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Competition Puts Student Research at the Forefront

Can chocolate enhance athletic performance? Did Napoleon's invasion of Russia stem from the hemp plant? How can mathematical vertices and pairs be used to explain dominance in relationships? On Friday, February 25, California State University San Marcos (CSUSM) students will present their scholarly research results on these and other hypotheses as part of the university's 15th annual Student Research Competition.CSUSM's campus competition is part of the larger California State University (CSU) Student Research Competition, which is held annually in May. To qualify students for the statewide contest, each CSU campus hosts its own competition and then selects the top student researchers, up to ten entries, to represent the campus at the system-wide level. Research topics go beyond the traditional physical sciences to include research and creative activities that span the full range of academic programs and disciplines offered by the CSU. The competition involves two-parts -- a research narrative and an oral presentation. Each entrant, whether an individual student or researching team consisting of up to four students, is required to submit a five-page narrative with a maximum accompaniment of three pages of appendices.This year, the competition received a record-high of 37 student submissions. Over the last six years, program participation has more than quadrupled. Research narratives and applications were due to the CSUSM Office of Graduate Studies and Research on February 11.On February 25, students will participate in the fifteenth annual campus competition and deliver their 10-minute oral presentations to a panel of judges, followed by a 5-minute question and answer period. Judges will evaluate student papers and presentations on clarity of purpose, appropriateness of methodology, interpretation of results, and value of the research conducted, as well as the presenter's articulation, organization, and ability to respond to questions.Among this year's presenters will be student-athlete Andrea Talhami, a senior majoring in kinesiology. Working with her faculty mentor Dr. Todd Astorino, Talhami studied the effects of caffeine intake on high-intensity exercise performance."Exposure to meaningful research is an educational opportunity that not all university undergraduates have access to," said Talhami, who plans to begin a Master's degree program in nutrition after graduating from CSUSM in spring 2011. "Performing research now while I'm still an undergraduate is helping prepare me for graduate school, where conducting and analyzing research is a primary focus."Fellow kinesiology student and former U.S. Marine, Heather Hibshman will also present her research and findings from an experiment she conducted at CSUSM. The 28-year-old examined the body's response to the consumption of chocolate soymilk following a high-intensity sprint-based exercise. Hibshman explained that high-intensity aerobic activity depletes the body of energy while also releasing toxins into the blood stream, which can hinder the body's recovery, especially for professional athletes who have limited recovery time before needing to perform again at high-intensity levels. Ingredients found in chocolate are known to have antioxidant properties, which could, according to her hypothesis, help athletes recover faster if ingested shortly after high performance exercises.Both Hibshman and Talhami know the tremendous value research adds for them as students, not only in terms of conducting hands-on experiments, but by taking the next step to articulate and share research findings."It's an important step to be able to stand in front of your peers and industry experts and explain why your research is significant and how it adds value to your discipline and the greater community," said Hibshman, who plans to pursue a Master's degree in nutrition and eventually earn a Ph.D. in bioenergetics. "Research gives students hands-on experience to formulate and hypothesize questions, perform scientific experiments, and analyze results, which ultimately makes us better critical thinkers."The campus community, as well as the public, is invited to attend and observe the competition. Oral presentations will be held in Markstein Hall in rooms 103, 105, 106, 208, and 203 and will begin promptly at 9 a.m. An awards reception and complimentary light lunch for all attendees will follow the competition at noon in Commons 206."Student research and creative activities are the pinnacle of student learning," said Gerardo González, dean of Graduate Studies and associate vice president for Research. "Under the mentorship of faculty, students apply their skills and creativity to these projects. As a result of excellent faculty mentoring, CSUSM students have traditionally performed well at the CSU Student Research Competition."Finalists in the campus competition will receive cash awards, along with paid-travel accommodations to attend and represent CSUSM at the annual statewide student competition held May 6-7 at Fresno State University. Undergraduate and graduate students from each of the 23 CSU campuses will compete and share their investigative projects to juries of professional experts from major corporations, foundations, public agencies, colleges and universities in California. This year marks the 25th annual CSU Student Research Competition, and the fifteenth annual participation from CSUSM students. In total, more than 4,000 CSU students have presented their findings since the competition was first introduced in 1987.Directions and ParkingCSUSM is located at 333 S. Twin Oaks Valley Road in San Marcos. For more information or directions to the campus, visit http://www.csusm.edu/guide. Parking is available in campus lots with fees ranging from $3 to $9 depending upon length of stay.About California State University San MarcosCalifornia State University San Marcos combines the ambiance of a mid-sized, personal, modern campus with the unequaled value of the California State University. Since its founding in 1989, the campus has distinguished itself. Students benefit from the latest facilities and equipment, a superb faculty that enjoys teaching, and a rigorous academic program that prepares students for a successful life in and out of the workplace. A recent survey reported that our annual spending in the region was $161 million, generating a total impact of $307 million on the regional economy. Eighty-five percent of CSUSM's alumni stay in the region. CSU San Marcos is located on a 304-acre hillside overlooking the city of San Marcos. It is 15 miles east of the ocean; just 30 miles north of downtown San Diego.