Students Shine at Academy of Science Conference

Students in Asbury University’s Behavioral and Natural Science Departments recently had a career-building opportunity to present research at the Kentucky Academy of Science (KAS) Annual Meeting at Morehead University. 

Students and faculty from the Behavioral and Natural Sciences departments gained valuable academic experience from presenting group and individual research.
Students and faculty from the Behavioral and Natural Sciences departments gained valuable academic experience from presenting group and individual research.

Two teams of students in Behavioral Sciences programs presented their work. Seniors Megan Kuhl, Nikki Woolls, Hannah Wolgamot, and Aurora Pullar researched “Meditation, Mindfulness, Prayer, and Well-being in Christian Undergraduates,” finding that:

  • Upper class students reported more meditational experience than lower class students.
  • Meditation is related to higher mindfulness and more positive meditational beliefs.
  • Greater mindfulness is correlated with happiness, spiritual well-being, and cognitive complexity.
  • Of four prayer types, only meditational prayer is correlated with mindfulness and meditational experience.

Justyn Bigam ‘15, Darrin Greene ‘14, Adrienne Coffey ‘15, Rachel Vargas ’14 and Janet Dean (faculty advisor) presented on “The Real Self and the Virtual Self: Understanding the Relationships between These Identities among Gamers.” The research explored the implications of differences between avatars selected for games and a person’s actual self:

  • The team hypothesized that the discrepancy between one’s self and one’s avatar is related to negative self-esteem. However, they found that the greater the discrepancy between one's self and one's avatar, the higher was one's self-esteem.
  • In addition, people's perceptions of their own interpersonal adjustment were not related to their perceptions of their avatars' interpersonal adjustment. 
  • Interpersonal adjustment was negatively correlated to age and gaming addictive tendencies.

From the Natural Sciences department, five students presented posters on their individual research projects both at Asbury and in other locations: 

  • Kristen Cory ’14 presented research on the biodiversity of switchgrass fields.
  • Samantha Penwell ’14 presented research on organic chemical synthesis.
  • Brittany U’Wren ’14 presented research on the relationship between diminished sleep quality and immune response during pregnancy.
  • Ben Adams ’14 presented research exploring the effects of herbicides on chemical alarm cue responses in fish.
  • Samantha Burr ’14 presented research on the detection limits of DNA released by organisms residing in water.

Asbury science professor Dr. Bruce Branan says there are several ways in which students benefit from presenting research at the KAS Annual Meeting. Not only do they have the opportunity to share their research with a larger audience, receiving affirmation and helpful criticism, they also benefit simply from getting to see their work in larger context.

“When you're here at Asbury it is difficult to understand how (and whether) your growth as a scientist is progressing,” Branan said. “Our students are pleased to see that their projects, and their ability to understand others' projects, are very much up to par.”

Samantha Penwell is one of Branan’s students who presented research at the meeting. She completed a highly competitive summer internship at the University of Alabama (Tuscaloosa), working with Dr. Michael Jennings, an organic chemist.

“My specific project was on developing a novel reaction methodology for the synthesis of 1,5-diols,” Penwell said. “In lay terms, I mixed smelly liquids together, let them stir for long amounts of time, separated the product (which was still an oil), and then started again the next day.”

Being able to present this research in poster form — a concise summary using text, tables, graphs, and pictures — rounds out Penwell’s summer research experience.

“Personally, it is extremely satisfying to see all of my work neatly and concisely presented in poster format,” she said. “It is also important to be able to share the tiny contribution I have made in the field of organic synthesis with others who will understand and appreciate the work that I completed this summer.”

--by Joel Sams '15

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