Oakland undergrads to present research

Three Oakland University Students have been selected to attend the 28th National Conference on Undergraduate Research (NCUR) this year. Kathleen Saigh, Alex Morton and Mark English will present their own research at the conference held at the University of Kentucky this year from April 3-5. All three come from the Honors College.

Saigh, a senior in Psychology, was chosen for her research involving cognitive reasoning among children. She, her mentor and another student came up with the idea to study how different children performed at designated social and physical tasks.

“We really wanted to study whether kids would have a difference … at an early age,” Saigh said.

She did research at three different daycare centers, including the Lowry Center for Early Education in Pawley Hall. The children completed the tasks on a laptop.

“It was exciting to be chosen among the country,” she said.

Currently, she is in the midst of another project based off of this one, but directed at children with autism. She has also exhibited her work at nearby Meeting of Minds conferences in the past.

Morton, a senior studying Anthropology, traveled abroad for her research.  She interviewed people hiking the Camino de Santiago, a series of Catholic pilgrimage trails that run across northern Spain. It ends at the city of Santiago de Compostela, where a cathedral is said to hold the remains of the apostle St. James the Great.

Morton was exposed to the Camino through a study-abroad stay in Oviedo two summers ago. A portion of the trail passes through the city.

“I was really familiar with the route and what it was, and I had an interest in it, so that’s kind of why I pursued it,” Morton said.

She began her hike in Oviedo and interviewed pilgrims along the way about their reasons for walking. She noted that many were hiking for spiritual reasons other than those rooted in Catholicism. Her entire journey took two weeks and covered 330 km.

“It was awesome,” Morton said.

However, she said that it was not without its challenges.

“There would be times when I would walk four hours without seeing anyone,” she said.

Now that her research has been selected for the NCUR, Morton is grateful to be going.

“I’m excited that I got this opportunity to go present my research,” she said.

English’s research is focused on the human eye. He is a junior studying Biology with a concentration in Microbiology. He attended the Summer Undergraduate Program in Eye Research (or SUPER program), and also spends much of his time at the Eye Research Institute in Dodge Hall. He has studied the photoreceptor cells in the eye’s retina, which capture the light perceived. He said he was developing a method for measuring affinity for protein in these cells.

“I’ve been discovering new things about the method and how the protein interacts, but nothing solid yet,” English said.

He, like his fellow NCUR invitees, is looking forward to the conference.

“I don’t really have the chance to travel a lot, so I’m excited that I’ll be able to go and travel and present my research,” English said. “I like not only scientific research, but I like the opportunity I’m going to have to look at a lot of different disciplines with this conference.”