The effect of childhood abuse on a person’s feelings about being judged by others.
Can a scientific device made of LEGOs actually work?
How thinking about sex all the time can lead to dangerous and illegal acts.
Gun laws’ connection to firearm offenses.
Making computers run faster.
Fake news. Mysticism. Nanoparticles. Frogs.
You name it, the subject was probably discussed during the UTC Spring Research and Arts Conference—formerly known as ReSEARCH Dialogues—held Wednesday, April 12, at the University of Tennessee at Chattanooga.
About 500 students, faculty and staff presented the results of their semester-long research projects.
“For students, it’s a really good way to showcase the hard work that they’ve done with their research,” said Lisa Piazza, executive director of the UTC Office of Undergraduate Research and Creative Endeavor.
High school students also attended the conference—an excellent opportunity to showcase offerings at UTC, Piazza said.
“It’s outreach and helping the community see all of the neat and really important research being done here at UTC,” she said.
Kelly Davis, who teaches gifted classes in the Chattanooga School of Arts and Sciences High School, brought her students to the Spring Research and Arts Conference to learn how to conduct research and display the results.
“I brought students who are going to be doing either history fair or science fair projects next year,” she said. “Most of these kids are freshmen and sophomores, so some of them haven’t done a research project yet, and I thought it would be helpful for them to see the quality of research that the students here are doing.
“For my science students, in particular, some of them are actually networking with some of the professors for some possible collaboration on their projects next year.”
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2023 Spring Research and Arts Conference projects include:
“The Effects of Book Censorship on Elementary Education: A Teacher’s Perspective”
- Brailey Angel, Natalie Clark, Amy Day, Ella Grant, Grace McAlister, Jaylee Rose, Megan Waldrep
Removing books from the shelves of elementary schools is ticking off a lot of teachers, but they don’t seem to want to talk about it.
When they started their research, a group of seven UTC seniors in social work contacted more than 20 teachers in the Hamilton County and Bradley County school systems, asking their opinions on books under scrutiny and how it affected their ability to teach.
“She said that it was not an issue at her school,” said Brailey Angel, who graduated from Bledsoe County High in Pikeville, Tennessee. “I even sent handwritten notes to the teachers saying, ‘Please look through the email. Please respond.’”
Natalie Clark, who graduated from Heritage High School in Ringgold, Georgia, said she thinks the teachers were apprehensive about responding.
“I think the controversial nature of the topic was part of why we had a hard time getting people to respond,” she said. “I think that it’s so political, too, that people don’t like talking about that sometimes, even if they are really against the censorship, and it has negatively affected them.”
Stymied by the teachers, the team plowed through available interviews with teachers and librarians in newspaper and magazines, news videos and peer-reviewed journals. Through their research of available literature, they found six major themes:
- Restricted reading: Children should have the freedom to read what they choose.
- Preservation of history through literature: We would lose a sense of history if we continue to censor books.
- Community involvement: The effect reading graphic material has on children.
- Teachers: Freedom of choice being taken away from youth.
- Parents: Causes harm and hate by removing safe resources.
- Students: Teaching a lack of inclusion to students.
For now, the topic is too much of a hot button for teachers to discuss out of fear of retribution from their school systems or parents.
“Ideally, you would have the time to calm people down and have them participate in the study,” Clark said. “I think it would be important to hear it directly from teachers.”
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“Voices of Revolution: Ukrainian War Poetry”
- Mary Klepper, Kat Johnson, Isaac Morgan, Madalynn Pendergrass
The collection “Words for War: New Poems from Ukraine” was written by 15 Ukrainian poets between the Russian invasion of the Crimea Peninsula in 2014 and 2018.
Poets in the country haven’t had much time to compose since the Russian invasion in February 2022, but you can get a pretty good idea of what they might write by reading “Words of War.”
“I think it’s really interesting that we can look at some things from what happened previously that are happening now, as well. It’s still going on,” said Isaac Morgan, who will graduate from Walker Valley High School in May and also earn an associate degree in science from Cleveland State Community College the same month.
He and three other students from Cleveland chose a poet from “Voices of Revolution” to read and analyze.
“We were comparing them, looking for common themes on how each person was experiencing the war,” said Kat Johnson, a Cleveland High School graduate who will earn an associate degree in science from Cleveland State at the same time.
“We were taking specific examples from these literary perspectives to apply that to the whole of what’s happening in Ukraine,” Morgan said.
Along with the poems, the four students also sought out interviews, podcasts, speeches and other avenues to learn more about the poets.
Common themes from each poet included mental illness, hope, coping mechanisms, suicide rates. None were addressed in a positive light, Morgan said.
“I’d say they were astronomically negative. I don’t think there was anything positive,” he said.
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“The Role of Shame in the Relationships Among Childhood Maltreatment History, Fears of Evaluation and Associated Submissive Behaviors”
- Savannah Woods and Dr. Ashley Howell, assistant professor of Psychology
Shame derived from childhood abuse is a common reaction in victims, but even those not abused are uncomfortable being evaluated by others in social situations, according to Savannah Woods, who will earn a master’s degree in psychological science in May.
“In general, we don’t want to be evaluated. We don’t want the spotlight on us no matter what kind of spotlight it is,” she explained.
