Research on FYRE

First Year Research Experience

Take your passion beyond the classroom

Offered by the College of Arts, Sciences, and Business (CASB), the First Year Research Experience (FYRE) is an opportunity for first year and transfer students to work one-on-one with a faculty mentor on a specific research project.

FYRE students can ask questions, check data and create knowledge. The program helps students improve critical thinking, communication, presentation and leadership skills while fully engaging in their education.

APPLY TO TAKE PART IN FYRE

Applications are due Friday, November 13, 2020. FYRE is only available to students who are majoring in an academic program within the College of Arts, Sciences, and Business.

 Learn how to apply

First Year Research Experience showcase their research on posters in the Havener Center atrium.

Students are taking a look their research on posters at the First Year Research Experience(FYRE) showcase in the Havener Center.

Students and audiences are talking in the First Year Research Experience showcase about their research on posters in the Havener Center.

A students is explaining her The First Year Research Experience(FYRE) research in the Havener Center.

FYRE Project Options

You do not have to major in the discipline that matches the FYRE project. In fact, many extraordinarily successful partnerships have resulted from FYRE students and mentors from different disciplines. Students may apply for up to three projects.

17 research projects are available for the 2020-21 cycle. Please take some time to study them and talk to the professors involved to learn more about a project.

The FYRE program emphasizes one-on-one mentorship, so only one FYRE student will be selected to work on each project.

Arts, Language, and Philosophy

Faculty Name: Michael A. Baird
Department: Arts, Language, and Philosophy
Title of Research Project: Folklore Creature Locating App

 

Description of Research Project (maximum 200 words):

I am creating a comprehensive database of American folklore creatures, a book, and an interactive mobile app.  The book will publish my findings. But more important to the FYRE partnership, the mobile app will access the information I am researching and connect users to web resources and functionality. Specifically, I am working with locations associated with the myriad creatures in the folklore of the United States. 

Brief description of FYRE student’s responsibilities during Spring 2019, including expected outcomes and rough timeline (maximum 200 words):

I am looking for a student who is experienced with mobile app creation. This is likely to be the most time-consuming element and this FYRE partnership will likely take the project only through the beginning stages of functionality and general design. However, if time allows, I would like to work with the student to incorporate my findings in the app as well. 

What skills will the FYRE student acquire or enhance as a result of working on this research project?

The student will advance their skills with app development, user interface, and integration with pre-existing web resources. As an art instructor, I will be supplying practical application of design and aesthetic skills as they are applied to user interface. But most importantly, they will develop their skills with communicating complex project ideas with what is essentially a client.   

Faculty Name: Patrick Gamez
Department: Arts, Languages, and Philosophy
Title of Research Project: What Are We Doing When We Teach Engineering Ethics?

 

Description of Research Project (maximum 200 words):

As a public university with a strong focus on engineering, part of the duty of the humanities – and of philosophy in particular – is to train engineers to be good citizens, both as individual and qua engineers. But what is it to be a good engineer or, as we might construe it, an ethical engineer?

In order to perform our duties properly as educators, we need to know if we’re being effective. But it’s not exactly clear what it would even mean to be effective, or to know how to measure it. So, the aim of this project is to begin preliminary research into previous attempts to measure, intervene, and improve engineering ethics education. In particular, this preliminary research will focus on qualitative interventions, and strategies for measuring it. My hypothesis is that quantitative measures will not fully suffice for capturing what it is we aim at doing when we teach engineering ethics. So what we will be doing is trying to get handle on this broad topic, and figuring out how to turn it into something researchable.

 

Brief description of FYRE student’s responsibilities during Spring 2021, including expected outcomes and rough timeline (maximum 200 words):

The FYRE student will be responsible for:

  • Taking the CITI training course to be certified for research with human subjects. Once completed, they will be properly certified, and this will be filed with the S&T institutional review board. They will do this in early January 2021, and it will be expected to take roughly 2 weeks. The aim of this will be to familiarize the student with the ethical constraints on social science research, and provide a context for their investigations
  • Conducting a literature review on interventions in ethics education and engineering education, as well as on methods for gathering this data. This will begin in late January 2021, and continue until April 2021. It will involve finding and collecting, categorizing, summarizing, and synthesizing a great deal of work in the scholarship of teaching and learning, as well as in engineering ethics proper, and in the methods of qualitative research.

