IS Majors & the Undergraduate Research Symposium

Two of our IS Majors presented their research at the 21st Annual Undergraduate Research Symposium on April 12th. They have kindly offered to share some of their research with our IS community.

Natalie Schmidt has been a part of the College of Letters and Science since freshman year. She is currently a senior, graduating this spring with a Bachelor of Science and majoring in Biology and International Studies on the Culture in the Age of Globalization track.

Jessica O’Neill is also a senior, who is graduating with majors in Psychology and International Studies in the Politics and Policy in the Global Economy track. Her main interests include developmental psychology, and its effects in a social setting.

We asked them to give a brief overview of what they presented at the conference:

Natalie commented, “My research mainly focused on the mutations in the gene neurofibromin 1 (NF1) that cause Neurofibromatosis Type 1 (NF1), a neurodevelopmental disorder in which children exhibit attention-based learning impairment. The molecular and cellular mechanisms by which NF1 regulates attention-based learning remain unclear. To identify therapeutic targets to combat cognitive disability in NF1 patients, we must define the molecular pathways that regulate NF1-dependent learning. Using a larval zebrafish model of nf1, we tested the hypothesis that increasing prostaglandin (PG) signaling would rescue Nf1-dependent habituation. Results showed that both pharmacologically increasing and decreasing PG signaling with PG dehydrogenase inhibitors and COX inhibitors, respectively, impaired Nf1-dependent habituation learning. This outcome may suggest that an optimal range of prostaglandin signaling mediates Nf1-dependent habituation.”

Jessica’s research centered around social behavior, and what individual people view as someone who is “deserving” versus “not deserving”.  There were various aspects of college lifestyle that inspired her to do this research, one of which being homelessness in Madison. The study began by having people complete a questionnaire, for which they would receive money if they answered the question correctly. After receiving the money, the subjects were given the option to donate it, or keep it. The charity that the money was going to be donated to was described in two different ways to different participants; on the basis of whether the company was rich or poor, and if they were responsible or irresponsible with their money. Coming as a surprise to her and her colleagues, people actually donated at the same rate, regardless of the wealth and responsibility of a group.

After graduation, Natalie will continue to work for the UW Carbone Cancer Center, using her skills directly on the Wisconsin Cancer Control Program for 2020. This summer she will be applying to medical school, and hopes to start in the fall of 2020.

Jessica looks forward to expanding this research into international aid international NGO funding. She is interested in the development/sustainable development field, and is currently searching for jobs in Washington, D.C. Additionally, Jessica participated in the Wisconsin in Washington program.

We also asked them what their two biggest pieces of advice were for students interested in a job or career track similar to theirs:

Natalie said, “Do not be afraid to do something different. With applying to medical school, many believe they have to major in a science in order to be a good applicant, but this is not the case. Though I am still majoring in Biology, I have found majoring in International Studies to have a larger impact on much of my future goals and my ability to understand the world. I added this major mostly because my TA recommended it and I have a hard time saying “no”. However, this major has opened so many doors that I did not know even existed. As you move down these paths be sure to follow what you have interest in, and though it may seem like a lot of work to change or adjust, it is worth it.”

Jessica commented on the value of using SuccessWorks, saying, “They are always extremely excited to help you – keeping them in the loop is always good, as they are a really good resource while applying for jobs.” She also emphasized the benefit of speaking with professors about the job hunt – even if you don’t want to go into something academia related, they still have many connections and can be really useful in finding out about opportunities or getting more information on a field in general!

Congrats to Natalie and Jessica on their research, and good luck with future endeavors!

Since its inception in 1999, the Undergraduate Symposium has showcased thousands of undergraduate students’ research, creativity, service-learning and other scholarly activities. The annual symposium continues to celebrate the work of our talented students, highlighting their achievements for the campus and the broader community. The Symposium provides opportunities for students to display, perform, or discuss their work in a professional setting. The Undergraduate Symposium is sponsored by Brittingham Trust and the Office of the Provost, through the stewardship of the General Library System, Undergraduate Research Scholars Program, WISCIENCE, the Morgridge Center for Public Service, the Writing Center and the Wisconsin Union.

Interviews conducted by IS Communications Intern, Abby Manske.