Kennesaw State students present research at Posters at the Georgia State Capitol

KENNESAW, Ga. | Feb 26, 2020

Students seek to make a difference at the legislative level

Kennesaw State University was well represented at the Georgia State Capitol, where 10 students showcased their community-focused research projects to Georgia’s leaders. KSU was among 16 Georgia institutions whose undergraduates were selected to participate in Posters at the Georgia State Capitol, a special poster session organized by the Georgia Undergraduate Research Collective.

“I am so glad that our students are given the unique opportunity to share their research with government officials,” said Amy Buddie, director of undergraduate research at Kennesaw State. “Undergraduate research is an important part of the KSU experience, and the fact that we have eight of the 45 posters at the venue is a testament to our students’ hard work and dedication to their disciplines.”

Posters at Georgia capitol
Students, pictured left to right: Back row – Joshuah Leljedal, Kaelyn Ireland, Logan Turner, Kara Heller; Front row – Josh Hooper, Destiny Paige, Jessica Castillo Reyes, Hope Didier, Chandler Cooper (not pictured Andy Houghton)

The KSU undergraduates were Jessica Castillo Reyes of Powder Springs; Chandler Cooper of Dunwoody; Hope Didier and Andy Houghton, both of Peachtree City; Josh Hooper of Duluth; Kara Heller of Canton; Kaelyn Ireland of Marietta; Joshuah Leljedal of Cumming; Destiny Paige of Buford; and Logan Turner of Loganville.

They presented research in an array of disciplines from biochemistry and civil engineering to psychology and mathematics. Although the students delve into different research areas, they all believe their research experiences serve as a springboard to their future careers.

Applications of Mechanical Engineering

Josh Hooper, who is studying mechanical engineering, explained that undergraduate research holds value beyond the classroom as it provides unique experiences.

“Undergraduate research is important because it allows students to get exposure to real-world applications of their classes,” he said. “There are different challenges faced in research, but it can be satisfying work.”

Hooper worked alongside Andy Houghton, a recent mechanical engineering graduate, in researching the design and development of a flexure hinged swimming robot, consisting of a direct current motor, flexible links (joints), a rigid crank, ball bearing, and base. In comparison to traditionally built robots, these types have potential applications in such areas as medical devices and exoskeleton joints due to their lightweight, simplistic design and reduced production costs.

Showcasing Civil Engineering

Chandler Cooper, a civil engineering major, hopes his research experiences will showcase the research capabilities and opportunities available to future students in civil and structural engineering at KSU. His research focuses on post-tensioned concrete construction, widely used in structures including bridges and skyscrapers.

“Becoming familiar with the research process and working in collaboration with professors and students to make contributions to a chosen field of study is a valuable experience,” he said. “I plan to work as a structural engineer after graduation, and this research has been an important stepping stone in achieving that goal.”

Solving Structural Engineering Problems

Honors student Joshuah Leljedal, who is already a licensed professional land surveyor, returned to KSU to earn his civil engineering degree. His project focuses on using a specialized software program to perform Finite Element Analysis (FEA), a widely used method for solving structural engineering problems, to explain the interactive behaviors within models of complex structural and mechanical systems in various loading and environmental conditions.

“My research has applications throughout structural engineering, developing design standards, and building further understanding of structural and mechanical interactions,” he said.

Communication Strategies for Criticism

Psychology majors Logan Turner and Kaelyn Ireland researched the effectiveness of two communication strategies for increasing positive reception to constructive criticism between members of different racial groups. They said they were ecstatic for the chance to make a difference in people’s lives by sharing their poster presentation with Georgia’s representatives.

“I’m excited and honored to have this opportunity,” said Ireland, also a modern language and culture major. “What we have been working on has practical, everyday applications, and I hope it helps our state government representatives improve communication with each other and their constituents.”

First-Generation Students in STEM

Jessica Castillo Reyes, a computational and applied mathematics major, shared her findings on how to support first-generation students in the STEM (science, technology, engineering and mathematics) disciplines. She also presented this research at the 2019 Posters on the Hill in Washington, D.C.

“As a Mexican American first-generation college student, I am passionate about first-generation success and have personal insights into this issue,” said Castillo Reyes. “My research points out what legislators and universities can do to promote first-generation retention, as well as what everyone, such as first-generation students, peers, family, and educators, can do to encourage first-generation college students to succeed in a degree in STEM.”

Researching Bioactive Glass

Destiny Paige, a biology pre-med major and Honors student, became involved with undergraduate research because of her desire to interact with the STEM community. Her research, which won the top poster award at KSU’s Birla Carbon Symposium in August, investigates a new type of bioactive glass for potential use in tissue repair and drug delivery.

“Presenting at the Georgia Capitol is a great opportunity to be able to share my discoveries at the state level while also explaining the potential benefits of this novel bioactive glass to state government leaders,” said Paige.

Statistical Model for Electricity Usage

Kara Heller, who graduated in December with a computational mathematics degree, believes that her involvement in research as an undergraduate was beneficial for her career options. While an intern at Cobb EMC, she was able to build a statistical model to predict which customers had electric vehicles based on their energy usage in order to market the company’s NiteFlex plan.

“I am extremely thankful to have this opportunity through KSU and be able to share my ideas about environmental sustainability with other students, family, friends, and government officials,” she said.

Research on Cervical Cancer

Hope Didier, an Honors student who is studying molecular and cellular biology, and dance, conducts research on cervical cancer, the third leading cause of death in women worldwide. She already presented this research at a meeting of the Board of Regents of the University System of Georgia earlier this month.

“While we all have the responsibility to take action and implement change, as a female pursuing a scientific research career, I hope to serve as an advocate for greater research and education on women’s health issues,” she said. “I am always in awe and humbled by the work of other undergraduate researchers, especially those within my community at KSU.”

Landon Mion

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A leader in innovative teaching and learning, Kennesaw State University offers undergraduate, graduate and doctoral degrees to its more than 45,000 students. Kennesaw State is a member of the University System of Georgia with 11 academic colleges. The university’s vibrant campus culture, diverse population, strong global ties and entrepreneurial spirit draw students from throughout the country and the world. Kennesaw State is a Carnegie-designated doctoral research institution (R2), placing it among an elite group of only 7 percent of U.S. colleges and universities with an R1 or R2 status. For more information, visit