Gathered in the marble heart of the Minnesota State Capitol, four Katies joined students from other private colleges in late February to showcase just what’s possible when undergraduates delve deeply into their own research. The rotunda was encircled with easels holding posterboards that detailed the students’ findings.
Megan Gosselin '12 stood in front of her poster, which addressed how to best encourage female athletes to drink enough water. Given the importance of hydration for optimal athlete health and performance, Gosselin had detailed how different approaches fared in different sports. What she found is what bedevils researchers at all levels–more questions.
“We found that coaches need to get their athletes to drink more,” Gosselin said. No matter the water-delivery system—jugs and individual cups for volleyball players or personal water bottles for soccer players—“Female athletes are not getting their hydration needs met.” Though her research found that volleyball players drank more water than soccer players, Gosselin underscored that the ideal way of encouraging players to hydrate has yet to be developed.
“Clearly, we’re still looking for a perfect system,” she said, adding that staying hydrated during training is essential to athletes’ performance.
Gosselin’s advisor, Mark Belgen, associate professor of exercise and sport science, praised the event as a great way for the public to learn more about the exciting research conducted at Minnesota private colleges.
“It’s a wonderful opportunity for students to present their research to legislators,” he said. “People get to learn about what we do, and students get to build valuable experience. Megan will be presenting this research at a national conference in May.”
Sharing the liberal arts
Around the curve of the rotunda, three other Katies were sharing their research project, this one focusing on differences in how men and women carry children while walking. The presentation, titled “Where to Carry Kids? A Comparison of Men and Women During Walking, analyzed walking speeds tied to gender, as well as the consequences of choosing to rest a child on the walker’s hip vs. carry a child on the walker’s shoulders. “We still have a lot more to study about the body mechanics,” said biology major Laura Sterns. “The next step is to study the tools that people use to carry their children.”
The setting was an unusual one for researchers at any level. Instead of addressing academic insiders, the students were speaking to policy-makers and Capitol visitors who just happened to stop by. And the students’ work represented the full breadth of the liberal arts, not just work in one discipline: Nearby students shared results tied to visual recognition software, acute illness, liturgical music and student reasoning.
“We’re getting a lot of questions about why we chose the subject we did,” said Anna Myhre '11. “It’s great to be able to explain our research to people who wouldn’t normally have a chance to learn about it. . . . As I talk more, as I spend more time explaining my research to others, I get to look at it in a new light.”
“We’ve really gotten some interesting discussions about our research since we’ve been here,” said the students’ advisor, Biology Professor Marcie Myers.
Melvina Kpanquoi, the project’s third researcher, enjoyed the opportunity to invite other non-academic observers to learn more about her scholarship. “It’s good to hear the different perspectives,” she said. “It makes me feel encouraged to see that there is so much potential interest in this topic.”
St. Kate's at the capitol
These scholars were among several student groups from St. Catherine University sharing their stories with lawmakers. Students from the American Sign Language department volunteered their time to help members of Minnesota's Deaf community be heard while "St. Kate's Day at the Capitol" March 10 will bring a contingent of students to the capitol to discuss financial aid and other issues.