Spring Research Forum Topics Include Data Collection in a Noisy World, The Smell of Education and the Social Response to a Disaster

RASP Research and Innovation Forum allows Kent State researchers to share their work covering a wide array of subjects.

The Division of Research and Sponsored Programs (RASP) is the source for up-to-the-minute information about all Kent State research and researchers. The division presents a variety of research events each year, among them two research forums spotlighting the work of research teams on campus. Douglas Delahanty, Ph.D., vice president for RASP, estimates that, to date, the division has presented more than 20 Research and Innovation forums.

The Spring Semester Research Innovation Forum explored the topic of data collection, AR/VR innovation and media influence.

‘Significant Heterogeneities: Making Sense of Environmental Data in a Noisy World’

‘We live in a messy world. We have to be mindful stewards of data.’

Christie Bahlai

Christie Bahlai, Ph.D., describes herself as “a computational ecologist who does stuff with bugs.” An assistant professor in the Department of Biological Sciences, her research is focused on interpreting broadscale ecological data using technology and new analytical methods to see how biodiversity responds to environmental changes.

She presented an example of a noted environmental researcher, who in the late '50s, did a study of territorial competition in warblers. His methods were basic, using the tools of his time, and his study became a foundational work in community ecology. However, upon reexamination, with modern research tools and methods, it was determined that his findings were what Bahlai called “conveniently good looking.”

Bahlai research slide

A slide from Bahlai's presentation illustrates how insects are captured for research.

Working with her research colleagues, Bahlai has determined that nature is inherently a “noisy environment,” data-wise. “In variable environments, it’s harder to detect a clear trend,” she said. “This is not a really surprising result, but when you have a noisy system, you’re not going to get at mechanisms or management unless you study for longer.”

‘The world would be a better place if we spent a little more time thinking about, and being thoughtful about our data and how it should vary. A clear, simple pattern that emerges from a complex system is a signal that you’re not capturing authentic variability.’

‘The Smell of Education: How Olfaction and Technology Could Change How We Teach and Learn’

‘Of all the senses that the creator bestowed us with, I’m most fascinated with smell.’

Rick Ferdig

Delahanty introduced Rick Ferdig, Ph.D., as “the Summit Professor of Learning Technologies (as named by Akron's GAR Foundation) and a professor of educational technology here at Kent State.” Ferdig’s research studies the impact of emerging technologies like virtual reality and augmented reality in K-12 schools.

“Most of what we know about olfaction (the sense of smell) was discovered in the last 15 to 20 years,” said Ferdig. “And the truth is, we don’t really know as much as we should.” His research tackles the “wicked” problems of integrating olfaction into teaching technologies.

Olfactory research equipment

Part of the apparatus Ferdig's team uses to deliver precise doses of scent to research volunteers.

“Wicked” problems, in the world of research are those that are resistant to solution, or a single solution, because of changing conditions. Ferdig says the wicked problems with olfaction include the aforementioned lack of research knowledge about olfaction, controlling the “dosage” and diffusion of scents, and then determining what the demand for this technology would be, when it’s successfully developed.

‘The final wicked problem is that we used to think there were 10,000,' Ferdig said. ‘Now, there’s proof that there may be more – as many as 1 trillion – kinds of scents that are available to people.’

“The truth is that these wicked problems are going to require an interdisciplinary response,” he said. “And I’m hopeful in presenting this today that you’re either willing, or know someone who’s willing to smell up some solutions with me.”

‘Agnotology, Ecofeminism and Environmental Justice: Tools to Explore the Social Response to the Chemical Spill in East Palestine, Ohio’

‘This is the idea that ignorance is propagated. It’s created; it’s socially constructed.”

Lydia Rose

In February, Lydia Rose, Ph.D., an associate professor in the Department of Sociology and Criminology, was teaching at Kent State’s East Liverpool Campus and assisting in preparing an undergraduate research conference about litter. Then, the train derailment happened in nearby East Palestine. She closely observed the media coverage of the incident under the lens of her research of what she calls “the Agnotology and Epistemology of Ignorance.”

“Agnotology” is a term coined by a researcher at Stanford University to define the study of “culturally induced ignorance.” Rose said, “Media has been balkanized, where we don’t really have a lot of control of what gets put in the media.”

‘There are so many different kinds of media in a variety of different ways, even from just regular citizens who take a picture that goes viral,' she said.

Rose used her research as a tool to look at the chemical spill in East Palestine to understand how the incident will unfold and what it will mean for the people in the area. She said “Ecofeminism is a tool that we can also use to understand this. This is a theoretical perspective that provides a lens that allows us to recognize that capitalism and patriarchy and colonialism are ideologies that also let us know that this history of propagated ignorance has an agenda in our social structure.”

Pink Hats and Ballots book cover

Rose's book, that her current research references, was recently released in paperback.

Rose's studies are also the subject of the latest "What's the Big Idea" video, a series in which Kent State President Todd Diacon meets with Kent State researchers to explore their areas of expertise.  

The recent forum event took place on the Kent Student Center Ballroom Balcony.

In just two weeks, Kent State’s Office of Student Research will present its annual Undergraduate Symposium on Research, Science and Creative Endeavors, on Monday, April 17, in the Kent Student Center. April 17-21 is National Undergraduate Research Week.

Kent State has earned the prestigious R1 designation from the Carnegie Classification of Institutions of Higher Education. R1 status is the highest recognition that doctoral universities can receive, and Kent State is one of only five universities in Ohio to have earned it. This designation recognizes the high level of research activity on Kent State’s campuses.

POSTED: Monday, April 10, 2023 11:21 AM
Updated: Tuesday, April 11, 2023 08:41 PM
Phil B. Soencksen