Student Focus

UIS Philosophy Major To Work With Army Research Lab

Based on his work with Prof. P. Boltuc, UIS Philosophy major, Jonathan Milton, has been awarded a research mentorship with Dr. Troy Kelley of the Army Research Laboratory (ARL) in Aberdeen, MD.  It is a part of the recent grant Sciences for Maneuver Basic Research Refresh entitled “APPLE: Adaptive Perception Processes for Learning from Experience”.

Mr. Milton will be participating in a research program designed to look at modern Artificial Intelligence problems, specifically, learning from experience over a long period of time.  The mentorship with ARL is expected to last for 3 years, mostly in an online format, and will extend during and beyond Jonathan’s graduation from UIS. In students own words: “While I was enrolled in the Philosophy Senior Seminar last fall semester, Dr. Boltuc (UIS Philosophy Department) encouraged me to write my final paper on existing problems with regard to robots and artificial intelligence. I am extremely flattered that Dr. Boltuc thought so highly of my paper, and after it was graded I was encouraged to send it to Dr. Kelly at the ARL whose work we covered in class, in order to get some constructive feedback from subject matter experts. I am extremely excited at the prospect  of visiting the ARL to see the work being done there firsthand.”


Grace Latimore presented at the 2016 NCUR

UIS Senior Grace Latimore received funding through the Undergraduate Research Support Program to travel to Asheville, North Carolina for the annual conference of the National Council on Undergraduate Research (NCUR). To learn more about Grace, please view her Leadership Lived video.


2015-2016 Undergraduate Student Research Grant Award Winners

Mackenzie Atchie (mentor Frances Shen), Department of Psychology

Mackenzie-USR 2016 Photo

Perceptions of Homosexual and Heterosexual Domestic Violence Cases and the Effects of Masculine and Feminine Physical Traits

While gender and sexual orientation in domestic violence cases have been extensively studied, research on the effects of masculine and feminine physical traits is limited. To examine the effects of these variables on public perceptions of domestic violence cases, Mackenzie Atchie’s study used a hypothetical domestic violence case scenario that varied only in gender, sexual orientation, and masculine/feminine physical traits of the perpetrator and victim. She found that variables such as attitude toward punishment, intimate partner violence, sex role stereotyping, and homosexuality, and participants’ demographics affected participants’ judgments of punishment severity and crime seriousness across cases. Masculine and feminine physical traits were not found to be significant predictors of ratings for crime seriousness or punishment severity. She also found that gender and participant demographics such as religion and race/ethnicity may be associated with bias against certain domestic violence cases. These results suggest that people working with victims and perpetrators of domestic violence may need to be more aware of how cases are handled. Mackenzie presented her work at the 2016 STARS, 2016 Midwestern Psychological Association and the 2016 Association of Psychological Sciences conferences in Chicago.


David Bova and Sara Stutzman (mentor Karen Reinke), Department of Psychology

Sara & David-USR 2016 Photo

Individual Differences in Responses to Emotional Faces

Previous work has shown that spatial attention can be modulated with facial expressions. This modulation has been displayed in a variety of tasks, but in particular, with the dot-probe task. Given that the dot-probe task has been used to explore the extent of attention modulation in general, it is used again here in order to explore individual differences. Participants viewed two face stimuli for 250 ms, one left and the other right of fixation. These were immediately replaced by a target dot presented in either location. Reaction times to the target were the dependent measure. There were three trial types: congruent (one fearful face and one neutral face with the target appearing in the location of the fearful face), incongruent (one fearful face and one neutral face with the target appearing opposite of the fearful face), baseline (both faces were neutral and the target could appear in either location). These individual differences were the subject of further exploration utilizing the State Trait Anxiety Inventory (STAI) and a Face Rating Scale. The Face Rating Scale assisted in exploring whether a participant’s opinion on the facial expression had an effect on the resulting speed of their response. The STAI helped determine if a participant’s level of anxiety (during the study and in general) made them more reactive to fearful faces. The Face Rating Scale and dot-probe task were randomized to ensure there was no third variable influencing responses.  David and Sara presented their findings at the 2016 Association for Psychological Sciences annual convention in Chicago.


