Undergraduate research highlighted at symposium

December 09, 2019 / by / 0 Comment
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Charis Courtney presented a study on heart rate and depression at the Undergraduate Learning Community and Research Symposium.

By Mike Kilen
GCU News Bureau

Serious research work is ongoing at the undergraduate level at Grand Canyon University. That was crystal clear when Charis Courtney took the Ethington Theatre stage Friday.

“Stress, anxiety and depression is an epidemic problem among young adults, especially in college,” said Courtney, describing the problem her group of student researchers and faculty advisors studied and presented at the Undergraduate Learning Community and Research Symposium.

Five groups presented research, among dozens of projects at GCU, and “today we get to celebrate the top ones,” said GCU Provost Dr. Hank Radda. “We are taking our curriculum and what we are learning and students’ passion and really working on something that is meaningful.”

Courtney said the need for her group’s research is clear. The rate of stress, anxiety and depression is 30-40% among GCU students, which “is on par with national statistics on college students.”

The study, “Heart Rate Variability: Physiological Effects of Stress, Anxiety, and Depression on the Autonomic Nervous System,” found that low heart rate variability is correlated with anxiety and depression.

The group studied college students with written surveys, electrocardiograms, blood pressure and other body metrics and found that when the autonomic nervous system does not return to normal level after environmental changes, it can be reflected in modifications in HRV, which is correlated with mood disorders and cardiac disease.

They studied factors such as sleep, exercise and caffeine that can affect HRV, but one thing especially stuck out.

“We thought this (correlation) had to do with lack of stress coping skills. We found as stress coping skills increased, anxiety scores decreased,” Courtney told the group, consisting of academic and executive leaders, professors and students who filled the auditorium. “Education about stress coping skills and other support systems should be readily available to college students.”

Alec Washington and Talia Brown presented research on opioid misuse.

Courtney, who graduated with a bachelor’s degree in biology last April, started the research with Dr. Anju Dubey and was joined by 10 other GCU students on the research and College of Science, Engineering and Technology (CSET) faculty advisors Dr. Chinenye Anako and Dr. Madhavi Chakravadhanula. After the program, she said that when they began the work two years ago “it was a fairly new concept and we were right on the edge with this.”

She said it’s important to continue the work and provide education about coping techniques because students today can be isolated on social media, “so they don’t seek out good social support, falsely believing they have it on social media.”

Other students in the research group include Karla Shields, Breana Schiete, John Parales, Jack Short, Adam Copeland, Brianna Reha, Maria Gonzalez, Emily Mann, Payton Oxner and Izabel Thompson.

GCU President Brian Mueller said the University needs to lead on the problem. And the growing environment of undergraduate research at GCU will help.

“It’s very clear to me that what used to be done at the graduate level is now being done at the undergraduate level and with significant excellence,” he said, addressing the audience after the presentations.

Carter Rice presented a project on software for a nonprofit.

Four additional groups presented their work Friday:

  • “Marketing Campaign Proposal for Tough Apparel:” Colangelo College of Business students Natalie Lunsford, Andromeda Dumaplin, Maguire Dyson, Sydney Cooke, Taylor Heetland and Izabelle Gurley, led by faculty advisor Mindy Weinstein, showed how they diversified the marketing campaign for an Arizona-based apparel company with email blasts, Instagram posts and podcast advertisements aimed at working men, with the slogan, “Because confidence looks good on you.” The group said the business was “blown away” by how well they understood their market.
  • “Zuri’s Dashboard:” CSET student Carter Rice detailed his work with fellow students Jordon Riley and Trevor Moor and faculty advisor Mark Reha to create a technology solution for a local nonprofit called Zuri’s Circle, an organization that helps the needy, stay in touch with donors and clients at events with user-friendly software and also provides analytics. “It’s cool technology, but more importantly we look at the butterfly effect from thank-you emails to how you can improve,” Rice said. “Then events grow and, more importantly, you help more people.”
  • “The Transmission Dynamics of Prescription Opioid Misuse,” by College of Humanities and Social Sciences (CHSS) students Alec Washington and Talia Brown and faculty advisor Aprillya Lanz. The research on the dynamics of opioid prescriptions used a math analysis to study one of the most serious public health problems of our times. Increased treatment and reduced prescription rates lowered the rates of opioid misuse, but public health education and counseling was the most effective strategy, according to their calculations. Using all three strategies together produced the best results to reach “opioid free equilibrium.”
  • “Communication Analysis: Ugly Gerry:” CHSS student Jessica Kennedy presented an analysis on a font style that spread on Twitter, the odd shapes of the gerrymandered congressional districts across the country. “The fact that our gerrymandered districts are so misshapen that they form actual letters sends a political message in itself,” said Kennedy, whose faculty advisor is Michael Dvorak. “Typography has become of the most essential weapons in any politician’s arsenal.”

Grand Canyon University senior writer Mike Kilen can be reached at [email protected] or at 602-639-6764.

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GCU Today: Hard work takes center stage at Honors symposium


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