Westmont Magazine Student Researchers Go Outside for Symposium
Hundreds of people showed up for the 25th annual Westmont Student Research Symposium on April 22, held outdoors this year. Masked, socially distant attendees followed one-way directional tape that snaked through four tennis courts to listen to Westmont students explain their research projects. About 50 students offered three dozen student-led research projects with subjects as diverse as acorn woodpeckers, airbag safety, substance abuse and website comprehension. “The outdoor venue, while revealing God’s beauty, offered plenty of space to celebrate the accomplishments of our students,” says Eileen McMahon McQuade, associate dean of the faculty and professor of biology.
Seth Wilmoth ’21 worked with Kendra Dayton ’21 and Amanda Sparkman, associate professor of biology, department chair and environmental studies minor co-adviser. Their research, “The Effects of Urbanization in Acorn Woodpecker Daily Activity Patterns and Reproduction,” showed that light and noise pollution on urban woodpecker populations resulted in the woodpeckers sleeping in later and vocalizing less in the evenings.
Kinesiology graduates Tyler Austin ’22, Hayden Guthrie ’21 and Nadya Wisham ’21, working with Adam Goodworth, associate professor of kinesiology, collected data from 472 people in “Assessing Passenger Seat Belt and Sitting Tendencies for Advancement in Automotive Safety.” Most respondents had an object at or below their waist while traveling. “Even a cell phone sitting on your lap, between your legs or on the dash can cause serious injury when it’s flying around,” Guthrie says.
In her project, “The Effect of User Experience and User Interface on Comprehension, Frustration and Cognitive Fatigue,” Kristen Mohrhoff ’21 measured user friendliness and retention rates on three different websites. “I thought that a better designed webpage would result in higher retention rates,” she said. In fact, the unappealing website she created scored well, which surprised her. At her new job as a business systems designer for a wine company, she designs software services that help internal business processes flow more smoothly.
Emma Hoerauf ’21, a sociology graduate, interviewed Westmont students about their alcohol and substance use even though college policies restrict such behaviors. The project, “Impact of Social Norms on Student’s Attitudes and Behaviors Towards Substance Abuse,” found that many students overestimated how often their peers used substances and then overused themselves. “I think Westmont could implement some resources aimed at upperclassmen to debunk that peer-usage myth,” Hoerauf said.