 

What skills will the FYRE student acquire or enhance as a result of working on this research project?

First of all, the student will gain CITI certification to work with data related to human subjects research. This will be valuable no matter what.

Second, the student will gain familiarity with the methods and approaches of qualitative research; familiarity with methods allows for far-ranging application, which could come in handy in any number of contexts.

Thirdly, the student will gain a great deal of interpretive skill. The central aspect of this project will be the research for and construction of a literature review. As a humanist, my main role will be to help the student learn to read through texts (articles, mostly, in this case) with sensitivity to the different conceptions of ethics at work in the literature, and the ways in which those impact the claims being made. I will also help the student to follow the thread of a debate or a theme across a variety of related articles, and to demonstrate this thread in their writings. Finally, the student will gain the ability to craft a case, or argument, in the context of ongoing empirical research in the area. These reading- and writing-related skills will be valuable to the student no matter what their major and no matter what their career plans.

Finally, the student will get hands-on experience with the very beginnings of a research project in the interdisciplinary humanities, working with faculty in the truly exciting ideation stage, where we work to turn broad themes and conceptual worries into tractable questions for empirical inquiry. Whereas it seems most RAs will perform specific tasks for an inquiry already underway, this experience of really beginning and shaping a possibly far-ranging research project is something that many researchers do not experience until graduate school; with a faculty mentor, it is my hope that it will be very empowering.

Biological Sciences

Faculty Name:  Matthew Thimgan
Department: Biological Sciences
Title of Research Project: Determining tissue specificity of reactive oxygen species resulting from inadequate sleep

 

Description of Research Project (maximum 200 words):

The goal of this project is to identify the tissues in which there is oxidative stress due to insufficient sleep. We will work to determine the best protocol to be carried out at Missouri S&T, and the work will consist of carrying out that protocol in control conditions.  We will then apply that protocol to flies that have been separated by a mathematical model to have sleep that supports longevity compared to sleep patterns that support a shorter lifespan.

Brief description of FYRE student’s responsibilities during Spring 2019, including expected outcomes and rough timeline (maximum 200 words):

There will be several stages to this research project:

Early stages, decide on protocol and order materials for each of the stages.

First 4 weeks – Learn to care for flies, begin to fix flies and surgery/sectioning.

Next 4 weeks – Section flies, run staining protocol

Third 4 weeks – Continue with the staining protocol and begin with microscopy (depending on COVID rules)

Final 4 weeks – Statistics and write-up skills

What skills will the FYRE student acquire or enhance as a result of working on this research project?

The student will learn skills such as experimental design, statistical analysis and communication skills.  The student will also learn technical skills, such as husbandry, microscopy, and chemical staining skills.  These will be directly applicable to other novel protocols that one might see in the future.

Faculty Name: Dave Westenberg
Department: Biological Sciences
Title of Research Project: Drought tolerance in Bradyrhizobium japonicum

 

Description of Research Project (maximum 200 words):

Nitrogen fixing symbiotic bacteria form an association with legume plants such as soybean and play a key role in crop health and productivity. This process is sensitive to drought and desiccation and the increasing challenge of climate change is having an impact on agricultural productivity. This project will characterize strains of the soybean symbiont, Bradyrhizobium japonicum, for their salt tolerance - which simulates the conditions of drought. They will also investigate strategies to increase drought tolerance through synthetic biology.

Brief description of FYRE student’s responsibilities during Spring 2019, including expected outcomes and rough timeline (maximum 200 words):

The FYRE student working on this project will be growing strains of B. japonicum at various salt concentrations to test their salt tolerance. At the same time, the student will be testing the antibiotic sensitivity of each strain. The determination of antibiotic sensitivity will be critical for the introduction of salt tolerance genes using synthetic biology. Strains will be identified which have the appropriate salt sensitivity and antibiotic sensitivity for future studies. Students will then inoculate soybean seeds with each strain to observe root nodule formation and nitrogen fixation. If time permits, students will work on introducing salt tolerance genes into the B. japonicum strains and testing the ability of these genes to increase the salt tolerance of these strains.

What skills will the FYRE student acquire or enhance as a result of working on this research project?

FYRE students will learn how to prepare culture media for growing bacteria, assessing the growth of bacteria on culture media, and inoculating soybean seeds for forming nitrogen-fixing nodules. They will be growing plants and monitoring for root nodule formation. Additional skills will be molecular cloning techniques for introducing drought tolerance genes into bacteria.

