Oklahoma State University
College of Human Environmental Sciences
Undergraduate Research

The College of Human Sciences and Oklahoma State understand that students who graduate with research experience have taken full advantage of all that a comprehensive research university has to offer. Research is an essential component of each department within the College Human Sciences. Students have the opportunity to work side-by-side with a professor or faculty member in their chosen area of study. Among experiential learning opportunities offered in the College of Human Sciences, undergraduate research adds richness and depth to the student’s academic experience. Research experience is invaluable in helping students choose a career path, improve their likelihood of success in the workforce and decide on graduate school.

The Freshman Research Scholars Program, funded by the Robberson Trust, grants sixty scholarships to incoming freshman in any discipline to extend their education beyond the classroom by engaging in cutting-edge research under the guidance of innovative faculty researchers.  Students who participate in FRS have a history of success in OSU's other undergraduate research programs.

The Wentz Research Program, funded by the Lew Wentz Foundation, awards fifty $4,500 grants to OSU's most accomplished undergraduates of all majors to conduct projects of their own design with the help of an experienced faculty mentor.  Students who distinguish themselves with Wentz Research projects, have been successful in many prestigious scholarship competitions—including, Rhodes, Gates, Marshall, Goldwater, Udall, and others. 

Students in laboratory sciences can apply for the Niblack Research Scholars Program  which provides $8,000 grants to students who have completed at least 28 credit hours.  Many individual departments also offer undergraduate research opportunities. 

OSU also aids students interested in participating in any of the National Science Foundation's diverse Research Experiences for Undergraduates (REU), which supports active research participation by undergraduate students in any of the areas of research funded by the NSF. 


Abby Cain • HDFS • Foster Alumni College Students

Name: Abby Cain
Hometown: Yukon, OK
Graduation Year: 2018
Major: Human Development and Family Science
Credentials: Freshman Research Scholar
Research Adviser: Dr. Kerri Kearney

What was the subject of your research project?

My research project sought to better understand the journeys of foster alumni college students by exploring their perceptions on how relationships with family affect their college success and experience.

What was the most valuable aspect of the research process for you?

I became more educated on how the process of research works, which gave me a greater appreciation of completed research from which I can learn highly valuable information.

How has this experience influenced/changed/impacted your education?

This experience has increased my desire to learn and has shown me how valuable research is. My greater understanding of and appreciation for research has significantly helped in my writing for all classes.

How do you think this experience will prepare you for your career?

I now understand that results of research can provide an abundance of information on various topics. In my future career, I believe that I will be able to consult related research to better understand currents events in my field.

What advice would you give a prospective student considering a research opportunity?

DO IT! Research opportunities provide valuable experience, consistent interaction with professor(s) beyond the classroom, different learning opportunities, confidence in personal ability to research, and of course, something good to put on your resume. :)  

Abby Davis • NSCI • Overall heart health of an obese individual

Name: Abby Davis
Hometown: Mustang, Oklahoma
Graduation: May 2019
Department: Nutritional Sciences
Major/Minor: Nutritional Sciences
Credentials: Wentz Research Scholar
Professor/faculty: Dr. Lin

What was the subject of your research project?

The goal of my project is to determine if and how a diet including whole soybeans affects the lipid profile and overall heart health of an obese individual.

What was the most valuable aspect of the research process for you?

The simple fact I am about to perform my own experiment is insanely valuable in itself. It is incredible I am in a place where I am able to take an idea and put it into action in such a prestigious environment with magnificent tools and assistance.

How has this experience influenced/changed/impacted your education?

I am learning there are few limits when it comes to my education. There are countless impactful opportunities you can be blessed with if you invest your time and effort into pursing those opportunities.

How do you think this experience will prepare you for your career?

My current career path leads me to becoming a medical doctor. This experience in the lab will grant me with an interesting point of view on what is occurring within the body at the miniscule, cellular level. I hope my work in the lab, along with my nutritional studies, forms me into a well-rounded physician with much knowledge to draw from in order to best care for my future patients.

What advice would you give a prospective student considering a research opportunity?

