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SURE students offer look into summer research initiatives

Fifty-four Elon students presented the work they've undertaken during Summer Undergraduate Research Experiences, an eight-week deep dive into research. 

Matt Sears '18 talking about his research into the mating habits of squash bugs. 

Dozens of Elon students who have cleared away distractions to dive deep into research projects while working closely with faculty mentors shared the results of their work so far on Wednesday. 

Representing broad array of disciplines and projects, these 54 students filled the Snow Family Grand Atrium to field questions and explain their findings as they move forward with their Summer Undergraduate Research Experiences. The program offers a select group of rising juniors and seniors a stipend and research support funding so they can spend the summer months devoting themselves to advancing their research. 

"It's been great to be able to dedicate my time to something I'm so passionate about," said Matt Sears '18 of Massachusetts. 

Sears, working with Assistant Professor of Biology Jen Hamel, has been exploring the potential benefits from various mating habits of squash bugs. His summer has been spent cultivating specimens and gathering data at Elon's Loy Farm as well as other organic farms in the area. He'll continue data collection in the time leading up to the start of the next academic year in August, and into his senior year. 

Sarah Hennenkamp '19, who is working with mentor Joel Hollingsworth, demonstrates her protype for a "solar flower" made using 3D printing. 

​It's not often that students have the time or resources to devote themselves to a singular research project, said Meredith Allison, director of undergraduate research and associate professor of psychology. SURE also provides the opportunity to further develop the relationship that students have with their mentors, with 44 faculty members working with SURE students this summer, Allison said. "That mentor relationship is key to their academic success, their ties to the Elon community and to their professional development," Allison said of the students. 

Elizabeth Reeve '18 from Greensboro, N.C., has been mentored by Cindy Fair, professor of human service studies, as she has explored the effect that "helicopter" parenting has on college students when they confronted with managing their own health care. That transition — from being a child treated by a pediatrician with care overseen by a parent — can be a difficult one as students begin to schedule their own doctor's appointments, fill their own prescriptions and make their own health care decisions, Reeve said. 

This summer, Reeve has been interviewing university staff who interact regularly with students faced by these new challenges and choices. She's gained insight into the frustrations those staff members face as they work to assist students and parents. 

"A lot of our role is educating students ... but it's harder to do when students don't even come in with a basic understanding of how to schedule an appointment," said one staff member quoted by Reeve in her research poster. 

Molly Spero '18 explains her research during the SURE poster presentation. 

This fall, Reeve will begin surveying undergraduates to determine how active a role they take on in making their own health care choices. "SURE is really so supportive of students, and gives them room to grow," Reeve said. 

Fair said SURE offers the intangible benefit of bringing together students who are all undertaking intensive research projects and doing the same level of work, even though their interests might lie in different disciplines. SURE students each work individually on their projects, but also gather for regular lunches and other activities, with students participating in a book club this summer. 

"This gives them the time to devote themselves to their project, and provides it in the context of a community," Fair said. 

For Sydney Brown '18, her research into how athletes cope emotionally following a serious injury is person. A basketball player, she suffered a serious ACL injury in high school that she said changed her life. "I felt like people didn't understand what I was feeling, but I wanted to have my feelings validated," said Brown, who is from Durham, N.C. 

Brown took traditional grief models, which focus on shock and depression, and through surveys of athletes, explored the various emotions they felt during their injury and recovery. Frustration and anxiety were the most prevalent reactions she found, with her research so far pointing to the need for a recovery model that's more tailored, and a return-to-play protocol that incorporates the psychological recovery of the athlete as well. 

"I love my research because it happened to me," Brown said.  

 

Owen Covington,
Staff
7/26/2017 3:05 PM