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Research boosts student confidence, communication skills

December 12, 2017

KOKOMO, Ind. — As she prepares for graduate school admission, Alexandria McCorkle has the research knowledge and skillset she needs to help her succeed.

The Indiana University Kokomo senior recently demonstrated that ability by presenting at the 23rd annual IU Undergraduate Research Conference.

“The thing I enjoy most is working one-on-one with a professor, who shows you how to do research and present it in a way that makes sense to your peers, professors, and the general population,” McCorkle said. “It becomes less about a presentation and more about having a conversation with other people, and sharing your research.”

Together with classmate Sidney Nall, and Vanessa Costello-Harris, assistant professor of psychology, McCorkle investigated Indiana college and university websites, and discovered many have no online listings of resources available for those students on their campuses.

“A lot of times, accommodations are available on campus, but prospective students would never know because there’s no information on the websites,” she said. “To me, it seemed obvious if you have services available, you should include them on your website. It’s defeating for those students to not know what is available to help them succeed.”

Eleven IU Kokomo students were among their peers from all nine IU campuses, showcasing findings from projects completed in collaboration with faculty mentors.

McCorkle also presented at the conference in 2016, and said the experience will help her as she prepares to enter a master’s degree program in Applied Behavioral Analysis, to further her career working with children on the autism spectrum.

The conference, which took place at IUPUI, is an opportunity not only to demonstrate knowledge, but to learn from other students, according to Kathy Holcomb, associate professor of psychology.

“For students, attending a research conference is often their first exposure to the idea that research isn’t a scary, difficult process, but is one that is within their reach,” said Holcomb. “Students who are able to present at a conference get firsthand experience into how to communicate their research ideas to a wider audience.”

Henry Worley, Kokomo, appreciated the chance to meet fellow chemistry majors from other campuses, while presenting his research with Ashley Lovins. Mentored by Kasem Kasem, professor of chemistry, they studied the interaction of light with some organic polymers, for the purpose of capturing wasted solar energy in a form of chemical energy.

“This shows I have ability outside the lab, to tell people about the work,” he said, adding that he plans to go on to graduate school in chemistry. “I thought it would be a good opportunity to further my knowledge and learn how to give presentations.

His three semesters working in Kasem’s lab have boosted his confidence, Worley said. 

“I feel more confident taking chemistry-related orders, doing syntheses, doing things you would never do unless you were a chemist,” he said. “These are the kinds of experiences you don’t get in class.”

IU Kokomo students who presented included:

  • Gabriel Agbo, Zachary M. Courtney, Lindsey J. Thomas, “A Collaboratively Visual Analytics System for Cyber Defense Analysis. “Mentors: Awny Alnusair, associate professor of informatics, Chen Zhong, assistant professor of informatics.
  • Thomas Dean Crail, “Why do stars become red giants?” Mentor: Patrick Motl, associate professor of physics.
  • Andrew Fields, “Persona theory: Understanding Masculinity through Old Spice Commercials.” Mentors: Christopher Darr, associate professor of communication arts, Erin F. Doss, assistant professor of communication arts.
  • Ashley Lovins and Henry Worley, “Creation of Hybrid Inorganic/Organic Interface Assemblies of Cadmium Oxide mixtures (Cd02/Cd))/Poly2,2 Bithiophene; Optical and Photoelectrochemical Investigations.” Mentor: Kasem Kasem, professor of chemistry.
  • Ali McCorkle and Sidney Nall, “Evidence of Inclusion (Eol) on College and University Websites: Hide-N-Seek for Available Resources.” Mentor: Vanessa Costello-Harris, assistant professor of psychology. 
  • Debi Pellam, “Profits of Racism within the Prison System.” Mentor: Stephanie Medley-Rath, assistant professor of sociology.
  • Antonio Salas, “Variation in temperature during early development affects embryonic nonpolar lipid contents in snapping turtle (Chelydra Serpentina).”  Mentor: Michael Finkler, professor of physiology. 

Indiana University Kokomo serves north central Indiana.

Last updated: 12/12/2017