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Early Innovators: The 2012 Undergraduate Scholars Forum

The Undergraduate Scholars Forum, to be held on April 3 as part of Research Appreciation Week 2012, showcases the research and scholarship of over 200 students, working with about 140 faculty mentors. Three students  share how their projects in music composition, psychology, and economics expanded their horizons.

IUP teems with research and scholarship activity across departments and at every academic level, from the tenured professor to the tender first-year student.

The Seventh Annual Undergraduate Scholars Forum, taking place on Tuesday, April 3, as part of Research Appreciation Week, brings more than 125 undergraduate projects out of the laboratory, library, studio, and computer room, and into the limelight.

The work of 218 students, mentored by about 140 faculty, will be displayed. Students will give 63 oral presentations and 55 poster presentations, reporting on everything from diversity in LEED neighborhoods (Jawanda Jackson; Professor Whit Watts, advisor) to the effect of a Victorian belief in fairies on the literature of the period (Amira Minazzi, Tiffany Murdy; Professor Michael Williamson, advisor), from the fitness effects of a heavy rope training program (Daniel Cuevas; Professor Robert Alman, advisor) to the biofuel potential of the avocado tree (John Kamau; Jeffery Larkin, advisor).

Five  students will present four music and ballet performances, dozens will show their work in a juried art exhibition, and five student teams will recommend business strategies Netflix and Redbox in a business case competition. 

Jonathan Donath and Professor Laura Ferguson: “Opening New Doors” in Music Composition

Music education major Jonathan Donath composed an original work, "Early Dawn," as part of a project led by Professor Laura Ferguson’s to team musicians in her class with choreographer/dancers in Professor Holly Boda-Sutton’s class to create one-minute ballets.

“I wanted to give my music education students some insight into working with choreographers, as it’s very likely they'll need to do this in the future,” said Ferguson. The dancers demonstrated the various ways choreographers communicate, gesturally and verbally, with musicians.

“The project opened new doors in composition for me,” said Donath. “I’d never worked with a choreographer before; as a result, I learned how music had to be written in accordance to a specific theme and style -- so the dancer could easily create movement to the music.”

In addition, Donath said, “the project opened my eyes to new compositional techniques. I tend to write using polyphony and rhythmic diversity. With the ballet, I had to go the complete opposite direction, writing a piece that was more melodic and had fuller harmonic voicing.”

Ferguson said her mentoring role focused mostly on guiding her students in the development of their presentations for the forum.

“The musical ideas and the choreographic collaboration were completely their intellectual work,” said Ferguson. “It’s a great pleasure to outline a project for students and then see them fill in that outline in so many rich ways that I couldn't have imagined.”

Sultan Magruder and Professor John Mills:  How Research Opens Up a Whole New World

Psychology major Sultan Magruder and Professor John Mills have a stop-by-the-office-anytime kind of working relationship. Mills welcomes questions, provides feedback on Magruder’s work, and offers encouragement for graduate school interviews, conference presentations.

When Mills showed Magruder a journal article he found interesting, Magruder’s research passion was born.

“My research focuses on the underlying differences in the way individuals interact with one another in social situations,” said Magruder. “In sum, what makes individuals care about the collective good, rather than themselves, in social situations?”

Marguder will discuss the findings of his original research in a presentation titled “Social Value Orientation and Cooperation.” 

The most challenging aspect of the project “has been organization,” he says. “I had to email and call 250 individuals to ask for their participation in my study (I got 140), and I had to provide detailed reports on how/when I contacted students because of University Subject Pool protocols.”

Other than scheduling study participants, Magruder said, “everything has been fairly manageable, thanks to the Research Design and Analysis courses that I’ve taken as part of my psychology requirements.”

“Developing a high level of knowledge” in this area of psychology has been an exciting aspect of the research process for Magruder.

“The majority of individuals know what they know because they were told,” he said.  “But when you go out and seek your own knowledge, a whole new world opens up—a world that you add to.”

Jocelyn Amevuvor and Professor Yaya Sissoko : A Language Major “Stretches Her Way of Thinking” into Economics

Economics professor Yaya Sissoko invited students in his Poverty in Africa class to choose from four topics and develop several solution scenarios.

"The students did an outstanding job – each group had a different approach to the issue,” Sissoko said.

Jocelyn Amevuvor chose to research rural versus urban poverty in Sub-Saharan Africa.

“I chose this topic because I’m very interested in contrasting urban culture with rural culture,” she explained. “Dr. Sissoko encouraged me to think independently by allowing me to do my own research.

"In addition to learning about the subject, I learned how to include statistics in my research. Since I’m a Spanish major and an English tutor, I really had to stretch my way of thinking.”

Amevuvor researched not only the causes of poverty in Africa, “but also statistics to support that those causes were to blame for rural or urban poverty.”

“Dr. Sissoko helped me develop my conclusion by suggesting that I add more statistics about urban poverty, because initially I focused on more rural conditions.”

Although her focus may not be economics, Amevuvor will continue to research the differences between rural and urban areas of different African countries, "since it pertains to what I desire to do in the future, which is to teach English to speakers of other languages.”

Wherever Amevuvor's next research project -- and her capacity for new horizons-- takes her, her newfound statistical capabilities will follow.

Posted on 4/2/2012 5:16:04 PM

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