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Otterbein honor student’s research maps their future

Otterbein honor students' research maps their future


Each year, Otterbein honor students present their research at the Honors Reporting Day. Here are a few of the stellar students who presented their research and post-graduation plans at this year’s event on April 6.

Ciara Atkinson

  • Major: Psychology
  • Minor: Women’s, Gender and Sexuality Studies
  • Hometown: Findlay, Ohio

What are your post-grad plans?
After I graduate from Otterbein, I will be attending the social psychology PhD program at the University of Arizona to work with Dr. Alyssa Croft. I look forward to continuing to conduct research on topics similar to that of my honors thesis, combining theory and method from both Psychology and WGSS.

How has your research at Otterbein prepared you for your future career?
My research experiences at Otterbein have prepared me so well for my future career! I’ve been involved in research labs since the beginning of my junior year, working on projects with both Dr. Meyer and Dr. Laurie-Rose. I’ve also taken several advanced research methods courses in psychology and have benefited immensely from working closely with professors, gaining important skills and knowledge about conducting psychological research. Most of all, my work on my thesis and in the honors program has helped me narrow in on a specific issue that I’d like to research more in the future. Working closely with my advisor, Dr. Acker, I’ve learned so much about what it takes to design and conduct a study. I also gained a lot of knowledge on the theory and prior research pertaining to this issue.

Research Abstract
I examined factors associated with perceptions of gender non-conformist men. Within psychology, research on gender has primarily focused on issues pertaining to women. This research is important and should continue to be examined, but it only looks at a portion of the picture. Men and masculinity are often left under-examined, so in my thesis I wanted to extend research in this area by looking at the maintenance of male gender role stereotypes. One way that traditional norms are maintained in society is by way of social backlash. When people deviate from culturally accepted norms, they are often met with backlash, which is a form of penalty that can result in social, psychological, or economic consequences. For example, when women successfully engage in roles that are typically reserved for men they may be perceived as qualified and competent, but are often perceived as less likable, which may result in hiring discrimination. The same is true for men who engage in roles typically reserved for women; while they are perceived as nice and likable, they are also perceived as less competent and less hirable. These backlash effects create a system of rewards and punishments, with individuals who fail to adhere to traditional norms punished with the penalties associated with social backlash, and individuals who do adhere to norms rewarded by being favorably perceived by others. Because many are motivated to minimize negative experiences, they are less likely to deviate from traditional norms which creates a set of gender norms highly resistant to change.  Specifically, in my project, I examined how perceiver gender, relationship status, and gender role ideology impacted their perceptions of gender non-conformist men and the severity of the backlash expressed. Although my results did not indicate that any of these perceiver variables influenced participant perceptions, I was able to replicate other previous research by demonstrating that non-conformist men do indeed experience social backlash in the form of lost competence.

Troy Neptune ‘17

  • Major: Zoo & Conservation Science and Art with a studio concentration in drawing
  • Hometown: New Concord, Ohio
  • Involved in: Member of Mortar Board, Torch & Key, ALD/PES, Lead Peer Mentor for 2016, Peer Advisor in CSS, President of Kappa Pi, interned at the Smithsonian Tropical Research Institute in Panama received all five cards 

What are your post-grad plans?
I am actively looking for employment in science education and research. I will further my education in graduate school in the upcoming years, as my long-term goal is to teach at a university. 

How has your research at Otterbein prepared you for your future career?
By completing undergraduate research at Otterbein, I have realized how important and fascinating biological research can be. This research is also an essential part of my application to research labs and graduate school. 

Research Abstract
Nutritional Plasticity in Gray Treefrogs: Interactions between Competition and Predation Threat

Anurans utilize digestive tradeoffs to best survive in their environment, often in response to competition and predation pressures. In some larval anurans, intraspecific competition induces longer guts, providing a digestive advantage under limiting resources. However, predation threat can induce deeper tails and associated shorter guts in larvae. The purpose of this study was to describe nutritionally plastic responses of larval eastern gray treefrogs, Hyla versicolor, reared with opposing environmental stressors: predation and competition. Specifically, we asked if larval guts lengthen to increase digestive efficiency, or will tail morphology change to better evade predators? H. versicolor larvae were reared in 410 L mescocosms with and without a caged dragonfly nymph (Anax sp.) predator. Anax sp. predators were fed five H. versicolor hatchings daily to generate kairomones (chemical cues) in the larval environment. Larvae were maintained at 10 individuals and 60 individuals per tank to provide varying levels of competition. Larvae reared at high-density developed longer guts than those reared at low density. Predation threat did not influence gut length. Predation did induce smaller livers and deeper tails in larvae, but did not hinder growth. These differences suggest that larvae have lower fat stores when they grow larger tails, or they could also forage less in the presence of a predator. These effects in the larval stage may have important consequences post-metamorphosis and should be a focus of future research.

Zoe Nietert

  • Major: Double major in Spanish and Mathematics
  • Hometown: Aurora, Ohio
  • Involved in: campus ministry, Kappa Phi Omega sorority

What are your post-grad plans?
After graduation I hope to remain in Central Ohio as a teacher. In a perfect world, I would be able to teach both math and Spanish in a given day. Eventually, I hope to have the opportunity to pursue a master's degree in order to continue helping students realize their potential within and beyond the classroom.

How has your research at Otterbein prepared you for your future career?
I am in a unique position as an education major. Many people don't see my field as one that requires a lot of research, but my experience at Otterbein has shown me otherwise. Through my own research I realized that even the field of education requires a lot of back-work in theory and development of instruction. My own research has prepared me to use the instructional technique I studied, project-based learning, in my future classroom.

Project Abstract
Project-based learning is poorly defined leading to confusion and inconsistent implementation in the classroom. To eliminate the use of project-based learning as educational jargon it is imperative to define the term. This project further defines project-based learning by identifying and defining its critical and variable attributes. This established definition, however, is not enough to implement the technique in the classroom, with the definition, a rubric is designed to measure the degree to which projects demonstrate both project-based learning and high quality mathematics education. With educators relying more heavily on teacher-made resources, it is imperative to evaluate the effectiveness of the materials. A rubric, tested against project-based learning curricula for secondary mathematics units as found on the website "Teachers Pay Teachers," would be useful in completing such a task. The final outcome of this project is a definition of project-based learning and its attributes paired with a tool that can be further developed to better assess resources for implementing project-based learning in the secondary mathematics classroom.

Brodie Ranzau

  • Major: Biochemistry and Molecular Biology
  • Minor: Chemistry
  • Hometown: Napolean, Ohio

What are your post-grad plans?
After I graduate I will be pursuing a Chemistry and Biochemistry Ph. D. at University of California San Diego.

How has your research at Otterbein prepared you for your future career?
My research at Otterbein has allowed me to experience biochemistry research first-hand and has led me to pursue research as a career. I have been able to experience many of the different aspects of being a scientist, from gathering my own data in lab to presenting through the honors program as well as annual meetings for the American Society of Biochemistry and Molecular Biology.

Research Abstract
My project centers around the protein perilipin 5, which plays a role in mediating fat storage in tissues such as the heart, liver, and skeletal muscle. I am particularly interested in detecting a splice variant of this protein, allowing us to learn more about how perilipin 5 is expressed.