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Undergraduate Library Research Award (ULRA): 2017 ULRA Winners

Upperclassman Winner

Anya Zornes

Faculty Mentor: Dr. Seth Wood

Project Title: Oh, the Humanities! Ending the Civil War between Art and Science

Project Abstract:In recent years, we have seen a drastic decline in the funding provided to humanities and arts across every level of education. This is due to a cultural misunderstanding and under-representation of them. In addition to this, the apparent economic advantages of STEM careers cause both students and educators to put excessive emphasis on those instead. Many educators have understood and stated the danger that this puts our society in, but they do so while simultaneously arguing against the support of STEM fields. Unfortunately, this give-take solution is not a solution at all, but will only serve to exacerbate the problem. Science and the humanities are not so diametrically opposed as many might think; rather, they are as intimately connected as two sides of the same coin. This must guide our solution to recent budget cuts. We must rescue the arts and humanities without harming the sciences. The most straight-forward way to do this is to use their intimate connection in the way they are taught, integrating them into the same subject material. After all, what better way could there be to explain the abstract concepts of the sciences than using physical examples in the humanities and arts?

Underclassman Winner

Taryn Blackstock

Faculty Mentor: Dr. Jason DeFreitas

Project Title: The Reactive Leg Drop: A Simple and Novel Sensory-Motor Assessment to Predict Fall Risk in Older Individuals

Project Abstract: There are many tests that examine older adults’ functional ability. Most of them focus on the motor skills involved in falls, but very few assess the integration of sensory and motor systems. The purpose of this study is to determine the efficacy of the reactive leg drop for evaluating sensory and motor function in younger women (YW) and older women (OW). Fourteen YW (mean ± SD: 20.9 ± 1.3 yrs) and ten OW (mean ± SD: 75.9 ± 3.9 yrs) participated in this study. Participants were first familiarized with each assessment. The participants then completed four conditions for the balance assessment which assessed sway index and four conditions for the reactive leg drop that examined knee joint angle. There was no significant difference between sway index for younger and older women for the EOFS and ECFS balance assessments. Older women had a significantly greater knee joint angle in EC_JEN. The correlation between knee joint angle and ECFS was only significant in older women with R2=0.82143. The knee joint angle had a strong significant relationship with sway index in the OW, but not YW, indicating that the reactive leg drop was very reliable.

Upperclassman Honorable Mention

Taylor Brooks

Faculty Mentor: Dr. Shawn Wilder

Project Title: Consequences of stress for diet balancing by an insect

Project Abstract: Prey facing predation risk experience stress and have associated behavioral responses. In addition, animals possess a range of physiological adaptations for dealing with stress, many of which have important implications for net energy balance. Hence, stressful conditions may be associated with adjustments in diet and metabolic rate to ensure adequate nutrients and energy for survival and reproduction. It is unclear how pulses of predator risk affect foraging and diet balancing. To learn more, we exposed crickets to predator cues, strobe lighting, and a mock predator and measured the resulting nutrient intake and metabolic rates. We found that the crickets exposed to predator cues experienced higher feeding rates and higher protein intake, perhaps to allow for faster growth. The crickets exposed to the mock predator had lower feeding and lower carbohydrate intakes, indicating that they reduce foraging when predators are present to avoid being consumed. In addition, we found no effect of predator stressors on metabolic rate, which contradicts the understood stress paradigm. There appears to be variation in the stress responses based on the specific type of stressor and the life stage of the crickets. These results can help explain why foraging and metabolic responses to predator prey interactions different within and across species.