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Students focus on research projects at USCA Summer Scholars Institute

August 8, 2018

Rising senior Lacie Mishoe, a molecular biology major, isn’t just a student at USC Aiken. She’s a student-researcher.

Working side-by-side with 13 faculty members in labs across campus, Mishoe is one of 20 students who participated in the first Summer Scholars Institutes.

“Doing this project gives me confidence in my work in the future,” said Mishoe, who studied a human gene that causes cranial-facial defects when mutated. “I did the research, put it together and presented what I’ve been working on all this summer. It gives me a sense of pride and accomplishment. It’s not just textbook material anymore. It’s application of a study that could one day prevent a disease.”

Local companies, including the Department of Energy and ADP in Augusta, funded the projects, and students received a salary, said Dr. Daren Timmons, the dean of the College of Sciences and Engineering.

Students participated from each of the college’s five departments: biology and geology; chemistry and physics; exercise and sports science; math, computer science and engineering; and psychology.

“They spent the summer engaging in solving problems, developing new ideas, looking for answers to new questions and learning and training how to do the things of science,” Timmons said. “They’re out in the field doing ecology studies and in the lab doing biomedical research or nanoparticle research.

“We have folks developing better fitness protocols: how do you get the best out of your strength and cardio workout? Psychology students studied color and how to analyze photographs for marketing. There’s a lot of interesting work going on in a great learning environment.”

Dr. Brian Parr, an associate professor in USCA’s exercise and sports science department who worked with Mallory Crews, said the summer research program gives students dedicated time “to really focus” on a research project, time they wouldn’t have during a regular semester.

Parr said the project also will give Crews an advantage over other candidates when she applies to graduate programs to become an occupational therapist.

“She learned how to do a fitness assessment that is relevant to her future goal,” Parr said. “She will have this ability, this certification, to do this fitness testing that most people just don’t have.”

Parr said that receiving a salary boosts the students’ confidence in their work.

“As soon as you do that. it makes it more important in the student’s mind,” he said. “It makes it real: I’m a professional now.”

The institute was open not only to USCA students but also to local teachers as part of the Research Experience for Teachers program sponsored by a grant from Furman University through the National Institute of General Medical Sciences and the National Institute of Health.

Amanda Waymer, who finished her fourth year teaching AP biology and general science at Silver Bluff High in June, said she can apply her time in the research lab to her classroom.

“I’m really excited about bringing hands-on learning experience back to my classroom because that lets the students know that, OK, not only do you know content but you also apply it,” said Waymer, who was Silver Bluff High’s teacher of the year last year. “It helps the students develop that trust with their teacher.”

Through the program, Waymer also received a grant she will use for classroom equipment.

“I’m a firm believer in making sure that you do for your students,” she said.

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