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FUSE expands to include Oconee Campus, physics

FUSE 2015
Amanda Kennell makes adjustments to an x-ray spectrometer, which she used to detect traces of elements in spider webs.

This year's Faculty-Undergraduate Summer Engagement (FUSE) program at the University of North Georgia (UNG) highlighted the first-ever projects from the university's Oconee Campus and from the Department of Physics.

FUSE pairs undergraduates with a faculty member for eight or more weeks as the students conduct scholarly research and experimentation within their fields of study. Adding participation from more campuses and disciplines has been a major focus for the program's coordinator, Dr. Anastasia Lin, assistant dean of student research and scholarship.

"By guiding our undergraduates as they critically examine questions that interest them, we build their ability to approach learning with curiosity and confidence rather than rote memorization and passive acceptance," Lin said. "The program also allows professors to initiate or strengthen their own approaches to undergraduate research in their classes throughout the year."

FUSE supports the university's mission by providing opportunities for student inquiry and creativity while promoting academic excellence and innovation through its unique approach to undergraduate research. The program is operated through the Center for Undergraduate Research and Creative Activities.

Representing the first entry from UNG's Oconee Campus, as well as the youngest students to ever participate in FUSE, sophomores Cali Chacon and Holly Williams participated in a mock-graduate school model designed to expose them to the research process under the guidance of Dr. Katherine Kipp, professor of psychological sciences.

"This project is part of the Oconee Campus's newly established Cognitive Development Lab," Kipp said. "The students and I set about to understand the entire research pipeline, and Cali and Holly undertook multiple projects in the lab, each representing a different phase in the research process. The projects included examining executive functions in children's thinking and data collection and analysis for several 'Scholarship of Teaching & Learning' projects. The overall goal was to get them involved in an active research program to better understand what the science of psychology is all about."

Though she described the project as unorthodox compared to other FUSE research, Chacon said their work has been very challenging and enriching.

"This model immersed us in many projects at various stages of the research pipeline, making us more comfortable in the research setting," Chacon said. "I am also excited to attend two conferences in the fall with Dr. Kipp and Holly, including the Georgia International Conference on Information Literacy."

Amanda Kennell performed experiments to gauge the effectiveness of using spider webs to filter air under the guidance of Dr. Sarah Formica, associate professor of physics. Using an x-ray spectrometer, Kennell observed the energies of elements contained in the web samples she gathered and noted any spikes in particular elements.

"Spider webs can actually pull materials, including insects and non-biological objects, toward them, which may make them more effective in gauging air quality than a filter," Kennell said.

Other projects this year included:

  • Dr. Sheri Hardee and Kim Griffin: "High School 2 College – Sustaining and Growing the NearPeer Service-Learning Program through Qualitative Inquiry"
  • Dr. Chuck Robertson, Jenn Freeman and Derek Dodd: "A non-invasive brain-computer interface training system: using a wireless EEG headset to control a drone in three dimensions"
  • Dr. David Connolly and Christian Shirley: "Law, Courts, and Social Power in Lumpkin County, Georgia: 1832-1850"
  • Dr. Melba Horton and Courtney Veath: "Water Pressure Effect on Lipid Production of Lake Lanier Algae for Biofuel Utilization"

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