Students in the News

Students in the News

Reprinted from the Cornell Chronicle, May 5, 2016

Moreno

Marcus Moreno '17

Marcos Moreno ’17 has received a 2016 Udall scholarship, which supports undergraduates with excellent academic records and who show potential for careers in environmental public policy, health care and tribal public policy.

Moreno, a human development major concentrating in neuroscience in the College of Human Ecology, was one of five health care scholars selected to receive the award. Overall, he was among the 60 candidates selected out of 482 candidates from 227 colleges and universities. The scholarship provides $7,000 for one year.

Moreno is a member of the Pascua Yaqui tribe, born and raised on the Pascua Yaqui reservation in southern Arizona. He is a pre-med student, studying neuroscience and American Indian studies, with extensive experience as a researcher.

He is currently working in two Cornell laboratories: the child development lab of Gary Evans, the Elizabeth Lee Vincent Professor in the Departments of Design and Environmental Analysis and of Human Development, and the integrative neuroethology lab of Alexander Ophir, assistant professor of psychology. Moreno has also been a part of a public health project for his tribe’s reservation in 2014, has participated in medical brigades in West Africa and has spent time volunteering in his tribe’s affiliate health clinics.

At Cornell, he is a resident adviser at Akwe:kon and a First in Class mobilizer with the Office of Academic Diversity Initiatives program to support first-generation students. He also volunteers as a tutor for Native American students from the Onondaga Nation at Lafayette Junior and Senior High School in Lafayette, New York.

Upon completion of medical school, he intends to return to his Arizona reservation as a primary care physician with a focus on the interconnections between physical and mental health.

The 2016 Udall Scholars will assemble August 9-14 in Tucson, Arizona, to meet one another and program alumni, learn more about the Udall legacy of public service and interact with community leaders in environmental fields, tribal health care and governance.

The Udall Foundation is an independent federal agency established by Congress to honor Congressman Morris K. Udall and Secretary of the Interior Stewart L. Udall. Its programs promote leadership, education, collaboration and conflict resolution in the areas of the environment, public lands, natural resources and Native nations.

By Tyler Alicea ’16, MPS ’17

http://iamhumec.tumblr.com/

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Deborah Seok, HD ‘17

In faculty research labs, in communities across the state, and at jobs and internships around the globe, Human Ecology undergrads are making a powerful impact this summer as they apply their knowledge and skills in real-world settings.

Deborah Seok ’17, a human development major from Queens, N.Y., shares her research on toddler spatial language development in Harlem Head Start programs:

What are you working on this summer?

I am working with children in the New York City area to study early development of spatial abilities. For the first study, we are looking at whether spatial training activities, such as origami and playing with Legos, will enhance preschooler spatial skills. The second study looks at what kinds of play experiences contribute to these abilities. More specifically, we want to see whether providing constructive toys, like building blocks and puzzles, to families will enhance toddlers’ spatial skills.

How does this work relate to your coursework?

Much of scientific research focuses on the impact of early experience on human development. The research that I am involved with this summer looks at what kinds of specific factors, such as language input and types of toys played with, can enhance children’s learning abilities. It also addresses bigger scale issues like the effects of socioeconomic status on early development. By running intervention-based research, I am able to take the concepts that I learn in the classroom and apply them to the real-world problems in the community.

Who are your Human Ecology faculty mentors?

My primary faculty mentor is Marianella Casasola, associate professor of human development. As director of the Cornell Infant Studies Lab (CISL) and my research supervisor, she oversees all of the projects that I work on. With her guidance and support, I am able to advance my research experience and knowledge in the field of child development. Steve Robertson, professor of human development, is another faculty mentor who has also played a major role in my academic experience here at Cornell. Having taken two seminar courses with him, I have not only learned so much, but also had many opportunities to discuss and explore my own interests with him.

What excites you about your internship?

I’ve always loved working with children, and this summer is the best experience I could ever ask for. I would say that the best part about my internship is the purpose behind it. As an avid supporter of early development and education, I am so excited to be contributing to research that seeks to enhance early learning experiences and make a difference in children’s lives. This strongly motivates me and gives me a glimpse of what I would like to do in the future.

What societal impacts does your work have?

Our research is centered on early intervention work that seeks to promote spatial skill development in children, both at school and home settings. Working with children at a Head Start center in Harlem, New York, allows us to focus on families from especially disadvantaged backgrounds and target environmental factors such as low socioeconomic status.

