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A world of research opportunities

February 18, 2019

The annual Denman Undergraduate Research Forum provides student opportunities both close to home and around the world.

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Stacy Lu

COLUMBUS - Health promotion, Nutrition, and Exercise Science

Is childhood ADHD a result of food insecurity? Lu’s research indicates a disturbing connection. “I’ve always been passionate about advocating for vulnerable youth,” said Lu, a first-place selection at last year’s Denman. “Food insecurity research is limited, particularly in the context of pediatric mental health. I’m helping bring attention to a field of research that is small but important.” Part of Lu’s research found an association between food insecurity and the persistence of irritable, angry moods and consistent temper outbursts. Lu discovered her love of research when she began working for Irene Hatsu, her research advisor. “The research opportunities I’ve had through Ohio State have been life changing.”

Turner Adornetto

TANZANIA - Electrical and Computer Engineering

Adornetto arrived in Tanzania in the summer of 2017 with the intention of exploring the benefits of solar energy. What he didn’t know was what local Tanzanians thought of solar energy’s impact. Through numerous interviews, historical literature and other relevant documents, Adornetto uncovered a complex mix of views about the ramifications of science, technology and energy to the future of the region. He also found incredible innovations by ordinary Tanzanians that are being overlooked. “A prosperous, global energy future rests on the ability of the powerful to attend to these people and their innovations,” Adornetto said.

Ruozhao Chen

COLOMBIA - Agribusiness and Applied Economics

Highland Colombia produces two products the United States loves: coffee and cocaine. Of course, one is legal, the other isn’t. Chen researched the different routes each took to get from Colombia to Columbus. “It’s been one of the most thrilling and thought-provoking learning experiences I have had at Ohio State.” Her research boiled down to reviewing a slew of data from a variety of entities, including the World Trade Organization and the U.S. Office of National Drug Control Policy. Chen found that not only is the physical movement of coffee and cocaine different, but so are the price, strategy and speed at which they move toward the end consumer. (Cocaine gets to consumers much quicker.) “The simple decision of declaring the legality of a commodity has vast political, social and economic considerations for both the exporting and importing countries.”

Aminat Adewumi

COLUMBUS - Public Health

Adewumi’s research shined a light on a disturbing problem that hits close to home: black infant mortality. In Columbus, black infants die three times more than white infants — and it could be from everyday racial discrimination the mothers feel. Adewumi collected information on 280 pregnant women, then obtained the birth weight of their infants. The pregnant minority women who reported higher levels of everyday discrimination were likely to give birth to infants with low birth weight — a leading cause of infant mortality. It was consistent across all levels of education, income and body mass index.

Hilary Kordecki

CALIFORNIA - Animal Sciences

One reason Kordecki chose Ohio State was for its many research opportunities. And in this, her first research experience, she was “astonished how far our scientific research has come.” During a beekeeping class, she learned about Colony Collapse Disorder and its possible link to pesticide exposure. For this research, she investigated the effect Dyne-amic — a product that enhances pesticides — has on the honey bees that cross-pollinate almond flowers in California, which produces 80 percent of the world’s almonds. “My research indicated that Dyne-amic is capable of killing honey bee larvae and pupae, which is surprising given that (the product is) labeled non-toxic.

Kerry Stevens

CHINA - Chinese and International Studies

By analyzing numerous open access materials from government, faith-based and human rights organizations, Stevens shined a light on frightening trends within the Chinese marriage trade. The combination of China’s large gender imbalance due to its One Child Policy and North Korean female defectors, who began leaving home because of famine, has resulted in a gray market that supplies Chinese men with North Korean wives. What Stevens found was that the voices of the women involved are ignored even though they rarely choose to be sold into marriage and do so only in order to survive.  “If this problem is to improve, the people who have been affected are the voices that can bring about the most change.”

Marissa Monopoli

COLUMBUS - Zoology

Bats are incredibly important creatures, contributing an estimated $4 billion to U.S. agriculture each year in ecosystem services that include pest management, pollination and seed dispersal. However, wind farms are threatening their survival. In order to predict when bats are most active, Monopoli picked through the stomach contents of Eastern red bats collected from Ohio windfarms to determine what they were eating. She also modeled weather patterns that correlate to bat migration patterns in the Midwest. Its information windfarms could use to know when to operate and when not to. “I never thought any of my undergraduate work could have lasting importance. It’s given me the opportunity to play an active role in the conservation of a species I love.”

Ryan Moore

COLUMBUS - Political Science

Smartphones and internet use have become prevalent modes of information consumption in recent years, but there is large controversy over smartphone use in polling booths. Moore’s research set out to find out how smartphones and laptops can be used to make key decisions in voting booths. “As someone who both grew up in the midst of the Information Age and is keenly interested in politics,” Moore said. “I’ve always thought of technologies like smartphones as integral tools to being a democratic citizen.” Moore’s research findings suggested that individuals who had access to smartphones and were able to conduct information searches in the voting booth were associated with more sound voting decisions.

Kenza Kamal

PAKISTAN - Political Science

Through intense literature review and analysis of media reports and government documents evaluating the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC), Kamal hopes to expand the understanding of Pakistan past the lens of national security and further into the complexities that have shaped the region. CPEC began in 2015 as a way to enhance connectivity and relations between Pakistan and China. “As my studies in urbanization have shown me, new mass-scale developments often bring displacement and change.” Kamal’s research assesses CPEC’s function in Pakistan in driving primitive accumulation, the adoption of capitalism from pre-capitalist societies and how this is affecting not only politics in the region, but also the livelihood of citizens.

