Research Excellence

Photo by Duane Zehr

By Matt Hawkins
April 20, 2015

From sustainable plastic alternatives to statistical predictors of pro football scores, nearly 100 of the best student research and creative projects were on display at the 2015 Student Scholarship Expo. Sponsored by the Office of Sponsored Programs (0SP) and the Center for Teaching Excellence and Learning (CTEL), the event showcased work from the University’s five colleges and The Graduate School.

The event put blossoming researchers in the spotlight as they shared knowledge with 40 judges from the greater Peoria area and the Bradley community.

“This is a celebration as students get to show their hard work and be recognized,” said Sandra Shumaker, executive director of research and sponsored programs. “As a smorgasbord of research, it’s a chance for us to remember why we do what we do.”

The day of celebration came after a long year of trial-and-error experiences for some students, such as a team of chemistry majors who developed biocomposite alternatives to plastics. They tried different combinations of materials such as sawdust and hemp in order to find sustainable options to the petroleum-dependent plastic industry.

“With a project like this, you’re going to have a lot of failure with new products, but that gave us more hands-on work which made us more comfortable in the lab,” said team member Erik Larson ’16, of Knoxville, Illinois. “It was an opportunity to use our imagination and see how things worked out.”

Doctorate of physical therapy students Kirstin Grothaus, of New Lenox, Illinois, and Lindsey Hanna, of Peoria, studied inconsistencies in lymphedema education for breast cancer survivors. They discovered that physical therapists didn’t play as important of a role in the education and treatment process as they could.

“We need to be out there more and have a standard protocol for education,” Hanna said. “We want to get people into the clinic because we can treat the condition if we catch it early.”

This year’s Expo also gave quantitative finance graduate student Andrew Jacob, of Groveland, Illinois, a trial run on his thesis methodology. For the Expo, he applied “fuzzy sets” — human language descriptors applied to computer-understood equations — to predicting football scores. His model accurately predicted nine of 11 games in last season’s National Football League postseason.

This was a lighthearted test of the process by which he’ll analyze more than 400 stock prices.

“I took what I knew and applied it in different ways to describe things a little differently,” he said. “Even though I enjoy finance, this was more fun.”