Deborah’s summer project, The Role of Language and Play in Promoting Children’s Spatial Skills, is funded by the Cornell Cooperative Extension Summer Internship Program, an effort by the College of Human Ecology and College of Agriculture and Life Sciences to engage undergraduates in work to benefit New York state communities.

Republished from Human Ecology Magazine, Spring 2016

Annie Erickson & Eve De Rosa

Human Ecology Faculty-Led Undergraduate Research. Eve DeRosa / Annie Erickson

Human Ecology Faculty-Led Undergraduate Research. Eve DeRosa / Annie Erickson

What does your lab study?

Annie Erickson ’16: Our lab is interested in studying the neural basis of cognitive processes such as attention, learning, and memory. To investigate these complex neural mechanisms, we use a cross-species approach studying both human and animals. We are interested in the neurochemicals that modulate cognition— specifically, a neurotransmitter called acetylcholine. My project focuses on the effect of acute and chronic caffeine intake on cognition in rats, testing whether caffeine can rescue cognitive deficits that have been induced by blocking acetylcholine.

Why study caffeine?

Eve De Rosa, Associate Professor of Human Development and Rebecca Q. and James C. Morgan Sesquicentennial Fellow: We all drink coffee, but we don’t always give deep thought to how it affects attention, learning, and memory. That’s why I love the real-world importance of Annie’s honors thesis question. She’s finding cognitive tasks that both rats and humans can perform so that we can translate the basic science experiments in the lab to our understanding of human cognition.

What do you like about this work?

Erickson: After following this project from conception to experimental setup to final execution, it’ll be incredibly exciting to see the results. It’s been inspiring to work with Eve, and to see the way she’s able to balance research, teaching, and family. She’s so enthusiastic and positive, and I really enjoy discussing my ideas with her, because she’s always so encouraging.

De Rosa: I love mentoring students like Annie! After participating in the lab as an undergrad research assistant, she approached me with this wonderful question about looking at caffeine’s ability to boost cognition, and whether it was caffeine’s interaction with acetylcholine that underlies this ability.

The fact that caffeine is a cognitive enhancer is something I was already aware of, but not that it might be important in slowing the decline of pathological cognitive aging, like in Alzheimer’s disease. When Annie brought that idea to me, I could see why it might be worth taking a chance to pursue the question.

What’s the risk?

De Rosa: Rat neuroscience is expensive, and it’s not my primary research focus. I’m very interested in acetylcholine, which declines during normal aging, and in using functional Magnetic Resonance Imaging to assess brain activity. But Annie’s research is something I would never have pursued on my own. And now I’m having so much fun reading the literature, thinking about how it relates to my larger research vision.

Erickson: Through the process of developing my independent project, Eve has provided crucial advice while also being incredibly flexible in letting me explore different ideas. She’s shown how important collaboration is for successful research and I’ve learned so much about thinking and writing scientifically—skills that are fundamental to a future in research.

In 2015, Annie Erickson received the Human Ecology Undergraduate Summer Research Stipend, and is currently working toward an honors thesis funded by the Human Ecology Alumni Association

by Stacey Chen ‘18
 

Stacey Chen

Stacey Chen '18

This summer, I’ve had the pleasure of combining the ultimate camp experience with the experience of working in a laboratory and conducting exciting, cutting-edge in-field research on decision making. The project, Health and the Brain Neuroscience Outreach, is a Cornell Cooperative Extension internship under the direction of Dr. Valerie Reyna. The mission of the CCE internship program is to translate and apply Cornell research in ways that can benefit communities all around New York State.

In late March, I joined Dr. Reyna’s Laboratory for Rational Decision Making as a member of the Health and Medical Decision Making Team, whose goal is to use research on decision making to help educators and medical professionals effectively use theory-based interventions and communicate risks to patients. Using the information they’ve effectively learned, these patients can then make informed decisions about their health.

Valerie Reyna, director of the Human Neuroscience Institute and co-director of the Cornell MRI Facility

Valerie Reyna, director of the Human Neuroscience Institute and co-director of the Cornell MRI Facility

My first task of the project was to update the curricula taught to middle school students in past years at 4-H Camp Bristol Hills, in Canandaigua, New York. Looking at two modules, Nutrition & Neuroscience and Genetics & Neuroscience. The goal of teaching both curricula was to help students better understand obesity prevention and genetic risk using theory and evidence-based methods.