Curious students should be curious! It never hurts to ask a professor about their research if he or she is in need of any help. Be brave and have that conversation. Opportunities tend to appear when you go out on a limb that you usually don’t. Research may not be for everyone, but this is an excellent time to take it for a spin.  

Erica K. Crockett • NSCI • Cellular communication

Name: Erica K. Crockett
Hometown: Stillwater, OK
Graduation Year: 2016
Major: Nutrition/ Pre-Medical Sciences
Credentials: Niblack Research Scholar
Research Adviser: Dr.  Brenda Smith

What was the subject of your research project?

My research project is looking at the cellular communication between epithelial and immune cells in the gut and how they respond when treated with specific fruit components called polyphenols.

What was the most valuable aspect of the research process for you?

The most valuable parts of the research process for me have been the hands-on work and learning to trouble-shoot. Working in a laboratory setting has taught me to think through processes in different ways than taught in the classroom, and trouble-shooting problems has allowed me to develop a much deeper understanding of certain processes and protocols.

How has this experience influenced/changed/impacted your education?

I have learned more valuable life skills through my lab experience than through my classes. When I started in lab, I thought it would supplement my classwork, but it turned out to be the opposite. Often I can reference my lab experience or something I learned in lab and apply it to my coursework.

How do you think this experience will prepare you for your career?

Working in the lab has not only effected my education and my approach to science, but it has also improved my writing skills, my organization and given me the ability to become familiar with most members of the Nutrition Department at OSU. My lab experience has encouraged me to become a well-rounded individual and enriched my professional communication.

What advice would you give a prospective student considering a research opportunity?

I would whole heartedly suggest it to anyone that has an interest and the time. The mentors are great. They truly help you to gain educationally, professionally, and personally. Plus, the complement to coursework and potential scholarships and careers make research an incredible opportunity. 

Crockett recently received the OSU Women’s Faculty Council Research Award for her research.

Kate Janike • NSCI • Effect of iron on the circadian rhythm in mice

Name: Kate Janike
Hometown: Lincoln, NE
Credentials: Freshman Research Scholar and Wentz Research Scholar
Department: Nutritional Sciences
Major/Minor: Nutrition
Graduation year: May 2015
Research project: Nutrition and bone health obesity prevention
Professor/faculty: Dr. Stephen Clarke

What was the subject of your research project?
I am researching the effect of iron on the circadian rhythm in mice.
What was the most valuable aspect of the research process for you?  
The most valuable aspect of the research process for me is knowing how to ask and answer your own questions using research methods.

How has this experience influenced/changed/impacted your education?
This experience has allowed me to learn hands on as opposed to in the classroom. I learn better when I am doing something I am learning about. Research was the perfect opportunity for me to practice and learn.

How do you think this experience will prepare you for your career?  
This will prepare me for my career by giving me experience in a laboratory, as well as allowing me to see examples of metabolic processes in real life examples.

What advice would you give a prospective student considering a research opportunity?
Take every opportunity you can and do not be afraid! Faculty love to help undergraduates in their research. If you are willing to put yourself out there, they will allow you to learn and excel in the lab.

Brittany Helmer • HDFS • Current Predictors of Adolescent Depression

Name: Brittany Helmer
Hometown: Skiatook, OK
Department: Human Development and Family Science
Major/Minor: Human Development and Family Science
Graduation year: May 2017
Professor/faculty: Dr. Amanda Harrist

What was the subject of your research project?
The title of my research project is Early and Current Predictors of Adolescent Depression. I am looking at if a child’s weight and body esteem in the first grade can predict depression in adolescents during high school.

What was the most valuable aspect of the research process for you?  
The first step in my research process was to familiarize myself with the family science literature already available. It was incredibly beneficial because I gained knowledge I wouldn’t have in my regular classes. This new understanding of what research was out there also served as my motivation. I found areas which needed more research data and is what gave me the opportunity for this project. I would say the most valuable aspect of this research project though is working with my faculty mentor, Dr. Harrist. She has so much knowledge and experience that I am getting to learn all about conducting research from one of the best. It also gives me a great opportunity to make connections in the research world which will allow me to take my research career beyond this Wentz project. There are so many door opening I did not even know existed.

