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McNair Scholars

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Nicholas Blumenberg

Nicholas Blumenberg
Major: Chemistry
Mentor:Dr. Greenwood

Research Topic: Identification of cuticular hydrocarbons on Nicrophorus pustulatus

Our research goals are to identify the shift in the cuticular hydrocarbon signature as well as identify when this shift takes place.

Future Goals: My long term acedemic goals are to go on to attain my PhD then go on to do research in virology either at a university or industry.

Courtney Brasher 

Courtney Brasher
Major: Communication Disorders
Mentor: Dr. Pearl Payne

Research Topic: Culturally and linguistically diverse populations

Jayme Button

Jayme Brandenburg
Major: Youth and Nonprofit Leadership
Mentor: Jeff Wylie, M.S.W.,L.C.S.W.

Research Topic: Assessing the availability and effectiveness of housing resources for adults with severe mental illness in mental health regions 1,2,3 in western KY

We are surveying case managers at community mental health centers in mental health regions 1,2, and 3 in western KY in order to assess the availability and effectiveness of housing resources available to adults with severe mental illness in those areas. We are collecting aggregate information about clients' housing situations (whether independently housed, housed with assistance, or homeless), and information about case managers' professional opinions regarding placement availability and effectiveness (toward achieving a stable housing situation). We expect that the results will show a need for increased placement availability. We hope that, if this is the case, the information gathered about the effectiveness of available housing options will encourage local policy makers to increase placement availability through the most efficient programs.

Future Goals: It is my intention to earn a Ph.D. in sociology, and to develop a multifaceted career. I plan to become a professor, a public charity consultant, and a social entrepreneur.

Fallon Carpenter

Fallon Carpenter
Major: Music Education
Mentor: Dr. Stephanie Rea

Research Topic: For my research project, I am arranging Mozart's Piano Sonata in F Major K.332 and Claude Debussy's Petite Piece for clarinet and piano for flute trio. Early Spring of 2014, I will have the opportunity to present my arrangement at the Flute Festival of Kentucky at Western Kentucky University. The process of arranging music for flute has been an incredible but challenging experience.

Future Goals: My long-term goal is to earn my PhD in music theory and teach at a 4 year institution.

Allie Daniel Allie Daniel
Major: Geoarchaeology
Mentor: Dr. Lara Homsey

Research Topic: The Analysis of Microartifacts to Evaluate the Diet and Cooking Techniques of Paleoindian and Archaic Age Inhabitants of the Dust Cave Archaeological Site in Alabamas.

My research involves studying microartifacts (artifacts 2-4 milimeters in size) from the Dust Cave archaeological site in Alabama in order to better understand the diet and cooking techniques of the Paleoindian and Archaic Age inhabitants.I suspect that my analysis of microartifacts will validate my hypothesis about the diet and cooking techniques of the prehistoric people who lived at Dust Cave, based on data previously retrieved from the site. Also, I hope my research contibutes to the promotion/growth of microarchaeology as a whole.

Future Goals: I plan to attend graduate school and eventually earn a Ph.D., perhaps in Classical/Near Eastern Archaeology. I aspire to continue researching while teaching archaeology at a university in the future. I hope to incorporate the skills and knowledge I've obtained as a McNair Scholar studying microartifacts in my future career.

Kristen Garcia

Kristen Garcia
Major: Engineering Physics
Mentor: Dr. Aleck Leedy

Research Topic: An Indirect Method for Maximum Power Point Tracking for Photovoltaic Arrays

Photovoltaic (PV) arrays have inconsistent output voltages due to a dependence on insolation, wind, and cell temperature. Therefore, data has been gathered to create estimated P-V curves where the power is a function of both voltage and cell temperature. Using this indirect method for determining the estimated P-V curve, a microcontroller will instantaneously track the maximum power point of the array. It will also receive feedback from a boost converter connected to the PV array to control the voltage received by the load.

Future Goals: I am looking forward to attending graduate school. Within the electrical engineering field, I would like to focus in power systems or power electronics. I love doing research, but without McNair, I would not have known where to begin.