Faculty Name:  Dr. Robin Verble
Department: Biological Sciences
Title of Research Project:  Modeling plant flammability responses to climate (In other words, can a hotter environment make a plant more likely to catch on fire?)

 

Description of Research Project (maximum 200 words):

This project will examine how plant flammability traits change in response to climate in a controlled environment.  Plant traits, including concentrations of volatile compounds and physical morphology, shift in response to environmental conditions, including moisture, light exposure, and temperature.  We will manipulate the environmental conditions for a test plant species and observe the effects on plant flammability traits (e.g., time to ignition, residence time, residual biomass, flame length).  We will then construct and validate predictive models that examine the effects of environmental temperature on plant flammability. 

Brief description of FYRE student’s responsibilities during Spring 2019, including expected outcomes and rough timeline (maximum 200 words):

The student that works on this project will be responsible for growing, monitoring, and maintaining plants in environmental growth chambers.  They will be responsible for monitoring environmental growth chamber conditions.  In conjunction with Verble, the student will measure plant flammability traits upon maturation of plants, record data, analyze data, and summarize results.  The majority of this project timeline will be occupied by plant growth and maintenance work in a laboratory setting (February-March):  During this time, the student will also work with Verble to design and prepare flammability studies via weekly meetings.  Flammability studies will be a short-term time intensive portion of the project that will take place in early April.  Data analysis, results interpretation and poster preparation will take place in April. 

What skills will the FYRE student acquire or enhance as a result of working on this research project?

The student will be familiarized with maintaining and utilizing environmental chambers, measuring and logging plant growth and development, and general laboratory protocols.  The student will also learn to measure plant flammability traits and general fire safety protocols.  The student will learn basic data analysis skills and poster preparation skills.  The student will also learn about interacting with faculty, general scientific life, and lab culture in a field-based ecology lab.

Business and Information Technology

Faculty Name: Li Li Eng
Department: Business and Information Technology
Title of Research Project: Ratio Analysis of Financial Statements

 

Description of Research Project (maximum 200 words):

The project would involve doing a literature review of academic papers on ratio analysis of financial statements. The student will then download sample financial reports from company websites. The student will extract some accounting data from the reports. The student will then enter the data into a spreadsheet, and calculate financial ratios. The student will then conduct an analysis of the data using a statistical program. Finally, the student will write a report on the research and findings.

Brief description of FYRE student’s responsibilities during Spring 2019, including expected outcomes and rough timeline (maximum 200 words):

Weeks 1-2: library research of academic papers

Weeks 3-4: literature review of papers

Weeks 5-8: downloading financial reports

Weeks 9-12: entering data, analysis

Weeks 13-16: writing final report 

What skills will the FYRE student acquire or enhance as a result of working on this research project?

The student will learn how to conduct library search of academic papers, read academic papers, summarize relevant literature, calculate financial ratios, do statistical analysis, and write an academic report.

 

Chemistry

Faculty Name: Garry “Smitty” Grubbs II
Department: Chemistry
Title of Research Project: Actinide chemistry: Understanding bonding at the bottom of the periodic table and accepting the f-electron challenge

 

Description of Research Project (maximum 200 words):

Actinide salts are common sources of nuclear energy, however, there is little known or understood about their chemistry. This is because the electronic difference in actinide metals lies with f-orbital electrons, which are not in the valence. This, along with their large amount of protons make computational approaches to predicting their chemistry very challenging. In addition to this, experimental data, which could help with electronic and geometric structure, is scarce. At Missouri S&T, we are addressing this with laser ablation-equipped rotational spectroscopy of uranium and thorium-containing diatomic molecules. The student will work on the diatomic system UCl to uniquely address this problem using rotational spectroscopy for the first time.

Brief description of FYRE student’s responsibilities during Spring 2021, including expected outcomes and rough timeline (maximum 200 words):

Student, in close collaboration with a graduate student will set up laser ablation experiment and take microwave spectroscopy data of the diatomic molecule, UCl, using a chirped pulse, Fourier transform microwave spectrometer. This will include setting up and testing of the laser ablation source in order to ablate uranium metal in the presence of chlorine atoms. If successful, student will then be a part of assigning the spectra and writing up what they did for publication.

