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Undergraduate Research Expo, from pre-Inca archaeology to knee-tracking kinesiology

Posted on Wednesday, March 27th, 2013 by Research under Spotlights
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Repost from Campus Weekly 

Article by Mike Harris

032713Feature_ArchaeologyStep right up and senior anthropology major Jennifer Grenier will tell you all about it. She was one of more than 80 presenters last week at the 2013 Thomas Undergraduate Research Expo at UNCG.

The event now bears the name ʺThe Carolyn & Norwood Thomas Undergraduate Research Expo,” in recognition of Carolyn Thomas ʹ54, a long time donor and a supporter of undergraduate research. A former member of the Alumni Association’s Board of Directors and the UNCG Board of Visitors, she was on hand to see the students’ work – such as Grenier’s.

Grenier had spent three months at a dig in southern Peru last summer. She’d had a fieldwork there the summer of 2011, as well. Her UNCG mentor was Dr. Donna Nash. The question Grenier had was, did the pre-Incas at the Tumilaca La Chimba site make offerings of food to their dead? Skeletal remains of animals were found at the gravesites, more than a millennium old. She determined that, due to the particular arrangement of the distinctive llama toes that they found, the pre-Inca people at this site did in fact use that part of the animal as a gravesite ritual.

Lots of other undergraduates were eager to tell of their research. Cory Jones had a table near the entryway with tools and a variety of reeds – and his bassoon. He has learned from excellent bassoon players across the country, mastering the art and science of reed making. By altering the reeds, one changes the tone, he explained. He is toying with the idea of selling reeds. (Reeds are regularly replaced – they last professional musicians about two weeks, he explains.) Michael Burns is his mentor at UNCG. Jones currently plays with the UNCG Wind Ensemble, University Orchestra and Fayetteville Symphony, and he hopes to play with a symphony when he completes his studies.

Jeffrey Labrecque and Taylor Harris compared the accuracy of two methods in recording human biomechanics – specifically knee movement. Their mentor is Christopher Rhea. Harris plans to become an occupational therapist. Labrecque plans to be a physical therapist.

Melanie Staley in Environmental Studies researched disease and medicine in late 18th century America. Her mentor is William Markham. Her work will be on display throughout the summer at the Visitor’s Center of the Guilford Courthouse National Battlefield Park.

Jonathan Latta researched infant handedness – and which age left-handedness or right-handedness presents itself. His mentor is George Michel. Latta wants to ultimately do research in neurological psychology.

Jennifer Figueroa, a biology major, presented her work on resource allocation patterns in a particular rock cress plant. Meghan Hartzman Sanchez, a psychology major, measured alcohol and drug use in the context of personality traits and life satisfaction. Benjamin Constantinides in the School of Music created, mixed and mastered a pop CD. A trombone, bass and guitar player and singer, he played most of the parts. He collaborated on the video.

Each hour, a new group of students came in to give poster presentations. In several nearby rooms, students gave oral presentations in 15 minute slots.

“Nearly 50 percent of the students indicated their work is interdisciplinary,” noted Dr. Jan Jan Rychtář, interim director of the Office of Undergraduate Research. Jan Rychtář also explained that undergraduate research improves the students’ communications skills, hones their critical thinking and problem-solving skills and gives them experience working in a team.

These are skills they will use throughout their professional lives.

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