Maurice Hanley

Maurice Hanley

Major: Music Education, Instrumental Emphasis

Research Topic: I believe my project will be about the importance of fine arts programs in the early lives of children. My main points may include the benefits children receive from the fine arts such as motor skills, teamwork abilities, enhancing creativity, etc.

Future Goals: I am very grateful to everyone involved in the McNair Scholars Program. It has always been my dream ever since I was young to earn a doctorate. The McNair Scholars Program has provide me with many resources to help me with my research project and put me in contact with many experts in their field of study to assist me in reaching my goals. I am proud to be a McNair Scholar.

Zachary Hoover

Zachary Hoover
Major: Biology/Japanese

Research Topic: My interests lie in Human Genetics with a specific interest in Retro Viruses.

Benjamin Ray Linzy

Benjamin Ray Linzy
Major: History and Criminal Justice
Mentor: Dr. David Pizzo

Research Topic: My current project is an evaluation of the Anglo-Egyptian colonial presence in Sudan (including the new nation state of South Sudan) and the effect this colonization had on the violence that has wracked these countries over the last 6 decades.Additionally, the geo-political forces that arise from Sudan’s oil economy and the subsequent alliance with China are also examined.

This is my second McNair research project. My prior research conducted under the mentorship of Dr. David Pizzo and Dr. Paul Lucko examined Italian dictator Benito Mussolini’s crackdown on the Sicilian Mafia.

Future Goals: I seek to translate the wonderful opportunities opened to me by my participation in the Ronald E. McNair Post-baccalaureate Achievement Program, to pursue a PhD in History.

Jasmine Middlebrook

Jasmine Middlebrook
Major: Telecommunications Systems Management
Mentor: Marcia Ford

Research Topic: Service learning project in Belize on Wireless Networks

My research will include a joint venture between Murray State University and West Kentucky Community and Technical College. MSU and WKCTC students will collaborate with Belizean students designing, implementing, and providing training for a wireless network in San Ignacio. The wifi network design and implementation will be carried out by myself, few MSU students, and selected Belizean students. Technical support training for sustainable ongoing support will be provided to staff/students by our students.

Future Goals: I am looking forward to attending graduate school. I plan on getting a master’s in a technology related field. Thanks to McNair Scholars Program I know what I want to do after undergraduate.

Vincent Miller

Vincent Miller
Major: Philosophy and Political Science double major
Mentor: Dr. Cynthia Gayman

Research Topic: The function of alienation and isolation in several of the major thinkers in Continental Thought.

My research seeks to evaluate the presence and function of conceptualized isolation and alienation in the Continental Tradition of Existentialism. Utilizing thinkers including, but not limited to, Kierkegaard, Nietzsche, Dostoyevsky, and Schopenhauer, I hope to adequately analyze and illustrate these concepts as vital, possibly universal devices of Existential thought.

Future Goals: In the future, I seek to translate my experiences with McNair into a pair of PhD's with the intent of becoming a professor of both Philosophy and Political Science.

Bryant Powell

Bryant Powell
Major: Philosophy, religious thought option
Mentor: Dr. Rory Goggins

Research Topic: Arguing that the god of the Christian Left and the god of the Christian Right are literally two separate deities.

I would like to show that, because the customary interpretations of God on the Christian political left and the Christian political right appear to have contradictory qualities, it is possible for it to be argued that they are literally two separate gods.

Hannah Robbins

Hannah Robbins
Major: Agronomy
Mentor: Dr. Iin Handayani

Research Topic: Organic Matter and Aggregation in Relation to Various Agroecosystems in Western Kentucky.

My research is Soil Organic Matter and Aggregation in Relation to Various Agroecosystems in Western Kentucky. More specifically, I’m interested in quantifying the differences in organic Carbon and Nitrogen contents as well as the ratio of Macro to Micro aggregates in several different agricultural management practices. I’ve still not yet determined if I would like to focus more on crop production or environmental management, but enjoy concepts of both unique ecosystems.

Future Goals: The research presentation opportunities that I have received through the McNair Scholars program has given me the independent research experience and presentation skills that I will need to continue to grow both my research ideas and professionalism as I work towards my Ph.D. in soil science.