Early to mid-spring: Set up laser ablation source and test

Mid-spring: Experiments on UCl

Late Spring: Assignment and Write-up

What skills will the FYRE student acquire or enhance as a result of working on this research project?

Setting up and adjusting a Nd:YAG laser for ablation; maintenance and utilization of a laser ablation source

Using spectroscopy to probe f-electron bonding and how this plays a role in chemistry

Working on and maintaining custom-built lab spectrometers         

Faculty Name: Rainer Glaser
Department: Chemistry
Title of Research Project: Kinetics and Mechanism of Oscillating Chemical Reactions 

 

Description of Research Project (maximum 200 words):

The classical Belousov−Zhabotinsky (BZ) oscillating reaction refers to the oscillatory cerium-catalyzed bromate oxidation of citric acid.  In the overwhelming number of chemical reactions, reagent concentrations decrease steadily, product concentrations steadily increase, and in some cases, one or more intermediates may form and later disappear.  In oscillating reactions, however, some species concentrations oscillate periodically (with thousands of oscillations) as the reaction progresses.  How can that possibly happen? 

Since the discovery of the BZ reaction many similar oscillating chemical reactions have been discovered that use dicarboxylic acids (malonic acid, malic acid) as the organic substrate and are catalyzed by other metals such as Fe, Ru, Mn, and Cu, or by combinations of catalysts such as Fe/Ce.  The study of this set of reactions is at the core of the field of “Nonlinear Dynamics”, a modern, exciting, and growing field in reaction kinetics. 

It is our goal to understand these reactions so well that we can simulate their kinetics without any simplifying assumptions and considering consumption of substrates and the formation of a myriad of products.  To meet this challenge, we combine experimental studies of the reaction kinetics, mechanistic studies to explore plausible reaction mechanisms, and computational simulations of the complete multi-equilibria systems. 

Brief description of FYRE student’s responsibilities during Spring 2021, including expected outcomes and rough timeline (maximum 200 words):

Students interested in working with us are expected to bring interest, enthusiasm, curiosity and dedication to the project.  No specialized prior knowledge is required.  Students will be mentored, instructed, and guided by Dr. Glaser and his advanced graduate and undergraduate students.  We will teach the students the skills they need to progress with their projects. 

Studies of oscillating reactions involve several stages:  (1) setting up and running oscillating reactions, (2a) direct recording of the reaction kinetics using UV/Vis spectroscopy and/or (2b) video-recording of the reaction and subsequent mathematical image analysis to determine the reaction kinetics, (3) oscillation pattern analysis of the reactions as a function of reaction time using mathematical methods, (4) formulation of the chemical equations that will be described by mass action kinetics, and (5) mathematical simulations of the reaction kinetics by numerical solution of the kinetics differential equations. 

Students may be involved in all or some of these components.  More chemically oriented students may focus on (1) and (2a) and (4), for example.  Mathematically skilled students might prefer to work on Mathematica notebooks for image and/or pattern analysis and simulations in (2b), (3) and (5).

What skills will the FYRE student acquire or enhance as a result of working on this research project?

The Glaser group has been working on BZ reactions for a few years and we published papers on several aspects.  We will build on this foundation. 

Student working on this project will learn laboratory skills for chemical experimentation and instrumental analysis (UV/Vis spectroscopy), gain knowledge about the formulation and exploration of complicated multi-reaction systems, conceive of new reaction paths and explore their viability with modern theoretical methods of electronic structure theory (structural studies, thermochemistry, reaction rate constants), learn and develop mathematical methods for image analysis and oscillation pattern analysis, and apply and develop mathematical fitting algorithms to determine and/or improve reaction rate constants of elemental reactions.  

Importantly, students will learn about the process of research and best practices in collaborative group work, and students will have various opportunities to disseminate their results at conferences and by way of publication in scientific journals. 

Faculty Name: Vadym Mochalin
Department: Chemistry
Title of Research Project: Synthesis, Characterization and Chemistry of 2D Transition Metal Carbides or Nitrides (MXenes)

Description of Research Project (maximum 200 words):

MXenes represent a relatively new and quickly growing family of two-dimensional (2D) early transition-metal carbides and nitrides. Since they were discovered in 2011, MXenes have risen a significant interest for various (opto)electronic, sensing, as well as energy conversion and storage devices because of their unique properties of the combination of hydrophilicity and high electrical conductivity among 2D materials. However, only several papers have reported the chemistry of this material including the oxidation stability and hydrolysis of MXenes. Our research will be focusing on wider and deeper science of MXene chemistry including MXene stabilities in different environments.

