Office of Engaged Learning Office of Engaged Learning – Research Student Academic Engagement & Success

New Issue of SMU JoUR Out Now!

One of the greatest opportunities that SMU has to offer its students is undergraduate research. Through programs like Big iDeas, Engaged Learning Fellowship, and others, students are encouraged and supported in the exploration of their academic passions. The Office of Engaged Learning and SMU Libraries have collaborated in creating SMU Journal of Undergraduate Research (JoUR): an evolving double-blind, peer-reviewed journal that serves as a testament to the university’s commitment to undergraduate research. 

The Journal provides a platform for students to share the products of their diverse research topics to the SMU community and the academic world.  SMU JoUR emphasizes intra- and interdisciplinary partnerships and celebrates the accomplishments of undergraduate researchers and their faculty mentors. Joshua Ange, JoUR’s Editor-in-Chief, “hopes that JoUR is able to encourage those not currently pursuing research to explore this path, and those already involved in research to share their interesting work.” 

The latest release of the SMU JoUR is Issue 1 of Volume 8, and it is out now with a variety of topics including: 

Radon Plate-out and the Effects of Airflow and Electric Charge for Dark Matter Experiments by Faith Fang (Dr. Robert Calkins, faculty mentor)

Cognitive Reappraisal is Associated with Lower Dysphoria Symptoms During the COVID-19 Pandemic by Nadia Armstrong, Diane Moon, and Dr. Holly Bowen

Identifying Barriers to Mental Health Services Utilization for Black Youth in the United States: A Qualitative Study by Emily Stein, Matthew Hutnyan, and Dr. Neely Myers

Thriving in College: International, First-Generation, and Transfer Students by Hannah Webb, Nikita Kulkarni, and Dr. Dustin Grabsch

For students that are interested in having their work included or want to pursue a research project, Joshua encourages them to reach out! As for anyone interested in reading and learning more, be sure to explore the SMU Journal of Undergraduate Research and immerse yourself in the significant work of these emerging scholars as they contribute to their respective fields! 

Office of Engaged Learning Office of Engaged Learning – Research

Applications for SRI due Friday Feb 9!

SMU Faculty: applications for the Summer Research Intensive are due Friday, February 9th.

Faculty members may apply for match funding to support up to 2 undergraduate research assistants for the summer. The students may work up to 30 hours per week and attend weekly symposia and professional development workshops.

Further information is available on our site,

Office of Engaged Learning Office of Engaged Learning – Research Student Academic Engagement & Success

Interview with LectureLogger Founder Jude Lugo

For many students at SMU and across the country, classroom attendance is a battle but also it is the first step to ensure their success in university. Knowing this, SMU has really pushed for different ways to support student retention through the commons system, classrooms, and other support systems. Jude Lugo, a junior majoring in Management with a specialization in Entrepreneurship, has contributed to this goal incredibly through his Big iDeas project LectureLogger – and app that tracks attendance and student wellness for colleges and universities. 

Jude was inspired by his own student experiences and by his peers. He noticed that it was difficult for him to “track [his] own absences and which ones were or were not excused. [He] also became aware that classmates who weren’t held accountable for missing classes were falling behind.” Jude believed that tracking attendance would be a beneficial way to help professor and students by helping “professors and administrators identify students who are at risk and enables them to reach out to avert an academic crisis that could have negative ripple effects on a student’s overall well-being.” 

In order to realize his idea, Jude consulted several professors to understand what kind of product would be helpful for attendance tracking. Jude also worked closely with a contract developer to develop the project. Most importantly, Jude worked with his fellow students to ensure that “the product is easy to use and supportive of student learning.” This background work paid off as a recent survey revealed that 84% of students are more likely to attend classes that utilize LectureLogger! 

LectureLogger has been a remarkable success, but Jude is not just done yet. With three semesters left at SMU, Jude hopes to “make LectureLogger a staple in classrooms at SMU and across the country.” In addition, through Big iDeas Jude has also been able to launch another project called CommerceNavigator, a software that helps online sellers with their bookkeeping. It is evident through his projects that Jude is committed to innovating and addressing the evolving needs of his community. Be sure to look into CommerceNavigator and LectureLogger and check out Poets and Quants to read more about Jude’s work! 