The curricula were based on Dr. Reyna’s research on decision-making and the importance of incorporating “gist” (a fuzzy or vague representation that contrasts with a precise verbatim representation) into the lesson plans in order to see the effectiveness of a gist-enhanced curriculum. According to Fuzzy-Trace Theory, people tend to rely on gist (bottom-line meaning) rather than verbatim representations (such as exact wording or specific numbers) whenever they make decisions. In teaching the campers, the goal was to see an improvement in retaining the information learned through gist when making decisions, such as deciding between eating a cupcake or eating an apple. Examples of gist-enhanced concepts are: “Developing healthy eating and exercise habits has both long-term and short-term benefits for a person’s physical and mental health,” and “Your diet should consist mostly of fruits and vegetables.”

I was extremely excited to be able to work with the campers. It’s very rewarding to be able to be the person to expose kids to new information, especially the kind that has the potential to affect their lives for the better– like knowing the nutrition concepts and science behind eating well and exercising more, or understanding more about how genetics work. By reviewing Dr. Reyna’s research, I was able to generate a list of possibilities for fun, informative, and engaging activities for the campers. In order to get a better perspective of what a camper would like (around the ages between 11-14), I talked to kids of that age to get their opinions and feedback to develop the most effective and engaging activities. I also read and dissected Dr. Reyna’s empirical research, such as A Theory of Medical Decision Making and Health: Fuzzy Trace Theory (Reyna 2008) and Efficacy of a Web-Based Intelligent Tutoring System for Communicating Genetic Risk of Breast Cancer: A Fuzzy-Trace Theory Approach (Wolfe et al. 2015), to understand the theory behind what we teach in Health and the Brain. Her past publications revolve around how humans remember and process information, which is essential to the development of activities and curriculum for the camp.

After solidifying teaching plans and curricula, I was able to generate and order a material list needed for this year’s curricula. I also started looking into data from previous years to get a better idea of the project through learning how to use IBM SPSS Statistics software. Though at times learning the program has proven to be challenging, the skill set used in statistical analyses is essential to the research process and for my future career goals. Throughout my time of preparation of Health and the Brain in the lab, I have learned much about working in the lab and interacting with not only fellow researchers, but also professionals in other fields, and had a challenging yet enjoyable time getting acquainted to it. I’ve learned that time management is key to completing the project successfully, and held many practice sessions teaching the curriculum and improving my notes and lesson plans.

My adventure at 4-H Camp Bristol Hills began with staff training, including how to mitigate bullying, report child abuse, how to effectively work with kids, and how to de-escalate situations, etc. Staff training allowed me to be well prepared when the kids come to camp in order to make sure that the kids can get the best possible camp experience, and also to get a better sense of how to best engage and recruit kids to participate in the Health and the Brain Outreach Program. During my time at camp, I stayed in a log cabin called Big Dipper, which housed me, Corrine Casal '16, Margaret Sloan'18 (both from the Adolescent Transitions Lab at Cornell), and Sophia Franck (another intern working on a social media project for the camp).  Connecting with all other counselors was very exciting, and I was able to join in on all the camp traditions, such as getting named by another counselor or fun camp songs or skits. We all use camp names at 4-H Camp Bristol Hills, and on the last day of each week, the campers try to guess our real names. My name at camp was Fence-Apella (Pella), because I fenced and sang a capella in high school! It was so inspiring to see how enthusiastic and welcoming the other counselors are to make sure the campers have the greatest time and feel comfortable at camp. The kids were so lucky to have such a diverse selection of activities, ranging from Archery and Air Riflery to Critter Care (where there are two baby white rabbits, hedgehogs, and even snakes).

