Lehigh University
Lehigh University


The diverse world of student research unfolds at STEPS

Carla Prieto ’14, Jennifer Lewis ’14 and Kimberly Preusse ’12 (left to right) found that multitasking can break down the mental preparation that helps people plan their speech.

How can ultrasound help nanoparticles target cancer cells?

How diverse are the boards of directors of commercial banks that do mergers and acquisitions?

How did Islam relate to social movement groups during last year’s “Arab Spring?”

These and 36 other topics were on display last week when students turned the STEPS concourse into a sea of posters at the annual Undergraduate Research Symposium.

The event was supported by a Core Competencies Grant from the provost’s office and sponsored by Alpha Chi Sigma, the chemistry fraternity.

“This was our best year yet,” said Keith Schray, professor of chemistry and adviser to Alpha Chi Sigma. “A lot of people participated and attendance was up.”

To remember, first forget

Psychology major Victoria Shiebler ’12 presented a study of memory enhancement techniques titled “Directed Forgetting in Preschoolers.”

“Forgetting irrelevant information enhances [memory of] more important information,” said Shiebler, “but we lack knowledge on how best to do that.”

To improve children’s memory performance, Shiebler recommends enhancing the context in which information is stored and making that information more personal to the individual.

Two other psychology majors studied how multitasking undermines our subconscious efforts to plan speech.

Carla Prieto ’14 and Kimberly Preusse ’12 joined biology major Jennifer Lewis ’14 in a project titled “Word Preparation Failure in a Complex Task.”

The planning of speech, said Prieto, is more mental preparation than physiological activity. Humans often focus on the first letters of upcoming words as they talk, she added, but “too much of a cognitive overload—keeping track of too many things at once—can break that process down.”

As good as gold

Three sophomores described their efforts to redesign the university’s composting system in a poster titled “Garbage to Gold.” Camile Delavaux, Rachel Henke and Bill Meier, representing the earth and environmental sciences department and the environmental sciences program, said the existing system boosts costs by requiring waste to be transported.

Three seniors in the Global Citizenship program—Elizabeth Shannon, Katherine Phyfe and Natalya Surmachevska—promoted healthy lifestyles to Broughal Middle School students. “Running at Broughal” detailed their six-week exercise and nutritional education program.

Surmachevska, a biology, international relations and economics triple major, also presented a poster describing her study of a clinic and medical school at the Peruvian University of Applied Sciences in Lima. “Medical Shadowing in Peru” summarized treatments rendered to a kidney stone sufferer, a head trauma victim, a bladder cancer patient and a skin-graft recipient.

Surmachevska’s trip was funded by an Experiential Learning in Health grant from the College of Arts and Sciences and arranged with help from Global Union director Bill Hunter.

Marc Mechanic ’12 investigated the redevelopment of the World Trade Center site and its impact on the real-estate market in downtown Manhattan. He interviewed 10 real-estate professionals and obtained the opinions of 26 more in an online survey. Mechanic wrote a 70-page paper on his two-semester study and has submitted it to the UCLA Undergraduate Journal of Economics.

Photos by Christa Neu

Story by Kurt Pfitzer and Tommy Misiolek

Posted on Tuesday, May 01, 2012

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