skip to content
  • Calendar
  • Maps

Experiential Learning

Undergraduate Science Research Flourishes at WSU

Whether on campus or around the globe, College of Science students conduct important research to improve our understanding of the natural world

Tracking Bird Populations

Zoology professor John Cavitt and students are hoping to determine bird populations through a research technique called mark recapture.

The team captures birds in nets in the foothills east of Stewart Stadium, which are then banded and released so the team can determine populations by the number recaptured over time.

Cavitt plans to continue the research, which he began in 2019, in coming years to gain more robust data before publishing results. Students were able to present preliminary findings at WSU’s Undergraduate Research Symposium, held virtually in April.

Research on Hemp

Jeffrey Colbert ran into his fair share of issues while conducting research on hemp, but he still feels he was able to gather valuable information about growing the plant as a cash crop.

Colbert, who graduated in spring 2020, began the project in 2019. Many of his seeds didn’t sprout, and many of those that did drowned during a wet spring. Though he didn’t end up with enough data to draw scientific conclusions, Colbert was able to gather anecdotal evidence about which soils in Utah work best for growing hemp.

“It gave me a good basis for what I would do if I were a farmer,” Colbert said. “How I would go about developing seeds to have a higher germination rate.”

A Woodrat’s Cache

Under the supervision of zoology professor Michele Skopec, Weber State students have had the opportunity to research the caching behavior of woodrats — also known as packrats.

Courtnee Goodwin, a zoology major who will graduate in fall 2020, has been working with the captive woodrat colony on the Ogden campus for several years now. Her research was to prove whether a woodrat exposed to a specific item would cache that item more quickly the next time because it had already been exposed to it.

She was able to present that research in Washington, D.C. for the American Society of Mammalogists, as well as at the Utah College Undergraduate Research Convention.

A National Science Foundation Honor

A Weber State University zoology graduate has received a major science grant to research a rodent impacted by drought in Central Chile.

Chyanne Smith, who graduated from Weber State in April, was accepted to the prestigious National Science Foundation Graduate Research Fellowship Program to conduct her research on a medium-sized rodent, called a degu. She’ll conduct this research as part of her master’s program in environmental science at the University of Tennessee at Chattanooga.

Though the research in Chile has been delayed by the COVID-19 pandemic, Smith hopes to start in the summer of 2021.

History Starts Here

Weber State University professor Matthew Romaniello was selected by the World History Association to serve as editor of the Journal of World History starting in January 2020. The publication is devoted to the study of concepts like large-scale population movements, trade, technology and the spread of ideas. Students can also sign up to work with the journal and learn about publishing.

WSU Construction Team Earns Top Spots at Regional Competition

Student teams from Weber State University’s Parson Construction Management program took top honors at the regional Construction Management Challenge hosted by Brigham Young University in November 2019.

WSU students took first place in the Heavy Civil and Design-Build challenges, and third place in the Commercial challenge. The teams were interdisciplinary, with students from the construction management major and the building design and construction emphasis.

“This competition is a unique opportunity for students to gain real-world experience,” said Russell Butler, construction management advisor. “Students come away from it with a better understanding of how their classes are preparing them for the industry.”

The Construction Management Challenge is designed to teach students the critical skills required to understand how projects are awarded in the industry. The challenge also helps students prepare for the Associated Schools of Construction competition held each spring. The competition problems are sponsored and conducted by local general contractors and typically judged by the actual management team who built the project.

Teams are tasked with addressing a challenge within a specific sector of construction and must work as a team to find a solution. The written plan and visuals are submitted, followed by an interview with the panel of judges where they are grilled on each element.

“Beyond learning the specific skills needed, students also benefit from the recruiting process and networking that occurs,” Butler said. “Companies know the students who attend the competitions tend to be better prepared with the knowledge and skills needed to thrive in the industry.”

Undergraduate Research Launches Nutrition Student on a New Path

Weber State’s Office of Undergraduate Research recognizes students and faculty members for outstanding research and mentorship each year from nominations submitted by faculty and students engaged in undergraduate research. In April 2020, four student researchers and four faculty mentors were recognized for their contributions to undergraduate research over the past academic year.

April Callister, a sports nutrition education major, was selected as the outstanding undergraduate researcher for the Jerry & Vickie Moyes College of Education. With the guidance of her mentor, David Aguilar-Alvarez, an assistant professor of nutrition, Callister collected diet information, waist circumference measurements, blood glucose levels and other health indicators from 167 Weber State students.

There is significant evidence linking the indicators Callister measured to metabolic disease, she said, but the relationship between different indicators is not yet fully understood. Using her data, she looked for potential links between indicators, and she found that people with higher levels of fat deposits around their organs in the abdomen, called visceral fat, had higher resting blood sugar levels than those with lower levels of visceral fat. In addition, lower sugar consumption was associated with lower waist circumference and lower levels of triglycerides circulating in the blood.

Some of her other findings varied by sex, suggesting that metabolic disease may develop differently in men and women, which could lead to different interventions.

Callister presented her research at Weber State’s 16th Annual Undergraduate Research Symposium, held virtually in April 2020. She was also scheduled to present at two academic conferences for professional researchers and one undergraduate research conference. While two of her conferences were unfortunately canceled due to the COVID-19 pandemic, she said conducting the research was a transformative experience.

“I always felt like an equal in the project,” Callister said of Aguilar-Alvarez’s mentorship. “It gave me a ton of confidence. He’s always been really good at instilling confidence in people.”

The experience also shifted her career plans. While she is continuing with her prior plan to become a physician’s assistant, she now intends to enter academia so she can continue to engage in research.

2020 Awards for Outstanding Undergraduate Research and Mentorship

The Office of Undergraduate Research recognized four student researchers and four faculty mentors in April 2020 for their contributions to undergraduate research.

Outstanding Student Researchers

April Callister

Houston Crudele

Sarah Honeycutt
Social & Behavioral Sciences

Samantha Rust
Arts & Humanities

Outstanding Faculty Mentors

Elizabeth Balgord

Anne Bialowas
Arts & Humanities

Cory Butts

Todd Hillhouse
Social & Behavioral Sciences