Capitol Ideas: Undergrads Take Research Results to Austin

Projects by 4 Explore Properties of Cochlear Implants, Organic Electronics, Eye Injuries

Katherine Borner and Syed Mohammed Rasheed at Texas state capitol

Katherine Borner is a senior chemistry student and Syed Mohammed Rasheed is a pre-med senior majoring in psychology and child development. Both talked about their research projects in Austin.

A passion for science and connecting theory with practice were among the motivations that compelled four UT Dallas undergraduates to take on research projects and show off their results in Austin.

The students displayed their work for legislators and the public last week as part of Texas Undergraduate Research Day at the Capitol.

The event highlighted outstanding research conducted by undergraduates at the state’s universities, as well as the impact of that research on Texans. About 60 research posters were displayed, representing nearly 50 higher education institutions.

"I was drawn to undergraduate research largely because of the opportunity it presented to challenge myself and enhance my understanding of the field of audiology,” said Delaney Welch, a senior in the School of Behavioral and Brain Sciences. She presented research that compares expressive language acquisition in hearing-impaired children who have received cochlear implants and children with normal hearing.

Welch conducted a meta-analysis of 13 peer-reviewed studies and found that children implanted with the cochlear device by age 2 do not differ significantly from normal-hearing peers. Her faculty mentors are assistant professor Andrea Warner-Czyz and Dr. Emily Tobey,  vice provost, associate vice president for Diversity and Community Development and Nelle C. Johnston Chair in Communication Disorders in Children.

Delaney Welch

Delaney Welch is a senior in the School of Behavioral and Brain Sciences who studied language acquisition in hearing-impaired children.

“The opportunity to work with and learn from esteemed faculty members who share my interests has provided me with invaluable experience that will enrich my career tremendously,” Welch said.  “My involvement in research has also led to growth and development of valuable skills in critical thinking and time management. I am grateful to my professors and UT Dallas for this opportunity."

Katherine Borner works with Dr. Amy Walker, associate professor of materials science and engineering, in the area of organic electronics. The senior chemistry major is using advanced methods to form tiny copper wires on organic substrates, technology that might one day be used in flexible electronics, sensors and biomedical devices. She said being involved in research allowed her to collaborate with faculty and students on an intellectual level that went beyond the classroom.

“It’s given me a connection between the theory I learn in courses and actual practice,” said Borner, who also displayed a poster.  “The research I have conducted also has given me insight into what field of chemistry I would like to pursue in the future. I am very grateful  for the opportunities I have encountered and the people I have met through my research here at UT Dallas.”

Eric Graham, a senior in biology at UT Dallas, also represented UT Southwestern Medical Center with a poster at the event. Graham conducted research under the guidance of Dr. Matthew Petroll, professor of ophthalmology at UT Southwestern, as part of the Green Fellowship program, which partners UT Dallas student-researchers with faculty mentors at the medical center.

Eric Graham

Eric Graham, a senior in biology, studied the healing of eye injuries.

Graham’s research focused on the underlying mechanisms of wound healing, specifically in the eye. His work could contribute to better methods for treating eye injuries and the aftermath of refractive eye surgery.

“There are very few things I am more passionate about in life than science,” Graham said. “There is something exhilarating about being involved in a project and doing real research with real potential applications. It’s an experience that cannot be attained merely through class, lectures and textbooks. I definitely gained a better understanding of the discipline and patience required by scientists and researchers.”

Syed Mohammed Rasheed, a pre-med senior majoring in psychology and child development, also attended the Austin event. His research aims to identify natural anti-inflammatory agents that also show potent antimicrobial activity. Working with Dr. Sukanya Subramanian, a biology professor at Collin County Community College, he found that eucalyptus oil and garlic are effective at killing certain disease-causing bacteria.

“Many anti-inflammatory drugs suppress the immune system and can promote bacterial infections,” said Rasheed, whose work was published in the inaugural issue of The Exley, UT Dallas’s undergraduate research journal. “Plant products that both reduce inflammation and kill bacteria could have great potential to fight disease without the risk of infection.”

Texas Undergraduate Research Day at the Capitol is coordinated by the Council of Public University Presidents and Chancellors, the Independent Colleges and Universities of Texas, and the Texas Association of Community Colleges.

Media Contact: The Office of Media Relations, UT Dallas, (972) 883-2155, [email protected].

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