Show and Tell Time for Student Researchers

Students in the behavioral and natural sciences and the humanities share recent work
Christena Cleveland (far right) with Stephanie Kief, Ashley Sharp and Bekah Cherry

Christena Cleveland (far right) with Stephanie Kief, Ashley Sharp and Bekah Cherry

Jay Howard and two friends lived on the street for a week to study how the homeless interact with each other and with passersby. Chris Sullivan and Chris Morse plotted orbits for asteroids using Westmont’s Keck Telescope. Robin Elliott worked on making Web-based communication systems more secure. These students and more than 50 others worked closely with professors from seven departments to present 34 projects at the 13th Annual Westmont College Research Symposium April 22.

For a class assignment, psychology professor Christena Cleveland asked students in her experimental psychology course to design a study, carry it out and present their findings at the symposium.

“These projects require students to creatively and systematically apply their scientific knowledge to find answers to real-world questions,” she says. “This process greatly enhances students’ critical thinking skills, increases scientific literacy, and hopefully stimulates a life-long commitment to understanding and appreciating our nuanced and diverse world. As a class, we have discussed the relationship between science and faith and have concluded that sharp thinking combined with a hope that can only be found in Jesus will put us on the path toward living missional lives in the world.”

Cleveland commended two projects, “The Effects of Religiosity and Death Salience on Suicide Ideology” by Elizabeth Gess and Ashley Florian and “Cognitive Neoassociation and Displaced Aggression” by Megan Barrett, William Hochberger, and Andres Caro for “demonstrating sophisticated theoretical integration and elegant design.”

Cassandra Joiner, a communication studies major, created a 17-minute video instead of a poster to document the use of religious symbols in advertisements. She raised pertinent questions about the growing trend to employ Christian words and images in marketing products and ideas.

Sarah Keller and Rachel Mertensmeyer.

Sarah Keller and Rachel Mertensmeyer.

Jordan Johnson and Katie Zirschky.

Jordan Johnson and Katie Zirschky.

Are programs like Jon Stewart’s The Daily Show an effective source of information about current events? Sarah Keller and Rachel Mertensmeyer tested viewers of The Daily Show to see how well they remembered what they saw and found they recalled just as much as those who watched network news shows.

Chemistry students Katie Zirschky, Timothy Newton, Jordan Johnson and Brittany Hammer created an experimental salt-water aquarium to see if they could sustain sponges and tunicates for future study.

The most poetic entry belonged to English major Elliott Haught who presented his study of the religious verse of con-temporary poets Scott Cairns and Denise Levertov.

A number of students assisted professors in their ongoing research. For example, Lauren Brown examined T-cell proliferation in the arthritic mice that biology professor Eileen McMahon is studying. Three groups of students collaborated with chemistry professor Alan Nishimura who continues to work with adlayers and surface chemistry.

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