Mark English, Alex Morton and Kathleen Saigh are among a distinguished group of undergraduate students whose projects were selected from more than 4,000 submissions. They will join student scholars from around the world at this year’s conference, which is being hosted by the University of Kentucky.
Causes of blindness
English will present research he conducted at OU’s Eye Research Institute (ERI) examining how the absence of peripherin/RDS, a protein in the eye, can lead to vision loss.
“When peripherin/RDS is not present, photoreceptors lose their shape, which leads to blinding diseases such as retinitis pigmentosa and macular degeneration,” the biology major explained. “To provide a more complete understanding of the relationship between peripherin/RDS and photoreceptor structure, I have developed a standard measurement for the affinity of peripherin/RDS and cell membranes.”
English has presented his research during the ERI’s SUPER program and also plans to present at the Michigan Academy of Science Arts and Letters conference, which takes place at OU in late February.
A religious pilgrimage and New Age Spirituality
Morton’s research led her to the mountains of northern Spain, where she took part in El Camino de Santiago, a pilgrimage to the historic cathedral some believe houses the remains of Jesus’s apostle Saint James the Great. Morton observed and interviewed pilgrims to better understand the journey’s cultural significance.
“The focus of my research was about the reasons people do El Camino de Santiago, the impact El Camino has on the individual and the community, and the differences between routes of the Camino,” said Morton, an Anthropology major. “I also considered the movement towards New Age Spirituality while doing my research.”
Rooted in cognitive psychology, Saigh’s research explores “physical, social, and relational categorization formation in young children,” particularly those with Autism Spectrum Disorders, and also highlights “emotion recognition and theory of mind.” The psychology major presented her work at the 2013 Cognitive Development Society meeting and at Meeting of Minds conferences the past two years.
The students contributed these projects for their senior thesis, the capstone of a rigorous curriculum offered to Honors College participants. Graeme Harper, dean of the Honors College, says he’s especially proud of this year’s group of presenters.
“This is the toughest year I have ever seen to be accepted to present at the National Conference on Undergraduate Research,” he said. “Our Oakland undergraduate researchers can compete with and beat the best in the nation."