Student Profiles

From our Summer Undergraduate Research Experience fellows to our innovative and entrepreneurial graduate students, Kent State University and the Office of Student Research place a premium on student scholarship, research and innovation.
These profiles highlight the efforts and successes of our students, who are showing the Kent State community and the world how to do high-class research at every class level.

Tell us about your undergraduate or graduate-level research, innovation, and entrepreneurship!
Contact OSR Director Ann Gosky at agosky@kent.edu or 330-672-8037.

Here's What Students are Saying About Their Research Experience 

Associate Professor Yanhai Du, Ph.D., Patrick Baker-- Senior, Applied Engineering 

What do you research?
Baker: I've been with Dr. Du since September of 2019. The SURE program gave me an opportunity to explore the research topics we discussed during the school year with a lot more time. Since I don't have classes during the summer, I'm able to explore additive manufacturing and 3D printing in more depth than I would've during the semester. More specifically, my research has been in additive manufacturing and design-based research for Dr. Du. The specific topic has been research into the additive manufacturing of ceramic fuel cell components. This summer has given me great insight about additive manufacturing. 

How did you decide this was something you were interested in?
Baker: I've been interested in design work for a long time and a big part of design work is making sure that the object can actually be fabricated. What's really cool about additive manufacturing is that it allows you to create designs that you wouldn't be able to create in any other type of manufacturing environment. With direct metal-laser centering, like Kent State's printer as Dr. Du mentioned, you can create complex geometries and features that wouldn't be possible to create in a typical manufacturing setting. You can create new objects. I think that's really where the interest is for me. 

What do you feel are the characteristics of a strong mentor and mentee relationship?
Baker: Working with Dr. Du, I receive that design freedom where he has specific tasks he wants me to work on but then I create the objects and ask him if he'd like me to look further into it. It's been a really good experience; the SURE program has helped with that and given me time to spend the summer learning about research. 

How has this experience affected your overall time at Kent State? What would you tell someone, such as a freshman, who's interested in research?

Baker: Like Dr. Du said-- opportunities are going to come, but you really must prepare for those opportunities and it's not up to the professor or anyone but yourself to not only create your own opportunities but prepare for them. I could wait around for something to come my way and then take the opportunity but if you're proactive with the approach and you're constantly working to try to improve your knowledge, you're much more prepared. Get out of the routine of just going to classes because there's other things you can be doing-- there's things you learn in the classroom that you can take a deeper look into. Make the connections and be proactive with your approach to finding opportunities. 


Professor Yuko Kurahashi, Ph.D., Kelly Harper-- Senior, Theatre Studies 

What research did you conduct?
Harper: I'm going to be a senior theatre studies major with a minor in public relations. Dr. Yuko Kurahashi has been my mentor for the SURE program. We are working together on a project that the School of Theatre and Dance was going to do, which is a production called "Missionaries" by Elizabeth Swados. "Missionaries" is a true story about four American women who were murdered during the wake of the  12-year El Salvadoran Cival War in the 1980s. We're doing a lot of source material research, research on the women themselves, other characters in the show, on the Civil War itself and background information on anything we can find. We really wanted to know how it could connect to today's world and connect to a modern audience as well as examine how things have and haven't changed since then. We call this dramaturgy, which is acting as a voice to the show for the actors and the audience by giving them as many resources and material as possible. 

Dr. Kurahashi: Dramaturgy depends on how each director uses this role. We are working with Fabio Polanco, my colleague and the director of this musical-- which is unfortunately not going to happen due to the pandemic. His style is to use dramaturgy as much as possible for the production. We had the opportunity to work with Fabio by being the researchers for him which would influence how the musical's scenery and blocking will work. Right now, Fabio's plan is to use our research for future opportunities. 

Why do you involve undergraduate students in your research work?

