The 26th annual IdeaFest showcased USD graduate and undergraduate student research with presentations held throughout the Muenster University Center April 4 and 5.
IdeaFest celebrates student research and academic engagement in all disciplines. Oral and poster presentations, live performances, readings, exhibits and displays highlighted some of the various methods students share their work.
Preparation challenges and experiments
Each oral session typically features three presentations that are categorized under an academic emphasis.
Kristie Schmidt, a senior biology major, was the first presenter in the Interdisciplinary 2: Undergraduate Research (UGR) group, presenting the “Beta Fish Aggression With Varying Acoustic Environments” project.
“Condensing all the research I’ve completed into a 10-minute presentation and finding time in my busy undergraduate schedule to make sure I can do all the studies effectively was a challenge,” Schmidt said.
Allison VanLaecken, a senior pre-dentistry major, presented research project that focused on monitoring demineralization of dentin slices following Schmidt’s presentation.
“I was only able to perform my experiment in the summer during my Research Experience for Undergraduates (REU) internship in Lincoln, Nebraska last summer,” VanLaecken said. “It was a challenge because USD doesn’t have the equipment and machinery in Vermillion to conduct my research, so time was a factor in my project.”
VanLaecken’s challenges didn’t end there – part of her experiment involved individually cutting real teeth donated by University of Nebraska-Lincoln to conduct her research.
“The whole experiment process was really time consuming because it takes an hour to get one slice of a tooth,” she said.
Alicia Bellefeuille, a senior biology major, was the last presenter in the Interdisciplinary 2: Undergraduate Research group (UGR).
IdeaFest poses unique challenges for each student, and Bellefeuille said overcoming her nerve of public speaking was the biggest hurdle leading up to the presentation, not the research and experimentation process.
“Although I was very comfortable with what I was presenting, it’s stressful not knowing what kind of questions the audience will ask,” Bellefeuille said.
Schmidt’s research involved examining aggression levels in beta fish through comparing the male and female fish reactions to hearing reggae and rock music.
Due to the constant preparation, Schmidt said choosing two of her favorite music genres helped ease her mind through the experimentation process.
“My original hypothesis, which stated males to be more aggressive than females while listening to both music genres, was proven correct through my research,” Schmidt said. “Like I anticipated, the beta fish were more aggressive hearing rock music, than they were with reggae music.”
With hopes of becoming a dentist, one of VanLaecken’s desired outcomes of her research is providing a toothpaste that significantly builds enamel, which only few currently do, she said.
“Although dentists already prescribe a few enamel protective tooth-pastes, I want to develop an even stronger one that could eventually be available,” VanLaecken said.
Bellefeuille’s presentation focused on the effects diabetes has on senior athletes’ ranges of motion and strength. In her experiments, 50 years-old was the threshold of being considered a senior.
“I think the older adult population is a very understudied field, but Dr. Jordre had the most influence on my decision to research senior athletes,” Bellefeuille said.
Becca Jordre, an associate physical therapy professor, collaborates with some of her students on research projects of her own.
“Dr. Jordre has been working on a very large research project focusing on the senior athlete population, because she feels like it’s an alienated group of people that aren’t studied enough,” Bellefeuille said. “We can learn so much from this group of older adults that exercise regularly through continuing research.”
While each presentation poses unique challenges for students, Schmidt said IdeaFest has a multi-faceted, positive impact on her life.
“Not only is it a great resume builder, it helps me prepare for my Honors thesis in the future and allows me to expand my research with feedback from professors and students,” Schmidt said.