WSU Emeritus/Emerita Society gives awards, grants to undergraduate researchers

The WSU Emeritus/Emerita Society gave awards to undergraduate researchers Katie McCune, Julia Stevens, Audrey Almeria, Akira Park, and Brigette Hinnant (l to r) pictured with Society co-chair Larry Fox.

The Washington State University Emeritus/Emerita Society of retired faculty has presented students with five undergraduate research awards and two grants for research in arts and humanities.

“It’s a pleasure for the members of our Society to recognize the great research projects that our students are undertaking in subjects that span so many disciplines at WSU,” said Larry Fox, retired veterinary science and animal sciences professor. He represented the organization at the April 13 ceremonies where the seven students were honored. That event was hosted by the Division of Academic Engagement and Student Achievement.

“This year’s award and grant recipients’ research and scholarship projects are among the best we’ve seen, and we look forward to seeing their work continue,” Fox said. “We wish that our support will help with that.”

Emeritus Society Excellence in Undergraduate Research and Scholarship Awards

First presented in 2009, these $500 awards in five categories are intended to encourage students to strive for scholarly excellence. Recipients for 2023 are:

  • Rogie-Ann “Akira” Park
    Category: Humanities, arts, and creative activities

    An English major and McNair scholar who transferred to WSU Pullman in 2022, her research project is titled, “Am I Qualified?: Inclusion of Asian-American Literature in English Classrooms.” She received a grey award for her project at this year’s SURCA undergraduate research showcase. The project addresses multicultural education in two disciplines — English and education — that represents Asian-American narratives and identities in the classroom. Akira hopes her research will equip current and future educators to teach using Asian-American voices and experiences with confidence.
  • Katy Ayers
    Category: Engineering and applied science

    A biochemistry and bioengineering major, her project is titled, “Mushroom Mechanics: An analysis of Fungal Biomaterials for Wild Bee Conservation.” She received a crimson award in SURCA’s research proposal category in March. Her project involves the use of fungal biomaterials to provide nesting habitats for native bees. The material can degrade to biowaste, plus fungal biomaterials have shown antiviral activity, helping bees resist diseases that can be fatal to them. The nesting habitats — bee hotels — will be formed from biomaterials inoculated with a fungal culture. As the fungal culture is grown, it will spread through the biomaterial providing mechanical strength to the resulting structure. The next phase of her project is to distribute the habitats across the state of Washington in May and later evaluate them. The project applies a low-tech solution to a significant problem: the loss of pollinators in the environment.
  • Audrey Almeria
    Category: Social, economic, and behavioral sciences

    A neuroscience and psychology major, her project is titled, “Efficacy of Digital and Non-digital Compensatory Strategies in Supporting Prospective Memory Task Completion Among Community-dwelling Older Adults.” It looks at compensatory strategies — tools that assist in everyday functioning. Digital compensatory strategies, such as calendar and notes apps, are being used more by older adults but their effectiveness compared to paper-based compensatory strategies, such as paper calendars and sticky notes, has been questioned. Unlike paper-based compensatory strategies, which are passive reminders that require memory to check them, digital compensatory strategies can be personalized and portable, and can attract attention with alarms. The study examines which is more effective; results suggest that regardless of technology use, using high-quality compensatory strategy supported real-world prospective memory performance.
  • Katherine “Katie” McCune
    Category: Biosciences

    A neuroscience major, her project is titled, “Comparison of Cholecystokinin Signaling Between Left and Right Nodose Ganglia.” Cholecystokinin (CCK) is a gut-derived peptide that is released during ingestion of food. This hormone-of-sorts promotes a feeling of fullness through the nervous system tissue that surrounds the digestive system — yet details on how this is achieved have not been fully elucidated. This project indicates that the vagal nervous system is involved in the CCK-satiety pathway. She discovered that left nodose vagal neurons had greater basal calcium levels, while right nodose neurons had greater calcium responses to CCK via receptor expression. Understanding the mechanisms involved in the food satiety system may impact the medical community’s ability to tackle weight gain and obesity in patients.
  • Julia Stevens
    Category: Physical sciences and mathematics

    An earth sciences/geology major, her research is titled, “Ductile Strain in the Footwall of the Schell Creek Range Detachment System, Eastern Nevada, USA: Implications for Pre-extensional Geometry.” This study has provided some fascinating and fundamental information on the background-strain magnitude in the field area. Data will be useful in unravelling the effects of later deformation episodes throughout eastern Nevada, an area with a complex history of tectonism.

Emeritus Society Undergraduate Research Grants in Arts and Humanities

These awards were new in 2021 and each provides $1,000 to support original undergraduate scholarship in the arts and humanities. Recipients for 2023 are:

  • Brigette Hinnant
    Major: English, WSU Tri-Cities

    Her project is titled, “Experience of Filipina War Brides as Post-World War II Immigrants to the United States.” She will examine little-used  archival records of the Filipina War Brides Association to ascertain how such brides created a community in Washington and the Philippines. The project uses intersectional feminist rhetorical methodology to: study Filipina women’s ways of knowing, being, and communicating;  analyze how they fostered community through the War Brides Association; and how they navigated the difficulties of moving to a new country while retaining a sense of their home cultures.
  • Elaine Henson
    Major: Anthropology

    Her project is titled, “Effects of Climate Change on Diet and Behavior of Hunter-gatherers in the Great Basin Region of Western North America.” She plans to examine some 12,000 years of coprolites — ancient fecal remains — to learn how changes in climate affected the diet, environment, and movements of hunter-gathers in this region. The project uses evidence preserved in WSU’s Environmental Archaeology Research Laboratory (EARL).

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