Spotlights

Kathryn Jerome

OU Major: 
Anthropology & Linguistics
Research Mentor: 
Samuel Duwe
Describe your undergraduate research or creative project: 
During the 1200s and 1300s CE, drought and unrest catalyzed dramatic cultural upheaval in the Southwest and led to the reorganization of ancestral Puebloan society, with disparate groups coming together to form new ways of life—sometimes immigrating long distances to do so. Ancestral Tewa Pueblos eventually formed large, culturally unique settlements in the northern Rio Grande. But how did these groups initially interact and coalesce? How were identities drawn and changed? Ceramic analysis can help us understand identity and interaction over landscapes. Comparing different pottery-making techniques, materials, and styles can illuminate possible social networks. I’m currently working on describing and comparing the ceramics from two ancestral Tewa Pueblo sites: Palisade Ruin (LA3505), a smaller site occupied for only a little over a single generation in the early 1300s, and Tsiping’owinge (LA 301), a much larger, longer-occupied site.
Explain what you learned or give advice to fellow students: 
One thing I wish I had known at the start of my research is to embrace the feeling of almost helpless ignorance that comes with a new project. When beginning a project, it can be easy to feel like you know nothing and you’re supposed to know everything. But the beauty of undergraduate research is that you aren’t expected to know everything. Instead of being overwhelmed by what you don’t know, be curious. Ask lots and lots of questions, and learn to use the resources available to you to get answers. This means using the library, but also making connections with the people around you: your lab partners, for instance, or people your advisor knows. This will not only help your understanding of your research subject, it will also give you a fair amount of exposure to your chosen research field and the other people that work in it. And that, barring any discoveries, is what undergraduate research is really all about.
Awards and/or presentations: 
Awards: Mentored Research Fellowship 2016-2017; Presentations: Coalescence and Transition: The Black-on-White Pottery at Palisade Ruin (Poster at C2C Symposium, Spring 2017)
Published Work: 

n/a

Tamiko Murphy

OU Major: 
Biomedical Engineering, Pre-med
Research Mentor: 
Dr. Christina Bourne, Dr. Meena Muthuramalingam
Describe your undergraduate research or creative project: 
Toxin-Antitoxin systems are components found on bacterial plasmids and chromosomes that code for protein pairs. The toxins interact with cellular machinery and send the cell into a dormant growth state. This dormant state allows the cell to survive harsh conditions, such as antibiotic treatment, and can be reversed by interaction of the antitoxin with the toxin. My project examines the binding interaction between the ParD antitoxin and the ParE toxin using site-directed mutagenesis. I performed several point mutations on hydrophobic amino acids that were thought to be important to protein function, and examined the effect of these mutations on binding affinity. The goal is to determine which portion of antitoxin is critical to function because interrupting binding interaction would allow ParE to degrade the bacteria’s genomic DNA, eventually causing the cell to self-destruct. In conjunction with antibiotics, blocking the antitoxin would improve treatments for bacterial infections.
Explain what you learned or give advice to fellow students: 
Through my research experience, not only have I learned valuable lab techniques, I have also developed more general scientific skills, such as troubleshooting, and learning how to ask the right question. I want to help other undergraduates get involved in research because it will open so many doors for them. It’s a great way to figure out if academia is the right path, and it’s important to have research experience if you want to go into any sort of STEM field. I want other students to know how valuable an undergraduate research experience can be, and I want everyone to know that they should go for any lab position they are offered, even if it’s a little intimidating at first.
Awards and/or presentations: 
Presentations:Site-Directed Mutagenesis of the ParDE Antitoxin to Examine Binding Interaction with ParE Toxin (presented at Great Plains Infectious Disease Meeting, 2017, and scheduled to present at NCUR 2018); Purification of Functional DNA Gyrase (FYRE poster session, 2016)Prototype of a Tourism App for the City of Arezzo, Italy (Mayor's office, Arezzo, 2017); Awards: Mentored Research Fellowship Scholar (2017), Dean’s Honor Roll for OU Gallogly College of Engineering (2016, 2017), National Merit Scholar (2015)
Published Work: 

n/a

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

The Nancy Mergler Undergraduate Research Mentor award was given to Dr. Lloyd 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.

