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‘Posters on the Hill’ to feature Elon student research

Elon University senior Drew Gardner travels to Washington, D.C., this week to share with lawmakers his research on concussions in student-athletes during the annual Posters on the Hill event sponsored by the Council on Undergraduate Research.

Elon University senior Drew Gardner (right) works with his mentor, associate professor Eric Hall, on research into student-athlete concussions that will be presented April 13, 2011, in the "Posters on the Hill" program in Washington, D.C.

The U.S. House of Representatives has designated the week of April 11, 2011, as “Undergraduate Research Week.” The annual Posters on the Hill program invited this spring 84 students and their mentors take part in a general poster session before meeting with congressional representatives to discuss the value of, and to help voice calls for, support for research at the undergraduate level.

Gardner will share his work with U.S. Sen. Kay Hagan, a Democrat from North Carolina. Under the guidance of associate professor Eric Hall in the Department of Exercise Science, and in coordination with other students and professors, Gardner is testing the memory and cognitive function of varsity athletes from the men’s and women’s soccer team, and from the Elon Phoenix football team. He’s also testing visual and auditory responses to stimuli.

“Concussions are so prevalent in media, and everyone is talking about them,” said Gardner, a native of Apex, N.C., and a midfielder for the men’s soccer team. “Even NFL rules are changing because of concussions. It’s important to know why they matter.

“The hypothesis is that a person who has had a concussion will take longer to respond to a stimulus, and he’ll use more attentional resources. There’s definitely a thin line between just getting hit in the head and felling funny, and suffering a concussion.”

Gardner is the fourth Elon University students in recent years to participate in Posters on the Hill. Melissa Apperson ‘07, Larissa Ferretti ‘09 and Kimberly Duggins ’10 have also made the trek to Washington for sharing their work with Congress.

“Elon is once again being recognized as an institution that provides strong undergraduate research opportunities,” Hall said. “Because of the attention that concussions are receiving due to sports and military injuries, we think this will be a good opportunity to demonstrate the work that we are doing in this area while raising awareness of the issue.

In addition to soccer and undergraduate research, Gardner has volunteered with Safe Rides, and he organized his soccer teammates to volunteer with the Special Olympics Alamance County games on April 8. Gardner has traveled to Honduras for a service trip through the Kernodle Center for Service Learning and Community Engagement, and he has volunteered with a summer camp for children with muscular dystrophy.

Gardner returns to the soccer team this fall for one more season and will continue with the concussion research as part of his studies. He plans to graduate in December 2011 and attend medical school after Elon.

Eric Townsend,
4/12/2011 3:47 PM