Students awarded Synovus Scholar grants

Megan Reed, Campus Carrier News Editor

Two students have been awarded Synovus Scholar grants to pursue research projects with the guidance of their professors.

The 2013 Synovus Scholars are sophomores Kayli Wilson, an economics major, and Micah Stockwell-Goering, an animal science major.

The Synovus Scholar program awards up to $2,000 to Berry College sophomores and up to $500 for their faculty and staff mentors to help students pursue an academic or research experience, such as a practicum, research project, or artistic endeavor.

Wilson is looking at data from the China Health and Nutrition Survey, which followed about 3700 households in rural China for several years and asked questions about their health, including their diets and vaccinations, and their educational levels. The goal of the survey is to “see the interrelationship of health and education,” Wilson said.

Wilson is striving to learn more about how people of different educational levels may make different choices about health for themselves and for their families, Lauren Heller, assistant professor of economics and Wilson’s faculty advisor for the research project, said.

While the survey focuses on Chinese families, “there might be some lessons we could learn for the U.S. as well,” Heller said.

Wilson said that Heller  encouraged her to apply for the Synovus Scholars program.

“[Heller] had been working with a data set that I had some interest in too, so we looked at it together and came up with a research topic from it,” Wilson said.

Wilson plans to use the funds from the Synovus program to purchase Stata, a data analysis software, and to attend a Southern Economic Association conference next November to present her research.

 “It’s a rare thing for undergraduates to be able to present their work at this conference. Usually it’s Ph.D. economists,” Heller said.

Stockwell-Goering, who is working with Jay Daniel, associate professor of animal science, is focusing her research project on the role of the hormone grehlin in castrated male sheep. Grehlin is made by the stomach and stimulates feed intake. This hormone is also found in humans.

“There was a study in people where they showed them pictures of food and grehlin [levels] went up,” Daniel said. “We wanted to see if a similar concept would work in animals where if they saw things that made them think they were going to eat, that that would make grehlin go up too.”

To test this theory, Stockwell-Goering and Daniel gathered a group of sheep and put muzzles on some of them. A bucket of food was then placed near the sheep, but the sheep wearing muzzles could not eat. The experiment was also done at a feeding time that was unfamiliar to the sheep.

The experiment was performed on castrated male sheep to eliminate the possible interference of sex hormones. Stockwell-Goering and Daniel worked on a similar experiment last year involving pregnant female sheep, and Stockwell-Goering said that may have influenced their results.

Stockwell-Goering used the funds from the grant to purchase the materials for the experiment, which included syringes and 6 mL tubes, and a fee to have the materials analyzed at the University of Missouri. The materials are still at the University of Missouri and are waiting to be analyzed.

Applications to be a Synovus Scholar next year are due on March 24, 2014.

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