Brief description of FYRE student’s responsibilities during Spring 2021, including expected outcomes and rough timeline (maximum 200 words):

Jan: Student will get familiar with the lab, equipments and research background

Feb-Mar: Student will be trained on MAX phase (Ceramic material, precursor of MXene) synthesis and MXene synthesis and will be able to periodically produce good quality of the corresponding materials.

Apr-May: Student will be trained on equipments for material characterization and will be able to operate the instruments to analysis MXenes as well as degradation products of MXenes.

Outcomes: Student can be a coauthor of the work related paper.

What skills will the FYRE student acquire or enhance as a result of working on this research project?

Lab safety and proper operation skills for experiments

Material synthesis skills, e.g. ceramic synthesis using tube furnace, 2D nanomaterial synthesis.

Material characterization skills, e.g. operations on gas chromatography (GC), Raman spectroscopy.

Material analysis skills, e.g. X-ray diffraction, Raman, UV-vis, and GC.

Economics

Faculty Name: Mahelet Fikru
Department: Economics
Title of Research Project: Electricity bill savings of residential solar houses

 

Description of Research Project (maximum 200 words):

The objective of the research is to (1) calculate the electricity bill savings of residential solar houses, and (2) examine the variation of electricity bill savings across different locations, house sizes, and solar sizes.

Brief description of FYRE student’s responsibilities during Spring 2021, including expected outcomes and rough timeline (maximum 200 words):

Week 1-2: Review of studies: define key economic terms and concepts

Week 3-4: Understand the data and characterize the sample

Week 5-7: Organize the data using Excel

Week 8-10: Calculate savings and interpret findings

Week 11-13: Create graphs and plots; interpret findings

Week 14-15: Write report 

What skills will the FYRE student acquire or enhance as a result of working on this research project?

Students will gain the following skills: using Excel for data visualization and data analysis, critical thinking, using data to find answers, and writing research findings.

Faculty Name:  Ana Ichim and Radu Puslenghea
Department: Economics
Title of Research Project: House Prices and Unemployment Rates: A Tale of Two Recessions

 

Description of Research Project (maximum 200 words):

The purpose of this research project is to identify and analyze trends in house prices and the civil unemployment rate both at the national level, as well as in the major U.S. metropolitan statistical areas. Of particular interest is to contrast their evolution during the current recession, induced by the COVID-19 pandemic, to the previous, so called “Great Recession” of 2007 – 2009 that originated in the subprime credit market. The data available so far suggest that the housing market has proved remarkably resilient to the economic upheaval; furthermore the rebound in the national unemployment rate was significantly faster than during the previous recession. Therefore a comparison between the two events would be both highly informative and instructional.  

Brief description of FYRE student’s responsibilities during Spring 2021, including expected outcomes and rough timeline (maximum 200 words):

  The FYRE student will participate in the primary data collection and preparation for analysis (data cleaning, basic statistical summary). She or he would become familiar with the existent literature on the topic (including relevant news articles and reports) and help (if interested) with the drafting of the literature review section. The student will have exposure to the process of analysis and interpretation/presentation of the results. The pre-analysis steps will be completed early in the semester so that results can be presented at the undergraduate research conference. The second part of the semester will be dedicated to writing a draft paper for which the student can contribute with summarizing results (tables, graphs, etc.). 

What skills will the FYRE student acquire or enhance as a result of working on this research project?

The student will gain experience with editing and presentation software standard for writing research papers (LaTeX editor, Microsoft Word, Beamer, Microsoft Power Point and Microsoft Excel). They will practice effective written and spoken communication, team work, and meeting deadlines. They will also learn about an interesting and topical research subject.

English and Technical Communication

Faculty Name: Dr. Sarah Hercula
Department: Department of English and Technical Communication
Title of Research Project: Language Ideologies in Television

 

Description of Research Project (maximum 200 words):

This project will investigate how we are socialized into specific beliefs about language through the media we consume, namely, through television shows. By investigating and analyzing scenes from popular television shows that use language to invoke stereotypes, comment on characters’ level of intelligence, and/or portray characters in a particular (positive or negative) light, we can uncover patterns that shape ideologies about language that are subtly reinforced through our viewing habits. This study will investigate several different genres of television shows and seek out patterns among characters’ gender, race, ethnicity, religion, and other social factors to determine how television writers use linguistic interactions to shape characters’ identities and viewers’ perceptions of those characters. The overall goal of this research is to investigate the extent to which patterns of linguistic portrayals in television shows impact and shape viewers’ language ideologies and, thus, their attitudes and behaviors toward specific speakers in the real world.

