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Multiple academic disciplines come together at ETSU research symposium

Brandon Paykamian • Mar 28, 2018 at 8:59 AM

Whether it’s general curiosity or personal experiences that drive us to expand our understanding of the world around us, each researcher has her or his own motivation for taking on certain topics within his or her academic discipline.

At Tuesday’s annual East Tennessee State University Boland Undergraduate Research Symposium, students from a broad range of disciplines from the humanities to the sciences unveiled their research to the public in the Millennium Centre.

Some students chose to take an interdisciplinary approach to studying the region’s health problems.

Psychology student Elizabeth Hale discussed her research, “The Relationship of Military Service Branch to Rates of Post-traumatic Stress Disorder and Substance Use Disorder Among Appalachian Veterans.”

In her research, she explored the correlation between PTSD and substance abuse rates relating to combat trauma and the differences between military branches, a topic she said is personal to her and her family.

“There’s a lot of military personnel in my family, and my godfather was actually on a submarine that exploded about 20 years ago,” she said. “Hearing his story and hearing my grandfather’s stories always touched my heart, so that’s one of the major reasons I wanted to research this.”

Kayla Davis, an anthropology student, chose to explore patient and family relationships with health care professionals and the health industry as a whole by studying patients’ illness narratives in her study, “Experiencing Illness in the Western Biomedical World: A Push for More Comprehensive Health Care in America.”

By studying these interactions and associated stigmas, she said doctors and nurses can learn how to better approach health care in an individualized and compassionate manner.

“My thesis is mainly focusing on illness narratives, which falls under narrative anthropology,” she said. “As an anthropology student, I’m also very interested in going into medicine, and having my own illness narrative of growing up with an auto-immune disease has really helped me learn more about these relationships and how much we can see the culture through analyzing these illness narratives.”

Nutrition student Brittney Stubbs chose to study levels of stress, depression and propensity toward eating disorders to take a closer look at how these factors affect quitting smoking while pregnant.

In her study, “Psychosocial Well-Being and Efforts to Quit Smoking in Pregnant Women of Appalachia,” she chose to explore why many pregnant women in this region continue to smoke and ways to encourage quitting, citing that there are three times more pregnant smokers in Appalachia than the national average.

“I am a nutrition major, and that was what prompted me to include the disordered eating instrument (Disordered Eating Attitude Scale) to have a nutrition angle within the study,” she said. “I’m a pre-med student also, so the health aspect of smoking during pregnancy in low-income and rural areas was something that interested me.”

But not all projects featured at the symposium were hard research. On the first floor, 17 digital media students unveiled their virtual game projects, one of which allowed attendees to take a virtual tour of William B. Greene Jr. Stadium as ETSU’s beloved mascot, “Bucky.”

Students had to study every square foot of the field and the surrounding buildings to make the virtual experience as accurate as possible, according to digital media student Ben Riley. Overall, the virtual project took months to complete before attendees were able to experience the virtual tour.

“This game was all created by 17 digital media students, and the entire stadium was recreated,” Riley said of the project. “This took countless hours — over 100 hours — for each of the students involved.”

For more information about the projects featured at the symposium, visit www.etsu.edu. 

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