Undergraduate Research Takes Center Stage at Convocation

“Math is something only smart people can do.”
“Eosinophils could fit into a Star Wars narrative.”
“We make Jesus more like us.”

These sensational claims share a common thread: Each was explored this past summer by professor-student research teams. And last week, they shared their findings at the annual Undergraduate Research Convocation.

This very event last year is what sparked an idea in Courtney Vitale ’17, one of the presenters. “It immediately struck me,” she says. “As an elementary education and math double major, I often get questions that could be summed up as, ‘Why would you ever do that?’ which has caused me to question fairly often, “Why do we teach math in this negative light?”

Professor of Education Dr. Mindy Eichhorn cited her colleague, Professor of Mathematics Dr. Richard Stout’s growth-learning pedagogy as an antidote to this line of thought.

Professor of Biology Dr. Angie Cornwell brought an air of comedy to the academic convocation, as she likened her research subject, eosinophils (parasites that block circulatory flow and cause gross inflammation of limbs), to members of the Dark Side in Star Wars.

Courtney Olbrich ’17 recounted the unique process of analyzing cells in mice using a  detecting mechanism that would turn harmful cells green. By better understanding how eosinophils function, scientists hope to minimize the effects of Crohn’s disease and respiratory asthma.

Finally, Professor of Psychology Dr. Jonathan Gerber and Hannah Reimel ’17 presented their research on the idea that when we don’t know someone, we make them more like us—even when that person is Jesus.

“Research may be pretty daunting to some people—just looking at a computer screen and numbers all day long,” Reimel said about the data-synthesizing process. “But it actually meant a lot to me. I was able to learn more about statistics than I had in any of classes here at Gordon in just those four short weeks.”

They found from their Gordon student sample that approximately 75 percent think they have a personality similar to Jesus’s, 12 percent didn’t completely align their personality with that of Jesus and only one participant thought they were profoundly different.

Perhaps, it is in that one outlier that a research project waits to be accessed.

By Dan Simonds ’17, communication arts