Demi St John

Demi St John
Major: Physics and Math
Mentor: Dr. Joshua Ridley

Research Topic: A Search for Pulsars in our Galaxy and the Magellanic Clouds

A pulsar, or rapidly rotating neutron star, is born when a very massive star ends its life in a supernova explosion. They can be discovered by observing the radio emission that they emit. Currently, I am observing 8 recently discovered pulsars in the Large Magellanic Cloud remotely with the use of Parkes Radio Telescope. Data collected over the course of a year will be used in order to measure the pulsars' positions, ages, rates of rotation, magnetic field strengths and rates of energy loss.

Future Goals: I plan on attending graduate school to pursue my PhD. I am still figuring out which part of astronomy is my favorite, but with help from McNair, I have been able to explore many different avenues I could take. I am thankful for the opportunities and support that McNair provides.

Shaun Strawser

Shaun Strawser
Major: Sociology
Mentor: Dr. Scott Byrd

Research Topic: The Impact of Hydraulic Fracturing on University Activism in the Appalachian Region

I am a non-traditional student over 30, currently working on my first research project in the field of Sociology.

Future Goals: I hope to acquire my PhD before I turn 40. My interests include the study of organizations and social movements. My career goals include a research position at a good university, and eventually retiring to run a small farm with my wife.

Sarah Verive

Sarah Verive
Major: Criminial Justice and Psychology
Mentor: Dr. Jana Hackathorn

Research Topic: Terror Management Theory

I've had the good fortune to be able to work on several research projects, but my current research is focused on Terror Management Theory and its effects on phobias and anxiety. I'm looking specifically at the effect that inevitability of death has on the amount of anxiety one feels and how that relates to the perceived amount phobias a person reports.

Future Goals: I will begin applying to both Clinical and Forensic Psychology graduate programs next fall and would like to combine my passion for criminal justice and the intrigue of psychology into a career, potentially working with inmates or abuse victims.

Sara Wallace

Sara Wallace
Major: Psychology-Gender & Diversity Studies
Mentor: Dr. Jana Hackathorn

Research Topic: As I am a new scholar and just beginning work with my faculty mentor, I have not decided on my projects focus. It will be something dealing with gender and diversity topics and issues. I am also interested in topics related to hoarding and other mental disorders.

Future Goals: I hope to develop these interests further through my research with Dr. Hackathorn this semester.

Joshua Williams

Joshua Williams
Major: Mathematics

Research Topic: Evaluation of iterating the recurrence of series and sequences like the Collatz Conjecture.

My goal for this research is to end debates on problems similar to the Collatz conjecture, in which the starting number in the sequence is taken from 1 to infinity. These sequences generally have been assumed to reach 1 in a finite amount of steps. These sequences are generally piecewise defined as such: If even F(n)=n/2, If odd F(n)=3n+1, for all positive integers. This piecewise defined function, when started with a number like 6 then iterated, produces the following 9 steps to get back to 1: 6,3,10,5,16,8,4,2,1. However when started with a number like 27, this sequence consists of 111 steps to reach 1. I hope to show that there exists a positive integer that will reach an infinite loop.

Future Goals: My career goal is to earn a Ph.D in the field of mathematics and become a tenured professor at a university. Without McNair, I would not have even considered the possibility of research in my field as an undergraduate. McNair has opened up many opportunities for me, including research, cultural events, networking within my profession, and the opportunity to travel and view the research presentations of others.

Cash Willis

Cash Willis
Major: Manufacturing Technology with special interest in Robotics Engineering Research
Mentor: Dr. Robert Pilgrim

Research Topic: Bipedal Robots: What are the main issues with dynamic movement in robots?

The goal of this research is to determine the main issues faced with dynamic movement in bipedal robots and whether an Arduino processor can be used to construct a low cost bipedal robot that walks dynamically.

For the sake of greater efficiency in walking and a low energy requirement, the construction of a passive dynamic bipedal robot is being employed to research the main issues faced with dynamic movement in bipedal robots.

Future Goals: Upon completing a graduate program in the minimum time, I look forward to being the face of my field, providing and contributing my attained knowledge to further humanoid robotic development, and aiding in the mentoring of youth by setting up a high school robotics program in my community.

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