After staff training came Week 1 of camp, when I finally got to meet all the bright-eyed campers! Every Sunday morning, I woke up early to drive with a graduate student from my lab to Canandaigua, New York, where 4-H Camp Bristol Hills is located. The natural beauty of the area and the camp is breathtaking, especially when the sun sets. Before each week starts, the camp staff had a potluck lunch meeting to get ready for the campers’ arrivals. Registration then began at around 1:30/2 PM for the campers. In order to recruit for the project, I set up a huge poster and table exemplifying all the fun activities and crafts we would do in Health and the Brain, and also talked to parents and campers who were waiting in line. Week after week, I became also more accustomed to and more successful in recruiting campers to participate in Health & the Brain. As an afternoon recreation activity, many campers were excited about drawing brains on swim caps and making DNA using pipe cleaners and beads, along with many other hands-on games and activities. It was so interesting to find kids who were so excited about science and wanted to sign up immediately, and to find others who were more curious and trying to find something that they felt passionate in and wanted to give science a try. After getting everything organized and settling down after the registration period, I would eat dinner with the campers. One of my favorite times during the weeks was being able to meet new kids during mealtimes and talk about their different interests, ranging from horseback riding to TV shows. At night, I would participate in a warm campfire and an evening program, where the counselors and campers get together to do all kinds of fun games with different stations to get the campers to make new friends and be comfortable being themselves at camp.

Health & the Brain had a lot of really bright and curious kids, which was very inspiring. Teaching the curricula at camp was very successful. Many of them knew so much already and had so many questions for me; I’m not sure if I even knew as much as they do when I were their age! A lot of the campers were very inquisitive about different cancer issues and genetic questions and also interested in eating healthier and exercising well. Many had a lot of prior knowledge on vitamins and minerals and where they come from, such as iron from meats and protein or calcium from dairy products. They were also very keen on wearing their “brain swim caps” into the pool and showing off their DNAs to friends. The kids told me again and again how much fun they had and how much they had learned. Many of them were excited about getting a head start in school on the different topics revolving around neuroscience, genetics, and nutrition. Hearing great answers from campers made me feel like I really made a difference in their lives. For the processed foods activity in the nutrition curriculum, the campers split up into two groups: both of them are workers at food company’s factory, but in order to emphasize the differences between highly processed and unprocessed foods, one company processes the core ingredient (styrofoam ball) highly using trans fat (clay), high fructose corn syrup (glitter glue), etc., while the other company only cuts and packages the product. This activity, while very entertaining and involves a lot of the campers’ favorite hands on materials, like clay and beads, also starts the discussion for which product represents a healthier food choice and why.

During my last week at 4-H Camp Bristol Hills, I was able to work with Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics (STEM) campers. I learned that part of working in the field for research involves flexibility, which was required to work around the STEM camper’s busy schedules in order to allow them to have the opportunity to be in Health & the Brain! During Monday through Wednesday, while I worked with other resident campers, other Cornell students working with Professor Franck from the Physics department worked with the STEM campers on building radios and satellite dishes. During my time with them on Thursday and Friday, they asked so many great questions for each topic, especially neuroscience. They knew so many things about the brain that were very advanced. Many of them had watched or read a lot about the brain and knew about different parts of the brain or case studies of special brain trauma, such as memory mechanisms in the hippocampus, or Phineas Gage, the American railroad construction foreman who had an accident that damaged most of his frontal lobe.

Even though each camp session lasts only one week, being together and meeting all these new campers makes one feel very connected to the camp and the kids, especially during moments where the entire camp gets together to hold hands and sing the goodnight song together. When I had to leave at the end of each week, despite being content and proud of a great week, I also felt an underlying sense of sadness to have to leave such a beautiful community where all the kids find places to truly be themselves and find best friends. The camp environment never ceased to amaze me; the campers were brimming with enthusiasm and the counselors still managed to top it week after week. While I’m saddened by the conclusion of my time at camp, I’m also very happy to have made so many great friends, amazing memories, and learned so many things!

Lindsay Dower '17

Lindsay Dower '17

I want to give special thanks to Dr. Reyna, Lindsay Dower ‘17, Dr. Priscila Brust-Renck '15, Dr. Allison Hermann and Tim Davis for allowing me to have the opportunity to be a part of such an exciting outreach project. Your continued support and guidance throughout the project was a huge factor for its success. I also want to thank the staff of 4-H Camp Bristol Hills for welcoming me with open arms, supporting me, and inspiring me with their enthusiasm and hard work! My internship with CCE Health and the Brain Neuroscience Outreach at 4-H Camp Bristol Hills has been such a memorable time. I’m incredibly grateful for the wonderful experience I’ve had this summer, which has allowed me to better understand not only how scientific research labs work and learn the techniques necessary in the future for my own work, but also the opportunity to conduct actual in-field research. With my love for working with kids and being able to get the full log-cabin camp experience, my time at camp has been absolutely phenomenal. This experience has allowed me to solidify my decision to pursue clinical psychology graduate work as a career, and inspired me to take on all opportunities with enthusiasm and determination.

great minds 3.400

Zoe Katz HD, '15

Nineteen Human Development undergraduates presented their findings at the 30th annual Cornell Undergraduate Research Board spring forum April 22.