Brief description of FYRE student’s responsibilities during Spring 2019, including expected outcomes and rough timeline (maximum 200 words):

The FYRE student involved with this project will spend time transcribing scenes from various television shows using the specific transcription conventions in the field of linguistics. The student will also develop a system to compile data from each scene analyzed regarding the social situation of the scenes and the social characteristics of the characters involved, ultimately seeking out patterns among the various scenes. Finally, the student will be responsible for creating a bibliography of existent research on language ideologies in the media, particularly in television.

What skills will the FYRE student acquire or enhance as a result of working on this research project?

The FYRE student will learn the basics of linguistic transcription and will spend time honing their skills with detailed listening, record keeping, and data recording. The student will also learn more about conducting secondary research and compiling background research for a research project. The best part about this project is that the student involved will get to watch TV as a part of their work, and while doing so, gain valuable skills in data collection and analysis.

Physics

Faculty Name: Marco Cavaglia
Department: Physics
Title of Research Project: Black hole astrophysics with the Laser Interferometer Gravitational-wave Observatory (LIGO) detector

 

Description of Research Project (maximum 200 words):

In their latest observing period, LIGO and its European partner Virgo have detected tens of gravitational waves from cosmic black hole collisions. The LIGO group at the Institute of Multi-messenger Astrophysics and Cosmology (IMAC) is a leader in the analysis of LIGO astrophysical data and the characterization of the detector performance. IMAC researchers and students collaborate daily with the LIGO Scientific Collaboration (LSC), an international group of 1200+ scientists from over 100 institutions in 20 countries. The FYRE project will focus on analyzing the data of the LIGO detectors to investigate the physical properties of the gravitational-wave sources detected by LIGO and Virgo and improve the quality of the detector data.

Brief description of FYRE student’s responsibilities during Spring 2021, including expected outcomes and rough timeline (maximum 200 words):

The FYRE student will team up with IMAC faculty and researchers to analyze real LIGO data. The outcomes of this one-semester project will be the development of new methods to monitor the detectors and investigate features in the data. The student will become a member of the LSC and document their findings in technical documents for use within the collaboration. The student should be prepared to team work both in person and remotely, and present their work at research group meetings and teleconferences. Some programming skills (preferably python) are required to work on this project.

What skills will the FYRE student acquire or enhance as a result of working on this research project?

This project will immerse the FYRE student in a research environment and expose them to cutting-edge science. It will show the student how scientific research is done in a collaboration, where scientists of all ranks team together to tackle unsolved physical problems. The project will teach the student how to present their work in front of a scientific audience, write technical reports and navigate effectively in a collaborative environment. As the project will involve analysis of scientific data and some programming,  the FYRE student will enhance their analytical, critical thinking and computer skills.

Faculty Name: Aleksandr Chernatynskiy
Department: Physics
Title of Research Project: Thermal conductivity of Ga2O3 with classical potentials

 

Description of Research Project (maximum 200 words):

High-power electronics require active materials that can support large electrical currents and provide protection against electrical breakdowns. One of the promising materials for thias application is gallium oxide, Ga2O3. Due to large currents present in high-power electronics thermal management is very important. In this project, we will use classical potentials to elucidate the thermal conductivity of Ga2O3 in different crystallographic structures using classical potentials and determine their suitability for this purpose.

Brief description of FYRE student’s responsibilities during Spring 2019, including expected outcomes and rough timeline (maximum 200 words):

Student’s responsibilities include learning a High-Performance Computing environment at Missouri S&T, reading and understanding research papers pertinent to the projects, setting-up, performing and analyzing calculations of the thermal conductivity in Ga2O3 using previously developed software. The outcome is the data on thermal conductivity which will determine the applicability of the classical potential for this purpose by comparison with experimental data and more rigorous calculations.

What skills will the FYRE student acquire or enhance as a result of working on this research project?

Experience in parsing scientific literature, familiarity with the High-Performance Computing and scientific codes, basic ideas about the crystal structure of materials, and thermal transport in them.