How has this experience influenced/changed/impacted your education?
This experience keeps me excited about my education. I get to see the difference we get to make for people because of universities, like OSU, who are teaching Human Development and Family Science Curriculums based on research. I see my education is so much more than just what I do in the classroom. As a researcher, education never stops.

How do you think this experience will prepare you for your career?  
Learning about what is going on with real people and families will help me to maximize my ability to help them. I want to be an Industrial Organizational Psychologist which is helping people by bring the understanding of psychology to the work place. To be able to benefit the lives of the people I work for and work with I must aim to understand them as individuals but also to learn about how family dynamics play a role in a person’s life. This research experience is giving me new knowledge but it is also teaching me to problem solve and to never stop being curious. This experience is definitely preparing me for a career by giving me both knowledge and tools.

What advice would you give a prospective student considering a research opportunity?
Do it! It is incredibly intimidating at first but the faculty at OSU are so eager to help and they are so knowledgeable. Take advantage of this unique opportunity, it will surprise you.

Ashlyn King • HDFS • Services for and Experiences of Individuals with Intellectual Disabilities

Name: Ashlyn King
Hometown: Edmond, OK
Department: Human Development and Family Science
Major/Minor: Human Development and Family Science
Graduation year: May 2016
Professor/faculty: Dr. Jennifer Jones and Dr. Kami Gallus

What was the subject of your research project?
As a part of the Oklahoma National Core Indicators project, I completed interviews with adults who have intellectual disabilities. National Core Indicators is a national organization that completes quality assurance surveys with individuals who have intellectual disabilities, and we were able to gather data about these Oklahomans' experiences and the services they receive from the state.

What was the most valuable aspect of the research process for you?  
Being a part of NCI research team was an invaluable experience. As a research assistant, I was able to talk with individuals who have intellectual disabilities and the staff who worked with them. Learning how to conduct myself professionally and hearing stories from these individuals gave me experience in a field I am interested in, and challenged the way I view the world.

How has this experience influenced/changed/impacted your education?
Doing undergraduate research has influenced the way I think about research. Although I have always seen the value of research, I didn't realize the impact it can have on individual lives. I loved being able to advocate for people through research and capture a glimpse of people's lives. Now I am a more motivated student with a bigger picture of the world.

How do you think this experience will prepare you for your career?  
I feel that I am a more confident, compassionate, and informed individual because of my experience as a research assistant, which will help me as I prepare for my future career.

What advice would you give a prospective student considering a research opportunity?
I would tell them to take every opportunity to be involved with research. Research, especially in Human Development and Family Science, allows you to apply the theories and concepts that you have learned in classes, requires you to learn professionalism, and encourages relationships with professors and teammates.

Madison Krehbiel • NSCI • MOLECULAR CAUSES OF SYMPTOMS ASSOCIATED WITH IRON DEFICIENCY

Name: Madison Krehbiel
Hometown: Stillwater, OK
Department: Nutritional Sciences
Graduation year: May 2018
Professor/faculty: Dr. Stephen Clarke

What was the subject of your research project?
As a student worker, I do not currently have an extensive project in the lab. Rather, I help the graduate students with the projects that they are working on. Dr. Clarke’s lab studies the molecular causes of symptoms associated with iron deficiency. I have learned the basics of many laboratory practices and have completed multiple cell-culture experiments.

What was the most valuable aspect of the research process for you?  
The most valuable part for me is the hands-on learning experience. I started working in the lab before I had completed any science courses in a classroom. So while I’m learning backwards from most other students, my active experiences in the lab have already helped me tremendously to understand science in the classroom setting.

How has this experience influenced/changed/impacted your education?
Working in the lab has given me a deeper appreciation for science and research. I have gained so much knowledge in the past year than I ever thought I could obtain. It has given me confidence in myself as a student and has made me rethink my future career path in pursuing research.

How do you think this experience will prepare you for your career?  
My experience has encouraged me to apply for research scholarships and pursue further opportunities to prepare me for a career in nutritional science. The knowledge, skills, and connections I have made is helping me immensely in preparing for my career.

What advice would you give a prospective student considering a research opportunity?
Go for it! Experiencing the research process has been one of the best parts of my time as an undergraduate. I have learned so much and continue to discover new knowledge all the time. It has brought the classroom to life for me, and can open up many new opportunities to further your career path.

