Undergraduate Research Conference features prizes for presenters, retiring professor gives keynote address

Written by: 
Kevin Brown and Jamie Fa'oliu
Students presented their senior research projects on Thursday, May 11 in the Aloha Center to fulfill graduation requirements in their majors and compete against other student researchers for prize money.
Presentations focused on areas of studies in biology, mathematics, chemistry, biochemistry and psychology.
Following their poster presentations, The College of Math and Sciences hosted a luncheon for faculty members and research conference participants in the Aloha Center Ballroom. Dr. Roger Goodwill, a professor in the Department of Biochemistry and Physical Science, was the keynote speaker for the event.
According to Dr. Mark Cannon, dean of the College of Math and Sciences, Goodwill was selected to speak at the event to highlight his career achievements of more than 20 years at BYU-Hawaii as he nears retirement. Cannon stated, “Dr. Goodwill is a big part of why we have a marine biology program.”
In his opening remarks, Goodwill jokingly referred to the next place where he will be residing. “I’m praying for global warming so that Arizona will get an ocean. I’m married to the ocean,” he said.
Goodwill pointed out several research discoveries he and his students have found throughout the years, including findings from several trips he has taken to the Kaneohe mud flats and to the island of Saipan. “I’ve been going to the mud flats for over 20 years looking at the same things every year. However, one year a student found a new sea anemone. I sent it to an expert and, sure enough, she said it was a new species.”  
Goodwill said he also acquired a knowledge of birds during his career while he was studying flight patterns of birds in the Pacific. “I’m not even a bird person! I became an expert in something I wasn’t even interested in.” 
He said a geographical knowledge of migratory patterns from around the world was necessary in his finds. As an example, he said, “If I’m going to try to protect [birds] here in Hawaii, I need to know what’s happening to them in Japan.” 
Goodwill said experts can be wrong, so it is best to personally gain the knowledge required through careful research. “Go out and find something that someone isn’t doing, and you will become the expert. Look for something boring, and you will find that it is far from boring,” he said.
At the end of the luncheon, students received results from faculty judges based on their visual presentations in the Aloha Center, and the finalists moved on to present their projects vocally.
The finalists selected were: Kailey Trussel, Emma Hunt, Wyatt Massey, Lavender Lin, Marco Hadisurya, Rulon Olmstead and DonEliezer Baize in their combined probability project, Tessa Davidson, and Kolton Olson.
In front of more than 100 students and faculty during the oral presentations, Emma Hunt, a senior from California studying psychology, took home the grand prize of $250 for having the best oral presentation. Her project, “How culture effects a woman’s Disney princess media exposure and her body esteem,” included more than 700 participants, more than any other student project at the conference.
Hunt’s research results agreed with her hypothesis that body esteem changes based on the amount of times women watch Disney princess movies. “The research shows that women who watch these movies do feel more sexually attractive, and they have a higher self-esteem,” she said.
Hunt’s research also found that Disney’s “Little Mermaid” is the most watched Disney princess movie in every culture around the globe.
Other participants at the conference showcased their findings as well, such as research from Scott Davis, a senior from Wyoming studying exercise and sports science, on preferences between hamstring or patellar tendon ACL grafts for orthopedic knee surgeons. He said, “The patellar tendon graft allows athletes to return close to the performance they were achieving before their incident. Studies show that you will never be at the same level you were before, but this graft will get you closer to that level.”
Davis said recovery time for a patellar tendon graft, which is used primarily for athletes, is 12 to 14 months, whereas hamstring graft recoveries are around 10 months.
Sam Brieden, a senior biochemistry major from Michigan, presented research on identifying biomarkers for oral health using breath samples. “If certain compounds keep popping up, it might identify cavities. The idea is that it will become a certain type of diagnostic tool in the future,” he said. Although there were no correlations linking certain bacteria strains to cavities, Brieden said the research helped him further his knowledge in the dentistry field, his future career.
A project that caught the attention of many conference attendees was Lovender Hsien-Jung Lin’s glucose/air alkaline fuel cell powering a clock. Lin, a senior from Taiwan studying biochemistry, said the clock runs on sugar and it is 100 percent efficient, comparing it to other energy sources today that expel heat by-products.
Lin said, “We are thinking [the battery] can charge something larger, maybe even operate a remote-controlled car.” She said she thinks the battery life could last at least two weeks powering the clock because of the use of glucose, a renewable energy source. Lin worked on the battery under the direction of Dr. Daniel Scott, an associate professor of biochemistry.
Organizers of the event said more than 46 presenters participated in the research conference under the mentorship of 11 faculty members.