Psychological Science

Faculty Name: Ting Shen
Department: Psychological Science
Title of Research Project:  Class Size Effects on Student Learning Outcomes

 

Description of Research Project (maximum 200 words):

Class size is a controversial topic among stakeholders in education due to its effects on student enrollment and learning outcomes as well as school resource allocation (e.g., hiring new teachers). Despite the fact that the effectiveness of class size reduction on student performance has been of great research interest and policy debate, empirical evidence of class size effects on student learning outcomes has been largely limited and inconclusive in the U.S. This research project aims to facilitate causal relationships between class size and student outcomes in K-12 setting or explore associations of class size with teaching, learning and evaluation in higher education.

Brief description of FYRE student’s responsibilities during Spring 2021, including expected outcomes and rough timeline (maximum 200 words):

The student may choose to do a project of class size research in either K-12 setting or higher education, and learn appropriate research methods. Specifically, the student’s research and learning experience includes: (1) literature search to retrieve relevant articles during the first 1.5 months (January and February), (2) literature review in the following 1.5 months (March and April), and (3) write up and finish the FYRE report in two weeks (April). In addition to the FYRE report, follow-up collaboration work may result in a conference presentation and a journal paper, in which the student will be a coauthor. 

What skills will the FYRE student acquire or enhance as a result of working on this research project?

The student will gain a deep understanding about how to write a literature review paper and research methods in social sciences (e.g., education) via hands-on experience. The student will also get familiar with major research database (e.g., PsychInfo, Eric, Web of Science, and Scopus). In addition, the students will have a chance to present the work at a conference and be a coauthor for a journal paper. This project will increase student’s intrinsic motivation to be engaged in research and be more prepared and successful in academic study.

Faculty Name: Dr. Jessica Cundiff
Department: Psychological Science
Title of Research Project: Evaluating a game designed to teach about gender bias

 

Description of Research Project (maximum 200 words):

Understanding the covert and unconscious nature of gender bias is critical for being able to detect and address it. Yet, teaching about bias can backfire and thwart information processing and learning goals. To overcome these challenges, my research lab developed an evidence-based classroom activity, the Workshop Activity for Gender Equity Simulation-Classroom (WAGES-Classroom), that can be used to teach about gender bias in the workplace. WAGES-Classroom is a board game that illustrates how the effects of unconscious bias unfold overtime and shows how individuals can interrupt the operation of unconscious bias on their own and others’ behalf.

We conducted an experiment to test the efficacy of the game by randomly assigning participants to either play the game or not, and then we measured participants’ learning outcomes. Now we need to code participants’ open-ended responses, analyze the data, and prepare game materials for distribution.

Brief description of FYRE student’s responsibilities during Spring 2019, including expected outcomes and rough timeline (maximum 200 words):

The FYRE student will help code and analyze participants’ open-ended responses for themes regarding gender bias knowledge. The FYRE student may also help prepare game materials for distribution, including providing feedback on the facilitator’s manual, finalizing game card content, and formatting references. Here is a rough timeline:

January: Complete human-subjects research training

February: Develop coding system for analyzing open-ended responses

March: Code open-ended responses and prepare data for analyses

April-May: Analyze data and prepare game materials for distribution 

What skills will the FYRE student acquire or enhance as a result of working on this research project?

The FYRE student will:

  • Gain in-depth knowledge of the psychological science of unconscious bias and sexism in the workplace
  • Learn how to code and analyze open-ended responses using quantitative methods
  • Learn basic statistical concepts for analyzing social science data
  • Learn how to search for empirical journal articles and apply APA formatting
  • Learn how to communicate findings to a broad audience
  • Contribute to a tool that can be used to teach people about gender bias

Overall, the skills learned through this project will benefit the student in future coursework involving research methods and critical thinking.