Dr. Kurahashi: The undergraduate students are a gem in our community. We would like to give them as many chances as possible to create a bridge between research and the stage. Many of the undergraduate researchers have a very strong performance background. Even though this production was scheduled to be staged in November, the directors and the creative team started long before April. Those who work in the summer, like Kelly did, work without any credit. The SURE program really gives the support, financially, and the organizational support because without the kind of schedule that the SURE program allows for, it'd be very difficult to complete research tasks within the time period. 

How did you become involved in the SURE program? What did you enjoy most about the program? What have you learned about yourself throughout this program?

Harper: As Dr. Kurahashi said, I think it's hard to find the bridge between research and the stage. I met Dr. Kurahashi when we went to Greece together on this trip during the spring of 2019. For that trip, we had to complete a research project for the undergraduate research symposium in the spring. I was always a big history buff but I never felt that there was an opportunity to bridge a creative world like theater with history, research and writing in a way that I as an undergraduate could do. Ever since Greece, I took a class with Dr. Kurahashi the next semester and through that I understood this professional and also collegiate opportunity to get better at writing. This experience has provided so much one-on-one time for me to develop my voice as a writer. 

If you had to give advice to students about reaching out to faculty what would you say? How has this program impacted you because of your connection to faculty?

Harper: I would say that you should take as many classes as possible and branch out. I came into college as a performance major but because I got to branch out, I found this other path that I'm very passionate about. Don't be afraid to ask questions and sign up for times to talk to faculty. Also, share your interests with faculty and keep those conversations going-- because nine times out of 10 it could lead to something. Keep pursuing things you find worth pursuing. 
 

Dr. Kurahashi: When we choose the dramaturg, for example, it's harder and more time-consuming work. It's somtimes invisible work, where you work with not only the drama faculty but also the director and other designers as well. It's a tremendous amount of teamwork, responsibility and time--but it's sometimes invisible. It's visible in the form of writing, in the form of programs. It's very hard for the faculty or director to know who to look for when it comes to students who are interested in research. It's extremely important for undergraduate students to let us know what they're passionate about. 

How have you seen students grow throughout the SURE program?


Dr. Kurahashi: I've seen tremendous progress and growth, especially in Kelly's independence as a thinker and writer. It is very important for the undergraduate dramaturg or researcher to work with the director directly because I'm here just as a cushion. It's very important for Kelly to work with, in this case, Fabio directly. It really showed Kelly's initiative and her independence in scheduling. Kelly will always let me know how I can help her. I am very proud of her. 

 

Assistant Professor Lauren Kinsman-Costello, Ph.D., Daiyanera Kelsey-- Junior, Environmental Conservation Biology

What kind of research did you complete?

Kelsey: My research was starting to look at road salt in the Summit Street wetland. I wanted to know where the salt was going in the wetland. What I have been looking at is the specific conductivity which is the electric currents in the water. If there's electric currents in the water, that indicates there could be anthropogenic salt, which means humans are putting salt into the water. 

Dr. Kinsman-Costello:  Daiyanera's project is part of a larger group of projects in my lab looking at how wetland ecosystems process salt that comes from anthropogenic sources. Humans, especially in areas of the world where snow and ice are a factor, add a lot of salt to the environment. This is done mostly through road salt, but there's also salt, that comes out of th materials that we use to build roads and parking lots, that naturally wouldn't be there. For a long time, it was assumed that this salt would just dissolve in the water, wash away and not be harmful but there's a lot of recent evidence that salt seems to be accumulating and building up in soil and groundwater. This affects the organisms, the bugs, the plants and other amphibians that live there. For streams, wetlands and ponds that are supposed to be freshwater this means the water is getting salty and it can be harmful to those organisms. 

How did you get involved with the SURE program?

Kelsey: The SURE program seemed like a natural fit for what I was already doing. It was the next step in my studies. The main thing that I wanted to do was process new data. There's this coding program, the R project for statistical computing, that Lauren showed me which creates graphs and processed all of our data and made it into an accurate representation. 

Why did you choose your major? For professor, why did you choose to study this research?

