Students participate in university research programs

Cora Cummins, Guest Writer

   If you are familiar with the term research, then perhaps you understand how complex and detailed it can be. You may also be aware that research is often a lengthy process and requires a researcher to be flexible and adapt to unforeseen twists and turns. Two examples of current research programs at Southern Nazarene University are the McNair Scholars Program and a Computer Science research project funded through the National Science Foundation.

    Robbie Diaz, a current McNair Scholar and student at SNU, shared about his research in a recent interview. Diaz spent time recently in San Gerardo de Dota, Costa Rica, at SNU’s Quetzal Education Research Center (QERC). While there, he studied and performed preliminary research on the flower Fuchsia Paniculata.

   After completing his research for QERC, Diaz then used his research to write his paper and presentation for the McNair program. Upon reflection, he realized that although his research was directed specifically toward the flower itself and the discovery of its component, it eventually expanded, allowing for more detailed research. Some of these additional research components included how the Fuchsia Paniculata is affected by elevation and what its role looks like within the ecosystem.

   Another McNair Scholar, Terra Frederick, spoke about research, saying, “[In research] one thing leads to another thing, which leads to another thing.” As Diaz and Frederick said, research is often a long process that rarely turns out as planned.

   This is also evident in a Computer Science research project at SNU.  The project is funded through the National Science Foundation and focuses primarily on applying bio-inspired concepts of leadership to teams of simulated robots.  One of the goals of this project is to improve the coordination and cooperation of robot teams.

   Under the leadership of Dr. Brent Eskridge, a professor in the Computer Science and Network Engineering department, a team of undergraduate research assistants, including Jeremy Acre, Blake Jordan, Tim Solum and Elizabeth Valle have been working to understand how leaders and followers emerge in nature and how those concepts can be applied to improve robot teams.  As Tim Solum stated, “Everything we’re [currently] doing is biology inspired.” Eventually, they plan on applying their discoveries to real robots, but their research is still in its early stages and is only using simulated robots at present. Recently, results of this research have been presented by Dr. Eskridge and some of the undergraduate assistants at conferences both in the United States and abroad.

   In this research project, like many others, side tangent and deviations have emerged, occasionally the research has even evolved, leading to new and potentially relevant discoveries. Tim Solum stated that, from his experience, working on the Computer Science research project, they have been able to branch out and incorporate new ideas and concepts into their research that weren’t initially planned.

   These programs are only two of several research opportunities available at Southern Nazarene University in which both faculty and students collaborate. If  you enjoyed learning about these research programs or the idea of exploring new topics and expanding your knowledge sounds interesting to you, contact a faculty member to discover how you can get involved in research during your college career.