Research Tracks

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

April 29, 2014
by Baylor OVPR

URSA honors top student research from 2014 Scholars Week

The 2014 edition of Scholars Week was one of the largest ever, with 165 students presenting the results of their independent research and scholarly activities.  The event included two days of platform presentations and two days of poster sessions where students had the chance to present their research findings to their peers.  The OVPR thanks the Undergraduate Research and Scholarly Achievement (URSA) Steering Committee as well as students involved in Baylor Undergraduate Research in Science & Technology (BURST) for all their hard work.

This year, for the first time, the URSA Steering Committee and Baylor University Libraries presented awards for the most outstanding platform presentations.  Library staff attended each presentation and selected the most outstanding student research in four divisions: Arts and humanities, nursing, social science and STEM.

As in previous years, the top research posters in a number of departments were recognized by faculty with outstanding poster designations.  The anthropology, biology, environmental science, geology, physics and psychology & neuroscience departments, along with the Louise Herrington School of Nursing, recognized top posters presented by students mentored by their faculty.  These posters are currently on display in the walkway between the Moody and Jones libraries.  The exhibition will continue through commencement weekend, May 16 and 17.

Click “Continue Reading” to see a full list of outstanding platform presentations and posters from Scholars Week 2014.
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April 16, 2014
by Baylor OVPR

Baylor faculty receive federal grant for research aimed at developing safer industrial chemicals

Dr. Bryan Brooks (Baylor University Photography)

Dr. Bryan Brooks (Baylor University Photography)

Dr. Bryan Brooks, a professor of environmental science and biomedical studies in Baylor’s College of Arts and Sciences will lead a team of scientists from four universities collaborating to make industrial chemicals that are less toxic to humans and the environment.

Brooks, along with Dr. Spencer Williams, a research assistant professor in Baylor’s Center for Reservoir and Aquatic Systems Research (CRASR), will team with faculty at Yale University, George Washington University and the University of Washington on the four-year, $4.4 million dollar project, funded by the National Science Foundation and the Environmental Protection Agency.

The four-university research team, known as the  Molecular Design Research Network (MoDRN), will conduct research to develop computer models to help predict whether molecules will cause toxicity. Alongside the research, education and outreach efforts will help high school students, undergraduates, teachers and practitioners connect with the concepts being studied.

Click here to read more about the project.

March 26, 2014
by Baylor OVPR

Scholars Week Preview: Increased exposure to toxicants may pose threat to Central American crocodiles

This is the second in a series of Scholars Week preview articles by Caleb Barfield, a student worker in the Office of the Vice Provost for Research.  Caleb is a freshman from Denton majoring in journalism, new media and public relations.

Click here to check out more previews of the great research Baylor students will present at URSA Scholars Week 2014, March 31-April 4.

In recent years, scientists and law enforcement officials have documented increases in illegal dumping and hazardous waste pollution in Central America. This has led environmental scientists to question if an increase in exposure to these toxicants may be threatening Belizean and Costa Rican crocodile populations.


Derek Newberger examines crocodile scutes, the spiny scales found on the crocodile’s tail. Photos by Caleb Barfield.

Senior biology major Derek Newberger and the chair of the Environmental Science department, Dr. George Cobb, are studying crocodile scutes (external scales on the crocodile’s tail) to determine if there has been a measurable increase in exposure to toxicants.

“Currently, I’m searching for the bioaccumulation of mercury and transition metals in American crocodile scutes from Belize and Costa Rica,” Newberger said.

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March 17, 2014
by Baylor OVPR

OVPR announces recipients of FY 2015 URSA Small Grants

The Office of the Vice Provost for Research and the Undergraduate Research & Scholarly Achievement (URSA) Steering Committee have announced the recipients of the FY 2015 URSA Small Grants program.  The grants are intended to provide opportunities for faculty-student interaction through mentored research experiences.  Students who work on URSA-funded projects also develop presentation skills through participation in URSA Scholars Week. Continue Reading →

January 21, 2014
by Baylor OVPR

Baylor professor wins award for book on spirituality and nature

The Spirit of the Appalachian Trail CoverDr. Susan Bratton’s book, The Spirit of the Appalachian Trail: Community, Environment, and Belief on a Long-Distance Hiking Path (University of Tennessee Press, 2012) recently was recognized as an Outstanding Academic Title for 2013 by Choice, an academic periodical of the Association of College & Research Libraries, a division of the American Library Association. Only about ten percent of reviewed publications are selected for recognition.

The book relates Bratton’s experiences hiking the 2,180-mile-long trail, but primarily presents the results of her systematic study of the spiritual, religious or quasi-religious experiences hikers often claim to undergo while on the trail. Over 200 hikers participated in the study.

“Some hikers have very intense religious experiences on the Trail,” Bratton says. “About a third of the hikers reported experiencing God in nature, or the trail as a spiritual environment. “

Bratton is a professor of environmental science at Baylor University. She holds PhD degrees from the University of Texas at Dallas and Cornell University, a master of arts from Fuller Seminary, and graduate certification in environmental ethics from the University of Georgia.

Baylor researchers discover secrets hidden in whale ear wax

September 24, 2013 by Baylor OVPR | 0 comments

Scientists have known for years that the layers of ear wax produced by whales can help determine an animal’s age. But now, research by two Baylor faculty members has shown that there is a lot more we can learn from these foot-long plugs of waxy buildup.

Dr. Sascha Usenko, assistant professor of environmental science, and Dr. Stephen Trumble, assistant professor of biology, discovered that blue whales’ ear wax plugs function as a sort of time capsule, storing traces of contaminants and hormones that can yield knowledge about the whale’s development and exposure to pollutants throughout its lifetime.

Whales produce a new layer of ear wax every six months, so the placement of chemicals in the wax plug allowed Usenko and Trumble to pinpoint chemical exposure to a particular time in a whale’s life.  This knowledge will greatly improve scientists’ ability to measure the timing and impact of pollution on whales and their ecosystems.

The groundbreaking study, published in a recent issue of the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America, has received attention from news outlets around the world.  Click the links below to read more coverage of this exciting research.

May 16, 2013
by Baylor OVPR
1 Comment

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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May 2, 2013
by Baylor OVPR

URSA honors outstanding posters from 2013 Scholars Week

Top undergraduate research posters from 2013 URSA Scholars Week are on display in the corridor between Moody and Jones Libraries through commencement weekend.

Last month, over 180 Baylor undergrads presented results of their independent research at URSA Scholars Week, a four-day celebration of undergraduate research sponsored by the OVPR and the Undergraduate Research and Scholarly Achievement (URSA) steering committee (click here to read more Research Tracks coverage of the 2013 Scholars Week event).

This week, the departments of anthropology, biology, chemistry & biochemistry, environmental science, physics and psychology & neuroscience have recognized the top Scholars Week posters from their disciplines.

The top posters from these six departments are on display in the corridor between Moody and Jones libraries.  The posters will remain on display through commencement weekend, May 17 and 18, thanks to an arrangement between URSA, the Baylor Libraries, and Baylor Undergraduate Research in Science and Technology (BURST), a student organization dedicated to promoting independent research among undergraduates.  Students and faculty mentors involved with these projects will be honored at an upcoming awards ceremony sponsored by the OVPR and URSA.

Click “Continue Reading” to see the full list of outstanding research posters from these departments.

Continue Reading →