MEREDITH MCNIGHT • NSCI • Dried Plum Supplements and Post-menopausal Induced Bone Loss in Mice

Name: Meredith McKnight
Hometown: Broken Arrow, Oklahoma
Credentials: Freshman Research Scholar
Department: Nutritional Sciences
Major/Minor: Nutritional Science option pre-med
Graduation year: May of 2018
Research project: Dried Plum Supplements and Post-menopausal Induced Bone Loss in Mice
Professor/faculty: Dr. Brenda Smith

What was the subject of your research project?
The study I joined studied the effects of dried plum supplements on post-menopausal induced bone loss in mice.

What was the most valuable aspect of the research process for you?  
The most valuable aspect of the research process for me was being exposed to the lab setting and getting to see firsthand what it takes to conduct a study.

How has this experience influenced/changed/impacted your education?
This experience has changed my view of undergraduate research by exposing me to the level of detail that goes in to planning and preparing for a study, as well as realizing the amount of precision and accuracy needed in collecting data. My experience was unique in that my mentor offered me the opportunity to take part in future research as a lab assistant.

How do you think this experience will prepare you for your career?  
I plan to pursue a career in physical therapy or osteopathy. This experience has exposed me more to the science world and has provided experience in communicating and working with professionals. It has also taught me several new techniques in collecting and analyzing data which I can apply in both career fields.

What advice would you give a prospective student considering a research opportunity?
I would tell a prospective student considering research to go for it! I would also tell them that it can be confusing and overwhelming at times, but hard work and Google will get you through it, and what you learn cannot be learned anywhere else.

Rachel Sharber • NSCI • Evaluating an After School Program about Healthy Choices

Name: Rachel Sharber  
Hometown: Okemah, Oklahoma
Graduation year: May 2018
Major: Nutritional Sciences
Credentials: Freshmen Research Scholar
Research Adviser: Dr. Janice Hermann

What was the subject of your research project?

The title of my research project was "Eagle Adventure After-School: A Pilot Program with Promising Results." The idea was to create an after school program to help educate children about healthy choices through fun activities.

What was the most valuable aspect of the research process for you?

The most valuable aspect of the research process was learning how research is conducted. I had no idea how much it took to conduct research. It really is an in-depth process.

How has this experience influenced/changed/impacted your education?

This experience allowed me to learn from and interact with professors in a different way. While looking for a mentor I was able to meet many professors. Just being able to meet them really helped to get me out of my comfort zone. I think being able to get out of your comfort zone is very important as a freshman.

How do you think this experience will prepare you for your career?

Working with people in a professional setting is always good to help anyone's career. Being able to work on an actual project with people who are what I hope to be someday was incredibly cool. Hearing advice from them gave me the courage to keep pursuing my dream.

What advice would you give a prospective student considering a research opportunity?

Find the research that is right for you. If you feel like you are not very interested move on to professor or project. It is really all about being interested.

Katie Thompson • NSCI • Zinc Polymorphism and Diabetes among African Americans

Name: Katie Thompson 
Hometown: Elk City, Oklahoma
Graduation year: May 2018
Major: Nutritional Sciences
Credentials: Freshmen Research Scholar
Research Adviser: Dr. Winyoo Chowanadisai

What was the subject of your research project?

The subject of my research project was the frequency of ZnT8 polymorphisms in an African-American population with diabetes. The main goal was to isolate the ZnT8 gene to see if a greater proportion of individuals with diabetes have the risk polymorphism in their ZnT8 gene than those without diabetes.

What was the most valuable aspect of the research process for you?

The most valuable aspect of the research process for me was being in a research lab. It was such a great experience and I learned so many valuable things.

How has this experience influenced/changed/impacted your education?

I’ve always wanted to be a doctor, but I had never thought about the research side of it until I spent some time in the lab. Doctors and researchers have to work together to find cures for all kinds of medical conditions. This realization has impacted my education because I now understand the research side as I’m being educated on the medical side.

How do you think this experience will prepare you for your career?

