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FUSE 2013 showcases wide range of research by faculty and students

FUSE 2013 Salmonella Testing
Student Jimma Blackwell examines a specimen sample to determine if it is has been contaminated by salmonella.

The Faculty-Undergraduate Summer Engagement (FUSE) program at the University of North Georgia continues to expand its horizons with diverse projects and involvement from multiple campuses.

Operated through UNG's Center for Undergraduate Research and Creative Activities (CURCA), FUSE gives undergraduates the opportunity to work closely with faculty during an eight-week, intensive research project of the student's choosing. The 2013 FUSE members, who recently made their final presentations to peers, came from fields such as biology, psychology, English, visual arts, and environmental and spatial analysis.

"I am very pleased to say that this year's cohort not only featured a diverse set of creative and research projects, but also featured student-faculty teams from the Dahlonega and Gainesville campuses," said Dr. Miriam Segura-Totten, CURCA director. "Having participating faculty and students from two different geographical locations made the FUSE program much richer, emphasizing the strong research programs at both campuses. My hope is that next year we will have even more campuses involved."

FUSE also offers opportunities for cross-disciplinary research, such as the project produced by Dr. Anastasia Turner, assistant professor of English, and John Dees, who is majoring in environmental and spatial analysis.

Dr. Anastasia Turner and John Dees

Dr. Anastasia Turner and John Dees examine a map of Los Angeles as

it would have appeared during the time of 'Tropic of Orange.'

"John and I were talking about a project he presented where he had looked at Geographic Information Systems (GIS) in the context of the time period of John Steinbeck’s 'Grapes of Wrath,' when I realized how neat it would be to map the novel I was currently teaching," Turner said. "As I described the book to him, John got really excited about the possibilities GIS could provide. I was also excited because I have no training in GIS. We decided to move forward with the idea for a research project."

Turner plans to use the research in her fall classes to help students better visualize the geographic location and events of the novel and what roles the geography plays.

Dees said he learned a great deal from the project, and that his skills and knowledge have improved in several areas.

"I've always been interested in GIS, but some of the applications aren't very interesting to me," Dees said. "This has been a chance to apply my skills in a way that is very fascinating to me—by looking at Karen Tei Yamashita's novel 'Tropic of Orange' from a GIS perspective."

This year's teams also featured projects that could soon have campus and societal impacts, such as the research undertaken by Dr. Bryan Dawson and Melissa Deese, a student majoring in psychology.

Dawson and Deese are examining the triggers of self-harm in students to better prepare resident assistants (RA) in preventing and dealing with residential students who purposely harm themselves, a problem that affects roughly 40 percent of the college-age students surveyed by the team.

"This project has the potential to influence and change how we train our RAs and student body to recognize the warning signs of self-harm," Dawson said.

Dawson noted that the research will help the RAs understand the triggers of self-harm and the multitude of forms that it takes.

Drs. Jennifer Mook and Jeanelle Morgan and Jimma Blackwell, a student majoring in biology, are working to prove that newer methods of testing for salmonella in poultry can be more efficient and cost-effective, and their project will continue beyond this year's FUSE program.

"Rather than relying on the visualization of simple biochemical features, we have been using new chromogenic media, which show a color reaction when contacting salmonella," Mook said. "Our expectation is that the isolation process will be improved such that there are fewer false positives, which will hopefully recoup the cost for the more expensive procedures."

To view information on all 2013 FUSE teams, click here.

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