Graduate Student Research Symposium

research symposium graphic


The annual Graduate Student Research Symposium is  an opportunity for graduate students to share their thesis projects with their faculty, peers, and others on campus. Second year students present their entire project, including results. First year students present their tentative project topic, literature review, any theoretical application, reserach questions/hypotheses, and proposed methodology.

The 2024 symposium is being held on April 19 in the International Connections Lounge in the Arkansas Union. Posters will be on display 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. and graduate students will be presenting their work 12 p.m. to 2 p.m.


2023 Research Abstracts


Rachel Burger

Advisor: Dr. Jackie Mosley

There is an ever-growing need for individuals to work towards cultural competence, especially when those individuals work in healthcare. As healthcare professionals with backgrounds in child development and who provide emotional and psychological support to diverse pediatric patient populations in a variety of different sectors, child life specialists (CLS) and Certified Child Life Specialists (CCLS) have an even greater need for understanding cultural competence (Thompson, 2009). The purpose of this research study was to examine the cultural competency levels and exposure to cultural competence of current CCLS. The hypothesis was that the greater number of PDUs related to cultural competence that a CCLS completes, the more culturally competent that individual will be. A total of 97 CCLS participated in an online survey that asked questions regarding their background, level of cultural competence, as well as the types of Professional Development Units (PDUs) that they have completed that focus on cultural competence or related topics. There was found to be no significance between the number of PDUs related to cultural competence a CCLS had completed and their overall level of cultural competence. There was, however, significance between the number of cultural competence PDUs and the likelihood that a CCLS would engage with people from other cultures. Although the hypothesis was not supported, this study did work to further research on cultural competence within the field of child life as well as explore the connections between certain demographics and levels of cultural competence.

Laura Echávarri Ibarra

Advisor: Dr. Sabrina Trudo

Colorectal cancer is the second leading cause of cancer-related deaths in the US. Dietary habits account for 50% of the cases. A westernized diet (high fat, high sugar/fructose, and low in fruits and vegetables) and inflammatory bowel diseases are risk factors for colorectal cancer. Evidence suggests phytochemicals in apiaceous vegetables (API; celery family) possess anti-inflammatory and potentially chemopreventive properties. Hence, investigation of whether consumption of API mitigates acute colitis is warranted. Using mice fed Total Western Diet (TWD) and administered dextran sodium sulfate (DSS; induces colitis), objectives of this project are to identify effects of API intake on: 1) severity of colitis assessed by disease activity index (DAI), 2) colonic and serum inflammation markers, and 3) correlation between inflammatory markers and DAI. TWD is formulated to mimic the average diet composition in the US, thus enhancing translation to humans. Hence, C57BL/6J mice (n=90) were divided into the following groups 1) TWD; 2) TWD+21% API wet wt:wt (10.5% celery + 10.5% parsnip; equivalent to a total of ~1 c/d in the human diet using allometric scaling based on kcals); 3) TWD+42% API (21% celery + 21% parsnip); 4) TWD+2% DSS; 5) TWD+21%API+DSS; 6) TWD+42%API+DSS. Mice were fed for 19 days with access to normal drinking water unless assigned to DSS on days 12-17. DAI was assessed daily starting day 12. On day 20, mice were euthanized, and tissues collected. There was no difference in food intake among the 6 groups or total weight gain prior to DSS. Mice on TWD+API21%+DSS or TWD+API42%+DSS had less severe DAI than TWD+DSS on each day starting Day 14 (all p<0.001). There were no differences between TWD+API21%+DSS and TWD+API42%+DSS for any measure. API intake ameliorated chemically-induced colitis while consuming westernized diet. We will next assess API effects on inflammatory pathways and histology.

Shannon Hart

Advisor: Dr. Jackie Mosley

As LGBTQIA+ issues have become increasingly political and controversial, it is more important than ever to assess LGBTQIA+ sensitivity training. At the University of Arkansas, one such program is available to students, faculty, and staff: the Safe Zone Allies program. Safe Zone Allies is a nationwide initiative to promote acceptance of LGBTQIA+ peoples, educate non-community members about the LGBTQIA+ community, and promote the safety and inclusion of LGBTQIA+ individuals on college campuses through the public display of support in the form of Safe Zone branded backpack pins and stickers. The current study is the first of three proposed studies to investigate the (a) necessity of LGBTQIA+ initiatives, (b) the efficacy of the Safe Zone Allies program at the U of A, (c) the most effective methods for LGBTQIA+ sensitivity trainings, and (d) the mechanisms involved in desired outcomes. The current study establishes a campus baseline of existing attitudes toward and knowledge about LGBTQIA+ peoples, and examines the reliability and validity of measurement. It is hypothesized that the current study will find negative attitudes towards LGBTQIA+ people, a lack of knowledge of LGBTQIA+ people, and demonstrate the necessity of effaceable interventions on campus.

Mariya Hayat

Advisor: Dr. Aubree Hawley

Objectives: The objective of this study was to evaluate the effects of a high protein diet containing a staple carbohydrate source including white potatoes or white rice (≥4 servings / week) for 16 weeks on sleep and mood states in adults with or at risk for Metabolic Syndrome.


