News Research

November 8, 2018 at 4:15 pm

Psychology and OU-HCOM Host National Science Foundation Program

Group of people standing in front of "1804 Lounge" sign in Baker Center.

NSF REU students and faculty

by Kristin Distel

In Summer 2018, faculty from the Family Medicine and Social Medicine (HCOM) and the Department of Psychology welcomed nine undergraduates from colleges and universities across the country to OHIO’s campus, where the students worked on independent research projects under the faculty’s mentorship.

The eight-week  program, which culminated in a research poster presentation, was a part of a 3-year National Science Foundation Research Experience for Undergraduates grant (NSF REU). The grant was awarded to Dr. Fran Wymbs (Principal Investigator) and Dr. Dawn Graham of the Ohio University Heritage College  of Osteopathic Medicine and to Dr. Brian Wymbs, Dr. Steve Evans, and Dr. Julie Owens of the Department of Psychology in the College of Arts and Sciences.

Group photo of Angela Royo Romero, Megan Brickner, Steve Evans, Samantha Margherio, and Melissa Hernandez following students' oral presentations at OHIO's research poster presentation.

From left, Angela Royo Romero, Megan Brickner, Steve Evans, Samantha Margherio, and Melissa Hernandez following students’ oral presentations at OHIO’s research poster presentation.

Each student conducted an independent research project under the mentorship of faculty.  The students’ projects focused on treatment-related research for youth with social, emotional, and behavioral problems.

Under the faculty’s guidance, the students also received intensive training on research and professional development skills. The program is designed to prepare the students to present their projects at national conferences. Then, within nine months, some of the students will turn their posters into publications, which they will submit to peer-reviewed journals.

The students speak very highly of their experience at OHIO and praise the rare opportunity for individual research that the program provides.

An Unparalleled Opportunity

Kayla Burd, a student at Florida Atlantic University, worked with Dr. Fran Wymbs for the 8-week program.

Woman stands at podium

Kayla Burd presenting her findings at OHIO’s research poster presentation

Burd’s conducted an independent study comparing “high-intensity aerobic exercise and yoga in children with ADHD and typically developing children.” Specifically, she and Dr. Wymbs “looked at improvements in academic performance, mood, and behavior in the children receiving each type of activity and sought to determine which activity would produce greater effects.”

She states that the chance to design her own study and collect data was an unparalleled opportunity. Burd is presenting her findings at a national conference, the Association for Behavioral and Cognitive Therapies (ABCT), in November.

‘An Incredible Experience’

“Summer 2018 at OHIO was incredible because it balanced important aspects in a psychologist’s and researcher’s career,” says Angela Sofia Royo Romero, a student at Salem College. She worked with Dr. Steven W. Evans, whose research she describes as “a great fit,” as well as OHIO graduate student Samantha Margherio.

Four women at park

(l to r): Velasco, Hernandez, Brickner, and Royo Romero

“Research at OHIO felt like a very productive home,” Royo Romero states. During her time at OHIO, she studied the impact of socioeconomic status on treatment outcomes for youth with externalizing disorders. The project appeals to her simultaneous interests in research, social justice, and sociocultural issues.   She also will present her findings in a poster presentation at a national conference (ABCT) in November.

“We learned from experts in multiple fields, reinforced critical skills like statistics and research methods, critically assessed topics, and built a supportive academic community,” she explains.

‘Connect with a Diverse Group of Scholars’

Ayanna Troutman, who worked with Dr. Julie Owens and graduate student John Monopoli, is a student at Spelman College; at OHIO, she conducted a research study entitled “School, Teacher, and Student Factors that Predict the Use of Effective Classroom Management Practices.” She presented her findings at the Conference on School Mental Health in October.

Two women stand next to poster

Ayanna Troutman and her research mentor, Julie Owens, during her poster presentation

For Troutman, one of the main benefits of the NSF REU program was the opportunity to learn what graduate work—including designing one’s own study and conducting data collection—will involve. The program also allowed her to network with faculty and other young professionals and to “connect with a diverse group of scholars.”

“Through my short time at Ohio University, I was able to enhance my skills as a scholar and researcher through the various classes and activities I participated in,” Troutman says. She also notes that the program improved her “understanding of social, emotional, and behavioral problems.”

Working with ‘Passionate People who Value Teamwork’

Melissa Hernandez undertook two research projects during her summer at OHIO. A student at the University of Puerto Rico, Hernandez worked with Dr. Steven Evans and Samantha Margherio.

Hernandez’s first project was “a socioeconomic review about treatment outcome studies in adolescents with ADHD.” Her second project, which she presented at the end-of-summer poster session, “looked at the romantic relationships of adolescents with ADHD.” This study grows out of Hernandez’s volunteer work with adolescents, which she has participated in for many years. She, too, will present her findings at a national conference (ABCT) in November.

She notes that the NSF REU program at OHIO especially appealed to her because she does not have the opportunity to do clinical research at her university.

“I’ve always valued the research field and wanted to work on something I am passionate about,” Hernandez says. “I wanted to challenge myself and have the experience of participating in the program. I enjoyed working with such amazing faculty members and with students like me—all passionate people who value teamwork and the satisfaction of a job well done.”

Group of people standing together outdoors, smiling

NSF REU students and faculty at the end of the summer

“Perfectly Matched” Research Interests

Megan Brickner’s work with Dr. Steve Evans and Samantha Margherio allowed her to examine “the relationship between parenting styles and substance use behaviors in adolescents with ADHD.” Brickner also investigated “if/how emotion regulation skills and behaviors changed or influenced that relationship.” She is presenting the results of her project in a poster presentation at a national conference (ABCT) in November.

“I applied to this program because the research topics matched up with my interests perfectly. I was excited to be able to formulate an individual project from the ground up and collaborate with so many established and kind faculty,” she explains. She is currently an undergraduate student at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.

The NSF REU program allowed Brickner to work in OHIO’s Center for Intervention Research in Schools (CIRS), an exceptional research facility that allows OHIO students to gain hands-on research experience. Drs. Evans and Owens are Co-Directors, and Drs. Fran and Brian Wymbs are faculty members of CIRS.

She notes that her favorite part of her time at OHIO was “the collaborative energy of the group” and the supportive, encouraging nature of everyone who participated.

“Everyone is willing to read a draft, discuss ideas, or even just strategize about future plans (research-focused or personal goals). It was an experience that helped me grow as a researcher, a student, and a young professional, and it helped me form invaluable friendships and connections with both the other students and the faculty,” she states.

National Recognition

In late October, one of the REU students, Valerie Velasco, presented at a research symposium hosted by the National Science Foundation (NSF). Velasco’s project, entitled “Testing a Mediation Pathway Between Childhood Maltreatment and Intimate Partner Violence,” was nominated by REU faculty to be presented at NSF’s annual REU Symposium in Alexandria, Virginia. Only 10% of posters nominated are accepted for presentation, and Velasco’s work was among them. In addition to presenting her work at the REU Symposium, Velasco had the opportunity to network with other academics in the field and attend professional development seminars to prepare her for the graduate school application process.

Woman and man stand next to research poster

Valerie Velasco with her poster alongside research mentor Brian Wymbs.

Questions about the NSF REU program may be directed to Dr. Fran Wymbs. For more information about studying in the Department of Psychology, contact the Advising and Resource Center. You can also follow the department on Twitter via @OHIO_psych or on Facebook.

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