Undergraduate Research Spotlight
The Utah State University College of Science is home to a tradition of outstanding undergraduate researchers. The following stories highlight current undergraduate research projects across the departments of Biology, Chemistry and Biochemistry, Computer Science, Geosciences, Mathematics and Statistics, and Physics.
Olivia Brock, Mathematics and Statistics
Utah State University Undergraduate Research Fellow Olivia Brock loves solving jigsaw and logic puzzles, as well as the congeneric grace and physics of bowling and ice skating. She loves reading, writing, and the art and science of airplanes
“One of my first science fair projects as a child was developing a paper airplane demonstration showing how airplanes fly,” says the West Valley City, Utah native, who graduated from Hunter High School in 2017. “My partner and I won first place.”
Christian Lange, Physics
As a pianist, Utah State University undergraduate researcher Christian Lange knows that listening to music is best, when it’s in a quiet setting. A silent atmosphere, where the listener can experience every lyrical nuance, every pause, every richly ornamented passage.
“The same is true when measuring light,” says the USU Honors student and physics major. “You want to eliminate any noise that could interfere with the measurement.”
Audrey Lidgard, Biology
“I fell in love with Utah State and with research,” says the 2017 graduate of Utah’s Skyline High School and recipient of a USU Presidential Scholarship, who is majoring in molecular and cellular biology. “Pursuing a question and being able to explore it. That’s where I thrive.”
Awarded a USU Undergraduate Research and Creative Opportunities (URCO) grant, Lidgard is investigating the effects of human-induced environmental changes on side-blotched lizards, a species found in abundance in the deserts of western North America.
Madison Taylor, Geosciences
Utah State University undergraduate Madison Taylor is learning that most day-to-day research efforts don’t yield heart-stopping breakthroughs. Sometimes, the geology major hits a wall as impenetrable as the rocks she studies.
“But you learn not to throw in the towel,” says Taylor, a Utah Valley native, who entered USU on a Dean’s Scholarship. “Sometimes, you just need to hit the ‘pause’ button and get some fresh perspectives.”
Tori Bodine, Statistics
Firearms constructed with 3D-printed parts aren’t suited for the long haul. After firing a few rounds, barrels warp, break and they’re ready for disposal. And that’s what provides advantages to criminals. Built at home without serial numbers and discarded after use, the untraceable weapons contribute to a larger “ghost gun” problem.
Utah State University undergraduate researcher Tori Bodine wonders just how many of these weapons are in circulation. In the Sacramento, California area alone, she says, ATF agents reported seizure of 270 such firearms in 2017, but those figures may only scratch the surface.
Matt Armburst, Biochemistry
Emerging CRISPR (pronounced “crisper”) technology is “all over the news,” says Utah State University Undergraduate Research Fellow Matt Armbrust.
“Many think of it as a tool for editing DNA and correctly see its potential for curing diseases,” he says. “Simply put, CRISPR is an immune system found in bacteria.”
Bryce Frederickson, Mathematics and Ethan Hammer, Statistics
Utah State University Honors students and Undergraduate Research Fellows Bryce Frederickson and Ethan Hammer were named 2019 Goldwater Scholars in a prestigious national competition that recognizes outstanding achievements in science and mathematics.
The awards were announced April 26 by the Barry M. Goldwater Scholarship and Excellence in Education Foundation, which administers the program.