Outlook

Research Colloquium showcases student projects, pride

Friday, September 28, 2007

Electrical Engineering

Electrical engineering students Matt Gesmundo, left, and Kelly Honeck watch as Tim Peterson demonstrates the digitally controlled analog transceiver they built as a senior design project.

"Generally we kind of hide out in our own little corner, but this gave us a chance to see what other students are doing," said Peterson, Maple Grove. He and his project mates, Honeck of Maple Grove and Gesmundo of Buffalo, all earned their degrees in May. They started preliminary research on their senior project – required of all electrical engineering majors – in summer and began the project, titled "Digitally Controlled Analog Transceiver," in earnest during fall semester.

Peterson credits Gesmundo, a ham radio enthusiast, with the inspiration to build what essentially is a ham radio controlled by a computer instead of knobs and buttons. "We wanted to create a ham radio that has an analog signal path more fine-tuned to the band that we’re listening to and talking on, and we also wanted the flexibility of a computer interface and embedded system," he said.

"The colloquium is an excellent opportunity for our projects to be displayed," Peterson said. The campus-wide event brings together students, faculty members and community participants involved in scholarly and artistic activities. The projects – offered as poster displays, oral presentations of papers, panel discussions and performances – are scheduled throughout a single April day in Atwood Memorial Center.

Ashley Toenjes

Ashley Toenjes delivers her presentation on "Global Politics: NGOs and the Afghan Women’s Movement." The purpose of her research was to clarify the role of non-governmental organizations in local politics, particularly in Afghanistan on organizations such as the Revolutionary Afghan Women’s Association.

Research is considered a vital component of higher education at SCSU, and the colloquium represents research in all disciplines, including creative arts, mathematics, business, social sciences, humanities, physical and life sciences and engineering. "The colloquium is a unique opportunity for students to showcase what they’ve accomplished by working one-on-one with their faculty mentors," said Richard Rothaus, assistant vice president for research and faculty development.

"Not only is this the ultimate in active learning, we also get the bonus of scholars from so many disciplines taking a day out to learn from each other," Rothaus said. "When I see faculty from one field being inspired by students in another, I know we have achieved the best learning environment a university can have."

The range of projects is evident in the variety of titles, including: "HIV/AIDS in India: An Awareness," "Current Research in Solar Cells and Their Practical Applications," "Automator Chop Saw," "Global Warming: Is It Human Induced?" and "The Effect of Divorce on Sibling Attachment."

Geography Majors

Geography majors Jamie Wheeler, seated, and Chelsea Bagent relax after giving presentations, Wheeler on Russian airports and Bagent on what plant remnants reveal about geography.

Jamie Wheeler ’07, Jackson, and Chelsea Bagent ’07, Battle Lake, were inspired by the same geography professor, Mikhail "Misha" Blinnikov, who grew up in Moscow, to research very diverse topics for their senior projects. Wheeler’s presentation was "Barriers to Russian Air Transportation – Why Russian Citizens Stay Put" and Bagent’s was "What Phytoliths Can Tell Us About the Geography of Plants."

Wheeler researched the obstacles that keep Russian citizens from traveling by air – high costs, an underdeveloped and under-marketed air transportation network, and lack of information and data. Bagent’s project involved counting phytoliths – silica-based microscopic structures left behind from decayed plants – from the Alaska and Yukon regions of what was once ancient Beringia. The span of land existed during the Ice Age on the edge of the Arctic, connecting what is now Siberia and Alaska, and Bagent’s project was aimed at helping determine what differences in vegetation and what climate existed in the lost land.

That such vastly disparate topics could be researched by two women in the same major under the same professor is no surprise to Wheeler and Bagent. "That just shows how cool Misha (Blinnikov) is," Wheeler said. "He knows so much about so many aspects of geography."

"And how diverse the field of geography is," Bagent added, "that you can go anywhere with it."

"The whole geography department is just wonderful," Bagent said. Gareth John, an assistant geography professor in his second year at SCSU, was project sponsor for Wheeler and Bagent’s research presentations. A native of Wales, John is as enthusiastic about his department as the two students. "This is a very student-oriented culture," the professor said.

The Research Colloquium balances the tension that sometimes exists between teaching and research, John said. "It motivates students to design their own research and develop ideas, concepts and methodologies. They experience developing a project over the course of a semester or longer. That ownership really does inspire them." Wheeler agreed. "It’s an opportunity to show off what I’ve been working on," she said of her project presentation. "It’s something we can be proud of."

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