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May 01, 2024

By Rebecca Mohr, Capital University Communications Manager

Empowering Minds Through Student Research

In April, Capital welcomed students, faculty, staff, families, and alumni to campus for the 28th Annual Symposium on Undergraduate Scholarship and 8th Annual Graduate Research Forum. The symposium was open to students in all majors.

The day started in Mees Hall with the annual Honors Convocation, a celebration of deserving students, faculty, and staff for their scholarship and leadership. Attendees were then encouraged to reconvene at The Capital Center for lunch and a student research poster presentation session. The afternoon was filled with oral presentations across campus.

Higher Education is Open to All Aspiring Students

Graceland Brewer, primary education/intervention specialist major, worked with three other students on their project, “iMentor 2.0: College Knowledge Building through Authentic Campus Experiences: Implications of Pre-College Mentorship Programming on First-Generation College Students.”

We worked with English Language Learners and New American Families, many of whom are first-generation college students, to promote college awareness opportunities,” said Brewer. “This project interested me because I know that I am very lucky to have the college opportunities that I have. I know that many people don't have the same opportunities. I also went to Columbus City Schools, so many of my classmates were immigrants and in the process of learning English. This made me want to do my part and help increase the awareness of college opportunities among underrepresented groups, because everyone deserves a fair chance at going to college.”

Brewer’s research group included Ella Stamolis, integrated language arts, Aliva Harrison, and Gabriela Seimer. Their academic advisor was Olga Shonia, professor, education.

“The students who are a part of iMentor are English Language Learners as well as first-generation college students. The process and information are not given in a way that is inclusive to anyone, let alone students who are wholly unfamiliar with the process,” said Stamolis. “This is what made me interested in the project, to share information in order to allow higher education to be accessible to everyone who wishes to pursue it.

“I am incredibly grateful to have been given the opportunity to be a part of this project that I feel so passionately about. Capital’s commitment to giving opportunities for students to create, participate, and showcase their work is what has allowed me to take part in this project.”

Antibiotic-Resistant Bacteria Near Endangered Sea Turtles

Erin Burns, biology, worked with John Mersfelder, assistant professor, biological and environmental science, on her research project, “Prevalence of Antibiotic Resistant Bacteria in Commercial Vacation Areas with Proximity to Nesting Areas of Loggerhead Sea Turtles and Black Skimmer Sea Birds.”

“My project was about antibiotic-resistant bacteria found in Laguna Beach near areas of sea turtle nesting sites. This area is highly populated and very touristy, so my professor and I wanted to test to see how much of an impact humans had on these sites,” said Burns. “I was interested in this project because we are constantly hearing about more and more antibiotic-resistant bacteria being spread throughout nature as a result of humans. This has become a huge problem in the medical field, so finding this resistant bacterium in nature may help scientists figure out where this all stems from.”

The 2024 Research Symposium is an opportunity for students to reflect on their time with their research mentor and showcase all of the hard work they’ve put into the project.

“I absolutely loved working with my faculty member, Dr. John Mersfelder. He has been my advisor all four years of college. He has supported me a lot throughout the years and has provided me with a lot of insight, which I am very thankful for,” said Burns. “This research experience has given me a lot of confidence and given me a great experience at Capital. I learned many lab techniques, as well as problem-solving and how to perform research. I am very thankful for the opportunity to do this research at Capital.”