Research Tracks

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

June 20, 2013
by Baylor OVPR

Undergraduate research propels Baylor engineering student to graduate school

Baylor has a long-standing commitment to prepare its students for leadership and service in their chosen fields.  For students who aspire to careers in science and technology, participating in independent research under faculty mentorship can be a key component of that preparation. Morgan Goodwin, who received her bachelor’s degree in mechanical engineering from Baylor this May, says that participating in undergraduate research helped her take the next step toward achieving her career goals.

Morgan Goodwin presents her research poster at the 2013 URSA Scholars Week.

During her time at Baylor, Goodwin worked with Dr. David Jack, an assistant professor in the School of Engineering and Computer Science.  Under Jack’s mentorship, Goodwin worked to develop and improve theoretical and mathematical models to predict the strength of polymer materials like PVC, a topic area that she says interested her because of the possibilities of developing real solutions to tangible engineering problems.

Goodwin presented a research poster at the 2013 URSA Scholars Week and later successfully defended an honors thesis based on her work.  She will begin graduate school in engineering at Duke University in the fall, and says the experience of participating in research helped her to stand out from the crowd when she applied to graduate programs.

“I was accepted to every graduate school I applied to, and my research background was key,” she says.  “Not many undergraduates have that kind of experience, so it definitely made me more competitive.”

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.

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April 19, 2013
by Baylor OVPR

URSA announces winner of Scholars Week photo contest

Thanks to all our students (and faculty!) who helped us share the experience of Scholars Week by submitting pictures to the #URSAScholarsWeek twitter photo contest.  In the end, the contest winner was junior religion major Austin Tiffany of Amarillo, Texas, who tweeted this picture of his coffee-fueled Scholars Week preparation:

Preparing for my research presentation tomorrow. I can't wait! #URSAScholarsWeek

A photo posted by Austin Tiffany (@austintiffany) on

Congratulations, Austin!  We’ll be in touch to let you know how to pick up your prize.

There were lots more great pictures submitted throughout the week.  Click “Continue Reading” to see some of the honorable mentions.

Continue Reading →

April 15, 2013
by Baylor OVPR

Undergraduate’s research helps churches minister to their communities during major international events

Austin Tiffany takes a break from his research to pose in front of a clock showing the official countdown to the beginning of the 2012 Olympic Games in London.

When we think of large, international sporting events like the Olympic Games or soccer’s World Cup, we tend to think of the pageantry of opening ceremonies and the lofty ideal of people from around the world brought together for peaceful competition.

While events like these can promote worldwide friendship through sports, Austin Tiffany, a junior religion major from Amarillo, Texas, says that they can also create problems for people who live in the host communities, particularly the poor or elderly.

“The Olympics aren’t as much of a windfall as some people expected,” he says.  “The traffic congestion, disruption of public transportation and difficulty of accessing social services made it hard for some people to get along with their lives.”

Under the mentorship of Dr. John White, an assistant professor at Truett Seminary and director of the sports ministry program, Tiffany conducted research this past summer in London aimed at learning more about the ways local churches were helping those in their communities.  As part of his research, he attended civic meetings and conducted interviews with community members and religious leaders in areas that were impacted by the Olympics.  His research was funded in part by a grant from the Undergraduate Research & Scholarly Achievement Small Grants Program.

While some local church officials were opposed to the Olympics because of the impact on their parishioners, Tiffany found that many of them came up with ideas to provide help to those whose lives were disrupted.  Churches became involved in activities like serving meals, hosting community gatherings or helping the poor find work.

In addition to providing these services, Tiffany says churches can use their position to advocate for those who may be negatively impacted.

“Churches need to be able to put pressure on the Olympics to do good things for the poor in their host communities,” he says.  “Churches can act on a local level in a way that larger international organizations may not be able to.”

Tiffany presented the results of this project at URSA Scholars Week, but his work is far from over.  He will travel back to London this summer to carry out an internship with the Contextual Theology Center, an international religious organization that, among other goals, studies the use of sports to promote development and social justice.  After graduating from Baylor, he plans to pursue a seminary or divinity degree where he will continue to study practical ways churches can make a difference in their communities.

“I’ve always seen the Olympics as a symbol of something bigger and more important than just sports,” he says.  “This project gave me the opportunity to combine my interest in the Olympics with my desire to help the church improve its outreach.”

April 12, 2013
by Baylor OVPR
1 Comment

Baylor undergraduate’s research provides a pilot’s perspective on space weather

Jack Stanley, left, uses a flight simulator program in the Baylor Institute for Air Science lab while Dr. Trey Cade looks on.

Jack Stanley, a senior aviation major from Waco, was one of over 170 undergraduate students who presented results from their independent research projects during URSA Scholars Week, April 8-11.