Office of Engaged Learning Office of Engaged Learning – Research Student Academic Engagement & Success

Research & Innovation Week April 1-5

  • The undergraduate poster session will be held on Tuesday, April 2, from 2-5pm
  • Two graduate poster sessions will be held on Wednesday, April 3:
    • 9am-12pm for students in Dedman College graduate programs and
    • 2-5pm for graduate students in all other graduate programs and postdoctoral scholars.
  • Keynote talk: Thursday, April 4, at 5pm
    • Keivan Stassun, Director of the Frist Center for Autism & Innovation and Stevenson Professor of Physics & Astronomy at Vanderbilt University

Please encourage your students to participate in the poster sessions! This is a great opportunity for students and postdocs to share their research with the SMU community, and to compete for cash prizes.  They can find more information, as well as the link to register for the poster sessions on the Research and Innovation Week website.

News Office of Engaged Learning Office of Engaged Learning – Research

2023 Fall Research Symposium

On November 1, 2023, the Office of Engaged Learning held the annual Fall Research Symposium, where 23 undergraduate and graduate students from select research and service programs presented on issues affecting communities locally and globally. The event was a wonderful celebration of the scope of research taking place across campus. Thank you to the scholars and everyone who attended! To see more photos from the event, check out @smuengagedlearning on Instagram.

News Office of Engaged Learning Office of Engaged Learning – Research Student Academic Engagement & Success

The Office of Engaged Learning welcomes new ELFs

The Office of Engaged Learning is happy to introduce the new Engaged Learning Fellows for 2023! Engaged Learning Fellowships award up to $2500 for student pursuing capstone projects in research, service, and creative activities.

Tyler Chapman ‘24
Fight the New Drug
Mentor: Mark Allen (Temerlin Advertising Institute)

Isis Kazadi ‘24
Am I My Brother’s Keeper: A Rational Dissection into the Family Unit’s Political Response to Incarceration
Mentor: Kara Sutton (Sociology)

Kevin Nguyen ‘24
The Synthesis of HEMI and Biodegradable Polymers
Mentor: David Son (Chemistry)

Theodore Morris ‘24
SMU Guildhall Capstone Recording Sessions: Year Two
Mentor: Robert Frank (Music Composition)

Anika Saiprabhu ‘26
Prisoner of the Strings: The Dystopia of Book Bans and Censorship in Schools
Mentor: Lane Harder (Music Composition)

Anna Su ‘24
Early Interventions in STEM Education: Examining Spectrums of Youth Interest in Engineering
Mentor: Richard Duschl (Caruth Institute for Engineering Education)

Yvonne Yang ‘24
Mentor: Rebecca Flores (Film and Media)

Office of Engaged Learning Office of Engaged Learning – Research Student Academic Engagement & Success

Interview with Engaged Learning Fellow Ella Dabney

Vocal disorders are a significant health problem that have an impact on how a person’s voice sounds, and it requires very specific care. Ella Dabney, a senior studying vocal performance and health and society with minors in health sciences and biological sciences, is researching vocal disorders among professional singers and personality as an Engaged Learning Fellow 

Ella learned about the Office of Engaged Learning because of her interest in interdisciplinary research. Through this she has not only been able to conduct her own research but also attend research conferences and gain scholarships like the Bea Medicine Award by presenting herself at a conference. Ella’s project Vocal Disorders and Personality delves into vocal therapy that “repair the effects of vocal disorders such as, phono trauma or overuse.” Ella is also studying the importance of clinician-patient relationships that “can be influential in the success of vocal therapy, as it impacts patient motivation and comfort in practicing the necessary voice therapies.” 

The inspiration for this project came from Ella’s own experience. Because of a cold, she had lost her voice for three weeks and got treatment for it at UT Southwestern’s Voice Center which helped to recover her singing voice. Ella was impressed by the “quality of care provided for singer’s specifically” which inspired her to learn more about the “relationships between voice disorders, singers, and personality.” Treatment and attention to vocal health is incredibly important when people’s professions rely heavily on their voices. 

