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Virginia Tech News / Articles / 2009 / 03 

Six undergraduate researcher projects selected for ACC Meeting of the Minds

March 16, 2009

Virginia Tech students who will  present their research at the fourth annual Atlantic Coast Conference Meeting of the Minds undergraduate research conference in at North Carolina State University on April 2-4 are (left to right) Michelle Klassen, Sara Lu, Aaron Kroll, Jon Crain, Garrett Smith, and Sandra Hobsen.
Virginia Tech students who will present their research at the fourth annual Atlantic Coast Conference Meeting of the Minds undergraduate research conference in at North Carolina State University on April 2-4 are (left to right) Michelle Klassen, Sara Lu, Aaron Kroll, Jon Crain, Garrett Smith, and Sandra Hobsen.

Seven Virginia Tech students will present six projects at the fourth annual Atlantic Coast Conference (ACC) Meeting of the Minds undergraduate research conference in at North Carolina State University on April 2-4.

The selection process was competitive with each college nominating undergraduate research proposals for review by a university committee. Winners and their projects are

College of Agriculture and Life Sciences

Garrett Smith of Warrenton, Va., an honors student majoring in animal and poultry sciences with a minor in agricultural business management, conducted "A comparison of the cost of parasite resistance in crossbred Katahdin lambs using strategic versus selective deworming regimes." Economic losses due to parasitism are a major problem in sheep production worldwide, and Southwest Virginia is no exception. Parasites are becoming more and more resistant to deworming drugs.

The study compared levels of infection and growth performance of Katahdin lambs, a composite breed created to be highly resistant to parasites, using different deworming regimes that involve both deworming treatment and pasture management strategies as well as a control regime that represents the most common practices in Southwest Virginia. The research found that current industry practices, specifically returning lambs to highly infected pasture after treatment, were inadequate to prevent re-infection. The lost opportunity for revenue as a result of poor growth in animals fighting infection was significant, Smith wrote.

The study reported the economic impact and recommended that producers use effective pasture rotation whenever possible. Smith's faculty advisor is Animal and Poultry Sciences Professor David Notter.

College of Engineering

Sandra Lynn Hobson of Lynchburg, Va., who is majoring in chemical engineering, is doing research in quantum chemistry to understand high-resolution molecular spectra of stars, in particular the sun. A recent analysis of high-resolution sunspot spectra uncovered the existence of water on the sun.

Interpreting such data requires accurate knowledge of quantum-chemistry models. Hobson's research contributes to this effort by studying a particular type of quantum-chemistry model and by answering the questions related to thermodynamics, energy and wave function, molecule size, and magnetism -- specifically, "Is the adiabatic approximation sufficient to account for the post-Born-Oppenheimer effects on molecular electric dipole moments?" A senior, Hobson plans to pursue a career in medicine. Hobson's advisor is Edward Valeev, assistant professor of chemistry.

Sara Lu of Springfield, Va., and Priyanka Malla of Centreville, Va., both majoring in industrial and systems engineering and minoring in business, and industrial and systems engineering major Jennifer Thangjitham of Blacksburg, Va., were recognized for their industrial and systems engineering senior design project -- a workstation for the Walgreens distribution center in Anderson, S.C.

The station was designed specifically to include Universal Design features that enable people with specials needs, as well as people with typical needs, to work. Approximately 40 percent of the people employed at the distribution center have disabilities, both physical and cognitive. "The design team is going to redesign the workstation such that workers with physical disability will excel at their work," wrote Malla. And Lu wrote, "The intent is to set a precedent so that other companies can incorporate the ideas set forth by the design project and, like Walgreens, begin to hire a historically overlooked group of people for employment." Team advisors are Industrial and Systems Engineering Associate Professors Kimberly Ellis and Tonya Smith-Jackson.

College of Liberal Arts and Human Sciences

Jon Crain of Herndon, Va., an international studies major focusing on world politics and policy, with a minor in Spanish, critiques the near universal application of civil society theory to African civic development literature.

Civil society theory, as a body of literature, has provided the most generally accepted framework through which academics view African politics. The problem is the focus on the dynamics and flows of power between the state and the general society when, in many geographic regions of Africa, such as Darfur, Somalia, and the Eastern Democratic Republic of Congo, the state has no influence or capacity, Crain writes.

He urges "an evolution of sovereignty literature to reflect the realities of globalization, which have resulted in a shifting of power from states to individuals and non-state elements." Crain uses the Democratic Republic of Congo as an example of why civil society literature fails to alleviate civic development. He says he became interested in the academic field of African politics and development in the summer of 2007, when he worked as an intern in the Bureau of Central African Affairs at the State Department.

His paper for the ACC competition reflects two years of research for his University Honors thesis, which he aims to publish with his advisor, Ioannis Stivachtis, associate professor of political science. Crain expects to graduate in May and plans to study international law.

Michelle Klassen of Ellicott City, Md., is a double major in economics in the Pamplin College of Business and urban and public affairs in the College of Architecture and Urban Studies, but was nominated by the College of Liberal Arts and Human Sciences for her project, "Hillbilly Heroin: OxyContin in Appalachia," with Peter Wallenstein, professor of history in the College of Liberal Arts and Human Sciences.

Her study relates to health care and drug policies in Appalachia. The purpose of the study is to determine what action should be taken to reduce the abuse and diversion of OxyContin in Appalachia and to identify what about OxyContin appeals to drug sellers and users. Klassen concludes, "A solution that holds doctors and pharmacists accountable for the distribution is needed, as well as one that helps eliminate the illegal market that has dominated the economies of these depressed towns."

Pamplin College of Business

Aaron Kroll of Christiansburg, Va., a management major with a minor in business leadership, won for his paper, "How virtual worlds (Second Life) are affecting traditional concepts and protection of intellectual property rights such as trademarks, trade names and copyrights." In order to test the current limitations of intellectual property rights in a virtual world, Kroll created an avatar and examined the terms of use and additional steps Linden Labs , creator of Second Life, is taking to protect intellectual property rights. Kroll did his paper as part of his research with Janine Hiller, professor of finance, insurance and business law. He plans to attend law school after graduation from Virginia Tech.

The ACC Meeting of the Minds Conference, held annually, is a showcase of the results of undergraduate research projects. Students at ACC institutions present their undergraduate research results to peers, faculty, and research administrators from other universities. The purpose of the ACC Undergraduate Research Conference is to provide an opportunity for undergraduate students to share the breadth and depth of their unique research projects to a responsive and engaged audience of peer scholars. For more information, contact Diana Ridgwell, director of student development in the College of Liberal Arts and Human Sciences, at (540) 231-8577.

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