Utah Tech University


We interview students and faculty about their research.
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Fall 2018

Student Highlight: Published at UVU on DNA Research

Sefilina Skelton

Born and raised on the island of American Samoa, Skelton received her Associates degree in Health Sciences from American Samoa Community College. She started school at DSU two and a half years ago, and she recently did research involving human mitochondrial DNA and cancer. She studied if the same DNA mutations that causes diseases in humans would have the same effect in mitochondrial DNA.

Skelton states that since her family has lost many loved ones to cancer, she was very interested in studying this science.

In her last semester at DSU, Skelton’s research paper was published in Utah Valley University’s journal, Intersections. She graduated May 2018 with a Bachelors of Biology in Integrated Studies, with an emphasis on Biology and Chemistry.


Alexis Ruesch

After graduating from a high school in Toquerville, Utah at the age of 14, Alexis Ruesch started attending DSU in 2014. She is currently a senior at DSU, majoring in Integrated Studies with a emphasis in Communication and Sociology.

As part of her major, Ruesch final thesis project was split into two semesters. For the first semester she completed a thematic literature review focused on childhood language delays. The review looks at the different types of language delays, the long-term problems associated with language delays, potential risk factors that may cause these delays, and potential treatment and prevention methods that could help children with these delays.

This semester, Ruesch researched the correlation between caregiver distraction and children’s cognitive, emotional, and language development. Her hypothesis in doing this research is that the increase of social media and smartphones in our society may be correlated with decreased parent/child interaction.

Ruesch’s goal in doing this semester’s research is to try to determine what effects that lack of interaction, and how it relates to the children’s development. Ruesch’s research on childhood language delays will be featured in the Utah Valleys University’s journal, Intersections. She is excited to graduate in the Spring of 2019, and is planning to enter the workforce after graduation.


Faculty Highlight: The Study of Belep

Dr. Chelsea McCracken

Dr. Chelsea McCracken received her Ph.D from Rice University and is currently an assistant professor in the Interdisciplinary Arts & Sciences department. She wrote, A Grammar of Belep, which will soon be published by De Gruyter’s Mouton Grammar Library series, is a description of the grammatical structure of Belep, a previously undocumented Austronesian language variety spoken by about 1600 people in New Caledonia.

The book contributes to the typological literature by arguing that Belep has several distinct characteristics: its sound system is simpler than that of its closest neighbors; Its system of syllable stress challenges traditional notions of how stress is defined;
its word boundaries call into question the accepted definition of “word”; and it lacks grammatically subordinate clauses.

Belep’s most typologically interesting feature is its unusual system of grammatical relationships, where indicators of a noun phrase’s role in a clause occur on the word that precedes the noun phrase. Research for the book was conducted over the course of nine months of fieldwork from 2009 to 2011.


Faculty Highlight: Connecting the Past to the Present

Dr. Bryant Smith

Dr. Bryant Smith received his bachelor’s and master’s degrees from the University of Utah and Brigham Young University, and a Doctor of Arts from the University of Northern Colorado. He studied conducting with five members of the American Bandmasters Association, previously led the jazz and concert bands at Columbia Basin College in Pasco, Washington, and was the band director at Spanish Fork High School in Spanish Fork, Utah. Dr. Smith is currently an Assistant Professor and the Director of Bands at DSU.

Recently, Dr. Smith has been conducting research on 19th Century American and Mormon band history, and preparing materials to turn his dissertation on the subject into a book. He found original music that was played at the time, including for the Salt Lake City Mormon temple capstone ceremony in 1892. By using computer software, he has transcribed it for modern-day instruments to play.

In the past, Dr. Smith has not included students in his research, but he would be happy to take students on field trips to different museums to conduct new research and find original music. For more information, contact Dr. Smith at Bryant.Smith@utahtech.edu.


Student Highlight: Researching Shakespeare's Word Choice

Braxton Thornley

Braxton Thornley, originally from Taylorsville, Utah, is currently in his final semester of the English Secondary Education program. As a research project last year, Thornley conducted a socio-linguistic analysis of Shakespeare’s Hamlet and Much Ado About Nothing to determine what factors dictated his pronoun choices.

He noticed that Shakespeare would use “you” and “thou” interchangeably even though one was the informal pronoun. To understand why Shakespeare did this, Thornley proceeded to count the amount of times each pronoun is used in both plays. His conclusion was that Shakespeare actually used a certain pronoun to signal some sort of shift onstage (such as a hidden stage direction) or to allow one character to intentionally insult another. Thornley states that conducting this research gave him valuable experience in producing original research as well as providing a resource for scholars studying theater and drama.

Thornley plans on teaching high school English once he graduates from DSU, with the wish of moving towards a position as a school administrator. He also hopes to receive a masters and Ph.D in education, and to “promote system-wide changes through new programs and curricula.”


Dr. Olga Pilkington

Dr. Olga Pilkington, a professor in the English department, has an article coming out in the journal, Text and Talk. This journal focuses on the fictionalizing of readers in popular science books. This is done by the author including speech and describing thoughts that belong to the reader, and by doing so, they “create fictional characters in their essentially non-fiction texts”.

As Dr. Pilkington states, “no one can know for sure what an actual reader will say in response to a question or what an actual reader might think. Including the reader’s speech and thoughts indicates that the authors are entering the realm of fiction.” Dr. Pilkington will be arguing that this technique is one mechanism that can be used to make science more relatable to the general public.