Methods: A total of 21 participants (17 females and 9 males; age 35.4 ± 8.9 years; BMI 36.2 ± 6.1 kg/m2) with two or more characteristics of metabolic syndrome (MetS), (body mass index (BMI) ≥25, abdominal obesity (WHR ≥0.90 cm in men and ≥0.85 cm in women), triglyceride level over 150 mg/dl, HDL cholesterol <40 mg/dl in men and 50 mg/dl in women, systolic blood pressure of 130 mmHg or diastolic blood pressure of 85 mmHg, and/or fasting glucose >100 mg/dL), participated in this randomized, controlled, single-blinded 16-week dietary intervention that prescribed a high protein diet (30% protein, 40% fat, and 30% carbohydrate) with different staple carbohydrate sources including potatoes and rice. Participants were assigned to one of two groups: 1) HPWP- High protein diet with white potatoes, ≥4 servings / week, for 16 weeks (n=11) 2) HPCC- High protein diet with a control carbohydrate (white rice), ≥4 servings / week, for 16 weeks (n=10), where one serving of potato and rice was equal to 1/2 cup and 1/3 cup respectively. Sleep via (Pittsburg Sleep Quality Index (PSQI)), mood via (Profile of Mood States (POMS)), anthropometrics and Grit was measured every four weeks and compared between the two groups at 0, 4, 8, 12, and 16 weeks. Objective sleep and body composition were assessed at 0 and 16 weeks.


Results: After controlling for baseline, a significant diet and time x diet effect was observed for POMS fatigue with significant differences at week 4 only. A significant time X diet effect for POMS fatigue, depression, and tension at week 4 was observed with no effect at other time points. Moreover, we observed a significant time effect and time X diet effect (P<0.05) of the 16-week dietary intervention for grit scores with HPCC group having increased grit. Lastly, a significant diet effect (P<0.05) was observed for number of awakenings and a significant time effect (P<0.05) for PSQI GSS. No differences were seen between groups at 16-weeks.


Conclusions: This pilot study suggests that a high protein diet for 16 weeks provides no improvements on sleep quality and mood states in adults with or at risk for MetS, irrespective of the staple carbohydrate source of white potatoes vs white rice. (NCT03935048)

Lily Maleknia

Advisor: Dr. Kelly Way 

This study is designed to examine the poor (non-nutritional) food choices that college freshman make when living on campus and eating at on campus dining facilities.   These poor choices lead to excessive weight gain, eating disorders, declining health and wellness, and mental health issues (i.e. depression, anxiety, lack of self-confidence).   These side effects can lead to a less than desirable 1st year college experience and lack of academic success. Based on these concerns, different investigations have been performed to determine the causes of this phenomena. Given adolescent weight gain is highly linked to overweight and obesity in adults, a better understanding of university student weight gain is crucial if we are to combat the rising adult obesity.

Often referred to as the “freshman fifteen” or the “freshman forty”, studies have been performed to determine why first year students gain weight that typically would not have if they did not live on campus.  It has been concluded that freshman weight gain is an issue with almost two-thirds of students. Students who gained weight, gained it at rates much faster than that of the general population. Perhaps a shift from topic focused health promotion to a more holistic approach to health promotion including fostering healthy social and built environments could help reduce weight gain. Health promotion and health intervention seem critical in the first year at university. Universities should embrace their role as potential key health promoters and shapers of student health.


Juliana Marconi

Advisor: Dr. Eunjoo Cho

With the rapid advancement in information technologies, retailers integrate omnichannel marketing strategies to provide consumers with low prices, good products, and unique shopping experiences. Omnichannel retailing brings changes to consumer decision-making processes. Consumers use all channels (online and offline) simultaneously at the same during the product search, purchase, and aftersales stages. Some consumers prefer to check out a product in a brick-and-mortar store but purchase it online. This is referred to as showrooming. Since the COVID-19 pandemic has increased the use of mobile devices and smartphones in shopping, consumers search e-commerce sites using mobile devices while they shop in stores. The use of smartphones increases showrooming behaviors. Mobile-assisted showrooming is shopping in brick-and-mortar stores to evaluate products and compare similar product options using smartphones, while they evaluate products in stores and make purchases online. Research shows that omnichannel shoppers purchase more products and acquire high-priced products than single- channel shoppers. Showroomers gather product information from a physical store and purchase the product online from another retailer. For that reason, showrooming has emerged as a significant challenge for brick-and-mortar stores. Many studies highlight the negative impact of showrooming behavior. However, showroomers can make purchases on the same retailer’s online channel. As a result, showroomers can provide omnichannel retailers with potential benefits. Whereas prior studies have examined factors driving showrooming, little is known about the positive consequences of showrooming. Further research is needed to offer valuable insights into the positive impact of showrooming. Drawing on Ajzen’s (1991) theory of planned behavior, the purpose of the study is to examine the determinants and consequences of showrooming. Specifically, this study investigates the effects of price consciousness, value consciousness, product involvement, perceived risk, and demographics on attitude towards showrooming. This study also examines the effects of subjective norms on intention towards mobile shopping and the effects of attitude towards showrooming on two outcome variables (i.e., intention towards showrooming and user-generated content creation). The results of the study will provide implications for scholars and omnichannel retailers to enhance the consumer shopping experience in consumer decision-making.

