Archives for October 2018

Jules Merguie:  Effects of Confidence on Visual Perception

This semester I traveled to Houston, Texas, to participate in the Southwestern Psychological Association conference from April 12th to the 15th. I have been working on research throughout the year in Dr. Ken Sobel’s lab, and my lab partner and I were accepted to give a talk at the conference. This was the first time I had gone to any sort of professional conference in my field, much less give a talk about our research in front of a group of people, so I was very nervous the Friday of our talk. I had no idea what to expect as we were traveling to Houston, but I was just thankful to be presenting with my lab partner.

The conference’s theme this year dealt with how psychology might be helpful when it comes to future challenges, such as climate change and geopolitical issues. The first lecture I attended featured one of the invited speakers and ended up being one of my favorite talks of the whole weekend. The speaker discussed engaged psychology and how paying attention to the element of human thought processes and behavior instead of focusing only involved numbers would be helpful in preventing things like the bubble pop in 2007 from happening again. The speaker incorporated how the field I am interested in could be used in multidisciplinary collaboration, and that was incredibly useful for me to hear. After that speaker’s talk, I went to look around the main floor to check out some of the research posters on display and some of the graduate schools that were there advertising to undergraduates. It was genuinely fun being able to talk to professionals about their different graduate schools, but I ended up camping out at the UCA booth a little more than I should have because my professors were there talking to potential grad students.

As the day progressed, it started to sink in that I was going to be presenting my research soon, so I was thankful that I had the opportunity to present in front of Dr. Sobel beforehand because I knew he would be upfront with me. After tweaking some my presentation and moving things around, my lab partner, Aisha, and I were about as ready as we could have been. The talk went so much better than I thought it would, not because it was free from errors, but because the tone I could have with the crowd was more conversational than I expected. We are researching a phenomenon that tends to be a little bit more comical than other concepts in psychology, so as we presented our audience seemed to be laughing with us. I think after noticing how fun and genuinely interested our crowd was, it allowed me to take a more casual tone with the people I was speaking to. This big, scary, formal presentation turned into something much more fun and memorable than I expected because of the audience participation. I was so touched to see that many of my professors that were at the conference had made it to our talk, and they had conversations with me about the research we were doing and added their own expertise to the conversation.

The rest of the conference continued without a hitch. I was excited to see a plethora of topics covered by talks or poster sessions throughout the conference. My favorite session was one of the clinical poster sessions because of the genuine curiosity and wonder it sparked within me. It was incredible considering the time and hard work that went into all that these people were doing, and it was inspiring for me to think about how this could definitely be my future.

Druid Wen: Religious Development in Ancient Egypt


As long as I can remember, I’ve been obsessed with understanding the human mind, and it was this fascination that led me to Egypt. There’s a haunting beauty that echoes through the deepest parts of the mind, like a call from the forgotten past. These echoing depths are a realm of dreams, symbols, and dramatic representations. A realm where meaning is the fundamental reality, rather than matter. Civilizations have worked to represent and articulate these meanings across eras, gradually unifying them into complex models of reality. We often call this endeavor religion. My research attempts to explore the primordial dreamworld at the base of consciousness and to follow the development of higher consciousness from these ancient foundations.

There is a feeling of standing at a grand religious monument that goes beyond awe and cannot be ignored in any serious conversation on religion. My journey through the major religious sites of ancient Egypt provided a profound depth of experience that no amount of remote study could have generated. Egypt’s religious sites contain many of the world’s oldest surviving religious texts and artifacts. Many of these texts and artifacts, such as the pyramid writings, are built into the sites and lose much of their meaning when taken out of context. I had studied some Egyptian texts and artifacts before, but nothing could have prepared me for experiencing them firsthand. And as I continued exploring Egypt’s ancient past, I began to catch glimpses of patterns woven seamlessly through myths and monuments alike. Everything I saw was an embodiment of a deeper meaning, and each profound meaning was the lifeforce of something apparently mundane.

The ancient Egyptians did not worship objects or animals, but used them as symbols to represent dimensions of reality which were worthy of elevation and worship. Thoth—the ancient Egyptian god of wisdom, language, and magic—is primarily associated with the ibis, a wading bird with long legs and beaks. Ibises use their long beaks to probe for food in places they cannot see, such as murky waters and narrow crevices. Because of the ibis’s ability to know without seeing, the ancient Egyptians used the ibis to represent wisdom in the face of the unknown and declared the ibis a sacred animal. This representation illustrates the relationship between symbolic embodiments and religious meanings as humans have attempted to act in a chaotic world of unknown dangers and opportunities. As we probe into the darkness beyond civilization, we eventually find what we need and bring it into the known world.

The process of travelling through Egypt was its own adventure, as nothing works quite the way an American thinks it should. Egypt is still recovering from the turmoil of the 2011 revolution and many Egyptians find themselves socially and economically displaced. However, the confusion and desperation cannot overpower Egypt’s rich and vibrant culture, with its unique flavor of resilient hope. Though the country is chaotic, it is not particularly dangerous, at least not along the Nile. I thoroughly enjoyed my time there and would highly recommend it to confident travelers.

