Students Present Research at MidSURE 2017

On July 26th, Michigan State University hosted the Mid-Michigan Symposium for Undergraduate Research Experiences (Mid-SURE), an event that allows undergraduate and graduate students participating in summer research to showcase their work and findings.

Five ComArtSci students participated in Mid-SURE this year, with research topics spanning from political word choice to educational games. ComArtSci’s Behavior Information Technology (BIT) Lab also had two students presenting research at the event.

Moral Word Choice: Communication Student Delves into Political Research

Sean Frobel, senior Communication student, assisted mentors Allison Eden, assistant professor of Communication, and Lindsay Hahn, Communication graduate assistant, in studying the difference in moral word choice used in political statements between Democrats and Republicans.

Moral word choice refers to certain words or phrases that can be put into categories of morality. “For example, if someone is talking about protecting someone or helping someone, that would be considered upholding care,” Frobel said. “Another example would be if someone wants everyone to have healthcare; that would be considered upholding fairness.”

The team used five categories to classify the statements, including care, fairness, loyalty, authority and purity. They found that Democrats and Republicans do not differ much in their moral word choice in political statements. However, the team found that moral word choice was determined by the topic. For example, when they asked people about the environment, the word purity was used often.

The Next Generation: Using Video Games to Improve Management of Type 1 Diabetes

Junior Media and Information student Alexis McCarroll and mentor Bree Holtz, assistant professor in Advertising and Public Relations and Media and Information, took a proactive step toward improving the management of Type 1 Diabetes in adolescents by researching what kind of video games people under the age of 20 engage with.

According to McCarroll, Type 1 Diabetes can be particularly difficult to manage for adolescents, especially for those who were recently diagnosed with the disease. “Day-to-day management is very complex, because there are so many different aspects to worry about— constantly adjusting insulin doses, tracking carbohydrate intake and physical activity, to name a few— that it's easy to get overwhelmed,” McCarroll said.

The pair found that 80 percent of the adolescent participants surveyed were interested in games meant to educate and help them manage their diabetes. Overall, the results showed that such a game would need to combine straight-forward guidance with an assortment of engaging tasks.

MI Student Focuses Research on Improve Tanzanian Girls’ Participation in STEM

Senior Media and Information student Noushin Mahmood studied the low participation of female high school and middle school students in computer clubs and science classes in Tanzania.

Jennifer Olson, associate professor in Media and Information, was the program leader for Mahmood’s study abroad trip in Tanzania this summer and helped to guide her research project. Mahmood learned that gender roles and stereotypes, limited access, teenage pregnancy and early marriage are all factors that influence girls’ low participation in computer clubs and science classes in Tanzania.  

“The rural Tanzanian girls are really talented and they could be great in academics and professions if given the opportunity,” Mahmood said. “It was equally sad and fascinating to see and think about their obstacles. It made me more interested to work in under-privileged women's education and empowerment.”

Mahmood said she saw a lot of similarities in female participation in Science Technology Engineering and Math (STEM) fields between the U.S. and Tanzania. “It's surprising that even in a developed country like the U.S., a lot of girls still face barriers from families and society when they want to enter in STEM fields,” Mahmood said. “Yes, we have better resources here, but the social stigma and stereotypes against women are still the same.”

Mahmood said teachers would have to play a big role to improve girls’ participation rates in computer clubs and science classes. She suggested the implementation of parent teacher conferences, which is not a common practice in Tanzania.

Advertising Students Study the Performance of Chinese Brands in US Markets

Advertising students Xinyi Tao and Xinnui Feng teamed up with Hairong Li, professor of Advertising, to study how 62 major Chinese brands are performing in the U.S. They found that overall, between 2011 and 2015, Chinese companies’ profits went down.

They also found that more and more Chinese companies in the food and agricultural sector are coming into the U.S. market. As a whole, the team’s results showed that there is opportunity for Chinese brands in U.S. markets, but risk and problems still exist.

Tao and Feng are interested to see the influence of the companies’ social pages on their performance, because Chinese companies rely on television commercials for advertising and do not place a high importance on social media.

BITLab Welcomes Students For Summer Research

ComArtSci’s BIT Lab welcomed students Dorothy Blyth, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, and Julie Gerstley, Tulane University, to assist the lab’s summer research.

Rick Wash, associate professor of Journalism and Media and Information, and Shaheen Kanthawala, Information and Media doctoral student, served as the students’ mentors. Blyth and Gerstley centered their research on online communities, with Blyth focusing on how newcomers perceive user reputation systems on online health communities and Gerstley concentrating on how users think about these communities.

By Rianna N. Middleton