Kelsey: I'm an environmental conservation major, so my focus is on the environment and I've always had this fascination with how the environment ticks. When I first got started in Lauren's lab, my interests seemed to align with Lauren's. It fell into place because I wasn't quite sure what I wanted to do for the rest of my life. But then I thought that aquatic stuff was very interesting and after being in the lab, it just got me more and more excited. 

Dr. Kinsman-Costello: Daiyanera originally applied for and completed the Sophomore Research Experience. The Sophomore Research Experience is another Kent State program organized to get sophomores involved in research. Daiyanera's been supported by a lot of these great programs at Kent State for student research. 

Salt is really an urban problem and prior to my coming to Kent State, I hadn't worked in very many urban aquatic ecosystems. The first time a colleague, Anne Jefferson in the geology department, sent over some water samples from a stream that she was studying I was really unprepared for the salt concentrations and I had to change the way I analyze them on my measuring equipment.  That really opened my eyes to how pervasive salt is in all of the water where we live. It made me think about how salt might be affecting the processes I usually study, which has to do with how wetlands cleanup phosphorus and nitrogen--which can be pollutants when there is too much of them. 

What are the benefits of having a mentor/mentee relationship between faculty and students?

Dr. Kinsman-Costello: Undergraduates are a really critical component of most of the research labs that I'm familiar with. The research is really enriched by their participation. I really value training students in the kinds of research practices and ethics that I think are important in society right now. I value the opportunity to kind of create the scientists and citizens I see in the world. That's the benefit that I get out of the mentor/mentee experience. From a practical standpoint, without undergraduate researchers, a lot of science wouldn't get done. 

How has participating in the SURE program affected your overall experience here at Kent State?

Kelsey: It's affecting me because for a long time, I thought I'd go into molecular studies and it really helped change my perspective. It opened my eyes that there's a different world to science and on top of that, with aquatic ecology, I used to hate chemistry. Then I got involved in Professor Kinsman's lab and really enjoyed chemistry. It really changed the way I look at science and at my future. 

 

Professor Angela Neal-Barnett, Ph.D., Kyra Fogg--Senior, Psychology 

What kind of research did you do in the SURE program?

Dr. Angela: Kyra's SURE experience involves being part of a grant-funded project addressing intergenerational trauma among pregnant Black mothers and their children. The team includes a doula, a music therapist, a grad student in the psychology department, a community member and a postbaccalaureate student. 

Fogg: I'm on the music intervention team of this whole group. The group is a multilevel intervention group and there's musical intervention, trauma-based intervention which involves written exposure therapy, and there's positive parenting trainings for mothers and their children. Specifically, I'm on the music intervention team. This summer I've been creating the manual for the music intervention. In the manual I basically explain how you can complete the intervention and the training that is required for it. I've also been doing recruitment flyers for our intervention, which we're hoping to start in September. 

Why do you enjoy involving undergraduate students in your research? What are the characteristics of a good mentor/mentee relationship in the SURE program?

Dr. Angela: We are involved in this project, in this area of infant mortality, Black mother morbidity and mortality, because Black babies and Black mothers are dying. There are many ways to address this issue, most of which take a physical health approach. Through research, though, we know that mental health and emotional health is just as important. We are doing an emotional health intervention 

What makes a good SURE mentor I think is having good graduate students and a good team in the labs. One of the things that I do is pair the undergraduate student with a graduate student so that they're working with that graduate student directly. You need open lines of communication and the mentor should be willing to do the things that are laid out by the SURE program. 

How has the SURE program impacted your overall experience here at Kent State?

Fogg: I've never really done the work that I've been doing with the SURE program, and within our group, before. This is a really amazing opportunity for me. I've never made a manual before so I'm getting the chance to do that, and it's definitely a resume booster. I'm really fortunate to be in this program and with this group. 

What advice would you give to a younger student who's interested in getting involved in research?

Fogg: I would say to start right away with research. I just applied to a random lab that I found on the Kent State psychology website and it didn't matter if it aligned with my interests, because at first you should just join anything that can give you more experience. 

