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Six IU Northwest students selected to participate in wide-ranging faculty research projects through Minority Opportunity for Research Experience program

Friday Feb 03, 2017


By Bailey Briscoe, Inside IU

IU Northwest’s Minority Opportunity for Research Experience program pairs undergraduate minority students with faculty members on research projects. Faculty mentors define the project parameters, offer guidance and supervise the students as they carry out the research over the course of the year. 

The program is open to all majors and encourages students to continue using research in their respective disciplines after completing it.

Meet the students selected to participate in this year’s MORE program and learn about the breadth of research being conducted on campus:

Victoria Morales

A senior psychology major from Crown Point, Victoria Morales will be working with Hannah Lee, an assistant professor of psychology. Lee’s research focuses on understanding psychological issues in multicultural/cross-cultural perspectives and developing interventions based on the cultural understanding. Morales is working with Lee’s current research study on optimism and academic performance among college students. 

"Optimism, the tendency to anticipate the best and to expect good rather than bad outcomes in life, is highly valued in the United States. Indeed, the majority of college students are optimistic about their own future events (e.g., academic performance)," Lee said. "However, in reality, not every student who is optimistic achieves what they wish for."

Morales and Lee are hoping to analyze this disconnect and whether it is better to strike a balance between an optimistic and pessimistic attitude, as well as what other factors play into achieving academic success

Morales switched from a pre-med track to wanting to apply for Ph.D. programs in clinical psychology, which come with a different set of requirements. With little time left in her undergraduate career, she found herself needing research experience. 

“The MORE program is the perfect opportunity for me to get my feet wet with research, get to know the process and learn skills that will help me in grad school and beyond,” Morales said. “I’m going to be doing this a million times over the course of my career. Since I knew nothing coming into this except for what I learned from my textbooks, the mentorship is the most important part of the project for me.”

Jennifer Mishevich

A senior from Schererville, studying chemistry, Jennifer Mishevich is working with Tia Walker, an associate professor in the Department of Chemistry, Biochemistry, Physics, and Astronomy. Mishevich is assisting in Walker’s synthetic organic chemistry laboratory to examine the effect of low copper levels on multiple sclerosis. She is primarily working on synthesizing molecules in the lab, where Walker is teaching her different techniques for success. 

“Working in Walker’s lab has taught me how research labs run in the real world and has taught me techniques used throughout the chemical industry,” she said. “This experience has been extremely valuable in preparing me for the future.” 

Mishevich plans to continue studying chemistry in grad school and notes that research is essential for grad school applicants. They want to know students can work in a lab setting, she said.

Katreliah Johnson

A senior from Hammond, Katreliah Johnson is studying elementary education and special education. She is working with Sharon Pratt and Anita Martin, assistant and visiting assistant professor, respectively, on a science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) study, a hot topic in education.

The study focuses on professional development in STEM education, specifically for teachers in urban areas. Johnson is tasked with collecting data from teachers in Northwest Indiana in regards to an innovative approach to STEM professional development that involves the teachers as learners and active inquirers in their classrooms. The professional development model also looks at how teachers can learn to guide their students in understanding non-fiction science texts with multi-model text features.   

As part of her data collection, Johnson is developing instruments such as measurement surveys. She will also conduct observational research and video analysis. As an education major, she is benefiting from learning research practices, but she’s also learning from the data. 

“One of the most important things I am learning is the professional development process I will go through as a future educator,” she said. “I’m learning how I can facilitate professional development if I were to become a teacher leader in my future career.”

Chiamara Anokwute 

Chiamara Anokwute is a senior biology major from Merrillville. He is working with Jenny Fisher, an assistant professor in the Biology department, to study the prevalence of antibiotic resistance in the Enterobacteriaceae, which is a family of bacteria that includes salmonella and E. coli. They will be gathering samples from storm water, sewage, river water and lake water and then testing the resistance of the bacteria against various antibiotics.

“Antibiotic resistance in bacteria is currently a hot medical topic, with microbes gaining resistance from overuse of antibiotics or patients not finishing their prescriptions,” Anokwute said. 

In the lab, Anokwute is strengthening his microbiology research skills, but he’s also learning about bioinformatics technology, which he hasn’t had previous experience with. Bioinformatics technology has many uses toward scientific advancement, he said.

Magdalena Barajas

Magdalena Barajas, a junior from Munster, is studying biology. She is working with Peter Avis, an associate professor and Biology department chair, to potentially uncover a new species of fungus. Barajas is tasked with collecting and analyzing DNA samples and conducting observations under the microscope.

“As a pre-med biology major, it seems like research on fungi is a distant field,” she said. “However, I am learning some great puzzle-solving skills by interpreting DNA using the bioinformatics system, which will be important for me to know as a physician when I have a patient with different symptoms and need to determine the cause of the sickness. 

“Building off this, collecting the microscopic observations from each sample requires me to be able to see consistency across the samples and determine if the observations fit together to make a new species description,” she said. “These deductive skills will also help me as a physician later when I need to give a patient a diagnosis.” 

Once the data is collected, Avis and Barajas are hoping to propose the fungus as a new species.

Lydia Sadlowski

Lydia Sadlowski, a senior chemistry major from Griffith, is working in Tia Walker’s lab, where she is learning how to synthesize ligands. Sadlowski began her work by synthesizing a ligand that Walker has already completed and published. The purpose is to give her a foundation and improve her lab skills so she is prepared to aid in Walker’s future projects. 

“I have learned so much in the lab, and I feel that I am improving in my technique,” said Sadlowski, whose goal is to become a physician. “Helping in her lab has opened my eyes and given me a great appreciation about what goes on when synthesizing a compound. 

 “Working in an organic chemistry lab is helping me develop the tools to take on projects and deal with making mistakes and correcting them in order to gain the highest yield possible,” she said. “As a physician, it's necessary to be able to diagnose and treat a patient in the correct manner; so I think working in lab is helping me build confidence for when I am working with patients in the future.”

The MORE program aligns with several priorities in the university's Bicentennial Strategic Plan, including a commitment to student success and catalyzing research.

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