Undergraduate researchers introduce their EURECA project topics


Julie Scales

Undergraduate Research Student Assistant Amira Johnson stands ready to talk to students about Undergraduate Research and EURECA at the Student Organization Fair, Jan. 13. Photo courtesy of Julie Scales.

This semester, 11 new undergraduate research projects receive funding for Enhancing Undergraduate Research and Creative Activities (EURECA) and will be presented at a conference on April 20.  Students from the Prothro-Yeager, Dillard, McCoy, Fain and West Colleges prepare their research projects to expand on their passions, interests and respective fields. Molly Melloan, an education senior, is one of the students who uses EURECA to pursue their goals, with a project revolving around multicultural mathematics instruction.

“As an early childhood education major, I was very excited to be invited to participate in the research topic study of how educators can utilize multicultural literature in mathematics in elementary and secondary schools,” Melloan said. “I was inspired to take on this project because of my love for children’s literature and the yearn for more inclusive texts, specifically multicultural children’s books being studied in the classroom.”

There are many disparate inspirations for each individual research project.  Marissa Salinas, mass communications senior, said her fascination inspired the research and exploration of her project revolving around street art’s hidden beauty.

“I have always been fascinated with graffiti,” Salinas said. “So, when I got to meet some graffiti artists in the [Wichita Falls area], I was interested to learn more about how and why they do it. It’s a widely misunderstood art form that I think deserves the same appreciation that traditional art receives.”

Not only is EURECA an outlet for undergraduate inspiration and creativity, but the opportunity also offers undergraduates to prepare for graduate-level work.  Kendra Jean Jacques, physics senior, prepares for graduate school with her project exploring the very large complexity of the very small with quantum electro dynamics.

“I am inspired by my future career and graduate school studies, since I would like to pursue a Ph.D. in particle physics,” Jacques said.  “I hope that people will learn more about physics as a topic and how the particles… play a key role in our existence.”

Projects aren’t just exclusive for preparing careers for graduate programs.  Amira Johnson, marketing senior, hopes to open her own bakery and will be researching how bakeries can be more inclusive places for the disabled.  

“My goal of opening a bakery that provides more employment opportunities for individuals with intellectual and developmental disabilities is what inspired my research topic,” Johnson said. “This topic is important to me because my younger brother has IDD [intellectual and developmental disability].”

While students gear up for a semester of preparation and research for the conference, they also anticipate their fair share of challenges, such as the prospect of not finding enough research for their project.

“The challenges that I anticipated running into with this type of research was not being able to find enough children’s multicultural texts… that would cover a wide variety of math skills and would be developmentally appropriate from students in grades pre-K through sixth,” Melloan said.  “It is easy to assume that there will be many books geared towards the younger group of elementary students… but… there may be difficulties finding diverse multicultural literature for the older elementary and secondary aged students, not in terms of relatability, but in terms of enhancing their mathematic curriculum.”

In order to help find sources that flesh out their topics, students rely on faculty mentors already skilled in their respective fields. History senior Rachel Patterson, who plans to research the Lao people, says her faculty mentors helped her find the academic research needed to provide an accurate project.

“Dr. Rattanasengchanh is there to answer any questions I may have about the history of Laos and the political issues during the time we are researching,” Patterson said.  “Dr. Lynch is a good resource for any clarification that I need while translating our sources. They both help me put the information together to see the bigger picture of what we are researching.”

Students will present their projects at the EURECA conference on April 20, 2022.