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Students use summer for next-level research

FUSE 2016
John White uses a GoPro to film Leafcutter Ants during research conducted with Dr. Mark Davis. (Closeup of ant below).

This summer, eight University of North Georgia (UNG) students are building their skills and resumes by assisting faculty in research, and two students are using grants to pursue research projects of their own.

All are part of the university's Faculty-Undergraduate Summer Engagement (FUSE) program, housed through UNG's Center for Undergraduate Research and Creative Activities (CURCA). Since its inception in 2011 the program has typically supported about a dozen students helping faculty mentors with their research for eight weeks; this year's program has grown to include two students who wrote grant proposals and received funding from CURCA to blaze their own trails.

Leafcutter Ant
A Leafcutter Ant.

Samantha Clark, a senior majoring in psychology, wants to better understand the pathology behind eating disorders, which she hopes will lead to a reshaping of current treatment methods and higher rates of recovery.

"With this study, I hope to determine whether self-destructive behaviors — such as purging — are reinforcing factors that contribute to the maintenance of the disorder," Clark said. "I also want to gauge other elements that may be associated with the development and maintenance of eating disorders, such as sense of self-worth and clinical depression."

Though many of these factors have been involved in previous studies on eating disorders, Clark said the overwhelming majority of research has been focused on each element individually. She wants to examine multiple elements at once to determine interaction effects, and to understand which behaviors within eating disorders provide the individual a sense of being in control, which can reinforce the behavior.

Also tackling an area with sparse research is Joshua Botticher, a sophomore and Army veteran majoring in geology, who wants a better understanding of the mineral makeup in Georgia landmarks Stone Mountain, Arabia Mountain and Panola Mountain.

"There is a surprising lack of research on these landmarks; though all three are the same type of rock, they do have interesting differences, considering they are all within 15 miles of each other," Botticher said. "For example, the rock of Panola Mountain has a much coarser grain than the rock of Stone Mountain. We already know all three places were formed in the same timeframe, so now I would like to see what other relationships exist between the three."

Botticher and faculty mentors Dr. Katayoun Mobasher and Dr. Jerry Allison will be taking samples from each location to determine their mineral content and their formation.

Other research projects underway this summer include:

  • Dr. Caitlin Wills-Toker and Faith Brown: "Organizational Identity and the University of North Georgia: A Proposal for the FUSE Summer Program."
  • Jill Schulze and Dr. Nancy E. Dalman with Donna K. McCullough and Kimberly T. Wright: "Creation of a Long-Term Parrotfish Sex-Ratio Monitoring Program in Calabash Caye, Belize."
  • Dr. Linda Reece and Kristina Cherres: "Constructivist Teaching with English Learners: Preparing College of Education Interns to Mentor Peers in Research and Practice."
  • Dr. Margaret Smith with Sonia Alcantar and Andrew Shirley: "Gene Expression in Stem Cells."
  • Dr. Abby Meyer and Abigail Grey: "The Effects of Continuous Environmental Exposure to the Endocrine Disruptor Bisphenol A on Measures of Health, Depression, and Anxiety in Mice."
  • Dr. Mark Davis and Daniel Brown: "Shoulder That Load And Walk: Investigating Foraging Dynamics in Neotropical Leafcutter Ants."
  • Dr. Jessica Gomolak and Alyssa Thompson: "The Neurodegenerative Effects of Zinc Buildup in the Brain Following Infection."

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