Sonia Merkel

OU Major: 
Environmental Sustainability
Research Mentor: 
Dr. Angela Person
Describe your undergraduate research or creative project: 
My research seeks to understand the social and cognitive barriers which impede effective climate change risk communication in our country. I conducted a series of focus groups comprised of University of Oklahoma students and Oklahoma residents in which participants were asked to view a series of 10 evocative images and engage in a discussion on each image. During analysis of the transcriptions, three themes emerged. First, participants express a greater sense of urgency when events are perceived as both new and local. Conversely, participants were less concerned when events were perceived as local and normal. Second, a sentiment of “tacit blame” was commonly expressed by participants when a technological solution was cognitively accessible, but the participant was unsure of how to help. Third, fear based messaging appears to be less effective in motivating participants toward pro-environmental behavior than a hopeful, solution based message.
Explain what you learned or give advice to fellow students: 
Over the course of my nearly year-long research, I have learned the importance of scheduling your day around your research. Finding a routine which supports your most creative and a productive time is very helpful with keeping from falling behind. Additionally, finding a rhythm in reading papers related to your topic, while also maintaining focus on the central them can be challenging. It is easy to become overwhelmed with information, my project alone could have been taken in three or four directions. When I became distracted by something interesting or a new tangential topic, I tried to step back from my work, and just jot down the thought to get it out, re-read some of my earlier papers related to my topic, and then come back to my current project. Finally, make sure whatever you are researching is something that genuinely reflects your interest. It is easier to work on your project when it is something you enjoy.
Awards and/or presentations: 
My research was presented at the Spring 2017 Curiosity Symposium. I have received two financial awards which helped support my research. First, I received a position as one of the University of Oklahoma Undergraduate Research Scholars for the spring semester. Second, my research project was accepted as part of the Oklahoma NASA Workforce Development Research Assistant program, which provided me the opportunity to continue my research over the summer of 2017.

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]

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: 

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: 

ART 4863 Fieldworks

Point of Contact Name: 
Todd Stewart
Email: 
stewart@ou.edu
Department/Organization: 
School of Visual Art
Semester/Year Taught: 
Summer 2017
Describe the Research Project: 
FIELDWORKS is an initiative of the School of Visual Arts at the University of Oklahoma that blends research and teaching in an ongoing artistic and art-historical exploration of land use and interpretation in the deserts of the western United States. Among its core elements is a biannual two-week excursion into the field that brings the School’s faculty, students, and staff together to explore a central thematic. For the 2013 Road to Ruscha project, this meant retracing the path that the artist Ed Ruscha traveled to create his seminal 1963 artist’s book Twentysix Gasoline Stations. In 2015, a second group traveled throughout the Sonoran, Mojave, and Great Basin Deserts to investigate earthworks such as Robert Smithson’s Spiral Jetty and their geographical context. In 2017, Donald Judd’s work in Marfa, Texas served as a point of departure to consider the concept of space in the Chihuahuan Desert. In addition to its travel into the field, FIELDWORKS pursues open-ended, collaborative, and transdisciplinary artistic and art-historical work that results in creative, scholarly, and pedagogical outcomes, including exhibitions, publications, and events that all report on the changing relationship between humanity and the planet. To date, FIELDWORKS has exhibited multiple times at the Fred Jones Jr. Museum of Art, done workshops and events in conjunction with the OU Humanities Forum, and published work related to its travel in Broadsheet, SciArt Magazine, and Inhabiting the Anthropocene with more work, including several book projects, currently in the planning stages.
Public Display of Final Projects?: 
Yes
Is this Class Offered Regularly?: 
Yes

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