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Health sciences senior presents research at international conference

August 16, 2016

KOKOMO, Ind. — In the competitive admissions process for graduate programs in physical therapy, Aubrey Sherman can highlight an accomplishment few of her fellow applicants will have — she’s already presented research at the international level.

Sherman, who graduates from Indiana University Kokomo in December, was one of a handful of undergraduates invited to present at the North American Society for the Psychology of Sport and Physical Activities conference in Montreal, attended by approximately 500 people. She highlighted research conducted with David Hancock, assistant professor of health sciences, about the impact of age on sports success.

“It’s nice going into graduate school with these hands-on research skills I learned, that maybe others haven’t had the opportunity to learn,” said Sherman, a health sciences major. “Research definitely adds intensity to your workload, and you learn critical thinking skills. Overall, I have grown academically.”

Hancock encouraged her to assist with the project, because it would prepare her for future success.

“We’re always looking for ways IU Kokomo graduates can stand out from other people, as they apply for jobs or further education,” he said. “This is a great way for Aubrey to have something on her résumé that separates her from the pack.”

He said more than 90 percent of the presenters at the Montreal conference were faculty members or graduate students, so Sherman was one of very few undergraduate students chosen.

The Kokomo resident also presented their research at the Midwest Sport and Exercise Psychology Symposium in Chicago, and the IU Kokomo Undergraduate Research Symposium.

Sherman’s writing skills on class projects led Hancock to invite her to assist with his project, studying how an athlete’s birth date impacts his or her sports success, specifically in ice hockey. They found that those older than their peers are selected to better teams, and get more playing time.

“We wanted to see if parents and athletes are aware of this effect, and if it impacts them on a day to day basis,” Hancock said. “Nobody really thinks they are influenced by it, even though hockey is one of the strongest sports to be impacted by relative age affects.”

Hancock began the research previously with another student, so Sherman began with background reading, then moved on to transcribing and analyze data, and then writing their results. They submitted an abstract, or summary, of their research, which led to her inclusion in the two professional conferences.

In Chicago and at IU Kokomo, Sherman made oral presentations, in front of an audience. In Montreal, she displayed a research poster, and talked with people individually in a conference hall.

“I found I enjoyed the poster presentations more,” she said. “It was more of a one-on-one experience. In Montreal, people were more aware of my topic, so they asked more in depth questions. They were able to give a little more insight onto the topic, which was intimidating and exciting at the same time.”

Hancock also attended, and while he was available if someone asked a question she could not answer, he said the presentations were hers. He finds research is an excellent way to engage students in active learning.

“I like the idea of being able to push students a little further in critical thinking,” he said. “Rather than just reading about it in a book, they are studying, gathering information, and drawing their own conclusions. In our field, you need to understand research.”

Indiana University Kokomo serves north central Indiana.

Last updated: 08/16/2016