In addition to the science presentations, four students from different majors shared English and history essays on topics about love, money, and dragons at the English portion of the conference. Participants said the annual event was a good opportunity for students to share some of their research and essays and for departments to come together. English Professor Ned Williams mentored the session, titled “Hot Stuff: Money, Love and Dragons.”

Love – A Mother’s Love

Jasiah Kelley, a freshman from Pennsylvania with an undeclared major, shared his essay “The Sense of the Ending” based off of Henry Ibsen’s three-act play “A Doll House,” which has an alternative ending. Kelley said he said he preferred the alternative ending because it “is more artistic and better captures the theme of¬ sacrifice.”
The play tells the story of married couple Nora and Torvald Helmer. Through a mix of financial struggles and blackmail threats caused by Nora forging her father’s signature for a loan to go on a vacation, the play ends with Torvald scolding his wife for having forged the signature once he finds out. The contract with the signature is returned to Torvald, preventing any repercussions from happening, and so he tries to apologize to Nora. She decides to leave, saying he treats her poorly.
An alternative ending was written where Torvald opens the door to their children’s bedroom to convince her she can’t leave them motherless. She sinks down by the bedroom door and says she cannot leave them, and Torvald goes to comfort her.
According to Kelley, the original ending was an “example of selfishness” whereas the alternative ending was a “beautiful representation of the strength of mothers” and “the perfect example of sacrifice of our mothers.” He focused on how Nora puts all her needs and wants on hold and stays with them instead of walking out on her children.

Money – Finance and Romance do not mix

Hyrum Seth Castro, a business management freshman from the Philippines, based his essay off of “A Doll’s House” as well. Instead of talking about the mother’s love and sacrifice, Castro discussed illusions of love’s wealth. He suggested people could do “crazy things for love” but that it is not love “when one lies to one another.” He said when one is too lenient and doesn’t communicate in marriage about finances, one makes way for deceit and corruption in the relationship.

Real Love over Imaginary Love

Timothy Orrego, a freshman biochemistry major from Laie, introduced his paper titled “Love in War” arguing that there is a difference between love and obsession. Based off of Tim O’Brien’s short story “The Things They Carried,” he explained that real love is action based and not based off of imaginary love.
Orrego’s paper revolved around Lieutenant Jimmy Cross, who neglected his men and loses them from being lost in his obsession with his girlfriend. He then gets rid of the love letters from his girlfriend, who never loved him in the first place, and gives his full attention to his men. His actions displayed true love, which Orrego said involves taking on duties and responsibilities and fulfilling them.

Dragons: Here and There

Leila Hyde, a junior from Kaneohe majoring in history, presented her paper titled “The Dichotomy of Dragons” that addressed the different depictions of dragons throughout a variety of cultures. In Western culture, she said dragons are depicted as evil creatures, often slayed by a knight with a sword. She also used J.R.R Tolkien’s “The Hobbit” as reference; one of the primary antagonists is Smog, who is frightening and treasure-hoarding animals.
In contrast, she said Eastern regions such as Asia depicted dragons as being on the level of deities. She said they’re seen as a blessing and creatures for good. She explained that the dichotomy of dragons was due to the native religions. “Most likely, they were bones of dinosaurs that started a story that turned into dragons, but that’s not what I was looking for. I wanted to focus on the differences in cultures based off one my favorite creatures,” she said.
Date Published: 
Friday, June 9, 2017
Last Edited: 
Friday, June 9, 2017

NOTE: This story's online publishing was delayed because it was featured in the June 2017 print issue.