Published: Tues., April 17, 2018
The Spring Research Fair at UNL is an opportunity for graduate students to share some of the research they have been conducting during their time at UNL. Students representing a variety of disciplines, ranging from anthropology to electrical engineering, presented their work. Below, some of the examples of the great work being done by our graduate students.
He began his research project with the intent of wanting to simplify the research process and making it available and to be better understood by the average consumer. His study, Indices to Determine the Environmental and Economic Impact of Using an Electric Vehicle Over Gasoline or Hybrid Vehicles on a Regional Basis, compared whether an electric vehicle is more environmentally friendly when compared to non-electric vehicles in certain parts of the United States. Even though electric cars are labeled as “green,” they can still produce greenhouse gases based on the where the energy is derived from (coal, nuclear, etc.). His plan continues to offer an application for this information to make its way to consumers.
Special Education and Communication Disorders
Effective interventions of children and parents of children in Neonatal Intensive Care Units (NICUs) can significantly affect a child's development after they are released. Studying early intervention programs connected with NICUs she sought to see what impact these programs may be having on parent and ultimately the child's wellbeing. She found that parent-focused programs seem to impact the parents' confidence to address their child's needs. Interestingly, there seemed to be a correlation lower birth weight and greater levels of parental self-efficacy and confidence. Kerry hopes that further research can help make sense these results. Designing programs that help parents successfully address their child's needs after a NICU stay will help ensure that those children successfully grow and develop.
Anthropologists can learn a great deal from the everyday artifacts left behind for later generations. For Jade, studying ceramics found in the privies of late 19th century Nebraskan homes provided important insights into their daily lives. This interdisciplinary project allows her to integrate traditional archaeological techniques with the digital curation through programs, like OMEKA. In the diverse collection of items, artifacts can help identify the wealth and lifestyle of different individuals in the area. The most surprising find were pieces that appeared to be from the Middle East with no evidence of how they came to be there. This works can help us better understand the way people in the past and how their lives have affected how we live today.
For those living with chronic illnesses, deciding what to share with others can be a big decision. Heather's work examined how individuals with chronic illnesses navigate social interactions. She found that patients often concealed the illness from those in their lives in order to prevent family and friends from defining them solely by their disease and treating them differently as a result. When they do choose to reveal the illness, they want it to be acknowledged but not to be a major part of all of their interactions with that person and that they often seek support primarily from those with similar illnesses. Heather hopes that this work can help in developing tools to help support those with chronic illnesses and their family and friends.
Cyberbullying has been a topic of conversation for many years. Working in Sue Swearer's lab, Katelyn is trying to better understand cyberbullying behavior especially as related to gender identity or sexual orientation, in the hopes of preventing it. While sexual orientation differences had less impact on bullying experiences, gender identity, especially for transgender individuals, was significantly associated with cyberbullying. Bullying also tended to increase with age as interactions with social media increased. She encourages parents and school officials to take bullying seriously and to investigate and use the evidence to respond proportionally. While cyberbullying can happen at any time, it no doubt affects students' school performance so parents and schools should work together to address it.
Food Science and Technology
For many, lowering their cholesterol can truly be life-saving. While advice on how to do so abounds, An chose to examine the potential health impacts of pinto beans on cholesterol. Using hamsters as test subjects, due to their similar physiology to humans, he was able to study the impacts of pinto beans on overall health. The addition of pinto beans, even in an otherwise high saturated fat diet, was shown to reduce the production of cholesterol.
Accurate measurements of groundwater discharge (the movement of water for the subsurface to the surface) is important for helping us understand how this process may be affecting the ecosystem or environment. Mason's work compared previous methods of measuring this discharge with newer methods. He found that informed measures (versus more random, non-informed measures) were better at identifying and measuring points with greater groundwater discharge, allowing us to have more accurate estimates. Using temperature data to arrive at better estimates of this process to better understand the effect on the environment.
How do future mathematics teachers read math texts? That was the question at the center of Ariel's study. Using eye tracking software she examined what they focused on most when reading pages from math instruction books. Participants tended to focus more so on student materials than on teacher materials and in particular they spent considerable time focusing on in-class problems or practice sets. This work has important implications for how we prepare teachers and the need to better help them not only read the text like a student, but like a teacher should.
Electrical and Computer Engineering
Anyone who has travelled on a high speed train knows that wireless access can be spotty. Subharthi wanted to change that by improve the baseline performance of broadband wireless for train passengers and making the access less dependent on factors such as change in location and antenna quality. Subharthi found it interesting that there were techniques to limit the disruption and breaks in wireless communication while the trains were moving, even at very high speeds. He sees the application of his research in improving wireless communication on trains (especially passenger trains like Amtrak), regardless of the terrain (e.g., mountains, valleys, hills). Subharthi has two years left to finish his Ph.D. and wants to work for NASA after that.
Textiles, Merchandising and Fashion Design
Most of us probably don't give much thought to how items are displayed when shop online. Using eye tracking software, this study focused on understanding people's viewing habits when shopping online. This software helps us identify what people focus on and for how long. The biggest challenge of this work was learning to use the new technology, but that challenge is outweighed by the information that a study like this can provide. Hopefully, this work can help us better design online stores even integrating virtual reality into the experience.
Electrical and Computer Engineering
Emergency vehicles and disaster relief groups often need to reach more remote rural communities. Shengjie's work looks to improve the process of getting first responders to those communities so that we can provide better service to the rural areas. He was drawn to this project because he saw that 2017 had many natural disasters in the U.S. Shengjie found it interesting when comparing land vehicles (e.g., ambulances, fire trucks) and air vehicles (e.g., life flights, weather planes). His research found ways to improve response time, satisfaction of victims, quality of services, and cost efficiency. One application was identifying optimal response routes in a 4 x 4 mile area in western Nebraska.
In music classes and voice studios, it is fairly common to use exercise equipment (e.g. balance balls) to help students have the correct posture and breath technique. While this technique is widespread, we don't really understand if and how effective it might be. Julie's work set out to help answer that question. Looking at three commonly used methods (Exercise Band, Exercise Ball, and Bosu Ball), Julie noted that there seemed to be variable effects. A singer’s age, gender, number of years of study, technical challenges, and physical health may influence which training aid works for that individual. She hopes to continue the work and explore how those different characteristics might affect the efficacy of a particular piece of equipment.
Biological Systems Engineering
Growing up in Broken Bow, Nebraska, Tyler Kozisek, a Biological Systems graduate student, had aspirations of going to medical school. However, his approach to medical research led him to working with stem cells in Dr. Angela Pannier’s lab at UNL. His project presented a way to genetically modify a patients’ cell outside of the body and insert it back into the human body (think bone or skin grafts). Kozisek’s hope to advance science led him to his work and he is excited about the potential for applying it to the chemical priming library by screening for the National Institute for Health, which contains over 725 clinically approved drugs. Kozisek’s commitment to the medical field will allow him to keep up the work in human stem cell research beyond his graduate work.
Robert Swyka, Virendra Tiwari, and Gaurav Kudalkar
Biofuels and bioethanol are increasing being used to meet our energy needs. In particular, this groups of researchers is focusing on lignocellulose, a biopolymer available in great quantities from the production of bioethanol. Instead of simply burning this fraction, their research groups are interested in extracting this lignin and utilizing it to produce functionalized chemical feedstocks and value added compounds. Better understanding the structure and function of these biopolymers could help us use them more effectively.