Image of Miami University's Office of Research for Undergraduates (ORU). Visible are a wall with "ORU" painted on it and three people standing in a circle in a glass-walled office.

Guest post: Undergraduate experiences enhanced by participating in research

In this post, guest posters Grace Chaney and Micailah Guthrie share their experiences as undergraduate researchers.

Grace Chaney

Kinesiology and pre-medical sciences major; molecular biology minor

Grace Chaney poses with fellow members of Randal Claytor's Muscle Fatigue Lab.
Grace Chaney (front row, second from left) conducts research in the Muscle Fatigue Lab, under the supervision of associate professor of kinesiology and health Randal Claytor (back row, second from right).

There is a quote that says the squat is the perfect analogy for life: “It’s about standing back up after something heavy takes you down.”

During my junior year of high school I had two partial knee reconstructions which resulted in the end of my soccer career. After 13 months of physical rehabilitation, I became fascinated with the body’s ability to heal. Furthermore, its ability to come back from an injury even stronger than it was before.

Fitness became an area of my life where curiosity was welcomed, change was sought out and innovation was abundant. The ability to alter variables in physical activity or nutritional intake and obtain significant and measurable results is astounding to me. I quickly became mesmerized by exercise science research and its applications in exercise programming. In my senior year of high school, I pursued and completed my certification in personal training and small group fitness through the American College of Sports Medicine. Through my certification I am able to help people reach their goals through science-backed research, customized programming and compassion.

My involvement in undergraduate research at Miami University has undoubtedly been one of the most influential experiences of my academic career. It has reinforced my passion for hypothesis driven research while also expanding my interests in translational research exponentially. I have had the privilege to be a part of the Muscle Fatigue Lab in the Department of Kinesiology and Health, under Dr. Randal Claytor. We have been studying acute, local muscle fatigue and muscle fiber activation adaptation patterns from a neuromuscular and external mechanical perspective. We utilize a dynamic single-leg extension model and drop-set training template in order to better understand the muscle fatigue and muscle activation processes. According to The Center for Disease Control and Prevention’s Office of Disease Prevention and Health Promotion, time constraints are one of the leading reasons people give as to why they do not partake in regular physical activity. My current research interests during my undergraduate career are to study training methodologies that minimize time spent exercising while maximizing the health benefits of physical movement.

Through the Undergraduate Summer Scholars program, and with faculty mentorship, I will have the opportunity this summer to pursue a research proposal of my own creation. The Undergraduate Summer Scholars program allows students to explore the depths of their passion for research while also providing a unique and focused learning opportunity. I am sure it will be a pivotal experience in my time here at Miami. In my remaining years left here as a student I hope to be an Ambassador for the Office of Research for Undergraduates (ORU). I hope to encourage other students to engage in and explore research opportunities both on and off campus. I also want to help current student researchers further develop their involvement with and passion for their field of study. I am excited to be working with the ORU, with individuals who share my passion for research and with an institution dedicated towards cultivating and encouraging investigators in so many different fields of study.

In the future, I hope to pursue a career in medicine. The medical field is the perfect culmination of everything I am looking for in a career. A career in which I can focus on compassion, service, innovation and translational research. My research interests are in intraoperative and postoperative research specifically in the field of orthopedics and sports medicine. I am particularly drawn to studying surgical repair techniques and postoperative protocol and how those can be altered to improve patient outcomes.

My love for hypothesis driven research was born out of a terrible experience but that experience built the foundation for who I am today and the kind of doctor I want to become in the future. I am forever grateful for my injuries — they are a constant reminder that you can stand back up after something heavy takes you down.

Micailah Guthrie

Public health major;  medical sociology and individualized studies minor

Undergraduate student Micailah Guthrie conducted research on the career aspirations of Black South African adolescents as part of a study abroad experience in Durban, South Africa.

This spring semester, I had the amazing opportunity to study in Durban, South Africa with the School for International Training (SIT) through their Community Health and Social Policy program. One of the main features of the SIT’s study abroad programs is that each student is able to conduct research as part of an independent study project (ISP). Based off of my experiences here in South Africa and my personal experiences, I’ve focused my ISP on understanding the personal career aspirations of Black South African adolescents and the pathways of support that they may or may not receive. This qualitative research will be conducted using the method of body mapping, which is an art-based method of data collection that serves as a reflective tool for a person to tell their narrative using their bodies. As I am currently in the ISP period of my study aboard program, I am very excited to review and share my findings.

Also this summer, I’ve have the great opportunity to participate in the Summer Research Opportunity Program at Penn State University, which is a graduate research internship and mentorship for undergraduates. There, I will be working with the College of Health and Human Development’s Dr. Jennifer Graham-Engeland, who directs the Stress & Health lab. I’ll be assisting one of her graduate students on their dissertation project, which focuses on understanding the knowledge gaps of both low and high arousal positive affect in everyday life. I will also be able to explore my own research interests, which lie within health behavior, stress, racial disparities, and personal and familial development.

Photo of Miami University Office of Research for Undergraduates by Miami University Photo Services. Photo of members of the Muscle Fatigue Lab courtesy of Grace Chaney. Photo of Micailah Guthrie courtesy of Michailah Guthrie.

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