Project topics, supported by faculty members, ranged from language acquisition in Korean infants to mother and child health in Kenya to understanding how young adults assess risk. The forum allows students to present research projects that they have designed and led during the academic year.

Read more about the event in the Cornell Chronicle.

View a slideshow of Human Ecology presenters, listed below, on Facebook.

Yeo Jin Ahn ’15, HD

Chelsea Brite ’15, HD

Ashton Conner ’15, HD

Rachel Cooper ’17, HD, and Kate Goldberg ’17, HD (presenting together)

Olivia Ellers ’15, HD

Zoe Katz ’15, HD

Aaron Lee ’16, HD, Olivia Dieni ’16, HD, Xi Richard Chen ’18, HD (presenting together)

Devin Massaro ’15, HD

Brian Meagher ’15, HD

Grace Monks ’15, HD

Catherine Liang ’15, HBHS and Kimberly Batcha ’15, HD (presenting together)

Julie Barbera ’17, HD, Jeanie Gribben ’15, HD, Masrai Williams ’15, HD (presenting together)

Colleen Sullivan ’16, HD, Azraa Janmohamed ’16, HD (presenting together)

 

 

By Shira Polan

Reprinted from Cornell Daily Sun, Feb. 17, 2015young couple

While many college students may be familiar with the idea of “hooking up” as a routine social interaction, Trenel Francis ’16 analyzed the phenomenon more closely in a study she performed last summer with the University of Cincinnati.  Francis set out to see whether hooking up — which she defines as “a short-term, casual sexual encounter between two uncommitted partners” — has any effect on how future relationships are perceived.

“I directly worked with [a University of Cincinnati graduate student] who had been working on two projects at the time,” Francis said. “The first was on couples’ interactions via a private therapy study and the second was about hooking up. The latter sounded more interesting to me, as well as more relevant to a college experience, so I decided to focus on hook-up culture.”

A human development major and education minor, Francis became involved in her research last year through the Robert E. McNair Postbaccalaureate Achievement Program, which provides research support to undergraduate students from underrepresented minority groups or low-income families.

“One of the things [the program] wants you to do is to get undergraduate research experience,” Franci said.  “I applied to a number of research programs outside of Cornell and was accepted into the University of Cincinnati’s Research Experience for Undergraduates program for psychology.”

Using data procured by Prof. Sarah Whitton and graduate student Eliza Weitbrecht of the University of Cincinnati, Francis focused on analyzing future relationship expectations of “emerging adults” based on three variables — the perceived value of being in a long-term relationship, perceived likelihood of marriage and the intention to be in a long-term relationship in the future. All of the participants were also asked whether or not they have hooked up with someone.

“We focused on the period of ‘emerging adulthood’ because it is a unique life period in which many young adults have the opportunity to explore their sexual identity,” she said. “We found that hooking up is one of the more prevalent behaviors that emerging adults tend to engage in. Emerging adulthood occurs between the ages of 18 and 25, which usually coincides with college years.”

Hookup chart

According to Francis, the study evaluated 287 University of Cincinnati undergraduates based on frequency of hook-ups and number of hook-up partners. Of the total participants, 136 had participated in hook ups and 151 had not.

“We asked, ‘how important to you is being in a long-term committed relationship in the future?’ The participants had to rank this importance on a scale of zero to three, with zero being not important and three being extremely important,” Francis said. “For those who hooked up, their average value was about 1.41, while those who never hooked up had an average value of 1.71, and there was a statistically significant difference between the two.”

The findings of the study, according to Francis, were fairly surprising.

“We found that those who had hooked up before were more likely to place a lower value on long-term relationships,” she said. “But despite the prevalence of hooking up and the current trend towards the delay of the onset of marriage, the vast majority of participants still plan on getting married in as early as five years and value being in a long-term relationship in the future.”

However, Francis added that the lack of explicit use of the word “future” in the poll questions and the fact that over half of the participants were freshmen may have influenced the results.

“It could be that some of the participants interpreted the question of the importance of being in a long-term relationship as right now as opposed to some time in the future,” Francis said. “Fifty-four percent of the participants were freshmen so it could be that they were thinking ‘presently.’”

