Aggies present to legislature
Published: Tuesday, February 5, 2013
Updated: Tuesday, February 5, 2013 13:02
SALT LAKE CITY — Cutting-edge research doesn’t just come from the laboratories of distinguished professors. Twenty-six USU students proved undergraduates have genius to offer too last week at the annual “Posters on the Hill” event.
The undergraduates met in the capitol rotunda in Salt Lake City with 26 undergraduate researchers from the University of Utah to present projects they have been working on in collaboration with their professors. The projects covered everything from the impact of certain drugs on eye cells fighting glaucoma to reconstructing the history behind a collection of rare books.
Each year, students from the two research universities meet in the rotunda to present their work to Utah legislators. It’s an opportunity for the students to prove undergraduate research is worth the money the legislature supports it with.
It’s also an chance for researchers to see what their peers are working on, something Michael Strange, a senior majoring in geology, found particularly exciting.
“I was just hoping to find other paleontologists, other geologists, and see what they’re doing,” Strange said. “I went and talked to a lot of people.”
Strange presented his research on fossil imaging, introducing a new way to analyze and interpret soft tissue in fossils. The soft tissue is notoriously difficult to interpret and distinguish, Strange said, but he has found a cure using a common tool — Photoshop.
He selects the color of the soft tissue and changes its color, which makes it easier to read and interpret.
“You start to see just trace amounts of soft tissue that cannot be seen in any other method,” Strange said. “Even when you look at a microscope, the soft tissue is still very hard to see.”
Many USU students found ways to incorporate their passions into their research projects.
Allison Fife, a sophomore majoring in history and business, had a research project sparked by a collection of rare books donated to USU by Peter Van der Pas.
Van der Pas immigrated to the United States almost a hundred years ago, and in looking through the books, Fife found he had a relationship with his books that was very unique for a collector.
She traced his interactions with his collection and asserts he used the collection as a way to assert his place in a scholastic community he was not formally a part of.
“It’s not just about the research and the fact that I figured out, or think I figured out, a bunch of stuff about a guy that donated books,” said Fife. “I think that that information is still relevant and applicable to people today.”
Heather Sheffer, along with fellow students Deborah Teuscher and Aaron Gibbons, presented research on the levels of depressive symptoms caregivers for family members with dementia experience.
The seniors in Family, Consumer and Human Development said they saw increased levels of depressive symptoms in caregivers helping family members with violent expressions of dementia.
Sheffer was personally attached to the study.
“I’ve had dementia in my family and I’m really interested … to help people find a cure for dementia if possible,” Sheffer said. “I’m personally invested in this, but something that I’ve learned from doing this project is that I just love doing research.”
Teuscher loved seeing the results of the study make a difference.
“This project’s interesting because it’s applied research,” Teuscher said. “We can take the research and actually see it working or not working instead of just observing and taking data.”