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    Research: Where Knowledge is Created

    By Rebecca Wilcox, Office of Undergraduate Research
    Published: April 14

    “Research is where knowledge is created,” says Deborah Bolnick, assistant professor of anthropology. Watch more about how being involved in research has opened up new possibilities for undergraduates.

    Research Week (April 14-18) is the university’s annual celebration of undergraduate research and creative activity, where students share the work they’ve done and get to explore opportunities to pursue projects that interest them. Events range from undergraduate poster presentations, exhibitions, performances and symposia to guest speakers and workshops aimed at helping undergraduates achieve their research goals. Don’t miss the multidisciplinary Longhorn Research Bazaar, which will take place Wednesday, April 16, 11 a.m.-1 p.m. in the Gregory Gym Arena.

    Students participating in this year’s Research Week have projects in subjects as varied as computer science, communications studies, theater and dance and Arabic studies. Read more about their projects. We’ve chosen some health-related projects to highlight, as part of our In Pursuit of Health series.

    Michelle Dunn

    UT student Michelle Dunn working on her research

    Photo by Tony Nguyen

    Major: Neuroscience and Plan II
    Faculty Supervisor: Lawrence AbrahamKinesiology and Health Education
    Topic: Using an Isometric Pinching Force Task to Analyze Fine Motor Control

    I am working on analyzing different aspects of fine motor control using an isometric pinching force device. The task involves the subject using their thumb and forefinger to press on two force transducers that control the movement of a cursor on a computer screen. Some applications for our work involve seeing how concussions affect fine motor control, testing whether this task helps those who have suffered from neurological trauma (e.g., a stroke) regain fine motor muscle control, and better understanding daily activities that require accuracy and little variability to complete.

    What has been the greatest challenge that you have had to overcome as you worked on your research project?

    The greatest challenge has been to try and keep my topic question simple. I naturally want to create a complex and lofty experiment to answer the many questions that I have. However, I have learned that honing in on and simplifying the project to answer the basic, fundamental questions of something usually ends up having a lot more impact.

    What has been the most rewarding part of your research experience (so far)?

    In addition to being able to use the incredible facilities available at UT, I really enjoy being pushed and having to creatively work through problems with my own intellect. This is a nice complement to how things work in a class, where you are given more instruction on how to solve things.

    What advice would you give to incoming and current students about getting involved in research?

    Do not be afraid to ask questions, as it is not expected that you know everything already; better to ask questions instead of making a big mistake later on. Also, do not be afraid to really get to know your professor and others working in the lab. These relationships could lead you to unexpected discoveries about the field and what you want your next step to be in your life journey.


    Stephanie Ahn

    UT student Stephanie Ahn working on her research

    Photo by Tony Nguyen

    Major: Human Biology
    Faculty Supervisor: K. Sata SathasivanBiology
    Topic: Exploring Undergraduate Students’ Awareness of Cardiac Health.

    My organization, ICARE-UT, is dedicated to improving the awareness of cardiac health and disease at UT. Thus, my team members and I are doing a survey-based study to explore the factors that might affect a student’s awareness of cardiac health and related topics. We are also studying what makes a successful awareness campaign directed towards college students.

    What surprised you during the research process?

    Surprisingly, my experience doing research as a UT undergraduate created a tight-knit community from a very large population of UT students. Undergraduate research has allowed me to build strong relationships with my mentors, from whom I continue to seek both professional and academic advice. In addition, I have also met and befriended many other undergrads who share similar interests with me.

    Do you think having been involved in research as an undergraduate will be helpful to you in the future? If so, how?

    Definitely. Doing research has definitely shaped me into the person I am today. It has given me a greater appreciation for science and learning and has opened my eyes to the kind of teamwork and elbow-grease that goes into discoveries. Besides changing the way I approach problems and the way I think, I now know that I want to do research as a physician in whatever specialty of medicine I find myself in the future.


    Sateria Apolonia Lozano

    UT student Sateria Apolonia Lozano working on her research

    Photo by Tony Nguyen

    Major: Social Work and Neuroscience
    Minor: Psychology
    Faculty Supervisors: Andrea Gore and Michelle Naugle, Pharmacy
    Topic: How Estrogen Affects the Aging Monkey Brain as a Model for Menopause

    One goal of our research project is to characterize the microenvironment in the median eminence, which is a region where GnRH and other hypothalamic-releasing hormones are secreted. We are comparing the microenvironments of the median eminence of rhesus monkeys to explore how they respond to hormone treatment. Age-related structural changes may contribute to the negative symptoms experienced during menopause and determine how subjects respond to hormone treatments.

    What has been the most rewarding part of your research experience (so far)?

    The most rewarding part of my research experience so far has been gaining experience with impressive research equipment like the Leica ultramicrotome and electron light microscope. In addition, I have thoroughly enjoyed taking part in novel research findings.

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    How has participating in research affected your experience at UT?

    Participating in research has affected my undergraduate experience at UT by giving me insight into what I want to do in my life. Now I know what it takes to pursue a doctoral degree and have a better idea of what educational career I want to pursue beyond my bachelor’s.

    What surprised you during the research process?

    I was surprised to see how much is involved in the research process, from formalities to funding to what it is like to present a thesis or give a talk on research. It was surprising to see how much dedication, hard work and time goes into research.

    In Pursuit of Health graphic

    This story is part of our yearlong series “In Pursuit of Health,” covering medical news and research happening across the university.

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