Positive evaluation can be as simple as someone saying, “I like you,” while negative may be “I don’t think you’re smart,” Woods said.
She used anonymous online surveys and face-to-face interviews for her research. Some of her subjects had been abused as children; some had not. During her research, she discovered something she hadn’t read in any of the scientific literature.
“The most surprising thing I found, so far, is that the severity of childhood maltreatment did not significantly relate to a fear of negative evaluation, but it did to a fear of positive evaluation, and that is the first time in literature that’s been found.”
In other words, shame from being abused made a person uncomfortable with praise because of feeling it was undeserved.
“It’s, ‘I don’t want to put any kind of evaluation on me because it’s going make me feel uncomfortable. It’s going to increase my feelings of shame, and it’s possibly going to increase me feeling those emotions I felt during maltreatment occurrences.’”
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“A LEGO Watt Balance: A Simple Model of an Apparatus to Determine the SI Unit of Kilogram Using the Fundamental Planck’s Constant”
- Nicholas Barron, Gaige Benkert, Matthew Boone, Iyu Cartwright, Lillian Gensolin, Evan Hubbard, Tian Li, Jackson Ricketts, William Ross, Dr. Tatiana Allen, UC Foundation Professor of Physics
Yes, the team built a four-foot-tall device out of bright-red LEGOs with the goal of measuring the precise weight of an object—a scientific method known as “metrology”—while also keeping the cost down to build the device.
In this case, about $2,000 for the LEGOs, computers, software and other networking needs.
“Every industry uses weights. I mean, you can step on the scale in the morning in the bathroom,” said Lillian Gensolin, a senior in physics who graduated from Collegedale Academy. “You want to make sure that, when you’re doing scientific experiments, that you have the actual, proper weight because it could go very poorly if you don’t.”
The device also “is very, very useful for outreach and education and generating interest among younger people specifically who want to go into physics, so this is practical and visual,” she said.
For his part, Matthew Boone, a sophomore from Hendersonville, Tennessee, who is majoring in physics, learned that Planck’s constant can take a complex topic and, with a bit of mathematical jiggering, be used in a number of ways to explain the concept.
“I guess it’s just the simplicity of it all,” he said about Planck’s constant: 6.62607015×10−34 joule-hertz−1.
In quantum mechanics, energy is exchanged and absorbed in specific amounts, called “quanta.” According to the U.S. National Institute of Standards and Technology, Planck’s constant is “a number that defines the amount of energy in those quanta and expresses how small things can be.”
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“Prevalent Diseases in Amphibians of the Southeastern United States and How to Minimize Transmission”
- Crystal Allen, Morgan Griffin, Katie Hemauer, Austin Stiltner
For some, frogs and salamanders are slimy critters that live in streams, muds and under wet rocks. Biologists—including future biologists—have a different perspective.
“They’re extremely important because they are great bio-indicators for their environment,” said Austin Stiltner, a senior in environmental science Springfield, Tennessee.
“They absorb water and oxygen through their skin, which means if there are any changes in the environment, they are going to be the first ones that react to it. That will help scientists act quickly.”
Quickly is needed. In the Southeast United States, 91 amphibian species are listed as “species of concern” and 19 are “critically imperiled.” The Southern Appalachian Mountains are an area with high amounts of endangered species.
“With the amphibian pet trade and other spreading of disease, nowhere is really safe from a disease,” said Stiltner, who graduated from Springfield High School. “We wanted to make sure we didn’t just focus on what has already been here, but what could be here.”
Most folks don’t mean to carry disease to amphibians, they simply don’t know they are. To transmit chytridiomycosis, one of the more common and serious diseases, just walking can be the culprit, he said.
“It’s present in stagnant bodies of water. When a parkgoer steps into that puddle of water and just keeps walking, they’re going to spread that chytridiomycosis into other places that they visit.”
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“Prediction of Bike Rental Usage with Linear Regression and K-Nearest Neighbors”
- Megan McCoy
The Saturday is beautiful. Temperatures are in the mid-70s. A slight, comfortable breeze.
People want to ride bikes. One rental stand is chockful of bikes while one a mile away is empty. Not efficient, but how do you predict where bikes will be a hot item and where they won’t?
Megan McCoy thinks you can.
Earning a Ph.D. in applied mathematics, she used two methods—one based in statistics, the other in machine learning—to determine whether one was more accurate to predict bike availability.
In the statistical method known as linear regression, several different pieces of data are gathered from a particular day and plugged into a mathematical formula.
“You try to predict how many bikes were rented on a given day given certain conditions. Whether it was working day. What the temperature was,” said McCoy, a graduate of Soddy-Daisy High School.
In the machine-learning method, known as K-Nearest Neighbors, a single point is selected on a map, then the number of bikes rented from locations surrounding the point are collected. Using those factors, it’s possible to predict how many bikes would be rented from the single point in the center.
It’s a method very similar to realtors checking the selling prices of houses in nearby neighborhoods to determine the price for a new listing.
Using her two methods is not just an exercise in statistical math and can be used in real-world situations, McCoy said.
“You could use these models to predict how many bikes are being rented on a given day, given certain conditions, to see if there are some improvements that could be made.
“Maybe people keep getting hit by cars, so maybe we need another bike lane.”
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