San Marcos,
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Celebrating the Best in Student Research

By David Ogul

It’s all about developing student scholars.

So says Dr. Jennifer Fabbi, Dean of the University Library, in discussing the 2nd annual Library Award for Undergraduate Research, Scholarship and Creative Activity – a Cal State San Marcos honor recognizing students demonstrating sophistication and originality in their research projects and creative works.

Winners of the 2nd annual awards will be formally announced at an awards reception held in the winners’ honor on May 11 at the Kellogg Library.

“Undergraduate research is very important at Cal State San Marcos,” Fabbi said. “This award and the Library’s role fit in with the mission and culture of our university.”

Indeed, the Library places a premium on information literacy and helping students learn lifelong skills to navigate an increasingly complex digital world.

“Learning to do quality research isn’t just necessary to do well in school or your career,” said Yvonne Nalani Meulemans, CSUSM’s Director of Information Literacy program. “Understanding how information is created, shared and used is fundamental to being part of a democratic society.”

The Award for Undergraduate Research, Scholarship and Creative Activity is presented in three categories, including Creative Works, Empirical Research, and Interpretive Analysis, and winners (individuals or groups) receive $600 each. Creative Works can include such projects as an art installation, software program, musical composition, or film in which research played a paramount role. Empirical Research includes research conducted with qualitative or quantitative methodologies that utilize date and employ the scientific method. Interpretive analysis involves capturing the hidden meaning and ambiguity of a piece of art or literature, a person, or an event.

“We’re looking not just at the final product, but at the research process,” Fabbi said. “This is about the development of the student as a scholar.”

Students must complete their research project under the guidance of a faculty or staff member during the summer, fall or spring semesters, and winning submissions are included Scholarworks, a repository of CSUSM’s research output.

This year’s applicants came from a variety of disciplines, including Visual and Performing Arts, Literature and Writing, Communication, Sociology, Economics, Psychology, Biochemistry, Physiology and Kinesiology.

And the winners are:

Creative Works

Student: Tiersa Cosaert

Program: Visual and Performing Arts

Advisor: Judit Hersko

Submission Title: Curios of the Future (Weather on Steroids)

The sculptures that make up “Curios of the Future (Weather on Steroids)” explore the threat of climate change on oceans. Cosaert used a library database to investigate how climate change has led to toxic blue-green algae blooms that can harm a wide variety of organisms in the ocean. Her research helped her identify four species of fish to include in her installation to illustrate how “fish common to us now could become curiosities of the future, while warm-water species once alien to this area could invade and become the norm.”

Interpretive Analysis

Student: Elizabeth Jaffari

Program: Literature and Writing

Advisor: Rebecca Lush

Submission Title: Monstrous Ambiguity and Desire in Otsuichi's Goth

To move forward on her analysis of the Japanese novel, Goth, Jaffari had to find and then synthesize multiple scholarly discussions about horror to establish a foundation for her analysis. She found useful information in Michael Dylan Foster’s book, Pandemonium and Parade, in the University Library and read Foster’s additional articles and books by using interlibrary loan services. Through her research, Jaffari identified the differences between Western perspectives of monstrosity and the ambiguous monstrosity that is prevalent in youkai – or Japanese apparitions and ghosts.

Empirical Research

Students: Ivan A. Hernandez; Charlene Andreason; Alondra Calva; and Caitline Castillo

Program: Psychology

Advisors: Wesley Schultz and Anna Woodcock

Submission Title: Perceptions of Socioeconomic Mobility and Risk-Taking Behavior

The group’s study hypothesized that college students, who perceived socioeconomic mobility as fixed (genetically based and static), would be more likely to engage in risk-taking behaviors than students who perceived socioeconomic mobility as something that could change. Their comprehensive literature reviewed used primarily PsycINFO as well as other CSUSM library databases to access the existing research on how a pessimistic or optimistic perspective on one’s financial future could lead to more positive behaviors. The students’ advisors, Dr. Wesley Schultz and Dr. Anna Woodcock note the research “is a truly exceptional example of the realization of students’ curiosity and their initiative in independently designing and deploying a quite complex experimental procedure” that has also resulted in their findings being shared at local and national conferences.

Students: Josefa Gregorio; Lorena Aguirre; Jesus Perez; and Alejandro Zafra

Program: Physics

Advisor: Stephen Tsui

Submission Title: Synthesis and Characterization of the Doped Orthoferrite HoFe0.5V0.5O3

The group was inspired by a recent article on the magnetic behavior of HoFeO3 crystal (also known as holmium-based orthoferrite.) In the article, HoFeO3 was “…synthesized by a solid state chemical reaction and characterized for its magnetic behavior.” Challenged by their advisor, Dr. Stephen Tsui, the group aimed to first replicate the synthesis and characterization of this compound as a test of their abilities. Next, they searched the literature to help determine whether they could make small chemical substitutions in the compound that had not been previously reported. The students used Google Scholar to connect to Library resources electronically and through interlibrary loan to find the necessary literature. The students performed original research that contributes to the understanding of this class of compounds and how to “tune” the compound’s magnetic properties.