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Students tackle intensive research projects at undergraduate level

At many universities, students don’t enter a research laboratory until graduate school.

Dr. Nancy Woodley, professor of biological sciences, and a team of biological and allied health sciences professors are making sure that this isn’t the case for ONU students.

In fact, just two years after putting undergraduate research at the forefront her classroom, some of Woodley’s students have presented their research to the Ohio Academy of Sciences – and even played a role in the Ohio legislature.

Woodley has redesigned her curriculum to create a yearlong research-intensive experience as part of a medical physiological laboratory series. She is working in collaboration with Dr. Vicki Motz, visiting assistant professor, Dr. Rema Suniga, associate professor, and Tammy Hunnaman, animal technician, to provide a variety of research opportunities for students.

This student-driven research involves an entire semester dedicated to a research proposal. Students are given time to develop a research protocol that has to be approved by an institutional review board (IRB) or institutional animal care and use committee (IACUC). At the end of the term, students submit their proposal to the faculty.

During the second semester, students conduct the research that has been approved. ONU’s physiological lab allows students to monitor human blood pressure, heart rates, reaction time and more.

“The nature of the research is dependent on what the student is trying to ask,” says Woodley. “We mentor them in the process, but they still have to conduct it themselves. We don’t put our names on these – the credit for research doesn’t go to the faculty member. It is research that is being done by the students.”

As a result of the research performed during the medical physiological laboratory series last year, a group of ONU students who studied physiological responses (such as changing heart rate) to text messaging were asked to present their research to the Ohio legislature during the fact-finding stage surrounding proposed legislation about texting while driving.