The 2020 school year has inspired remarkable adaptability and flexibility thanks to the perseverance of students, faculty, and staff at Colorado State University. In order to give students the opportunity to present their research and compete for awards, the Graduate School moved its Graduate Student Showcase to an online format in response to the COVID-19 pandemic.
In all, 23 College of Health and Human Sciences students participated in the GradShow and six students were recognized at this year’s event for their outstanding research.
“I love this platform, which provides graduate students the opportunity to share and present their hard work,” said Clayton Swanson, health and exercise science student. “This was my fourth time presenting at the showcase and it’s always super fascinating to see all of the different topics students are studying.”
“I love discussing science and presenting my work,” said Scott Wrigley, food science and nutrition student. “It is a fun challenge to distill complex topics so that other researchers and the general public can understand what we do. I love creating that bridge.”
To watch student presentations and see their posters, visit the GradShow’s virtual showcase website.
Sustainable Nutrition Education
Brittney Sly is a graduate student in the Department of Food Science and Human Nutrition and received the Office of International Programs – Global Impact Research award. Her project titled “Sustainable Nutrition Education: Empowering Rwandan Women with Participatory Action Research” looks at potential models to combat malnutrition and community-level health behaviors under the mentorship of faculty member Tiffany Weir.
“The primary goal of my research is improvement in household food security and enhancement of dietary diversity associated with consumption of a greater variety of fruits and vegetables,” said Sly. “A secondary aim is to foster dissemination of small-scale agricultural and nutrition information throughout the community.”
Sly was inspired to research this topic because of her passion in studying the systematic factors that influence global health and malnutrition program success, to create sustainable health programs that lasts.
She adds that receiving this award is an honor and a great feeling having her research recognized for its impact on others.
Understanding Neural Mechanisms
Swanson is a graduate research assistant and Ph.D. candidate in the Department of Health and Exercise Science and is a CHHS Excellence in Research and Scholarship award recipient. He is researching the neural mechanisms associated with mobility decline in people with multiple sclerosis alongside the mentorship of Associate Professor Brett Fling.
“I am specifically interested in turning because research shows that a fall while turning increases the risk of a hip fracture by a factor of eight compared to a fall that occurs while walking in a straight line,” said Swanson. “Our initial findings show that people with multiple sclerosis have greater brain atrophy, reduced neurophysiological function and reduced turning performance compared to healthy control participants. Additionally, we see from our results that cortical inhibition is associated with turning performance, where those with greater cortical inhibition perform turns more similarly to their healthy control counterparts.”
Swanson said he was inspired to pursue his research in this topic to understand the neural mechanisms that help dictate our ability to move within our environment to identify better rehabilitation methods for individuals suffering from mobility impairment.
Swanson says he is honored to receive this award and is excited to see his research is receiving attention from fellow colleagues.
Gut Microbiota and Heart Disease
Wrigley is a graduate student in the Department of Food Science and Human Nutrition and is a recipient of the CHHS Excellence in Research and Scholarship award. His research titled “Elucidating Gut Microbiota Drivers of Cardiovascular Disease Comorbidities,” alongside his faculty mentors Tiffany Weir and Chris Gentle, studies the gut microbiomes to identify human gut microbial signatures that are correlated with vascular dysfunction.
Gut microbiomes is in the “Galileo stage” of research, as Wrigley calls it. This field of study is on the cutting edge of research with room to discover something monumental about the gut microbiota and the relationship with host physiology.
“The gut microbiota, trillions of microbes which live in our gut, have been linked to heart disease and a multitude of other disease states through a concept known as dysbiosis, or large-scale compositional changes to the gut microbiota,” said Wrigley. “However, dysbiosis may be a result of disease, not a cause. Rather, we believe it may be overrepresentation of individual bacteria that initially drive the onset of disease, through which dysbiosis later develops.”
To Wrigley, receiving this award showcases the hard work of research and communicating science to the general public.
“The ability to clearly and concisely distill our research so that the general public can understand is a vital skill we need more of in today’s world,” said Wrigley. “I work hard to break down our research in a way which anyone from any background, scientific or not can understand. This award is a validation of all that work!”
End-of-life care in correctional facilities
Shivani Kaushik is a Ph.D. student in the School of Social Work and is the recipient of the CHHS Excellence in Research and Scholarship award. Her research “End-of-life Care in Correctional Settings: A Scoping Literature Review” demonstrated that not only a severe need of appropriate end-of-life care models in corrections, but the numerous barriers that exist to obtaining such care. Kaushik’s faculty mentor Jennifer Currin-McCulloch, has given Kaushik inspiration and guidance as Kaushik completes her research.
“The majority of correctional facilities utilize peer-inmate caregivers to provide compassionate support for dying inmates,” said Kaushik. “This is an incredibly humane service that I believe is going unrecognized today. I was very eager to shed light to this service, but also the integral role that social workers can play for inmates at the end-of-life, such as providing emotional support and advocacy for inmates’ health care rights.”
Kaushik says she was inspired to pursue her research on this topic being a medical social worker and experiencing end-of-life care and support.
“I specifically researched care in corrections because I believe inmates are one of the most vulnerable populations when it comes to accessing proper health care,” said Kaushik. “Regardless of one’s criminal history, I truly believe that if an individual wants to die a ‘good death’ surrounded by genuine support and care that they should be allotted that.”
She says that receiving this award represents not just her, but the School of Social Work and her colleagues.
“We are all striving to conquer the Grand Challenges of Social Work together, so I was proud to represent us,” said Kaushik.
2020 College of Health and Human Sciences Graduate Showcase Award Recipients
Office of International Programs – Global Impact: Research
Brittney Sly, Department of Food Science and Human Nutrition – Sustainable Nutrition Education: Empowering Rwandan Women with Participatory Action Research.
CHHS Excellence in Research and Scholarship
Shivani Kaushik, School of Social Work – End-of-life Care in Correctional Settings: A Scoping Literature Review
Emma Clark, Department of Human Development and Family Studies – Mindfulness Associations among Depression, Sleep, and Insulin Resistance in Adolescents
Clayton Swanson, Department of Health and Exercise Science – Neural Mechanisms Controlling Turning Performance in People with Multiple Sclerosis
Scott Wrigley, Department of Food Science and Human Nutrition– Elucidating Gut Microbiota Drivers of Cardiovascular Disease Comorbidities
Undergraduate Choice – Research Top Scholar
Jessy Jiao, Department of Human Development and Family Studies – Moderation of Physical Functioning on Mental Health among Grandparents
Congratulations to the 2020 Graduate Student Showcase award recipients!