Eric Feuerborn

Student Team Ranks 2nd in State Research Competition

Thursday, March 5, 2009

A team of University of Science and Arts students, led by Andrea Jones, an English major from Covington, Ohio, placed second during Research Day at the State Capitol Feb. 23.

The team competed against 17 projects from 12 Oklahoma colleges and universities. Jones placed second in the Regional/Community College division.

"All of the other student research presentations were really impressive, so we were shocked when they announced us as second. We were the only ones not presenting on an environmental or medical issue," Jones said. Linguistic Transformation was the topic of Jones' presentation.

Jones said her team did a lot of work in a short amount of time. "Most of the other student researchers who presented at the EPSCoR Research Day had been researching their topics since at least the 2008 fall semester. However, I was first approached about the competition around the second week of January.

"I had not been researching anything particular at the time, so I found out about EPSCoR and came up with a research topic that day. The competition was at the end of February, so we really only had about a month to research, compile information and design our presentation," Jones said.

"I was nominated by Dr. Bellemain for this research competition. Since I didn't have very much time to work with, I asked a couple of students -- Sachelle Story and Melody Dobbins -- to help me with the actual labor of finding information to support my topic.

"We all worked together on gathering information, but I was the actual nominee who presented the research to the judges on the day of the competition," Jones said. Dr. Annick Bellemain, is an assistant professor of foreign language at USAO. Melody Dobbins is an English and Psychology double major from Tuttle and Sachelle Story is an English major from Amber.

Jones said that the research project was in addition to regular class work and other activities. "The research wasn't class related at all; although I am considering using the topic and the information that we delved up as the start of my senior seminar paper.

"Finding the time to actually research was really tough. So much was going on this past month with my involvement with the musical West Side Story, working a part-time job and trying to keep up with classes. I had many sleepless nights and weekends."

Although a research project on linguistics may have been unique for the competition, it was a perfect fit for Jones. "The day that I was asked to do the competition, I was reading information on EPSCoR and trying to figure out how I could put my expertise as an English major to use in a scientific research competition. Somehow I thought of sociolinguistics -- the study of language from a sociological perspective.

"The idea kind of blossomed from my perspective as an out-of-state student coming into this small Oklahoma town and, at first, not understanding common idioms like 'fixin' to' and being annoyed by improper grammar."

Other research projects in the competition included animal behavior, tissue engineering, cancer research, biofuels, antibiotic resistance, scorpion pectines and lake water quality. First, second and third place awards and a grand prize are awarded each year.

"Although the grammar and pronunciation of the English language is continually changing, it is vastly important that future generations know and understand the difference between formal and informal grammar; thus giving them the tool of proper communication in the business/economic world and allowing them to appear more knowledgeable in formal settings -- for instance, when interviewing for a job," Jones said in her research.

After USAO, Jones plans to enter law school and sees this experience as beneficial to her future. "Anything you can do to get out of your comfort zone and really put yourself out where others can see provides you with a great chance to show how much work you're willing to put into anything you do. I saw that chance and decided to take it. I'm hoping that this accomplishment show potential graduate schools, law schools and employers that I am willing to put in the extra hours and do the work to reach my goals.

Research Day at the Capitol was started in 1996 to showcase the outstanding undergraduate research being conducted at Oklahoma’s colleges and universities. Students compete in the areas of science, technology, engineering and mathematics. There is only one student selected from each school. The event is sponsored annually by the Oklahoma State Regents for Higher Education, Oklahoma Experimental Program to Stimulate Competitive Research (EPSCoR) and the National Science Foundation.