Bucknellians participate in award-winning research

Gillian Feehan, Campus Life Editor

University students Sayeh Bozorghadad ’15, Stephanie Gonthier ’15, and Daisy Bourne ’15, along with Ingrid Jordon-Thaden—a post-doctoral associate in Associate Professor of Biology Chris Martine’s botany lab—achieved great successes in research this summer.

Bozorghadad, Gonthier, and Bourne each won project awards at the fourth annual Susquehanna Valley Undergraduate Research Symposium. At the symposium, undergraduate researchers presented their summer research before an audience and competed for awards.

Bozorghadad, who won the clinical/transitional category, worked with Geisinger Health System in Danville, Pa. to create a patient discharge navigation program for the general surgery department. Bozorghadad conducted three phases of research—the first with no discharge navigators, the second with one navigator, and the third with three navigators—to see the effect the number of navigators had on patient discharge efficiency.

“We compared [the three] phases and saw [patient discharge] got more efficient with one navigator and even more efficient with two navigators—more patients were being discharged earlier in the day,” Bozorghadad said.

The hospital will continue to utilize Bozorghadad’s research in the hopes of making the hospital discharge process more efficient.

“The next phase of the project will look specifically within the last phase when both of the navigators were there and compare if the time the discharge order was written affected when the patient actually left the hospital,” Bozorghadad said.

Another University student, Gonthier, won the project award in the natural sciences and engineering category. Gonthier worked to develop a word prediction algorithm for speech generating devices, which turn text into speech, in order to speed up the communication process. These devices are used by people with multiple sclerosis or stroke victims who can no longer speak.

“My mom is a speech pathologist and she works with speech generating devices, so I’ve seen first hand how difficult it is for people to communicate effectively with them,” Gonthier said. “One of the big problems with these devices is that people communicate really slowly with them, so we were hoping that by developing a word prediction algorithm they would have to spend less time typing in each word. Rather than typing the word ‘listening,’ which is going to take nine keystrokes, they would be able to press one button if the word ‘listening’ popped up on a suggestions list.

Gonthier will continue her research for her next two semesters at the University.

Additionally, Bourne took home an award in the social sciences and humanities category for her statistical analysis of government reactions to the Arab Spring.

Away from the University, Jordon-Thaden—along with Claremont Colleges doctoral candidate Tommy Stoughton and Ian Gilman ’15—traveled to Yukon and the Rocky Mountains to continue her research on arctic and alpine plant species. For the past three summers, Jordon-Thaden has studied the evolution of new plant species through a plant’s DNA.

“Once multiple [plants] from multiple populations are collected, we look for single nucleotide polymorphisms—one or two mutations in a gene region that are different between samples,” Jordon-Thaden said.

From these DNA differences, Jordon-Thaden can tell when a population arose. Populations with the most genetic mutations compared to their relatives are considered to be the oldest. This allows Jordon-Thaden to discover when a species first populated a region and also study the effects that the environment has had on the species over time.

Jordon-Thaden successfully raised $7,000 to fund her excursion. Jordon-Thaden posted her project on the website experiment.com, and there, where family, friends, colleagues, and even strangers were able to donate to her project. To further her research, she plans to travel to British Columbia, Alberta, and Colorado in the future. Will she crowdfund her next expedition? 

“Now that I have my backers who understand what I did and support me, I think it would be highly likely,” Jordon-Thaden said.

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