Stanley’s research concerns space weather, the interaction that occurs when emissions from the sun come into contact with the earth’s magnetic field.  These interactions can wreak havoc on satellite technologies, which Stanley says are especially critical to the aviation industry given the extent to which modern aircraft depend on satellite systems for navigation and traffic control.

Under the mentorship of Dr. Trey Cade, assistant research professor and director of the Baylor Institute for Air Science, Stanley is exploring the human impacts that could result from a breakdown in technology due to a space weather event.

While a great deal of research has explored the effects of space weather on systems ranging from communication to power transmission, Stanley says there has been comparatively less study on the effect of these potential breakdowns on pilots, air traffic controllers, military leaders and others who depend on these vulnerable technologies.

“We’re still in the early stages of the research,” says Stanley, who is already a licensed pilot and aspires to a career as a commercial astronaut.  “We’ve learned how vulnerable some of our technology is, so now we need to interpret some of that information from a human perspective.”

Stanley has already presented his research at a meeting of the American Geophysical Union, and the work will also be included in his upcoming honor’s thesis.


April 4, 2013
by Baylor OVPR

Scholars Week Preview: Can ‘green’ laundry products make children’s clothing less safe?

URSA Scholars Week is almost here!  Our annual celebration of undergraduate scholarship takes place April 8-11, 2013.  Click here to visit the URSA website for a complete schedule and more information about the event.

As more and more people become concerned about the effects of their daily activities on the environment, increasing numbers of consumers are choosing to purchase household cleaning products made from natural ingredients.

Haley Moore, a Katy, Texas, junior majoring in apparel merchandising, says that while these products are considered less harmful to the environment than their synthetic counterparts, their use may have unintended consequences.

Under the mentorship of Dr. Rinn Cloud, the Mary Gibbs Jones Endowed Chair in Textile Science in the department of family and consumer sciences, Moore designed and carried out experiments to test the effects of organic laundry detergent on the flame-resistance properties of fabrics like those used in children’s sleepwear.

“I became interested in this issue while taking a class with Dr. Cloud last year,” she says. “There’s a growing trend toward ‘green’ products in every aspect of the apparel industry, but I wondered if these products might have an effect on safety.”

Moore began with samples of flame-resistant fabric of the type commonly used in children’s sleepwear.  She washed one set of samples using organic, plant-based detergent, while washing another, identical set of samples using conventional detergent. After running the fabric through a full 50 wash cycles, Moore used a flame chamber to expose the samples to fire.  She then measured the amount of charring on the laundered fabric and on an unwashed control sample to determine the effects of the different products.

Her results suggest that fabrics may lose more of their flame-resistant properties through repeated washing washed in organic detergent compared to conventional products.

“Obviously, flame resistance is a key issue in clothing for children,” she says. “This project shows that more research is needed to determine whether these environmentally friendly products may make clothing less safe.”

Moore’s research was supported by a grant from the Undergraduate Research and Scholarly Achievement (URSA) Small Grants program.  She will present the results of her project during Scholars Week’s poster sessions on April 10 and 11 in the atrium of the Baylor Sciences Building.

April 2, 2013
by Baylor OVPR

Scholars Week Preview: Baylor senior explores theatrical representation of Rwanda genocide

URSA Scholars Week is coming soon!  As our annual celebration of undergraduate scholarship draws closer, we’ll be highlighting a few of the outstanding research projects our students will be presenting.  Click here to visit the URSA website for a complete schedule and more information about the event.

Senior University Scholars major Jake Abell has always had an interest in theatre. While his current academic emphasis has shifted toward studying French, he continues to explore the way people from different cultures express themselves through creative narrative works.

While studying abroad in France, Abell became interested in French-speaking cultures in eastern Africa, which led him to pursue a research project on a theatrical responses to the 1994 genocide in Rwanda.

In collaboration with Dr. Holly Collins, an assistant professor in the Department of Modern Foreign Languages, Abell has undertaken an analysis of “Rwanda 94,” a multimedia theatrical presentation written and performed by native Rwandans in conjunction with French-speaking European artists. Abell and Collins are co-authoring an article on “Rwanda 94” which they will submit to a peer-reviewed journal.

While there have been a number of dramatic and narrative productions in response to the Rwanda genocide, Abell says that “Rwanda 94” is unique not only for the indigenous perspective of its authors, but also for the variety of forms used to present different viewpoints on atrocity. “The form of the play pushes the boundaries of theatre by including projected images, journalistic reports and poetic recitations,” says Abell. “My argument is that the play uses these forms to create a dramatic dialect representing the different motivations of Rwandan and outside observers of the genocide.”

Abell is just one of the students who will be presenting short lectures on their research at Scholars Week’s oral presentations on April 8 and 9 in the Bill Daniel Student Center.  Poster sessions will take place April 10 and 11 in the Baylor Science Building.  All URSA Scholars Week events are free and open to the public.

March 28, 2013
by Baylor OVPR

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!