Nelima Zipporah Barasa

Advisor: Dr. Laurie Apple

This study evaluates the fit of pregnant women's garments at weeks 12, 20, and 35 using a 3D body scanner. It seeks to determine how physical changes at different stages of pregnancy influence maternity wear fit. The reviewed literature indicates that anthropometric changes during pregnancy are non-linear and can be captured at different periods of pregnancy using a 3D body scanner. Pregnant women's garments fit differently as they progress through each trimester because these changes are diverse. Pregnant women are experienced at dressing their pre-pregnancy bodies in stylish clothes that complement their bodies well. It is therefore imperative for retailers and manufacturers to understand how pregnant women's bodies change over the course of pregnancy to provide maternity wear that fits properly. While several studies have shown that bodily changes during pregnancy influence garment fit, no documented research has evaluated the changes at different stages of pregnancy in relation to garment fit. This study, therefore, seeks to fill this gap by providing insight into how physical changes at different stages of pregnancy influence maternity wear fit. The study aims at identifying the physical changes through body scanning at 12 weeks, 20 weeks, and 35 weeks that influence maternity wear fit; determining whether pregnant women perceive bodily changes in maternity wear fit; and establishing whether pregnant women focus on specific fit areas when purchasing maternity wear. A longitudinal research design will be employed to observe body changes in pregnant women aged between 21 and 35 years at 12, 20, and 35 weeks of pregnancy. A survey will be conducted to collect data on physical changes and their impact on garment fit at the time of each scan. Collected data will be analyzed using SPSS. Results will provide insight into how maternity clothing fits at different stages of pregnancy.

Kyla Riggs

Advisor: Dr. Sabrina Trudo

In the United States, colorectal cancer is the second leading cause of cancer-related deaths. It is estimated that in 2023, 106,970 new cases will be diagnosed and 52,550 deaths related to colon cancer will occur. Colorectal cancer is a term used to describe cancer that starts in the colon or the rectum. These two cancers are generally grouped together due to their similarities. Studies have shown that environmental factors such as diet strongly influence a person’s risk of developing colorectal cancer. Diets low in fruits and vegetables and high in red and processed meats may increase risk of colorectal cancer development. Apiaceous vegetables (Apiaceae, which includes carrots, parsnips, celery, etc.) are rich in phytochemicals that have many biological activities when consumed. Of these phytochemicals, the furanocoumarins psoralen, 5-methoxypsoralen (5-MOP), and 8-methoxypsoralen (8-MOP), as well as the flavonoid apigenin, inhibit cytochrome P-450 1A2 (CYP1A2) in vitro and possibly in humans. CYP1A2 activates colon-specific procarcinogens and its inhibition by apiaceous phytochemicals was thought to be a putative chemopreventive mechanism. While in vitro studies give a better understanding of phytochemical effects on specific carcinogenic pathways, subsequent animal studies point to a greater potential chemopreventive effect of Apiaceae and their phytochemicals on other pathways. Unfortunately, there is a lack of human studies investigating the consumption of apiaceous vegetables or their phytochemicals and risk of colon cancer. Instead, animal studies are more common, with some being more translatable to the human condition than others. We will review the evidence regarding a potential protective effect against colon cancer by Apiaceae intake. Altogether, data suggest anti-inflammatory roles through multiple mechanisms.

Rulli Torres-Almaraz

Advisor: Dr. Laurie Apple

Purpose-The focus is on research about external breast prosthetics and how they affect cancer survivors physically and psychologically after a mastectomy. To be more specific, the goal is to experiment with 3D Printing to create more practical external breast implants and design External Breast Art wearable pieces. Furthermore, an improvement on external breast prosthetics, including bras, and make them available to Breast Cancer Survivors.

Theoretical Development – The concept of “Quality of Life” (QOL) implies the absence of disease on the background of physical, social, and mental well-being. Ensuring QOL is assumed by a multidisciplinary team of physicians, psychologists, social workers, nurses, who must work together to improve the physical, mental and social well-being of patients.

Design/Methodology/Approach – A qualitative E-mail questionnaire to individual breast cancer survivor patients to collect responses related to fit, comfort, psychological or physical pain by wearing 3D printed external breast. A total of 50 women who have had a mastectomy or double mastectomy will be fitted to test these external breast prosthetics. To encourage participation, a small financial incentive will be offered in (US $1) Dollar. 20 questions related to comfort, fit, psychological or physical pain by wearing 3D printed external breast will be on a seven-point Likert scale anchored from “Painful -7” to “Not Painful-1” The sample will consist of all female ages 30-55. Demographic measures will include age, gender, household income, and employment status.