Francis also said she thought it would be helpful to follow up with the participants of the study to see if they committed to their predicted behavior.

“It would be nice to see whether or not participants who had hooked up ended up actually having long-term relationships or getting married,” she said.

Francis, who is currently is studying abroad in London, said she plans to explore other psychological topics that affect college students once she returns to the United States. According to Francis, she is set to work with Prof. Robert Sternberg, human development, on her next project.

“I’m interested in Cornell or other Ivy League students’ perceptions of their own intelligence,” she said.

Following her time at Cornell, Francis said she plans on participating in Teach For America or a similar education fellowship before pursuing her PhD in either education or education administration.

“I’m actually torn between teaching kindergarten or first grade and teaching high school,” she said. “They’re obviously very different and I love kids, but my dream as far as teaching is concerned might be more fulfilled by teaching older children.”

Students and professors in Human Development worked this past summer to move their research into the real world at 4-H Camp Bristol Hills.

Kathleen McCormick '16 and Alexandra Holmes '16 invite students to join the journaling study - Mark Vorreuter

Kathleen McCormick '16 and Alexandra Holmes '16 invite students to join the journaling study - Mark Vorreuter

Guided by  human development undergraduates Alexandra Holmes '16 and Kathleen McCormick '16, campers reflected on puberty in the "Writing about Life Changes" study led by Jane Mendle, assistant professor of human development.

Following a successful pilot study last summer, Mendle is again partnering with camp director Tim Davis to study the health benefits of writing about teen transitions.

“The 4-H program has always had a wonderful connection with the university,” says Davis, interim executive director and 4-H program leader of Cornell Cooperative Extension in Ontario County.

“There is a real emphasis on how the camp experience will develop the whole child, and if there is a good fit between faculty and our priority areas – healthy living, STEM (science, technology, engineering, and math), or workforce development – we’re very open to discussing partnerships.”

Lindsay Dower ’17 guides students in a nutrition game – Mark Vorreuter

Lindsay Dower ’17 guides students in a nutrition game – Mark Vorreuter

Indeed, 4-H Camp Bristol Hills is becoming a prime spot for Cornell professors and students to pursue research and outreach projects. Along with Mendle’s study this summer, the camp hosted the “Health and Brain Neuroscience Outreach” project by Valerie Reyna, professor of human development. Lindsay Dower '17, an undergraduate in human development, engaged campers in learning about neuroscience, genetics and nutrition through interactive games and bottom-line messages about health designed to help young people make healthy choices.

Read the full story

By Caitlin Harder
Reprinted from Cornell Chronicle, October 20, 2014

Pawan Angara discusses his spotted wing drosphila research with College of Agriculture and Life Sciences Dean Kathryn Boor. - Mark Vorreuter

Pawan Angara discusses his spotted wing drosphila research with College of Agriculture and Life Sciences Dean Kathryn Boor. - Mark Vorreuter

On Oct. 7, 26 students from the College of Agriculture and Life Sciences (CALS) and College of Human Ecology (CHE) gave one-minute “lightning” presentations on topics ranging from helping New York farmers adapt to climate change to market testing alternative sap products and offering classes to second-time parents.

The presentations were followed by a poster session that outlined what the students learned through research conducted during the Cornell Cooperative Extension Summer Internship Program.

Human Ecology Dean Alan Mathios and faculty member Gary Evans mingle with the Cornell Cooperative Extension interns. -Mark Vorreuter

Human Ecology Dean Alan Mathios and faculty member Gary Evans mingle with the Cornell Cooperative Extension interns. - Mark Vorreuter

Pawan Angara ’16 conducted research on spotted wing drosophila, an invasive species that lays its eggs in otherwise viable fruit, creating significant losses for organic farmers in the Hudson Valley. Angara spent his summer developing a gel that attracted the insects to a location where they could be exterminated.

Angara discovered that field research doesn’t always go as planned. “You have to adapt and work with the tools you have on hand, rather than what you wish you had,” he said. “I definitely was inspired by all the innovation I saw in the lab and the quick thinking that went on. When you’re in the field, you can’t just drive back to the lab to get something you forgot.”

This was his second summer participating in the program. “Every year I see more and more people doing great things for the community and great things for the world through research,” he said.

