KOKOMO, Ind. —Experiencing a global pandemic, a contentious election, and racial unrest provided unique research opportunities in 2020.
The Crises of 2020: IU Kokomo Student Research Symposium, provided a virtual forum for 41 students to present posters and presentations of research in areas including communication, literature, science, ethics, nursing, politics, racial justice, and inequality, among others.
Sponsored by the School of Humanities and Social Sciences and the Honors Program, it replaced the annual spring undergraduate research symposium, which was canceled because of COVID-19 restrictions.
“Our goal was to help students bring in theories and ideas from various academic disciplines, to process what they’ve experienced this year, and what we’re experiencing as a culture right now,” said Erin Doss, assistant professor of communication, who chaired the event.
The Zoom format worked well for discussion, between being able to ask questions in the chat, and then refer back to them in open discussion.
“Overall, we had some of the best discussions I’ve seen at a student research symposium,” she said. “I think the relevant, current topics of the symposium prompted more discussion and engagement. Everyone has experienced these things in a personal way this year, and felt more connected to the research and presentations.”
A panel of faculty judges selected award winners among posters and live presentations.
Top poster recipients included: Devon Wright, Lafayette, Symbolic Convergence Theory and COVID-19; Sophia Magnorfi, Galveston, A Divided Nation; Gabby Dunkin, Kokomo, Black Lives Matter as a Television Spectacle; and Shaylie Stucker, Kokomo, Voter Suppression in Alabama.
Top presentation awards went to Mallory Naselroad, Alexandria; Political Polarization: How Has Social Media Communication Increased Polarization of Political Parties?; and Aaliyah Miranda, Logansport, The Importance of Having a Culturally Sustaining, Relevant, and Responsive Pedagogy In Education.
Zach Cowsert and Evan Kozienski both presented posters based on research with Hisako Masuda, assistant professor of biochemistry, studying proteins in COVID-19.
Cowsert, a senior biology major, said he reviewed current studies looking at differences between proteins in the current coronavirus and the previous one, to find similarities that could lead to treatments.
“It was only a few months ago they were actually putting this literature out there to look at,” the Greentown resident said. “It was nice to have that access, even though being new, it limits what information is available,” he said, adding that they also could download the protein sequence on a computer to get a close look.
“It helped a lot with getting a better understanding of how proteins have a function,” he said. “Until you look at a specific one, you won’t make the connection between how it can affect us. This gives us a better understanding of medical research.”
Kozienski, also a senior biology major from Greentown, examined what he called the spike protein, which is what is being used in vaccine development, and also looked at genetic components that seem to determine who might have a mild case, and who might get very sick.
“It was really cool to be able to see this in the news, and then read the papers from emerging science, and see how these things are working, and have a better understanding,” he said.
Additional students participating included: Rebekah Burnette, Emily Conner, Emilee Cregar, Grady Davis, Stella Doan, Kara Funk, Mark Goudy, Isabel Harsh, Hannah Hudson, Cristian Juarez Mora, Kelsey Kennedy, Elora C. Klepinger, Zain Loges, Christine Martini, Sydney McIlrath, Hannah Mendenhall, Jessica Monize, Robert Moore, Sarah Murdock, Britney Netherton, Katie Newswanger, Lorelei Porter, Gabrielle Randall, Asya Randolph, Sarah Reel, Jerika Schroeder, Laurel Shade, Sam Sinclair, Jared Smith, and Amber Willard.