I think it will definitely prepare me for my career because my field of study is connected to research. New mutations are being discovered every single day in research labs that are the cause of many medical conditions, which helps doctors pinpoint the diagnosis for each patient.

What advice would you give a prospective student considering a research opportunity?

Being a part of research as an undergraduate is a great experience. You will learn so much because you have to think about situations that you never would of considered.

Emily Tucker • HDFS • Effects that trauma can have on couple satisfaction

Name: Emily Tucker 
Hometown: Skiatook OK
Graduation year: 2016
Major: Human Development and Family Science- Child and Family Services
Minor: Psychology 
Credentials: Wentz Research Scholar and Undergraduate Research Assistant for Oklahoma National Core Indicators (NCI)
Research Adviser: Dr. Kami Gallus and Dr. Jennifer Jones

What was the subject of your research project?

My Wentz research project is designed to explore the effects that trauma can have on couple satisfaction. I am particularly interested in exploring how the timing of the traumatic event in relation to the timing of the couple's marriage impacts subsequent relationship satisfaction. The Oklahoma NCI research project is focused on identifying and measuring core indicators related to the quality of life for individuals with intellectual and developmental disabilities receiving state funded services. 

What was the most valuable aspect of the research process for you?

The most valuable aspect of both my Wentz research project as well as the NCI project is learning to enjoy the process of research itself. Both projects are very different, but they have taught me to value not only the results that research can give you, but also the process it takes to get the results and positive impact.  

How has this experience influenced/changed/impacted your education?

The biggest way that my research experience has impacted my education is by showing me what areas in my field I am passionate about. Through research, I have been exposed to the wide variety options that my field has to specialize in and in turn found the specific areas that I want to pursue. This has made me more passionate about my education overall because I now can see what exactly I am working towards. 

How do you think this experience will prepare you for your career?

As a future marriage and family therapist, it is my responsibility to offer my clients the most up-to-date treatment possible. In order to effectively treat my clients, I must understand the research that is offered as well as the driving forces behind the research. By learning how the research process works I will be able to better analyze other research and then apply it to the treatment I am offering my clients. 

What advice would you give a prospective student considering a research opportunity?

I would tell any student considering a research opportunity to research what they are passionate about. Research can be an unpredictable process, but in the end the results are the reward. If you are not researching a subject that you are passionate about then you are never going to feel like the reward is worth the effort. That being said I would also tell fellow students not to be afraid to explore new areas. I would have never known what I was passionate about in my field if I had not started doing research. 

Karley Washburn • NSCI • Polyphenolic Compounds in Dried Plum

Name: Karley Washburn
Hometown: Edmond, OK
Graduation year: 2018
Major: Nutritional Sciences (Pre-Med)
Research Adviser: Dr. Brenda Smith

What was the subject of your research project?
My research focuses on how polyphenolic compounds in dried plum affect epithelial cell function and how they interact with the gut mucosal immune system. These polyphenolic compounds have been shown to have anti-inflammatory effects but are poorly consumed in the diet. My project will look at how these compounds affect the epithelial cells and their production of cytokines and chemokines that drive immune cell differentiation and activation.

What was the most valuable aspect of the research process for you?
The most valuable part of the research process has been what it has taught me about myself. So far, I have become more comfortable with the ways I problem solve and how I think. It has boosted my confidence and given me the opportunity to learn so much about myself as well as science in general.

How has this experience influenced/changed/impacted your education?
Yes, it most definitely has expanded my education more than I thought possible. I have learned so much about myself as well as things I would not get to learn in a classroom setting.

How do you think this experience will prepare you for your career?
Being a Niblack Research Scholar will prepare me for my future career but teaching me discipline and how to think on my toes. Everyday is different and problems can always arise, but learning to problem solve is essential. I want to work in the medical field, so learning how to work through problems and think quickly is a just one of the skills I have acquired that will help me in my future career.

What advice would you give a prospective student considering a research opportunity?
I would say if you are the slightest bit interested in research, give it a shot! One day I actually just looked up faculty members in the Nutrition department and their area of research. I found what I thought looked interesting, emailed my faculty advisor, and here I am today. If you are interested, look around your department and see what opportunities are available. You never know!

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