Undergraduate Research Showcase

Valerie Washington listens as Kylah Pollard explains her research

Students reveal passion for discovery KENNESAW, Ga. (April 25, 2016) — Representing every…

Georgia (Apr 25, 2016)

Students reveal passion for discovery

KENNESAW, Ga. (April 25, 2016) — Representing every academic college on campus, more than 300 Kennesaw State University undergraduate students showcased their research and creative activities during the 21st annual Symposium of Student Scholars and Undergraduate Research Reception April 21 at the Kennesaw Campus.

“Engaging in research is one of the ways that students are often transformed during their undergraduate years,” said Amy Buddie, symposium organizer and associate director for graduate student support and undergraduate research/creative activity for the Center for Excellence in Teaching and Learning (CETL) at Kennesaw State.

“Undergraduate research can change the direction of students’ lives,” she said. “We know that by doing undergraduate research, students increase their problem solving and communication skills, and it often builds excitement for their field.”

More than 132 projects were exhibited as part of the Symposium of Student Scholars poster presentation, which filled the Convocation Center with undergraduate researchers sharing their discoveries.

Kylah Pollard, a junior psychology major, spent the past year involved in a three-part study with other undergraduate researchers to determine how infants behave. Using video, the team studied who infants reference – their mothers or strangers  – when faced with different situations.

Pollard, who also serves as the vice president of Kennesaw State’s Undergraduate Research Club, presented at the National Conference on Undergraduate Research (NCUR) in Asheville, N.C. earlier this month and plans to submit the research for publication in a psychology journal.

About one-third of Kennesaw State students participating in the symposium have submitted their research proposals for publication or presentation at a regional, state or national conference, according to Buddie. Pollard also was among the largest delegation of undergraduate researchers at NCUR this year, and because of this extensive involvement, Kennesaw State has already been selected as the host site for NCUR in 2019. 

For many students, conducting research reinforced their career aspirations. JaBreia James, a senior exercise science major, spent the past two years studying the relationship between insulin resistance and abdominal fat during pregnancy. James’ interest in this special population has reinforced her desire to go to medical school to become an obstetrician.

For communications major Austin Rapp, a business class in neuromarketing sparked his interest in understanding how companies create storylines and advertising campaigns that emotionally attract a strong consumer base, specifically looking at how smaller companies can utilize similar tactics as company giants like Nike.

“I’ve discovered that it’s more than a company telling a customer what they want,” Rapp said. “It’s a company showing customers why they love their brand.” He added that emotional tagging in marketing and understanding the psychological influences has been insightful for his neuromarketing research. 

For others, doing research was a way to satisfy their own curiosity. Mechanical engineering students Michael Connor and Farhad Sayedzada explored the oscillation of particles as they hit the surface of water, capturing data using a high-speed camera in the laboratory.

Particle behavior is helping them to understand the impact on global warming, explained Sayedzada. “Plants cannot germinate if the water temperature is rising,” he said. “So even though we are looking at small particle behavior, it can have a great impact on a global scale.”

In addition to poster and oral presentations during the symposium, the University Library honored Kennesaw State alumna Angelica Eloisa Perez, a self-taught artist, author and art history graduate, with the Library Undergraduate Research Award. Her research paper, “Silhouettes of a Silent Female’s Authority: A Psychoanalytic and Feminist Perspective on the Art of Kara Walker,” will be published in the Kennesaw Journal of Undergraduate Research.

With the University’s new status as an R-3 doctoral research institution under the Carnegie Classification, interest in undergraduate research opportunities is on the rise. 

This year’s Symposium of Student Scholars saw its largest turnout in its 21-year history. According to CETL, participating students rose 38 percent over last year and faculty mentors increased by 47 percent.

A highlight of the annual symposium is the awards and prizes given for the best oral and poster presentations. This year’s awardees are:

Best Poster ($200 prize)
“Fibonacci Number of the Chorded Cycle”
Students: Denise Hernandez and David Richmond
Faculty Mentor: Joe DeMaio
Department of Mathematics

Runner-Up Poster ($100 prize)
“Quest for Success: On Campus Housing Versus Off Campus Living at Kennesaw State University”
Student: Jesica Montoya
Faculty Mentor: Brandon Lundy
Department of Geography and Anthropology

Best Oral Presentation ($200 prize)
“Thermal Analysis of Borosilicate Glass for its Biological Applications"
Students: Gregory Humble and Johnathon Ard
Faculty Mentors: Kisa Ranasinghe and Rajnish Singh
Department of Physics

Runner-Up Oral Presentation ($100 prize)
“To the Evolution: Cultural Dialogue in the Contemporary American Musical"
Student: Elliott Folds
Faculty Mentor: Angela Farr Schiller
Department of Theatre and Performance Studies


- Tiffany Capuano; photos by David Caselli 


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 kennesaw.edu