Faculty Name: Dr. Daniel B. Shank
Department: Psychological Science
Title of Research Project: I Love my Smartphone, but Alexa Freaks Me Out

 

Description of Research Project (maximum 200 words):

Do people have completely different feelings about their smartphones versus their smart speakers (e.g. Alexa)? Are cellphones beloved, comforting, and trustworthy, while Amazon Alexas and Google Homes are creepy, irritating, and create privacy concerns? If so, why do people feel this and what causes these differences? This FYRE project will focus on understanding emotional differences toward smartphones vs. smart speakers, and the implication that has for privacy concerns, use, adoption of, and separation from those technologies. The FYRE student will (1) listen and analyze 10 recorded interviews that Drs. Shank and Wright conducted with people who disconnected smart devices (2) in order to find important quotes and (3) develop simple quantitative survey questions (4) to understand if these feelings are shared more broadly. The FYRE student will create a short survey of these questions which will be administered to an online sample (through the website Prolific). Each question will be asked both about smartphones and smart speakers to allow for a direct comparison. This research will then culminate a qualitative description of the differences people hold (from the interview quotes) and a quantitative description of a larger sample of the population (from the survey).

Brief description of FYRE student’s responsibilities during Spring 2021, including expected outcomes and rough timeline (maximum 200 words):

This project has three ordered but overlapping phases – interview quote extraction, survey development, and survey analysis – with an ongoing literature review component. For the literature review component the FYRE student will read important research papers including prior studies from Dr. Shank that relate to the concepts, and may summarize some of the papers. The FYRE student will listen to the 10 interviews (approximately 30 minutes each) and transcribe quotes that deal with the research questions (months 1 and 2). Through categorizing the most frequent reasons interviewees gave and reading the literature, the FYRE student will create a set of survey questions and make them into a Qualtrics survey (months 2 and 3). Dr. Shank will run the survey on Prolific to collect data from over 100 people. The FYRE student analyze this data by statistically comparing (using t-tests) responses for smartphones vs. smart speakers and create meaningful visuals to help understand and present the differences (months 3 and 4). These will culminate in the FYRE poster (or report) which will show the types of differences the interviewees reported, visualize with statistical significance the differences in the survey questions, and report a final conclusion about the perceptions and feelings toward smartphones vs. smart speakers. 

What skills will the FYRE student acquire or enhance as a result of working on this research project?

Based on this project and skills gained by Dr. Shank’s former FYRE students, the 2020-2021 FYRE student will gain a number of basic skills including (1) searching for specific arguments within research articles, (2) how to read and write brief summaries of important papers, (3) the basics of conducting a survey, (4) interpreting and categorizing qualitative data, (5) creating survey questions, (6) using simple statistics and visuals to present data, (7) creating output in a poster format, (8) working with multiple types of data, (9) understanding the relationship between projects, (10) organization skills, and (11) communication skills. Additionally, the student will get an on-the-ground perspective of a cutting-edge research area of applying psychology to people’s perceptions of smart technology. Psychology, technical communication, and business information technology majors might be especially interested, but the mixed methods analyses means the FYRE student will gain skills that apply across many disciplines. Dr. Shank has multiple grants around the areas of interaction and perception of intelligent technology and a currently 13 students researchers are part of his research teams. This means an interested and capable FYRE student could continue research on this project or apply for a research assistantship or OURE with Dr. Shank after the FYRE project ends.

About the program

FYRE goal

Motivated students will learn to execute solid research methods.

Apprentice-style research partnership

Faculty mentors and students work together throughout the spring semester.

Additional research opportunities

It's not expected that a comprehensive research project will be completed in a single semester. FYRE students are encouraged to continue more advanced research, including S&T’s Opportunities for Undergraduate Research Experiences (OURE) projects. Mentors and students may also choose to continue their working relationship beyond the term of the program.

Students on FYRE

Randy Greeves in the FYRE (First Year Research Experience) showcase.

Randy Greeves seeks results

Mentored by Shannon Fogg, chair and professor of history and political science, Randy Greeves, a history and political science major, researches the humanitarian efforts applied children's treatment during war. Randy wants to use his research skills in industry when he graduates. In the FYRE program, Randy learned about the difficulties subject matter experts face and how to overcome them to produce results. 

Stephanie Dukes in the FYRE(First Year Research Experience) showcase

Stephanie Dukes knows her path

Mentored by Susan Murray, chair and professor of psychological sciences, Stephanie Dukes, a psychological sciences major studied personal "grit"—how it affects G.P.A. and how a sense of purpose can enhance a person’s grit. Stephanie wants to use her degree to help victims of domestic abuse. The FYRE program taught her how an experiment can be formed from an idea.

Want more information?

For questions, contact Melanie Mormile, associate dean of research and external relations in the College of Arts, Sciences, and Business and professor of Biological Sciences

Contact: mmormile@mst.edu or call 573-341-6346