The research process was a learning experience for Ella because of the different challenges she faced. One challenge was “efficiency of patient recruitment” since her patient pool had very specific requirements – professional and amateur singers and voice users that were experiencing vocal disorder. She also had to navigate handling situations that were out of her hands like working with businesses and their specific patient flow. These experiences helped her to learn how to interview in a convenient and efficient manner and how to organize appointments. Additionally, Ella had to work with UT Southwestern professor Dr. Carolyn Smith-Morris as well as a vocal specialist Dr. Laura Toles, which helped her develop professional skills related to motivation and organization.  

The skills and knowledge Ella has gained from this research opportunity play into her post-graduate plans as well. Ella intends to pursue a career in health care specializing in otolaryngology in healthcare for professional singers. Having prior research experience has given her the foundation to achieve these dreams! You can learn more about Ella and her project at the Fall Research Symposium on November 1st where she will be presenting her discoveries. 


Office of Engaged Learning Office of Engaged Learning – Research

Fall Research Symposium

The 2023 Fall Research Symposium will take place on Wednesday, November 1 from 4-7 p.m. in the Hughes-Trigg Student Center. All are invited to join for refreshments and to learn about the various projects conducted by these scholars.


Time Room 118 Room 120 Room 121
4:00 Brianna Freshwater
4:15 Nina Castaneda Ella Dabney
4:30 Gopika Shah Kennedy Honors Sadikshya Sitaula
4:45 Siji Deleawe Paige Edwards
5:00 Princess Igwe-Icho Tricia Tsang Shriya Siddhartha
 5:15  Ella Skelsey Sana Omar Ria Parpelli
 5:30 Oluwaseun Taiwo
 5:45 Kathryn Cross Anish Senthilkumar
 6:00 Lilly Chapman Alina Munoz Kevin Nguyen
 6:15 Jason Jordan Ryenne Reiter
 6:30 James Martin Alexis Schroeder

2023 Presenters

Nina Castaneda (Hamilton Scholar). Mentor: Chrystyna Kouros. Adolescents’ Cognitive Vulnerability for Depression in the Context of Family Stress: A Test of the Weakest Link Model

Lilly Chapman (Maguire Fellow). Mentor: Andrew Davies. The Impact of Hourly Rates on Indigent Defense

Kathryn Cross (Maguire Fellow). Mentor: Kacy Hollenback. If Tenth Street Could Talk: Counter-storytelling with Archives, Oral History, and GIS

Ella Dabney (Engaged Learning Fellow). Mentor: Barbara Hill-Moore, Carolyn Smith-Morris. Voice Disorders and Personality

Siji Deleawe (Maguire Fellow). Mentor: Tamara Lewis. Storytelling and Spirituality in Yoruba Culture.

Paige Edwards (Engaged Learning Fellow, McNair Scholar, Summer Research Fellow). Mentor: Brad Klein. Re-Imagine Paradise:  The Impacts of the Illegal Annexation of Hawai’i and Tourism on Native Hawaiians.

Brianna Freshwater (Engaged Learning Fellow). Mentor: Kara Sutton and Sondra Barringer. Advanced Placement Participation in Minority White Schools.

Kennedy Honors (McNair Scholar). Mentor: Kenitra Brown. Social Determinates of incarceration: Factors affecting incarceration rates between Washington Dc 2nd and 8th Wards

Princess Igwe-Icho (Maguire Fellow). Mentor: Linda Evans and Jill Kelly. Resilience in Transition: Navigating Change and Discovering Hope at the Father McKenna Center.

Jason Jordan (Maguire Fellow). Mentor: Maryann Cairns. Bicycle mobility and community engagement

James Martin (Maguire Fellow). Mentor: Steve Long. The Primacy of Local Community for Royal Lane Baptist Church

Kevin Nguyen (Summer Research Fellow). Mentor: David Son. The Synthesis of HEMI and Biodegradable Polymers.

Sana Omar (McNair Scholar). Mentor: Neely Myers. Understanding the Knowledge Attitudes and Practices of Opioid Use within Somalia.

Ria Parpelli (Hamilton Scholar). Mentor: Pia Vogel. Effects of Specific Metal Nanoclusters on Cancerous and Non-Cancerous Cells

Ryenne Reiter (Engaged Learning Starter Award). Mentor: Adam Neal. The Role of Gender Expectations and Stereotypes in Eating Disorders

Alexis Schroeder (Engaged Learning Starter Award). Mentor: Nia Parson. Neoliberalism in Biomedicine Regarding Medical Ableism.

