REU-W Teams Enter Their Second Semester of Research

By Ellen Glover

Friday, February 17, 2017

The Emerging Scholars Research Experience for Undergraduate Women (REU-W) student-mentor teams for the 2016-2017 school year are beginning their second semester of research. The program currently has 30 students and 24 members of faculty working on 26 research projects looking at a variety of topics from kinesiology to linguistics.

REU-W is a program offered by CEWiT that offers first year and sophomore women the opportunity to assist faculty in conducting research. During their first semester, the students are paired with a faculty-mentor and begin learning about the faculty project and reading literature reviews. The pair continues to work on the research project through the spring and then, at the end of the term, the students participate and present their work in a poster competition. The students are also required to take a 2-credit spring course that focuses on developing research skills.

“We are unlike other programs,” says Michelle Bartley-Taylor, Assistant Director for Student Engagement at CEWiT. “We are introducing women with little to no experience at all to research with the hope that they enjoy their experience and want to pursue it further.”

Claire Dudek, a sophomore, is one of the women participating in this year’s program. “As a neuroscience major I’m expected to do research while I’m in college,” says Dudek. “I found out about the program through an email and decided I would go for it and apply.” As she was applying and scrolling through the synopses of the research projects available, Dudek discovered the description of Professor Rob Potter’s study and her interest was piqued.

Potter, an Associate Professor at the Media School, was planning a study in which he would look at the relationship between music and emotional responses. “We are interested in whether people have a different emotional response to music associated with partying,” says Potter. “Above and beyond that, we want to look at the differences between songs individuals associate with partying and songs people in general associate with partying.”

Now that their project plan has been approved by the Institutional Review Board (IRB), a necessary step taken by all researchers to ensure the safety of the experiment, Dudek and Potter will collect data from subjects in the next couple of weeks.

The team will be testing what Dudek calls “psycho physiological” effects or “micro reactions” of music in a mix of college students and older adults. Each participant will be asked to fill out a survey in which they name seven specific songs they associate with partying and seven songs they associate with hanging out at home and relaxing. During the experiment, which will last about an hour and a half per person, the songs the subject chose will be played and their physical responses will be monitored using various machines. Dudek will maintain contact with these participants and help with collecting and analyzing the data. This will provide her with hands-on experience in research so she has a better understanding of what it entails.

Not only does this program help young women succeed academically, but there is also a monetary incentive for participating. Upon completion of their fall semester hours and approval of their end of semester reports, each student receives a $500 scholarship for the spring semester. At the end of the spring semester, provided they have met program requirements including semester hours, participation in the poster contest, and completion of the end of year report which includes a plan on how they will continue research in the future, the student is awarded another $500 scholarship. Faculty-mentors also earn $500 toward their research.

Potter’s research, specifically, revolves around the impact of auditory elements on an emotional and cognitive level. He usually looks at voices but this time he’s shifted his focus to music. This is his first year as an REU-W mentor and he says he has gained a lot from the experience.

“Being a mentor is a reminder of how strange what I do is,” says Potter. “It’s good for me to learn how to teach someone from the beginning of a study. But Claire is smart and she’s here. A lot of life is just showing up and Claire shows up, she has great ideas.”

As one of the four men serving as a faculty-mentor, Potter says he has also gained insight into how women can be better included in the world of research. “There are issues women face that I can’t know unless I try and learn about them,” says Potter. “CEWiT and this program are working to find interested women and get them connected.”

After this school year is over, Dudek will decide to stay with Potter and continue her research or not. Either way, Potter’s study will continue and eventually combine with the psychology department so that he can further investigate music’s effects on people. No matter what happens after this year, both Dudek and Potter agree that this experience has been a valuable one.

“What I’m doing can’t be done in a class,” says Dudek. “It’s important to get hands-on experiences like this. IU is so large that it’s hard to achieve that in a regular classroom.”