr. Bumm, Associate Professor in the Homer L. Dodge Department of Physics and Astronomy, received his B.S. degree in 1982 from Clarkson University and his Ph.D. in 1991 from Northwestern University. He enjoyed two Postdoctoral research positions and served as a Research Professor before coming to OU in 2001 as an Assistant Professor. He was promoted to an Associate Professor in 2007. A main focus of Lloyd’s research is to understand the electronic, and the optoelectronic characteristics of individual molecules: Can one build an electronic device from a single molecule?

It is unusual for a single faculty member to work with a large number of undergraduate students.  Last year Lloyd supervised 9 undergraduates in an incredible variety of research projects which included: Growing gold nanorods, using Matlab to interface Ocean Optics for photoluminescence spectroscopy, building an Ethernet bridge, interfacing photodiode detectors with Matlab, reducing noise from trace-retrace image pairs, designing a nitrogen purged palm wrench, determining ways plasmon mediates growth, understanding bimodal histograms for scanning tunnel microscope images, and measuring the extent of oxidation of decanethiol.

The undergraduate students working with Professor Bumm quickly come to the knowledge that he cares very deeply about their research projects. He provides guidance and encouragement from start to finish. He is characterized as having considerable patience. His feedback in student presentations is thorough and specific. His praise for success is sincere and meaningful. He challenges undergraduate researchers to explore many facets of their research and guides them in developing a deep understanding of the research. His former undergraduate students are grateful for the ways he was able to mentor them throughout their time at OU.

The award, given by the Office of Undergraduate Research and the Office of the Vice-President for Research, recognizes faculty excellence in supporting undergraduate researchers.  The award is named after Provost Nancy Mergler, who initiated Undergraduate Research Day, the Undergraduate Research Opportunities Program (UROP) and the core Honors curriculum when she was director of OU’s Honors Program from 1988-1994.  More details of the award can be found on the Office of Undergraduate Research website by clicking here.

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