Student Research Day continues to thrive with virtual event on April 2

Though Student Research Day next week will again be affected by pandemic restrictions, this year’s “Celebration in Cyberspace” exhibition of students’ research and creative work involves more than 50 entries in what remains a campus wide, high-profile event. Of those entries, 34 have been selected for Student Research Day presentations.

Ashley Karns of Greenville, Ohio, is a senior biochemistry major at IU East. She will be one of 35 students to present an undergraduate research or creative project during the virtual Student Research Day on April 2.

Ashley Karns of Greenville, Ohio, is a senior biochemistry major at IU East. She will be one of 35 students to present an undergraduate research or creative project during the virtual Student Research Day on April 2.

Student Research Day is at 2 p.m. on Friday, April 2, on IU East Facebook Live.

Ange Cooksey, senior lecturer in Humanities and director of the Honors Program,  said the event is designed to recognize and celebrate the scholarly, research and creative work of students.

“Before last year, Student Research Day was a vibrant, well-attended face-to-face event,” Cooksey said.

In April 2020, Student Research Day was held virtually for the first time. This year, despite continued limitations of COVID-19, the 2021 edition will again involve a range of students and research topics representing every school.

Student Research Day launched nearly 20 years ago to showcase the work of a handful of students conducting undergraduate research projects sponsored by their Summer Research Scholarships.

When Cooksey assumed leadership in 2010, she wanted to get more academic schools involved. By last year, the event involved more than 70 students and 40 faculty members representing every school. This year 34 students are participating and 20 faculty members served as mentors.

“The program is now supported with an annual budget, and students who distinguish themselves by placing in the competition win cash awards,” Cooksey said.

This year’s virtual program will include welcomes by IU East Chancellor Kathy Girten and Executive Vice Chancellor of Academic Affairs Michelle Malott. That will be followed by a keynote address by Katelyn Brown, D.D.S., an IU East alumna now practicing dentistry in Richmond. The award winners will be announced during the event.

Emily Merrell, a senior business administration major, is one of the 2020 Summer Research Scholars. As a Summer Research Scholar, Merrell is one of the students presenting for Student Research Day.

Merrell said she intentionally chose a project that “had almost nothing to do with my major” but gave her wonderful research experience looking into something close to her heart.

“I have always been close to my grandparents and enjoyed hearing the stories they shared from throughout their lives. I wanted to document some of those stories, though I knew it would be a very time-consuming process,” Merrell said.

Doing the research was “outside her comfort zone” and involved a series of extensive interviews and related historical research she believes will make her better in future careers involving in-depth interviews. Her project result is “The Cultural History of a Midwestern Family in Twentieth Century America.”

Jim Skufca, of Charlotte, North Carolina, will complete a bachelor’s degree in Applied Mathematics this year. His 2020 project, “Credit Risk Modeling Based on Logistic Regression,” fits right into his career. He has worked in the fields of commercial credit portfolio management for large banks.

“My research last summer (2020) was an extension of the work that I’ve been doing my entire career,” Skufca said.

He decided to pursue his mathematics degree online at IU East as a foundational step to a graduate degree in machine learning/deep learning with applications in credit portfolio management.

“I learned how much mathematics and computer science have to offer to the future of credit portfolio management. I’m really excited about the opportunities in my industry and can’t wait to continue my studies in graduate school,” Skufca said.

He added the research program is a great way to showcase students’ work and allows them “to get acquainted with real-world applications of what can seem like very theoretical concepts they learn in class.”

Heidi Klein, a secondary education major from New Paris, Ohio, submitted “Purge Burning,” a short book of poems that incorporate aspects of farm life in the Midwest.

Ashley Karns, senior biochemistry major, believes her work on researching an insecticide will help prepare her for plans to do research in the medical or biology field. Karns is from Greenfield, Ohio.

“This is a great opportunity to offer a student a way of showcasing their work,” Karns said.

Student Research Day projects highlight the variety of work featured each year, said Cooksey. From creative writing to chemistry, art and music to applied science, Student Research Day illustrates the depth of scholarly work at IU East.

The program going forward will also keep some of the virtual aspects forced by COVID-19.

“We will now regularly offer a more robust, virtual environment for Student Research Day as we will always have an online community participating and presenting. We want to better serve them in the future, ever expanding the new ways we may reach and enrich the lives of students and faculty,” Cooksey said.

All IU East students, in every discipline and online students, are able to participate. Participants may choose to present a poster or an oral presentation, to be judged by a panel of faculty and staff.

In addition, participants have the option of getting published in the Journal of Student Research at IU East. Student Research Day showcases the Summer Scholars Research program, Student Showcase (fine arts), Honors Program thesis students, and students’ research and creative works.

“We are so proud of the accomplishments of our students that we want to not only recognize their accomplishments — we want to celebrate them, applaud their hard work, and inspire them to push on in their pursuit of excellence in their research, their studies, and their work,” Cooksey said.