Ten students represent WCU at inaugural SoCon Undergraduate Research Forum

The WCU contingent at the research conference included WCU Associate Provost for Academic Affairs Brandon Schwab and Provost Alison Morrison-Shetlar, shown on far left in the photo with WCU’s student presenters.

The WCU contingent at the research conference included WCU Associate Provost for Academic Affairs Brandon Schwab and Provost Alison Morrison-Shetlar, shown on far left in the photo with WCU’s student presenters.

Ten Western Carolina University students participated in the inaugural Southern Conference Undergraduate Research Forum, which took place at Wofford College Oct. 29-30.

The forum featured approximately 100 students from all 10 SoCon institutions as students and faculty presented their research projects in the form of performances, posters and oral presentations in all disciplines of the arts, humanities and STEM (science, technology, engineering and mathematics).

The event gave undergraduates an opportunity to gain valuable experience in presenting and explaining research they performed in previous semesters and over the summer.

“They were all quite good,” said WCU associate professor of chemistry Bill Kwochka, who was the lead organizer for the conference.

SURF developed from the Southern Conference Academic Exchange, an initiative that started in 2014 as a means for conference members to collaborate on activities beyond athletics. Led by the chief academic officers, the exchange already has operated a leadership development program for faculty and staff, and is working on sharing international study programs.

Students presenting for WCU were:

Arlynn Baker (faculty sponsor: Martin Tanaka) – Variability based analysis of torso loaded gait stability.

Leah Bush (faculty sponsor: Georgia Hambrecht) – Productive and perceptive understanding of heteronyms in ESL students.

Steven Johnson (faculty sponsor: Scott Pierce) – Correlation of myoelectric signals with hand gestures.

Monica Reece (faculty sponsor: Channa De Silva) – Preparation of zinc oxide nanoparticles possessing antimicrobial activity and development of an adhesive cotton textile for potential prevention of health care associated infections.

Kristen Metcalf and Taylor Wooten (faculty sponsor: Mickey Randolph) – Perceptions and knowledge of asexuality.

Jackson Roper (faculty sponsor: Melissa Snyder) – Case of constrictive pericarditis in a collegiate football player.

Michael Swaenepoel (faculty sponsor: Heather Coan) – Keratin dose-dependently rescues human cardiac stem cells from hypoxia-mediated cytotoxicity.

Nadja Vorontsova (faculty sponsor: Scott Rader) – 21st century “Pharma Talk”: Taking social media from talk to action.

Kaley Wisher (faculty sponsor: Jeremy Hyman) – Correlation of landscape and behavioral analysis of song sparrows, Melospiza melodia, across a continuum of rural to urban habitat.

The forum concluded with a panel discussion on how to get into graduate school with Mike Langford, who oversees recruitment and marketing for WCU’s Graduate School, serving as one of the panelists.

“How well (the panel) was received was apparent to me afterwards when everybody finished and there were probably 20-30 students waiting to talk to each of these reps,” Kwochka said. “There was a lot of interest in what these representatives from the grad schools had to say.”