Angel Parker discusses her research poster on college students' perception of motion solidity violations with Dr. Michael Barnwell, professor of philosophy and director of the university’s Honors Program.

Nearly 100 students across a variety of academic disciplines presented their research as part of the annual Niagara University Undergraduate Research Conference, sponsored by the university’s Honors Program, on April 28. The event highlights much of the faculty-guided undergraduate student research that takes place behind the scenes at Niagara.

The conference began with panel presentations on topics including the statistics behind casinos and risks to the United States and Canada; the relationship between anxiety about aging and attitudes about death; power and powerlessness in gender dynamics; the creation of Ukrainian identity and the impact of revolutions and civil war on the Ukrainian people; and spoken word and its advancement in Buffalo.

Jack Masse, with sponsoring communication and media studies professor Dr. Douglas Tewksbury, explored forms of post-apocalyptic media, such as “The Last of Us,” to discover why they are so popular within our society.

“This paper will follow themes represented in the show ‘The Last of Us’ as well as the video games of the same title, and audience reactions to the content shown,” Masse explained in his abstract. “Both the games and show have been extremely popular within our society, and my research will delve into what makes these forms of zombie media so popular. The stories and themes represented in these forms of media have won the video game series multiple awards, and the show has brought in some of the largest viewings seen on the HBO Max platform. My analysis will focus specifically on how these shows are presented, as well as what audiences enjoy or dislike about the show, to come to a final conclusion behind the reasoning of popularity of zombie, post-apocalyptic forms of media.”

The conference continued throughout the afternoon with poster presentations that showed student research work on topics such as the effects of iron chelation on yeast iron uptake and magnetism; autonomous airborne AI object detection; modeling food safety in Sub-Saharan Africa; political violence and democracy; and how minority status impacts an individual's health.

Angel Parker, working with Dr. Donna Thompson, professor of psychology, explored motion solidity violations (solid objects that intersect in a way that is not natural) and whether college students perceive them when infants do not.

Angel surveyed Niagara students through a series of 21 videos which contained instances of object separation, object overlap, and solidity violations. Based on the students’ ratings of the videos, Angel was able to verify that differences among the three categories were clear to the college students, which suggests that this kind of knowledge is likely learned rather than inherent.

The conference is an opportunity for students to present on topics of interest to them, including research projects that they are working on within their classes or jointly with professors, while facilitating student intellectual development, research and presentation skills; enhancing research at the undergraduate level; preparing students for graduate and professional schools; and fostering mentoring between undergraduate students and their faculty research advisors.


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