Faculty and students side-by-side research

By Kevin Graham

Recently, Oakland University faculty have been conducting research on stem cells, alternative energy and ways to improve teaching methods.

Students have the ability to participate in these research endeavors alongside their professors. Several departments offer whole programs students can take advantage of.

According to Dorothy Nelson, vice president for research, exploring the issues of tomorrow gives students more than just a line on a resume.

“Students in research tend to feel more engaged in the university community in general, with a sense of belonging to something bigger than their classroom activities alone can provide,” Nelson said.

Students can find open research opportunities and even try to get funding for their ideas through the OU website. Most often, faculty members themselves seek students out.

“Individual schools, colleges, institutes, or departments offer a variety of opportunities for students to work or volunteer in faculty research and to participate in presentations of their work locally or even nationally or internationally,” Nelson said. “Students can find opportunities on university websites or by contacting faculty directly.”

In the science departments, work is being done by OU’s Center for biomedical research. The center’s director, physics professor, Bradley Roth, discussed some of the work being done there.

Roth mentioned the work of OU biology professor, Rasul Chaudhry, who is involved in research involving the use of stem cells for nerve, bone and cartilage regeneration.

John Finke, assistant biochemistry professor, is studying a new way to identify Alzheimer’s disease.

“John Finke, in chemistry, has been studying the way proteins fold when they form plaques in Alzheimer’s disease looking for ways to detect Alzheimer’s disease using a blood sample,” Roth said.

In addition to the work being done in biomedicine, biology and chemistry, professors are making significant inquiries in their field.

“Research ranges from synthesizing potential drug candidates to testing molecules in disease processes. There is also work being done to find out how nature operates from the molecular to cellular, do environmental levels,” Arthur Bull, a biochemistry professor, said.

Engineering students and faculty are conducting research of their own. The school of engineering and computer science is putting on three programs over the summer.

The first is a 10-week program in which computer science students are posed a problem and must work with each other and their mentors in order to identify and implement a solution.

The second program, intended for electrical and computer-engineering students, exposes them to a variety of real-world applications including robotics and medical imaging.

The last program is for students involved in mechanical engineering. The focus this time is on automotive engineering and alternative energy. Some topics include alternative propulsion systems and improving the efficiency of wind turbine gearboxes.

The research focus is not limited to the sciences alone.

Judith Ableser, an associate professor of academic affairs, is studying ways to better educate the youth of tomorrow.

“I’ve been working on research on exemplary teaching practices in both online and traditional classroom teaching, ways of engaging students, and looking at forms of assessment and authentic assessment,” she said.

Professors will continue to mentor students in ways of their own research.


Contact staff reporter Kevin Graham via e-mail at [email protected]. Follow him @KevinGraham88