College of Health and Human Sciences students bring home awards for undergraduate research

Celebrate Undergraduate Research and Creativity, one of Colorado State University’s premiere showcases of research, art, writing and creative works from every discipline, announced this year’s winners on April 25.

The event provides a venue for integrating experiential learning into undergraduate curriculum. CURC provides scholarships to ambitious Colorado State undergraduates and fosters a connection between faculty and students. Most of the projects at the event are a result of mentorship from faculty, meaning students and faculty closely collaborate to create the final product.

Seven students in the College of Health and Human Sciences were recognized for their research this year. The awards ranged from Best in Show, Social Justice, and Service Learning, to High Honors and College Honors.

Best in show

Savanah Cheatham, a nutrition and food science major and the CHHS Dean’s Leadership Council president, won best in show for her research on parental behaviors and motivations behind packing lunch for preschool aged children.

A professionally dressed woman smiles in front of a poster.
Savanah Cheatham won best in show for her research on parental behaviors and motivations behind packing lunch for preschool aged children.

Cheatham started working in the Health Behaviors Lab around a year ago, helping a master’s student with this research, which was conducted at the CSU Early Childhood Center. Cheatham has since taken over the research and is currently preparing to write a research paper on her findings.

Her research compared students’ packed lunches to two different national nutritional standards: the Child Adult Food Care Program and the Healthy Meal Index. She also conducted qualitative interviews with the parents who packed the lunches. She found that while the lunches were often fairly nutritious, the proportions were significantly different from standard recommendations for students in that age group.

Cheatham’s faculty advisers were faculty member Laura Bellows, the lab director, and Morgan McCloskey, the project coordinator.

“Both of my faculty advisers have been incredible!” said Cheatham. “They have a ton on their plates so I really appreciate them taking the time to help me through this, especially since I’m new to research. It’s been a really good balance of them encouraging me to be self-sufficient and then guiding me when I need help. I’m very grateful for the opportunities they have given me and all the research experience that I have gained.”

High honors

A selfie of a man with long hair and beard smiling and holding a chain saw in the woods.
Kyle Carr conducting research on physiological strain index in a simulated wildland firefighting ingress hike.

Three Health and Exercise Students won high honors for their research posters: Olivia Vanderslice, for her research on associations between maximal knee extensor force and sit-to-stand performance outcomes in healthy young and older adults; Megan Coyle, for her research on a smartphone-instrumented 30s chair rise test: exercise intervention in cancer survivors; and Kyle Carr, for his analysis of physiological strain index in a simulated wildland firefighting ingress hike.

“My favorite part of the experience has been being able to apply everything I’ve learned as an undergrad at a higher level and reasoning through how those concepts actually work in the real world,” said Carr. “I never thought I’d enjoy research before this process, but now I think I’d love to do it as a portion of my future career.”

Erin Eck, also a student in the Department of Health and Exercise Science, won College Honors for her research on a smartphone-based motor function battery to assess function in Parkinson’s disease patients in the community setting.

A woman sits on a table next to a poster.
Zelle Moore was one of two Social Justice & Inclusion award winners for “Black Is, Black Ain’t: Exploring Black Identity Development at CSU.”

Service learning / social justice and inclusion

Social work major Mallory Wolff was the winner of the service learning award. Her research was titled “What Does Social Exclusion Look Like in Education for Irish Children with Developmental Disabilities?”

Zelle Moore, also a social work major, was one of two Social Justice & Inclusion award winners for “Black Is, Black Ain’t: Exploring Black Identity Development at CSU.”

“The term ‘black,’ while often applied as an all-encompassing predisposition of African-ness, is often rejected by people of African ancestry who closely identify with their country of origin as opposed to their American imposed race,” explained Moore. “Thus, the purpose of my research was to explore black identity development at CSU by analyzing and comparing African and African American student experiences.”

Moore’s favorite part of the experience was the CURC event itself. “My favorite part of this experience was presenting, hands down,” she said. “Although I can see myself doing research as a profession, being able to share what I dedicated so many hours to was so rewarding.”

Why enter the CURC?

For students considering entering the CURC next year, Cheatham said to, “Definitely do it!”

“It exposes you to a lot of research and a lot of people, and gives you really good experience,” she said. “Likely, if you’re going on to higher education, a master’s or anything like that, or are interested in working in research, you’re going to have to do this again. I would definitely encourage students to do it, and you never know, you might win something!”

“You have nothing to lose by going to CURC,” said Carr. “Chances are there is research going on in your department that would really interest you even in if you have no idea it’s happening. Our CHHS computer labs make it extremely easy to print a poster. Chances are, your professors will support your involvement and on top of all of that, there’s free pizza.”

University-wide results from the 2019 CURC event are posted on SOURCE.