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Students explore research as part of summer institute

Have you ever wondered why some fish swim in schools while others swim alone? Have you ever considered whether sitting on a ball instead of a chair might improve your attentiveness or even your academic achievement? How about using a mathematical algorithm in a marketing approach in a beer brand selection? These were just a few of the questions that 16 Winston-Salem State University students spent the summer exploring as part of WSSU’s Summer Research Fellowship program.

The program is open to all students and provides an introduction to research methodology, scholarly activities, and ethical issues in research. Students are assigned and supervised by faculty member who serves as a senior investigator and a mentor. At the conclusion of the fellowship, each fellow presented 10-minute condensed summary of his/her investigation.

Alexus Deese, a sophomore computer science major from Monroe, N.C., wanted to know if Google’s PageRank Algorithm could be used as a reliable predictor in base malt beer selection.

“Since base malts are very similar, when comparing them to each other it can be hard to gather sufficient data,” Deese said. “The PageRank algorithm is a reliable choice when solving our problem since it computes and compares over 20 billion websites a day.” Deese took her computational theory to a local brewery to collect data to test her selection theory on customers. “I discovered that this algorithm could be applied to any marketing problem as long as there's a large quantity of the product and if they're very similar, which can result in getting reliable rankings for the product."

Kyung Whan Woo, a junior biology major from Winston-Salem, N.C., wanted to see if surface-enhanced Raman spectroscopy could be used as an alternative testing method for a faster detection of HIV.

“HIV is an ongoing epidemic infection around the world. Current methods for detecting HIV takes a considerable amount of time,” said Woo. “The technique proves to be highly sensitive, accurate, and specific. The development of this technique would be beneficial in a clinical setting.”

“Could you really be more attentive and learn more by sitting on a ball,” Taylor Evans, a senior special education major from Fayetteville, N.C., wondered.

“My research study compared the academic and behavioral performances of fifth-grade students at Petree Elementary with and without replacing the traditional classroom chairs with exercise balls,” Evans said. What she discovered from concluding surveys, and observations, was quite revealing.

“Over 97 percent of the students stated that they enjoyed sitting on the exercise balls and 80 percent of students preferred them as opposed to the traditional classroom chairs,” Taylor said. “Forty-seven percent of the students found that they focused more in class, and nearly 50 percent had an increase in their academic performance.”

Senior political science major and sociology minor, Mona Zahir of Charlotte, N.C., said she wanted to examine the impact of entrepreneurial and innovative initiatives at Historically Black Colleges and Universities by examining the living/learning communities on WSSU’s campus.

“The findings suggest students in living-learning residential halls exhibit stronger academic achievement and intellectual disposition in comparison to traditional residence halls. Additionally, findings indicate that African-Americans have extremely high entrepreneurial spirits, but do not engage in entrepreneurial endeavors although they have the potential to do so,” she said.

Zahir said that by completing a study on HBCU students about their entrepreneurial desires and discovering that their ambition conflicted with school, served as the basis for a proposal to have HBCU’s incorporate co-curriculums on entrepreneurship and innovation in residential halls to create an intellectual ecosystem for their aspirations, to cultivate innovative entrepreneurial mindsets, and prevent conflict with their studies.

The following were collaborators in the 2016 Undergraduate Summer Research Fellowship Institute program:

  • Camille Branch
    Faculty Mentor Denise Johnson, Ph.D.
  • Imani Clark
    Faculty Mentor Steven Viscido, Ph.D.
  • Jeri Craddock
    Faculty Mentor Tangela Towns, Ph.D.
  • Alexus Deese
    Faculty Mentor Mark Hunnell, Ph.D.
  • Taylor Evans
    Faculty Mentor Lynn Zubov, Ph.D.
  • Tyquan Haynes
    Faculty Mentor Notis Pagiavlas, Ph.D.
  • Michael Lewis
    Faculty Mentor Dawn Henderson, Ph.D.
  • Kiana Rushdan
    Faculty Mentor Azeez Aileru, Ph.D.
  • Joshua Sermon
    Faculty Mentor Fran Oates, Ph.D.
  • Erin Sweeney
    Faculty Mentor JoAnn Coco-Ripp, Ph.D.
  • Inayah Turner
    Faculty Mentor Dawn Tafari, Ph.D.
  • Kyung Whan Yoo
    Faculty Mentor Jafar Gharavi-Naeini, Ph.D.
  • Mona Zahir
    Faculty Mentor Notis Pagiavlas, Ph.D.

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