Program Highlight: Office of Sponsored Programs

Sylvia Bradshaw

Sylvia Bradshaw, M.A., was the previous Director of the Office of Sponsored Program (OSP). The OSP functions as the central institutional office charged with the coordination and submission of proposals and awards from sponsors external to DSU.

OSP provides services to the DSU community for finding external funding for DSU related projects; assisting with the preparation and submission of DSU proposal to external sponsors, providing institutional oversight and compliance monitoring, to assure that proposals comply with DSU, State of Utah and sponsor’s regulations; and when awards result, provides administrative support in the establishment of DSU accounts, as well as oversight and compliance monitoring of the work conducted.

Ms. Bradshaw has been the director for approximately four years, and has a Masters in Research Administration from John Hopkins University. Bradshaw is assisted in her duties by Bobbie Ursin and Lilian White.

Faculty Highlight: Finance Professor Contacted by Wall Street

Dr. Abu Khan

After graduating from one of the best high schools, Barisal Cadet College, in Bangladesh, Abu Khan pursued his bachelors degree from the University of Windsor and his masters degree in economics and finance from Ryerson University in Canada. He then recieved his Ph.D in financial economics from the University of New Orleans. Khan chose to work at DSU for the real life application that the university encourages as well as DSU’s support for professional development. He is going into his fourth year of teaching at DSU.

Khan has published several papers in his field of interest, the most recent involving whether or not ethics improve the stock markets resilience. The Chief Investment Officer at  JP Morgan Asset Management in Wall Street recently reached out to Khan to discuss his article about the US bank merger. They examined the different methods used in mergers after the GLBA passed, along with the results of the paper that stated how eliminating the constraints on the ability of bank expansion will help US banks improve their operating performances. Khan hopes to further his research in future papers.


Faculty Highlight: Connecting Math to Disease

Dr. Vinodh Chellamuthu

Originally from Tamil Nadu, India, Chellamuthu received his undergraduate degree from Anna University in India, his masters in Applied Mathematics from Tulane University in New Orleans, Louisiana and his Ph.D from the University of Louisiana. Chellamuthu’s area of expertise involves developing mathematical models to better understand and predict the spread of diseases. Before coming to DSU, he taught a wide variety of entry level mathematics courses at the University of Louisiana. Chellamuthu states, “My purpose is to interact with students and excite them about mathematics, and teach them life skills through mathematics. That’s the joy I get, always.” He says DSU is the perfect place to do that, with its small class size increasing student interaction.

Professor Chellamuthu is currently working with several students and has involved many undergraduates in his research. In the past, he has helped students create models to predict the spread of diseases such as ebola and malaria, as well as a model to predict a basketball team winnings. “Math is everything,” Chellamuthu says, “and part of my job is to make students excited about mathematics”. For more information, contact Dr. Chellamutha at vinodh.chellamutha@utahtech.edu.

Faculty Highlight: Professor Starts Research Group to Give Students Real Life Experience

Dr. Travis Ficklin

Travis Ficklin has earned a masters degree in sports medicine at the University of North Carolina Greensboro and a PhD in Human Performance (biomechanics) at Indiana University with a minor in computer science. He chose to come to DSU because of family, his love of the southwest desert and the increasing need of programs supporting exercise science.

Ficklin’s past research has looked into the mechanics of sprinting, high jumping, weightlifting, football, tennis, shot put and volleyball, baseball and softball. He is currently working on research into kinematic predictors of game success with the hopes that coaches and players will train more efficiently. Professor Ficklin states that including undergraduate students in his research has been one of the most rewarding things he has done since coming to DSU. He has formed a research group called BASS (Biomechanics and Sport Science), which has presented twice at the annual Undergraduate Research Day. One of his students has also presented at the annual meeting of the American Society of Biomechanics, one of the first undergraduates to do so. Ficklin has high hopes of the BASS expanding greatly in the coming years.

The new Human Performance Center (HPC) will contain student recreation facilities, new schools of physical and occupational therapy as well as the headquarters of the Health and Human Performance department. This new center will house new state-of-the-art equipment that will provide more clinically-oriented studies. Along with the HPC, the university will offer advanced degrees that will involve the new labs such as Applied Kinesiology and Athletic Training. Ficklin states, “It’s a tremendous addition to the university and the program, and I could not feel more fortunate to be here at DSU at this time in our history. There really hasn’t been a better time to be a Trailblazer, but with the new HPC, we’ll be saying that again and again.” For more information, contact Ficklin at Travis.Ficklin@utahtech.edu.


Student Highlight: Concurrent Enrollment Student Researches Dinosaur Identification Techniques

Conner Bennett

Conner Bennett is currently a junior at Desert Hills High School, as well as taking DSU concurrent enrollment classes and after volunteering at the St. George Dinosaur Discovery Site for four years, Bennett had the opportunity to participate in a dig at Glenn Canyon National Recreation Area near Lake Powell.

Bennett applied to the Undergraduate Research Office grant, given out each year, and received funding for travel and food. He has worked at identifying dinosaur tracks in one of the largest tracksite found in the area, the “Andres Alcove Tracksite”. He will be involved with the photogrammetry and ichnological techniques used to classify each dinosaur species and their characteristics. He would like to give a special thank you to his mentor, Andrew R.C. Milner, curator at the Discovery Site, for the opportunities given to him. Bennett is planning to further his research in different mapping technologies. You can learn more about dinosaur sites and related information at the Utah Geology Survey site at https://geology.utah.gov/popular/general-geology/dinosaurs-fossils/.


Research office

Email: research@utahtech.edu

Phone: 435-879-4488

Office: HCC 488