Anish Senthilkumar (Tower Scholar). Mentor: Paola Buckley. Beyond the classroom: The effects of France’s secularist policies in education.

Gopika Shah (Maguire Fellow). Mentor: Carla Reyes. Banking on Ethics.

Shriya Siddhartha (Hamilton Scholar). Mentor: Alex Lippert. Photocaged Nitric Oxide Donor and Probe Systems

Sadikshya Sitaula (Engaged Learning Fellow). Mentor: Adam Neal. ADHD and LD Awareness in Nepal.

Ella Skelsey (Cooper-McElvaney Fellow). Mentor: Lisa Garvin. The relationship between speech and religion in the Czech Republic

Oluwaseun Taiwo (McNair Scholar). Mentor: John Buynak. Design, Synthesis and Evaluations of Structurally Modified Carbapenem Antibiotics.

Tricia Tsang. (McNair Scholar). Mentor: Dr. Holly Bowen. Connecting Affect & Perception in the Context of COVID-19

Office of Engaged Learning Office of Engaged Learning – Research Student Academic Engagement & Success

Interview with Summer Research Fellow Kevin Nguyen

One of the greatest issues our world is facing today is the human relationship and impact on the environment. Kevin Nguyen is a senior majoring in chemistry with a minor in art and he is attacking an aspect of this issue through his project: Synthesis of HEMI and Biodegradable Polymers. 

Kevin is one of Engaged Learning’s Summer Research Fellows and he is working with Dr. David Son as well as other undergraduates, and graduate students in their lab. Alongside his research, Kevin also has trained incoming lab students on everything from cleaning glassware to synthesizing HEMI.  

In this project, Kevin is working to create biodegradable polymers, or plastics, to find a way to “synthesize plastics that are both environmentally safe and are cheap on the market.” The current compound his is working is called HEMI and is the key component to his project. Unfortunately, many companies currently shy away from the compound since “five grams of it, which is about the mass of a penny, sells for about nine hundred fifty-five dollars.”   

The process of created different HEMI reactions has required a lot of trial and error. Kevins biggest lesson throughout this process last summer is that “you will probably always fail.” It took many reactions to try get a pure “white and powdery” reactions that he wanted which was discouraging for him at times. But when times were tough, he would remind himself of his goals and how his work is for “the betterment of the world.” 

Kevin is continuing his research as he was recently awarded the Engaged Learning Fellowship. The opportunity has also helped Kevin with his grad school and PhD plans. He wants to use this polymer chemistry experience to help him get more experience with others polymer scientists. Most importantly, Kevin wants everyone to know that while this issue of improving the synthesis of plastics is a significant problem, it is being worked on!  

Read more about Kevin’s summer research experience


Office of Engaged Learning Office of Engaged Learning – Research

Recap: Data Science for Social Good

This summer, the Office of Engaged Learning and Data Science Institute welcomed 12 students from across the country to participate in the second year of the “Data Science for Social Good” program. The program was funded by a National Science Foundation “Research Experiences for Undergraduates” site grant written by Lynne Stokes (Professor Emerita of Statistical Science) and Jennifer Ebinger (Director, Office of Engaged Learning).

Students in this program developed their skills with Python, AI, and data visualization in a 2-week data science bootcamp taught by Eric Godat (Team Lead, Data Science and Research Services, OIT). Then they formed teams to tackle research projects mentored by Cullum Clark (Director, Bush Institute-SMU Economic Growth Initiative), Anthony Petrosino (Professor, Teaching and Learning) and Mary Spector (Professor, Dedman Law). The program culminated in a Three Minute “Thesis” competition with the OEL’s Summer Research Intensive.

Special thanks and commendation is due to Lauren Gilmore, Senior Program Specialist of the DSI, for her amazing logistical and program support! Thanks also to the wonderful TAs for their contributions: Abdullah Saifee, Cindy Hua, Duwani Katamullage, Marc Sager, Max Sherard.

The students were invited to present their work on the Southern Demographic Association annual meeting in San Antonio, October 18-20.

Hear what the REU participants have to say in this video: