Research Tracks

A publication of the Office of the Vice Provost for Research at Baylor University

May 16, 2013
by Baylor OVPR
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URSA ceremony honors contributions to undergraduate research

The OVPR and the Undergraduate Research and Scholarly Achievement (URSA) steering committee sponsored the first-ever URSA awards ceremony this month. Dr. Truell Hyde, vice provost for research, presented plaques and certificates honoring administrators, faculty and students who have contributed to the growth of undergraduate research at Baylor.

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April 24, 2013
by Baylor OVPR
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School of Education faculty earns grant to expand URSA-funded research into nationwide study

Dr. Rishi Sriram, assistant professor and program coordinator in the School of Education’s higher education and student affairs program, recently received a grant from the National Association of Student Personnel Administrators to expand his research on job competencies among student affairs professionals. The project, which involves surveying a nationwide sample of practitioners in the field, is based on a pilot survey which Sriram and a student previously developed with funding from the Undergraduate Research and Scholarly Achievement (URSA) small grant program.

Sriram says professional groups in the areas of higher education and student affairs have propogated lists of key competencies for practitioners, but until now, little research has explored the extent to which student affairs professionals actually meet these competencies.  He believes a scholarly approach to measuring job competencies is critical to advancing the profession.

“If we talk about competencies but don’t measure them, then we don’t know what we’re good at,” he says.  “If we can find out more about our strengths and weaknesses, we can focus our professional development and education to help us serve students better.”

Caroline Clark, a master’s candidate in higher education and student affairs, assisted Sriram in developing the URSA-funded pilot study during her junior year at Baylor and is still involved in the research as a graduate student.  Clark, who earned her bachelor’s degree in mathematics in 2012, says the experience of participating in research as an undergraduate helped her recognize the benefits of systematically evaluating the student affairs profession.

“Applying quantitative data to a list of competencies that was developed qualitatively really helped me see the value of research to higher education affairs,” says Clark.  “This is a relatively new field, so being involved in this research has shown me ways to help develop and improve the profession.”

March 28, 2013
by Baylor OVPR
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Upcoming event: Baylor students to present their research at URSA Scholars Week

Baylor students from across the university are gearing up for Scholars Week, an annual celebration of undergraduate scholarship presented April 8-11 by the Undergraduate Research and Scholarly Achievement Steering Committee.

Over 150 students are slated to present the results of their independent research projects during the event with paper presentations and poster sessions covering a variety of topics ranging from traditional science disciplines to social sciences, humanities and the arts.

Scholars Week kicks off with an opening reception on Monday, April 8 at 12:30 p.m. in the Bill Daniel Student Center’s Barfield Drawing Room.  Paper presentations take place on April 8 and 9 at 2:00 and 3:30 p.m. in second-floor meeting rooms in the BDSC.

The second half of Scholars Week will take place in the Baylor Sciences Building with poster sessions on April 10 and 11.  Posters will be on display throughout both days, with student researchers on hand at various times to discuss their work with attendees.

All Scholars Week events are free and open to the public.  Click the flyer above for more information, or visit the URSA website for a full schedule of Scholars Week events.

New this year: Twitter photo contest for students

To encourage our students to spread the word about the great research on display at Scholars Week, URSA is sponsoring a photo contest on Twitter.  Students are asked to tweet pictures from Scholars Week using the hashtag #URSAScholarsWeek. URSA will award a prize to the student who takes the best picture during the event.

Faculty, please encourage your students to attend Scholars Week and tweet pictures of their favorite research!

February 4, 2013
by Baylor OVPR
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Foundation grant supports civics education research

Dr. Brooke Blevins and Dr. Karon LeCompte, both assistant professors in the School of Education, were recently awarded a grant from the Hatton W. Sumners Foundation in support of their research on the effectiveness of a civics learning tool.

Their research is based on iCivics, an online program developed by retired Supreme Court Justice Sandra Day O’Connor that uses interactive games to teach civics concepts and encourage students to become engaged in the political process. Baylor has been involved in research on the iCivics program through a partnership between the School of Education, the Law School, and the Waco and Midway Independent School Districts.

The iCivics curriculum is currently used in all 4th, 8th, and 11th grade classes in the Waco and Midway ISDs. Teachers in these classes use age-appropriate iCivics modules as a launching point for service learning, giving students an opportunity to learn about community issues by becoming directly involved in identifying the causes and solutions of problems.

The Sumners grant will provide funding for a summer professional development program for Waco-area civics teachers where they will receive training on the iCivics program, then implement the curriculum with area students who participate in the iCivics Summer Camp.

The research to be conducted by Baylor faculty, assisted by 10 undergraduate students, is part of a broader research agenda which seeks to evaluate the effectiveness of iCivics curriculum by putting the teaching methods into practice in actual classroom environments.

February 1, 2013
by Baylor OVPR
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National laboratory grant supports research on predicting solar energy

Dr. Jane Harvill, an associate professor in the Department of Statistical Science, recently received a grant from the Sandia National Laboratories in support of her research aimed at improving statistical models used to predict solar irradiance — the amount of solar energy that can be gathered in a given location.

The amount of energy from the sun that reaches the earth can vary depending on a number of factors including atmospheric interference, sunspots and solar flares.  Being able to predict these fluctuations more accurately would help providers better manage the energy produced in large solar farms.

Harvill’s research will examine data on solar energy gathered in and around solar energy farms over time and apply statistical methods to create a predictive model for determining the average amount of solar energy that can be expected over the farm’s geographic footprint in the future.

She will also seek to determine the extent to which currently existing models for solar irradiance can be improved by the use of spatio-temporal statistical methods.