Lindsay Dower ’15 updated a curriculum on nutrition and fitness and taught modules to middle school children in Canandaigua. Applying the research of Valerie Reyna, professor of human development, Dower tested a theory that learning by understanding overarching ideas is more effective than memorizing facts. “I learned so much about the research process and, beyond that, how to work with different groups and types of people … and I definitely strengthened my leadership skills,” Dower said.  She is continuing her research in Reyna’s Laboratory for Rational Decision Making this academic year.

Food science major Susana Jimenez ’15 spent her summer in Wayne County working to increase participation of traditionally underrepresented Latino children in local educational opportunities. Building on the research of CHE senior lecturer Pilar Parra, Jimenez conducted interviews and focus groups and learned that parents and caregivers in the rural area showed high interest in extension programs. She identified and evaluated sites, learning that hosting programs in familiar spaces with established community leaders, such as Catholic churches, increased program participation. She said these groups wanted to learn about nutrition and food safety, but they were open to many of kinds of programs. “It’s not so much what you teach, but where and how,” she said.

Since its establishment in 2007, the Cornell Cooperative Extension Summer Internship Program has expanded from five student projects to 26.

Caitlin Harder is a writer intern for Cornell Cooperative Extension.

 

By Bill Steele
Reprinted from Cornell Chronicle, May 1, 2014

 To find food and evade predators you have to evolve. Learning how to do that is the key to the computer game "Cellvival," set in a world of single-celled organisms.

To find food and evade predators you have to evolve. Learning how to do that is the key to the computer game "Cellvival," set in a world of single-celled organisms.

As in many computer games, the goal of “Cellvival” is to survive in a hostile environment. Unlike most others, though, this game teaches some basic science. And unlike a lot of educational games, it’s fun to play.

You play as Tetrahymena thermophila, a single-celled organism that lives in fresh water, trying to catch food and avoid being eaten, and ultimately to reproduce and survive as a species. When you get enough food, you can reproduce, and when you reproduce you can adapt. The trick is to choose traits that will make you better equipped to survive. There are trade-offs: Speed makes your organism less maneuverable, and vice versa. Instead of levels, the game puts you in different environments, and the traits that make you best fitted to survive will be different in each one.

Ithaca-area high school students have been playing – and enjoying – the game, and whether they realize it or not, learning how evolution works, how the characteristics an organism inherits interact with its environment. “In order to play a game, you have to learn how to play the game, so kids are used to getting information from games,” explained Andrew Jefferson, a graduate student in the field of human development, who spearheaded development of the game. “One reason we went with evolution is that it involves abstract things that are hard to visualize. In a game you can take something abstract and make it concrete and play with it and experiment. Even if they die [lose the game], that’s still teaching them something about how it works.”

The project grew out of Jefferson’s conversations with Walker White, director of the Game Design Initiative at Cornell (GDIAC). Coincidentally, White had just been approached by members of the College of Veterinary Medicine’s ASSET (Advancing Secondary Science Education with Tetrahymena) program, who were interested in creating educational games to go with laboratory modules they provide to biology teachers. Jefferson works with Steven Ceci, the Helen L. Carr Professor of Human Development, and human development professor Wendy Williams, and has recruited a team of computer science students as programmers. He will describe the project at the Games, Learning and Society conference in Madison, Wisconsin, June 11-14. You can try out the game yourself at the GDIAC showcase, May 16 in Carpenter Hall.

After some polishing, the game will be distributed free to teachers through the ASSET program, along with lab modules that let students work in the classroom with the real Tetrahymena organism. Several teachers around New York state have already expressed interest, Jefferson said. The game is available in PC and Mac versions, with an accompanying lesson plan to guide classroom discussion.

The challenge, Jefferson said, is to satisfy both kids and teachers. “Educational games get a bad rap,” he noted. “Kids compare it with the games they paid for. Often in educational games you’re just answering quiz questions. … But if you don’t have those questions, teachers ask if kids are learning the game but not learning the content. It’s a balancing act.” But so far, he said, reception has been favorable. When he demos the game to adults the response is often, “That looks a lot better than I was expecting from an educational game.”

Testing will soon move to Ithaca middle schools, and Jefferson plans to create more games, in particular one that teaches critical thinking skills. The work so far has been funded by the National Institutes of Health.

