Kaydra Bui '17 (Photo by Duane Zehr)

Matt Hawkins
July 25, 2016

If you’re reading this story, you probably recognize the ubiquity of “at” signs, hashtags and tweets in everyday language. That’s the world in which Millennials live, and it’s a blossoming space for research.

Kaydra Bui ’17, an interdisciplinary major from Peoria, is one such researcher this summer. She is studying the social communication revolution created through the ever-present hashtag.

Bui is conducting research this summer through the College of Liberal Arts and Sciences’ first-time Summer Undergraduate Research and Artistry Fellowship Program. The grant provides stipends for three LAS students and their faculty mentors to pursue intensive projects during the summer break.

The focused summer is a chance for Bui to study a new linguistics niche as she readies for graduate school.

“To be a great athlete, you have to practice and sweat a lot. This is like that, where I’m gaining skills and muscle,” she said. “Everything I’m doing helps further my knowledge and research skills in preparation for my future.”

Bui is investigating the evolution of hashtag use on Tumblr. Though initially designed to organize topics on Twitter, hashtags have become essential communication tools in face-to-face and social media conversations. Emerging academic research has focused on Twitter and Facebook, which meant Tumblr was ripe for a thorough study.

“I’m excited to research this because it’s relevant to me as a member of the demographic I’m studying,” Bui said. “Because technology changes and we change with it, it’s interesting to watch what’s happening through a microscope. It gives me new perspective on how we view ourselves as communicators. I appreciate these new insights into my own world.”

She plans to continue research into the school year in hopes it becomes the foundation for her senior thesis. Her summer research could also play a role in graduate school pursuits.

If her linguistics interests stay with social media, this summer’s research could play a role in graduate school pursuits.

Bui is working with English department Associate Chair Dr. Seth Katz, who also doubles as one of her academic advisors. Through the mentorship, Bui discovered valuable insights into culture, language and professional research standards.

“Those of us in the grant program are fortunate to have advisors as invested in the research as we are,” Bui said. “Research may seem intimidating, but our advisors are encouragers who want to help us succeed. They can see things we don’t, and that helps us do high-quality work.”

Bui and her fellow grant recipients will share their summer work with faculty and students in the fall. Students will then finalize projects for submission to relevant conferences and publications. Those engagements will be platforms to receive relevant feedback and to advocate for more student involvement in research.

“I’m grateful we’ll be able to show how our research is relevant and helpful to our disciplines and culture,” she said. “I hope we can motivate students to pursue opportunities like this. Even though focused research can be tough, it’s an enjoyable experience that will benefit us long after we leave Bradley.”


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