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Research team ‘SEELS’ the college experience for students

November 2, 2018

KOKOMO, Ind. — When Paige Jones applies to graduate school, she will stand out from other applicants, as a member of an Indiana University Kokomo research team.

Jones, from Kokomo, is one of a dozen students in the Sport and Exercise Excellence Lab (SEEL), studying topics including barriers to children with disabilities participating in school physical education, analysis of literature on sports officials, and online versus in-person physical activity interventions.

“Not only have I distinguished myself among other students, but I’ve been part of something bigger than myself while I’ve been a student,” said Jones, who plans to be an occupational therapist, and then transition to working with prosthetics. “Most undergraduate students don’t get research experience. It’s made my college experience more real for me.”

David Hancock, assistant professor of health sciences, leads the group, and noted that all lab participants who have wanted to go to graduate school have been accepted into programs.

“These students have the opportunity to do research and come up with real papers and presentations when they complete the research,” Hancock said. “By the time these students graduate, each of them has presented at a professional conference, if that was their goal.”

He set it up as a team environment, rather than working with individual students, to allow those newer to research to assist with another’s student research, and to promote discussion of ideas.

Danielle Schultz noted that she’s learned about more than just her own project because of the team environment.

“You’re not just tied into your own project, and that’s the only experience you get out of it,” said Schultz, from Kokomo, who is working on a project examining whether parents and children prefer online or in-person physical activity interventions.

“It’s helpful to have input from people outside the project,” she said, adding that team member Kristin May has helped her with filming and other parts of the project.

“It can help take a lot of stress off the person leading the project when they don’t have to do the whole thing alone,” said May, Kokomo.

Through the SEEL team, Schultz and others have received undergraduate research funding, and can receive grants to cover expenses to travel to professional conferences to present.

Team member Alli Voils presented her project about physical activity in day care programs at the IU Kokomo undergraduate research symposium, and wrote an article about it that is being reviewed by a professional journal for publication.

“I had never given a professional research presentation before,” the Jamestown resident said. “I was able not only to present my information but to hear back from students and staff about their ideas, to get suggestions and ideas we might not have seen when we analyzed the data.”

Other projects in process include an analysis of literature about sports officials, led by Hannah Roaten, assisted by Sam Miller, Caleb Stanley, and Kyle Chapman. Roaten, Sheridan, hopes to present her findings at a conference in Germany this summer. 

Also, Jake Benzinger is investigating physical activity in elementary schools, particularly barriers to including disabled students. Paige Jones is assisting him.

Benzinger, from Kokomo, said projects begin by reading previously published articles, to be sure they’re adding something new, rather than repeating a study someone else has done. That reading has developed his critical thinking skills. 

“I definitely learned what to look for in articles to make it a credible source,” he said. “There are things you should definitely find in all articles.”

Hancock said he often identifies students for the team after grading their papers, and noting their skill in writing and critical thinking. When he finds a likely candidate, he puts a sticky note in the paper, with the words “Have you considered research?”

Students who participate in SEEL stand out from their peers, he said.

“They think at a different level,” he said. “They’ve grown as students being part of the team. You can see in their papers that they think more critically, and they’ve learned to read and understand research.”

Indiana University Kokomo serves north central Indiana.

 

Last updated: 11/02/2018