Maeve Scully

COLUMBUS - Geography

Combining art and geography is not the expected way to complete research on gentrification, but Scully achieved it. “My research is certainly out of the box and I’m lucky to have professors who help me to go after projects that push me,” said Scully. Her research used thorough statistical analysis and photography to acquire topological data on a neighborhood affected by gentrification in Columbus. This data captured social relationships, rather than the standard topographical data focusing on abandoned buildings, between different individuals and the environment and how the gentrification process affected the individuals that lived in the area.

Ana Mitchell

COLUMBUS - Anthropology

Understanding the lifestyles and environments of past populations relies heavily on the analysis of skeletal remains. There are two indexes used to assess skeletal health: the Health Index, which evaluates wellbeing, and the Skeletal Frailty Index (SFI), which evaluates stress. Mitchell’s research aimed to identify whether there were statistical differences between the two indexes. “Evaluating the health of past human populations is important in understanding and reconstructing past environments, population growth and socio-economic structures,” Mitchell said, and understanding how the two tests can be used together helps create better inferences about these populations. Her research found that the two indexes assessed health similarly, allowing for the tests to be used interchangeably depending on what skeletal data is available.

Rachel Beery

INDIA - Geography

Beery conducted 50 interviews in 31 villages near Melghat, India, to learn what women know about climate change and how they've adapted. Her findings aim to understand how future generations in that rural area can best make family planning choices. "It was awesome to have this experience as a first-generation student. Geographers like to study the world through maps and technology, but to actually experience the world and see what it's like, you learn more - and you learn how much you don't know yet."

Anthony Milian


Six weeks in Denmark followed by three weeks in Italy allowed Milian to dance with professionals and through interaction gain insight about their teaching methodologies and strategies to improve his own classes and choreography. "There was a big focus on kinesthetic learning and kinesthetic intelligence, which is simply learning by doing. I pinpointed three objectives about the use of the spine that I wanted to get across in teaching: fluidity, articulation, and origin of movement."

Dinushi Kulasekere

NEW ZEALAND - Economics

Kulasekere traveled to New Zealand in December for a second time to conduct an economic analysis of the scoring systems that are used in clinical care to classify the severity of spinal trauma injuries. "It's progression analytics looking at whether these types of scoring systems can be predictive of costs and the treatment process. I've learned about the research process and how much coordination it takes between all different actors involved in different parts of a project."

Collin Oborn

ICELAND - Earth Science

Don't question Oborn's dedication. He spent several nights sleeping in a car to save money during two research trips to Iceland, the second visit to study Herdubreid, one of the nation's 30 active volcanoes. "I collected a specific type of rock sample, analyzed the chemical composition, did calculations, and saw where the sample crystalized under the surface of the Earth. If you know how deep the manga is and its composition, you can get estimates of how long you have between precursor signs and eruption to help with evacuation times."

Joanne Ash

ANTARCTICA - Biological Engineering

Ash spent ten days on Earth's southernmost continent, Antarctica. Her research involved conducting a census of seabird populations, which are threatened by issues such as climate change and pollution. Ash inputted her data into a worldwide database, and her research helped gauge the effectiveness of conservation efforts. "I went down there because I always thought of Antarctica as this mysterious place. As a student, I knew Ohio State had a background in polar research, so I knew there must be a way to get down there so I could discover these mysteries about Antarctica," Ash said. "It's such a fragile place and a huge, unknown place. I'm so grateful I had this opportunity."

Hannah Tomaszeski

GUATEMALA - Criminology

Between 1960 and 1996, the people of Guatemala suffered through a violent civil war. For her research, Tomaszewski spent six weeks in the country to conduct in-depth interviews with residents. She got a deeper understanding of how their exposure to civil war has shaped their thoughts about justice and government. "It was very eye-opening. I've traveled a lot, but the places I've been are much more developed," said Tomaszewski, who embedded herself in the local culture during her time there. "This was a much different view of the world. We traveled by local buses, stayed in local homes. It was eye-opening to see how a country is really helping itself in the wake of such a tragedy."

Christian Moore

UNITED STATES - Landscape Architecture

The U.S. national park system is celebrating 100 years, but it faces increasing threats including climate change and soaring numbers of visitors, said Moore. He and five other students (Jenny Hoppert, Kevin Maas, Amanda Knight, Nick Armstrong and Brad Giordano) representing different fields of study set out across the country together and visited 30 national park sites, documenting everything from trail designs to traffic. The group is putting its research together in a book that will be given to the park system's planner and designers. "It was definitely an adventure, but it was a great collaboration," Moore said. "We had students representing civil engineering, mechanical engineering, biology and landscape architecture spending two months on the road together conducting this research. It was really fascinating."

Johnathan King

BOLIVIA - Environmental Sciences

King spent five weeks in Bolivia's Barba Azul Reserve, an especially daunting task considering there was no cell phone reception and he didn't speak the language. But he quickly immersed himself in the culture and went all-in on his research. He examined how cattle ranching is decreasing the country's forest land and is hindering endangered species like birds, which depend on those habitats. "My research in Bolivia immersed me in a brand new culture that also presented a lot of challenges during the field work," King said. "But by working through these problems in such a remote place where I couldn't get help easily, I feel really well-equipped for solving problems in the future."

Taylor Klass

UGANDA - Animal Sciences

Not only was Klass' experience in Uganda a great learning opportunity, but it confirmed for her that she wants to dedicate her life to helping farmers in need. Klass' research focused on small urban farmers in Uganda, who face several issues including lack of feed for their animals and limited access to veterinarians. "I would say that it was one of the best experiences of my college career. I absolutely loved it. I made a lot of great friends," Klass said. "For me, this project is basically what I want to do in the future. I want to work with small farmers in developing countries and provide extension to them. So it was actually a dream come true to talk with these farmers and show them that I care."

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