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Honors Program at the Georgia Undergraduate Research Conference

The University Honors Program saw 11 of its students participate in the annual Georgia Undergraduate Research Conference (GURC) this past November.  This conference is open to any undergraduate student from any discipline, and the students from Georgia Southern presented research from across the disciplines, including special education, kinesiology and chemistry.

Megan Fromme’s (special education ’18) professor Dr. Kymberly Harris pushed the students in her Classroom Management course to submit the proposals they created for a class assignment. At the conference, Fromme had two presentations, the one for the class, which she presented in the poster session, and one based on her thesis research, which she presented on panel.

Fromme’s research, “Special Education Teachers’ Response to Consistent Changes in Curriculum Standards,” analyses how the constant change of standards such as Common Core and Georgia Standards of Excellence are specifically affecting special education teachers.

“I am going to interview ten special education teachers in the Bulloch Country area that have taught Georgia Performance Standards and Georgia Standards of Excellence,” she said. She hopes her research will provide valuable information that teachers can implement in their lesson plans, teaching, and preparing specific activities.

While attending the conference, Fromme was able to form connections with other students from other universities in Georgia. The ability to work with other undergraduate researchers provides students with new insight and perspectives on their personal research. “This conference helped me break down exactly what I want to do with my research once it is completed as well as ways to improve my work thus far,” she said.

Kali Todd (kinesiology ’19) presented her thesis research, “The Effect of Perceived Level of Social Support on the Fear of Falling among the Elderly.” Her research focuses on the belief that societal support and falling are correlated. Todd examines whether increased support decreases the fear of falling with the elderly.

“If results confirm this hypothesis, medical professionals will understand the importance of social support and use it in the treatment of this debilitating fear,” she said.

GURC was Todd’s first experience with presenting her research in a professional setting. “At first, I was very nervous and was not sure if I was capable of thoroughly explaining my research. However, it got easier as the questions continued,” she said.

Sarah Hethcox (left) and Kali Todd (right)

Sarah Hethcox (chemistry ’19) presented the beginning stages of her honors thesis. “Apoptosis, Cancer, and Caspases: Is Calcium the Link?” In her work, she analyzes how the failed occurrence of apoptosis, which is the controlled death of cells within an organism, may provide answers to treat certain diseases such as cancer.

“Ultimately, my project will focus on the effect of metal ions on the structure and function of certain proteins called caspases which play a significant role in apoptosis or regulated cell death. In short, a better understanding of why apoptosis sometimes fails to occur. This pattern may help the development for a treatment for certain diseases. For example, when a person has cancer, the cells become resistant to natural apoptosis signals,” Hethcox said.

Hethcox created a poster detailing her ideas and outline for her Honors thesis. She is beginning to research with her mentor and used this conference as a chance to gain experience in both the research process and the presentation.

“Organizing a poster on the research I will be conducting gave me a deeper understanding of my topic. I practiced presenting my work to friends and family to insure that I could thoroughly defend my research,” Hethcox said.

Other Honors students who participated at GURC include Isabella Axelsson (exercise science ’17), Austin Eubanks (exercise science ’19), Andrea Holloway (exercise science ’19), Morgan Laballe (physics ’19), Lauren Love (chemistry ’19), David Moore (electrical engineering ’18), Thomas Mulkey (physics ’19) and Wesley O’Quinn (electrical engineering ’19).


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