 

By Blaine Freedlander
Reprinted from Cornell Chronicle, April 24, 2014

Beyond the buds and the daffodils, another spring rite emerges: undergraduate research presentations.About 140 students presenting 115 individual pieces of research gathered for the 29th annual Cornell Undergraduate Research Forum April 16 at Duffield Hall, while 45 seniors convened for the Hunter R. Rawlings III Cornell Presidential Research Scholars Senior Expo 2014, April 17 at the Biotechnology Building.

Ranging from cancer research and possible pharmaceuticals for diabetics to cooking a better steak, almost 200 undergraduates conveyed their academic prowess.

Hunter R. Rawlings III Cornell Presidential Research Scholars presentations in the Biotech Building April 17. Photo by Lindsay France/University Photography

Hunter R. Rawlings III Cornell Presidential Research Scholars presentations in the Biotech Building April 17. Photo by Lindsay France/University Photography

Cornell Undergraduate Research Board

Michelle Duong ’14 showed that an environment influences food intake. In two focus groups – each before a bowl of chocolates – the people who discussed gym memberships ate fewer sweets than those who discussed a nonhealth topic.In her research, Shanique Alabi ’14 learned that Canada goldenrod (Solidago canadensis), which she found at the Cornell Plantations, may offer promise as a carbohydrate digestion blocker for diabetics.

Jessica Lebovits ’14, Nolan Reese ’15, Janet Kim ’15 and Olivia Roche ’15 studied the culinary learning process of off-campus college students to ascertain nutrition among young adults. Louis Levine ’16, Rachel DeMel ’14, Camille Kapaun ’14 and Paige Mintz ’15 learned how off-campus students manage their time in preparing meals with the aim of improving their meal choices.

Conor Gruber ’15 studied the early detection of circulating tumor cells in pancreatic cancer, working toward an assay that ascertains cellular nuances; and Karen Martin ’15 examined the process of RAC1 proteins as it relates to metastatic cancer.

While Marissa Tranquilli ’15, Simeon Markind ’14, Katherine Bruce ’14 and Benjamin Catanese ’14 characterized the carbohydrate content of the Ithaca Beer Company’s Apricot Wheat and Green Trail beers with high performance liquid chromatography-refractive index detection, other student chemists Janette Guijosa ’14, Sarah Goodnow ’14, Daniel C. Lee ’14, Harrison Specht ’14 and Ashley-Lauren Mighty ’14 provided an aroma profile of Ithaca Beer’s Flower Power IPA in various stages of production.

Rawlings Cornell Presidential Research Scholars

Rachel Lumish ’14 correlated pica behavior (consuming non-food items like chalk, ice, powder, soap and dirt) and its relationship with iron deficiency among pregnant teens. And Quinn Kelly ’14 analyzed bicycling policies in major American cities, with an eye toward improving sustainable transportation. He found that cities with the strongest bicycling organizations had the strongest cycling infrastructure and policies, and the largest amount of cyclists.

James Zen Yui ’14 showed how to save energy and grill a better steak by pre-cooking the meat in a vacuum-sealed plastic and storing it in water, which keeps the meat tender. When ordered in a restaurant, the juicy so-called sous vide steak is grilled for a few minutes.

To create equity in discrimination lawsuits (based on Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964), Hannah Clark ’14 assembled a database of factors that correlate with larger settlements and relief clauses in settlement documents.

Spenser Reed  ’14 evaluated chicken as a potential model for an inexpensive and sensitive zinc biomarker to quickly assess human nutritional needs, while Joseph Edwards ’14 explained how he used electrospinning and electrospraying to create membranes that use biochar to trap volatile organic compounds, for possible use as a smokestack filter.

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Department of Human Development well-represented!

Of the students involved in the presentations, 21 were Human Development majors or worked with a professor from the department: Victoria Atzl ’14, Martina Azar ’14, Olivia Butkowski ’16, Morgan Drucker ’14, Lara Gentilini ’14, Jeanie Gribben ’15, Amauri Gomez ’14, Azraa Janmohamed ’16, Corey Keane ’15, Kyle Kurkela ’14, Wei-Feng Lee ’16, Samantha Marfurt ’14, Meghan McDarby ’14, Nicole Meyers ’14, Hye Eon Park ’15, Carly Schuller ’16,  Leah Shabo ’16, Victoria Silverman ’15, Colleen Sullivan ’16, Masrai Williams ’15, Lilly Zhang ’14.

Related Links:
Hunter R. Rawlings III Cornell Presidential Research Scholars
Cornell University Research Board