Research roundup: Students share input on summer research projects

Natalie Spears, Special Features Editor

Some think of summer as a time to unwind, relax, and take a needed break from school work. For a number of University students, however, the months of May-July mark a period of intense research. Students from different fields of study designed and conducted research projects this past summer to further their knowledge, and their community’s knowledge, on a relevant topic. Many of these students received praise for their innovative ideas at the Susquehanna Valley Undergraduate Research Symposium (SVURS).

Female black safety

Amarachi Ekekwe ’18, a psychology and women’s and gender studies major, created a thoughtful research project on the perceived safety of black women around different parts of campus and the town of Lewisburg, with funding from the Bucknell Institute for Public Policy. She interviewed female black students and recent alumni, gauging how safe they felt at specific locations, and their associations, both positive and negative, with those locations. Ekekwe was motivated to research this topic because she has personally experienced issues of safety within the female black community.

“A lot of my friends who identify as Black women continuously told me that they were going through the same things I was going though and I thought it was time that we as a school addressed these problems,” Ekekwe said.

Ekekwe used her research to propose new policies for the University to make black women feel more safe and secure on and around campus. She was particularly impressed with how sincere University officials were in hearing her findings and helping make change.

“[The University officials’] willingness to listen to my research was something that I appreciated and they all were very interested in figuring out how they could help,” Ekekwe said. To top it off, Ekekwe won the ‘Audience Favorite’ award at the SVURS.

“[The award] made me feel like all my hard work was worth it and that people really understood and appreciated the work that I did,” Ekekwe said.

Discovering a species

Mae Lacey ’18, an animal behavior major, had the unique opportunity to conduct research in the Australian outback in search of a new species of bush tomato. After conducting research back in Lewisburg, Lacey and her team, which included Associate Professor of Biology Chris Martine, concluded that they did, in fact, discover an undescribed species of bush tomato. They plan to confirm and publish this discovery in the near future. Lacey had always been interested in science and the environment, and was thrilled when she was presented with this opportunity.

“I have grown up spending a large amount of time in the outdoors with a compelling curiosity about our immensely biodiverse world. Therefore, gaining the opportunity to contribute to promoting biodiversity by working on naming a new species of bush tomato was an incredible experience,” Lacey said.

Lacey is particularly interested in the conservation of species, and believes that her new discovery will be beneficial in this regard.

“I believe that in identifying and naming this new species, Solanum jobsonii, we have taken leaps towards including it in any conservation work to be carried out in the Northern Territory, Australia,” Lacey said.

While the experience was extremely rewarding, Lacey admits that there were some challenges along the way. This was her first time doing intense research and she wanted to live up to expectations.

“Realizing and accepting my limits and weaknesses but also knowing when to remain confident in myself and my abilities was a balance I struggled to maintain during this time,” Lacey said.

Lacey plans to continue her research on similar topics and complete the project on Solanum jobsonii.

“I love to research plant-animal interactions, so my end goal would be to devise another project … that continues to foster my interests in that field,” Lacey said.

Internet privacy

Stephanie Garboski ’18 and Brooke Bullek ’18 researched the “intersectionality between privacy and human-computer interaction,” according to Garboski. This topic is especially prevalent due to the ever-increasing role of the internet and the ubiquity of computing in our society. Garboski noted that the importance of the topic stems from people’s willingness to relinquish private information on the Internet. Garboski and Bullek worked with Assistant Professors of Computer Science Darakhshan Mir and Evan Peck.

Garboski and Bullek were among only three other researchers or research groups chosen in advance to present their studies at SVURS. Garboski was excited to share what they learned in their research with a large group of people.

“The privacy technique we used called differential privacy has become a lot bigger, and it’s important that people develop an understanding of how it works so they know how their privacy is protected,” Garboski said.

Garboski and Bullek plan to continue their computer science research with Mir and Peck this academic year.

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