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National Conference for Undergraduate Research at the University of Wisconsin-Eau Claire

By William Lineberry

With projects ranging from women in television to art therapy for teens and even the impact of pet insurance, two dozen undergraduate students from the Virginia Commonwealth University Honors College presented their research at a recent national conference.

The students, almost all of them in their first year at VCU, were featured at the National Conference for Undergraduate Research in mid-April at the University of Wisconsin-Eau Claire. In total, 36 students from the Honors College had accepted presentations for the event.

“These students’ achievements not only make us proud, they remind us why we strive to grow VCU undergraduate research and build an uncommon culture of student scholars on campus,” said Fotis Sotiropoulos, Ph.D., provost and senior vice president for academic affairs.

Faye Prichard, assistant professor in the Honors College and director of writing, accompanied the conference participants, who shared their research through poster sessions, oral presentations and art exhibits.

Student researchers presented work that spanned multiple disciplines. Among the topics: veterinary-client-patient relationships; feminism in popular culture; dental-tool design; political media and its influence on party politics; bilingualism and its impact on preventing Alzheimer’s disease; yoga as therapy for African American males with Parkinson’s disease; and an art exhibition for students with disabilities.

“As an undergraduate student, it was a privilege to be able to present my research at a national conference. I had the opportunity to share my knowledge with scholars in my field and had interesting conversations with people from all over the country,” said Natasha Moskala, a sophomore Honors College student double-majoring in political science in VCU’s College of Humanities and Sciences and business management in the School of Business. “While it was an incredible professional experience, it was also a great personal growth opportunity that motivated me to continue doing research.”

Giving students the opportunity to conduct research and share findings on a national level is critical to VCU’s mission of creating future generations of researchers, Sotiropoulos said.

“Our undergraduate students who participate in the transformative experience of research and knowledge creation earn higher grades, are more likely to graduate and do so faster, and to elevate their own goals and attend graduate or professional programs,” he added. “Engaging more students in these opportunities is essential to bolstering VCU’s reputation as a research powerhouse.”

In recent years, VCU has consistently ranked among top universities for the number of students accepted at the National Conference for Undergraduate Research, said Mary Boyes, associate professor in the Honors College.

“VCU’s high acceptance rate can be attributed to the creativity and originality of our Honors students, but it is also a testament to our highly specialized, intensive research-writing curriculum,” said Boyes, who also served as faculty supervisor and organizer for the conference trip.

She added that the course in which research topics are conceived offers students direct guidance and support, with the goal of finishing the semester with a publication-ready project.

“In Honors Research Writing, students get one-on-one guidance in formulating research problems, accessing sources and creating final projects,” Boyes said. “Our focus is to have students create professional projects that are conference- and publication-ready. And our goal is to ignite the research spark in every single person who passes through the doors of VCU’s Honors College.”

The students who presented at the conference, and their research project title, are:

  • Laina Atkins – “Disney Movies Released for Children Aged 5-12 between the 1990s and 2020s: The Evolution of the Princess of Color”
  • Aidan Ballard – “Single Mothers in Sitcom History, 1950-2010: Reflections of a Changing America on the Small Screen”
  • Shreya Balasani – “Increasing Age and Hypothyroidism: Heightened Risk for Older Gujarati and Rajasthani Indian Vegetarian Women Due to Extended Exposure to Phytoestrogens”
  • Julianna Cascone – “The Use of Sequential Bilingualism as Protection Against the Symptoms of Alzheimer’s Disease in Older Adults”
  • Victoria Chapel – “Antipaluria urichi and Oecophylla smaragdina as Potential Candidates for Sericulture”
  • Leiliani Clark – “Casting Childhood Heartthrob Actors as Villains: Priming Young Women to Tolerate Abusive Partners”
  • Madison Cruz – “Evaluation of EtOH Abstinence in the Recovery of Neuropathic Evoked Behaviors in a Mouse Model of Alcohol-Induced Peripheral Neuropathy (AIPN)”
  • Purav Desai – “Increasing Participation in Mindfulness-Based Art Therapy in Teenage Oncology Patients”
  • Lauren Eby – “The Adoption of Music Therapy in Child Vaccination Procedures: Reducing Anxiety Levels in Children and Parents to Increase Vaccination Rates”
  • Erica Eom – “Addressing Body Image in Child Actors”
  • Allena Flowers – “Pet Insurance: Changing the Veterinary-Client-Patient Relationship for the Better”
  • Rachel Furr – “The Apple Doesn’t Fall Far from the Tree: An Examination of the Mother-Daughter Relationship in 2000s Sitcoms”
  • Diana Sing-Hui Ho – “Donald Trump, Right-wing Populist Rhetoric and the Antagonization of Left-wing Parties in Political Discourse: The Relationship Between Trump’s Speeches and Tweets and Political Demonstrations in the United States”
  • Lojy Hozyen – “Glyphosate and Dopaminergic Neurotoxicity: Herbicide Impacts on Parkinson’s Disease Development”
  • Arjun Jagdeesh – “Proposing an RNA Interference (RNAi)-based Treatment for Human Immunodeficiency Virus by Analyzing the Post-Transcriptional Gene Targeting of SARS-CoV-2, Hepatitis C Virus and A549 Lung Cancer Cells”
  • Shannon Kane – “Desert Euphony: Exhibition for Disabled Students”
  • Natasha Shantal Romero Moskala – “Hugo Chavez and the United Socialist Party of Venezuela: Expropriations and Censorship”
  • Brendon Murphy – “Hospital Employee Assistance Programs: Reducing Mental-health-related Surgical Mistakes for Oncology Surgeons”
  • Mary Noble – “’That Girl’ vs. ‘New Girl’: The Perils of Choice Feminism”
  • Srimanya Panidepu – “Musculoskeletal Disorders of the Hands and Arms: Preventative Ergonomic Measures and Optimal Scaler Design for Dental Practitioners in the United States”
  • Deepa Rao – “Funny Women, Changing Times: Differences in Feminism Between ‘30 Rock’ and ‘Parks and Recreation’”
  • Kathleen Russo – “Saving Brain: Progesterone and Dopamine Agonists as Potential Therapies for Secondary Neurodegeneration Following Ischemic Stroke in Men”
  • Niyomi Shah – “Reducing Parkinsonian Gait Disturbances: The Impact of Yoga as a Type of Movement Therapy in African-American Males Aged 50-75 with Parkinson’s Disease”
  • Kristine Tran – “Normalization of the Infantilized Woman and Sexual Girl”
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