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Research grants fund summer projects by faculty and students

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UNG sophomore Tyler Wilson, left, works with Dr. Sonny Mantry and Dr. Mark Spraker on a physics research project funded by a Faculty Undergraduate Summer Engagement grant.

The excavation of a prehistoric ditch on a farm. The effect small-scale lights have on bats. The daily effects of a pesticide on women's neurological and psychological processes during pregnancy and afterward. The development of new tools to analyze proton-proton collisions.

These are a few examples of research projects the University of North Georgia's (UNG) Faculty Undergraduate Summer Engagement (FUSE) grants are funding in 2019. But they are not the only ones.

For the first time, four faculty members of psychological science received American Psychological Association's (APA) Summer Undergraduate Psychology Research Experience (SUPRE) grants. The projects range from an investigation of the relationship between eye movements and learning to the exploration of the relationship between mindful eating and various eating attitudes.

"Receiving these grants means that the APA has recognized the high quality of our institution and our faculty, and they have entrusted us to make a difference in students' lives through this program," said Dr. Susann Doyle-Portillo, interim department head and professor of psychological science at UNG.

SUPRE and FUSE grants allocate funds for UNG faculty to conduct research with undergraduate students who have little to no research experience.

"We wanted to give faculty and students eight weeks of time to concentrate on their research and not have to split their focus in the classroom," said Dr. Anastasia Lin, assistant vice president of research and engagement. "Several faculty members use this time as a jumping-off point for long-term research projects. And it's a valuable way to show students the step-by-step process of research."

Sponsored by the Center for Undergraduate Research and Creative Activities (CURCA), the FUSE program has added some professional development components this year, Lin said. For example, students learn how to construct a poster and write a personal statement. Career Services also conducts workshops for the students.

Tyler Wilson, a sophomore pursuing a degree in physics, is benefiting from FUSE. The 20-year-old from Cumming, Georgia, is developing computer-generated experiments to analyze the outcome of proton-proton collisions inside a Large Hadron Collider (LHC) in Europe. The LHC aims to uncover the fundamental laws of the universe through a study of elementary particles.

"I'm writing out lines of computer code to test our theoretical framework, so we can better detect certain particles that we are looking for," he said.

Dr. Sonny Mantry, associate professor of physics at UNG, said the computer-simulated experiments allow them to test their methods prior to working with the real LHC data. He, along with Dr. Mark Spraker, professor of physics at UNG, said examining the simulated data could have a huge impact on the way LHC data is analyzed.

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The image is an illustration depicting subatomic particles emerging from a proton-proton collision. The various lines denote the trajectories of subatomic particles emerging from the collision center.

"The proton-proton collisions are similar to the collisions during the Big Bang that created the universe," Spraker said.

That is one reason Wilson got involved. The second was getting hands-on research experience.

"It's a completely different way of learning," he said. "Before, I learned by sitting in class and listening. Now I am learning by doing."

Psychological science faculty Dr. Bryan Dawson and Dr. John Dewey are pleased with the work their SUPRE student is doing this summer and are looking toward more research opportunities.

"We hope to be able to pilot test some new video stimuli that the student is currently creating during the summer as it allows us to work out any problems before collecting additional data for the fall," Dawson said.

Here is complete list of the FUSE and SUPRE grants. For more information about FUSE and other research opportunities, visit the CURCA website.

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