Inquiring Minds

Research 3.jpg

17th Symposium of Student Scholars marks largest display of undergraduate research and creative…

Georgia (Apr 13, 2012)

17th Symposium of Student Scholars marks largest display of undergraduate research and creative activity

How can you change behaviors and attitudes about taking stairs? What effects do three different types of gun shots have on bones? What was the role of women in ancient Greek theater? Is it better to leave skeletal remains encased in soil after excavation? How do people perceive homosexual characters on TV? How do two Jewish Holocaust survivors and authors of stories written in German depict “home” in their works? What is the probability that a card collector will be able to collect an entire series of free cards offered in cereal boxes? Which North Georgia communities are most in need of services for the homeless? Can you grow a brain in a dish?

These are among the inquiries driving the research and creative activities of 183 undergraduate students who participated in Kennesaw State’s 17th annual scholars’ symposium on April 10.  The students conducted research, performed analyses, created art works, designed poster displays and gave oral presentations under the guidance of 63 faculty mentors.

“This symposium is a remarkable accomplishment and says a great deal about the students, the faculty and the academic vitality of Kennesaw State,” said President Daniel S. Papp, who joined Associate Provost Teresa Joyce in congratulating this year’s participants.  

Participating students and faculty represented the College of Science and Mathematics, the College of Humanities and Social Science, the WellStar College of Health and Human Services, the College of the Arts, the Michael J. Coles College of Business, and University College. 

The 2012 symposium, the largest in the 17 years since the university began showcasing undergraduate research and creative projects, featured the first presentation of an original musical composition: the world premiere of “Horn Duo,” a composition for two French horns by sophomore Chloe Lincoln, a music major. She composed the work in the composition studio of associate professor of music Laurence Sherr.  The work was performed by freshman David Anders, a music performance major, and senior Megan Gribble,  a music education major, during the opening symposium program.

The Center for Excellence in Teaching and Learning (CETL), which coordinates the annual symposium, contributed more than $30,000 to support undergraduate research. Thirty undergraduate students received CETL funding in three award categories during fiscal year 2011-2012. Nearly 40 percent of the projects presented at the symposium have been presented externally at forums in community or at local, regional, national and international conferences, or have been or are in the process of being published.

“Undergraduate scholarship is an essential component of our mission to mentor students” said Amy Buddie, CETL’s associate director for undergraduate research and creative activity. “When I walk around the poster session, I see students animatedly talking to faculty and other students about their projects. I hear sophisticated synopses of research projects that rival what you would hear at a professional conference. I can tell that they've really engaged in deep learning about the topic. It's obvious to me that the students have learned a great deal about the research process in addition to improving their problem-solving and critical thinking skills.”

Junior Teresa Smith, a biology major who plans to attend the Medical College of Georgia, agrees. The research she conducted with assistant professor Martin Hudson and research assistant Clay Hembree ─ “Building a Brain in a Dish: Differentiating Mouse Embryonic Stem Cells into Dorsal Midbrain Tissue” ─ gave her the opportunity to participate in a “groundbreaking” research project.

“This is something that has never been done and has the potential to affect medicine for years to come,” said Smith, who got involved in the project after taking Hudson’s genetics class.  “I was hooked.  I shadowed Clay, who was very actively engaged in the research, and worked independently on the project once the class was over.”

The research is potentially significant in helping medical science understand which tissue can be regenerated from embryonic stem cells and therefore useful in the treatment of injury and disease.

In as lay terms as she could manage, Smith explained that the project’s goal is to grow mid-brain tissue outside of the body (in-vitro).  “There are already protocols for growing retina and visual cortex tissue, so we took an existing protocol and manipulated it to derive one for the dorsal or midbrain. By inhibiting a gene called “sonic hedgehog” with a molecule called cyclopamine and harvesting cells at intervals between five and 16 days, we found that we could push cells to a dorsal fate.”    

The research also determined which genes specifically are turned on at what time and to what extent in the evolution of dorsal brain cells. “It’s been a really awesome experience,” Smith said.

A panel of faculty members judged the posters and oral presentations at this year’s symposium and announced the following winners:

  • Outstanding Oral Presentation -Combinatorial Proofs of Fibonacci Identities by Means of the Path Graph” by John Jacobson (faculty mentor: Joe DeMaio, mathematics)
  • Outstanding Oral Presentation, Runner Up –Paradise Promised in La nada cotidiana (Yocandra in the Paradise of Nada) - El paraíso prometido en La nada cotidiana” by Michelle Choung (faculty mentor: June Laval, foreign languages)
  • Outstanding Poster Presentation- “Characterization of Two Isoforms of MAPKAP Kinase 2” by Emily Rye (faculty mentor: Carol Chrestensen, biochemistry)
  • Outstanding Poster Presentation, Runner Up – “Un-Varnishing’ the Truth About Teen Pregnancy: 16 and Pregnant and Teen Sexuality”by Kimberly Wallace Stewart (faculty mentor: Letizia Guglielmo, English)

Poster and oral presentation winners received $200 Amazon gift certificates; runners up received $100 gift certificates.

To view a complete list of the 2012 projects and abstracts, visit the CETL website at

Sabbaye McGriff




A leader in innovative teaching and learning, Kennesaw State University offers undergraduate, graduate and doctoral degrees to its nearly 43,000 students. With 11 colleges on two metro Atlanta campuses, Kennesaw State is a member of the University System of Georgia. The university’s vibrant campus culture, diverse population, strong global ties and entrepreneurial spirit draw students from throughout the country and the world. Kennesaw State is a Carnegie-designated doctoral research institution (R2), placing it among an elite group of only 6 percent of U.S. colleges and universities with an R1 or R2 status. For more information, visit