How have you watched your undergraduate student grow during their time with the SURE program?

Dr. Angela: What I've seen is this young woman go from saying "I'm so excited to be someone who's a part of this lab," which she still is, to someone who is really taking on more of a leadership role in music intervention by preparing the manual and recruitment flyers.

 

Professor and Associate Dean for Research Mary K. Anthony, Ph.D., RN, Madeline Sterling--Junior, Nursing 

What did you research this summer?

Sterling: Two semesters ago, I had the opportunity through my honors class to get involved with this research project that Dr. Anthony introduced me to. We are looking at how layout and other environmental factors relate to the trauma room. We're focusing more on interruptions and disruptions in the trauma room, and then the architecture students are focusing more on the layout aspect. 

Dr. Anthony: Dr. Sarah Mayramzadeh from architecture is the primary investigator on this grant, and I'm a co-investigator on this grant. What's particularly interesting to us is how interruption and disruptions impact the flow of the work as well as the outcomes. In nursing, interruptions and disruptions are an area of study because of their potential for adverse events. Once a nurse gets interrupted, the flow of thinking and cognitive work can be affected. This could lead to delays or errors in care. 

Why do you choose to involve undergraduate students in your work?

Dr. Anthony: That's a good question. I think that there's a lot of reasons we involve undergraduate students. Florence Nightingale was a researcher and it's important for nurses to be introduced to their role in research and evidence-based practices early on in their academic careers. It exposes them to a variety of skills that could not only be useful if they choose to pursue a scientific career but will also be useful to them in their practice. At this point in time, they're putting the puzzles of their career together. It may lead to a scientific career and it may not but to be able to expose them and give them the opportunity to work with a research team that's interdisciplinary provides valuable experience. 

What would you tell a freshman student who's interested in research? How should a younger student who's interested in research connect with faculty?

Sterling: I think it's great when you ask questions, try to get involved with your professors and see what your professor's experience has been. 

Dr. Anthony: Madeline was also in the Honors Program. I think the Honors Program has opportunities for students as they enter their college career to be among other students who maybe have different levels of curiosity and expectations or approaches. The norms and the culture of the Honors Program gives students a jump start into pursuing things that are different or novel. They're among peers who can share their stories of opportunities. 

What would you say are the characteristics of a good mentor/mentee relationship between faculty and students?

Dr. Anthony: I've been thinking a lot about this for a variety of reasons. I was thinking back to what it means to be a mentor. You can read a million definitions of a mentor, and people don't have just one mentor. Mentors take on different roles as we move into our careers at different stages. 

The first time I was mentored was during my sophomore year as an undergraduate. My sophomore clinical instructor let me ask questions, think outside of the box and I didn't have to fit into a certain pattern or expectation. I don't even think she knew that she was allowing me to do all of that but she did. 

When I went through my career and through my Ph.D. program, I had an advisor who just pushed me into different ways of thinking. It wasn't always pleasant, but I think she knew what she was doing. I'd say to learn to trust your mentor even when it's not clear. I'd also say to have faith that they have an idea on how to guide you and trust your mentor to do some of the heavy lifting.

Sterling: I think it's just about being comfortable enough to ask the questions that you think are super dumb. Because I personally don't know anything, but I feel that me and Dr. Anthony are at a point where I can ask anything that's on my mind and get it all out there and ask the weird questions. 

What are the benefits you feel that undergraduate students glean from participation in undergraduate research? 

Dr. Anthony: Well ideally the future benefit is the pipeline into the Ph.D. program. Science advances practice and practice informs science. That's always an end goal. But there's lots of other things that are critically important. I think, like I mentioned before, being part of a research team and being exposed to research allows you to get some experience in how to ask questions, how to take a question and move it forward. The best science is built by a good team. 

What do you feel are the benefits of the SURE program in regards to your future?

Sterling: I feel like as nurses you have so many different career paths you can take. Doing the SURE program has shown me all the different ways I can use my nursing degree and has opened up a lot of 'idea doors' for me.