I’ve learned so much from this trip, and I hope to carry these experiences forward as I continue my research and my life. It’s as though the ancient gods still watch over the Egyptian sands, and I had the honor of walking amongst them, however briefly. While I did not have the fantastic epiphany which I might have hoped for on this trip, I have gained an inexplicable sense that the answers I’ve been hunting for are now just beyond my view. I am thankful to have had this opportunity and more determined than ever to finish the work I have started.

Tracy Blakley: UCA in the Bahamas: Physical Therapy Learn and Serve

This was my first time to travel to a different country, to fly on a plane, or to go overseas, so before this trip, I had no clue what it would be like to experience different people and cultures. My entire life I have been stuck in this primarily ethnocentric American society, and I really had no clue how to break that mold. However, when I went to the Bahamas, I learned so much about the people and the culture there that there was no way I could return home with the same mindset that I had before.

One of my favorite experiences while in the Bahamas was visiting the Straw Market. It was so cool to watch people take advantage of their country’s biggest industry, tourism. But it was even cooler to actually understand why it was that they did what they did. They didn’t sell souvenirs in the straw market because they wanted to, nor because it was fun. They did it because that was the way that they best knew how  to make it in their society. And that was eye-opening for me. I had never seen people benefit from something the way that Bahamian people benefit from tourism. This caused me to develop a certain empathy and respect for their people because of their intelligent, opportunistic use of their country’s strongest industry.

On a larger scale, this experience taught me that people do not always have resources readily available like we do in the United States, but they do everything that they can with what they do have. Since the Bahamas is a collection of islands, most of the goods that they need and use have to be imported from somewhere else. However, at the same time, they have an abundance of natural resources that they take full advantage of. They grow, catch, eat, and sell plants and wildlife that live there, and they use the natural beauty around them to appeal to consumers. This taught me that they aren’t all that different from we Americans. We grow, catch, eat and sell our own natural resources just like they do. We sell the beauty of our land just like they do. We milk our resources for all that they are worth just like they do. Our societal beliefs, ideas, and culture may be different, but we all have that natural human intuition to use what’s around us to survive and thrive.

What taught me most about the Bahamas was the daily, informal interaction with the people of the island. Each and every person that I met was nice to me, and I could tell that they valued me as a human being. That made me wonder to myself, “Why is it that we dehumanize foreign people when they treat us with so much kindness?” We are no more human than they are. We are no more important than they are. We are no more loved than they are. And the fact that they could treat us with so much respect as we waltz in and enjoy their homeland tells me that we are absolutely failing as global citizens when we cannot do the same. They accept our differences and even use them as an opportunity for growth, and we should do the same.

Because of this trip, I now have a special respect, love, and passion for the people of the Bahamas, as they helped me become less culturally ignorant and more open-minded. Bahamian culture has instilled in me a desire to learn more about the world and the billions of people who inhabit it. Not only do I want to travel more, but now I want to learn more. Because of this trip, I will never be the same.

Hannah Parks: A study of Glyphosate-resistant Amaranthus palmeri

I have spent the last 18 months studying the growth of glyphosate-resistant Amaranthus palmeri (pigweed) in response to increased temperature and drought stress. I was eager to start my project when I received seeds from the University of Arkansas at Fayetteville. I bugged my thesis mentor until he met with me, and we set up the seeds for germination. I showed up every day to check on and water the seeds, and a month later only one out of forty seeds would germinate – then die. My project was full of setbacks, but in those moments of frustration, I learned the most.

Glyphosate is the active ingredient in Roundup®, a common herbicide. Since 1996, farmers have relied on glyphosate as a sole form of weed management because the introduction of genetically-modified, glyphosate-resistant crops made weed management convenient and lowered labor costs and demands. Glyphosate-resistance threatens current industrial agricultural systems because the weeds do not die upon glyphosate application, so the weeds stay in the fields, compete with crop species, and reduce crop yields. Farmers lose profit from reduced yields and the added labor cost of manual weed-pulling.

My project is important not only because glyphosate resistance is an intriguing case of evolution that has occurred in our lifetimes but also managing glyphosate-resistant weeds impacts agricultural sustainability and, therefore, the world at large. When I was down in the trenches, planting hundreds of tiny seeds with forceps, cutting thousands of leaf discs, watering and measuring hundreds of plants, and pipetting solution for hours straight, I did not feel that the work I was doing was important. I could really only feel proud of my work when I was looking at it in retrospect, talking about it with other professors or people, and presenting it in the last months of my undergraduate career.

My findings will not make a big impact on the scientific community, but completing this project helped me. The years I spent on this project taught me the true meaning of perseverance and dedication because I spent several hours in the lab each week, and I constantly had to overcome problems and redirect my project. My project gave me the opportunity to develop critical thinking and problem solving skills.  Most importantly, my project gave me direction and helped reaffirm my decision to attend graduate school and become a scientist and professor. It taught me that I was capable of completing scientific work independently, and when I talked about my project with others, I knew that I really loved what I was doing. Despite all of the setbacks I had, I would recommend an independent research experience to anyone. The frustration I felt was growing-pain, and in the end, I am better as a result of it.