Jacob M. Eikenberry (mentor Benjamin Walsh), Department of Business Administration

Jacob-USR 2016 Photo

A Study of the Effects of Workplace Incivility and Grit on Burnout in Domestic Violence Program Employees

(Re)Shaping effective services for underprivileged populations is necessary to affect meaningful changes in the population. Since social service employees act as liaisons between poverty stricken populations and needed resources, protecting relationships between clients and employees is vital. In this research, Jacob Eikenberry examined the effects of workplace incivility and grit on burnout in a sample of domestic violence program employees. They found that workplace incivility was positively correlated to burnout, but they did not find support for the hypothesis that grit would moderate the relationship between workplace incivility and burnout. This suggests that, perhaps, social structural solutions are needed to protect employees from burnout. An interaction effect illustrated that employees low in grit consistently showed burnout when exposed to client incivility, whereas employees high in grit showed burnout only when client incivility levels were low. Jacob presented the poster at the 2016 STARS and the 2016 Midwestern Psychological Association’s annual conference in Chicago.


Kyle French (mentors Michele Miller and Sheryl Reminger), Department of Psychology

Kyle-USR 2016 Photo

The Effect of Auditory Stimuli on the Emotional Perception of Visual Stimuli

Kyle French’s research sought to measure an interaction between the senses of sight and hearing in the formation of emotional perception.  Specifically, he attempted to measure how the difference in the tempo of music effects one’s emotional perception of what he or she is viewing.  The study was run over a 2-3 month period at UIS.  Kyle presented the findings of this study at the 2016 STARS Symposium and the 2016 Midwestern Psychological Association’s annual conference in Chicago.


Michael Lotspeich (mentor Shoon Lio), Department of Sociology/Anthropology

Michael-USR 2016 Photo

Community conflict and building construction: Stratification in a remote, consolidated local education agency (LEA)

While much research has been conducted on both state-level stratification of LEAs and LEA reorganization, little attention has been paid to spatial conflicts of identity in rural communities after LEA reorganization. Using a dataset of (N=1974) survey instruments and (N=99) Facebook posts, Lotspeich investigated variables to support or disavow community support for building construction that serves a subset of the consolidated LEA. Using SPSS 23 and ATLAS.ti to create a triangulated analysis, Lotspeich found that LEA voters (a) challenged a new, consolidated identity, (b) felt the new LEA administration and Board of Education poorly communicated with their constituents, (c) felt the burden of aging, poorly-maintained facilities, and (d) was divided between the interests of the ‘North’ and the burdens of the ‘South’.  Michael presented his research at the 2016 Rural Sociological Society annual conference in Toronto, Canada.


Janell Mathus (mentor Kanwal Alvarez), Department of Biology

Mathus Project picture 2016

Prevalence of Hepatitis C among the Homeless in Central Illinois

Janell Mathus’ research sought to determine the prevalence and incidence of the Hepatitis C Virus (HCV) in the Central Illinois homeless population. This study is important because HCV poses a major health burden that is similar to HIV in that it has comparable rates of morbidity and prevalence. There are also several risk factors for HCV among homeless people have been described, although the mechanism of transmission within this population is not very clear.  Janell administered surveys to determine the participants’ history and any risk factors associated with HCV infection. In addition, she performed blood testing in the form of finger sticks to determine participants HCV status. This study may help develop methods of prevention and treatment, decreasing the incidence of HCV among the homeless population and providing an invaluable opportunity to protect and promote public health.


Lisette Moreno (mentor Shoon Lio), Department of Sociology/Anthropology

Lisette-USR 2016 Photo

Improvisation: Playing and Acting with Autism Spectrum Disorder

A medical /deficit model have dominated the treatment of children with Autism Spectrum Disorders (ASD). In an attempt to move away from the deficit perspective, Lisette Moreno outlined a socio-cultural framework, drawn from anthropology, sociology and social psychology, with which to understand the dynamic meaning-and social world-making of individuals with ASD (Conn, 2015; Ochs et al, 2004). Her presentation at the 2016 Midwest Sociological Society’s Annual Conference in Chicago posits that this socio-cultural framework provides educators and human service providers with the theoretical foundation for new forms of interventions such as improvisation, play and drama that empowers individuals with ASD through developing their social capacity for social communication and social expression. Lisette presented her research in a session on undergraduate research in social psychology. She also presented her findings at the 2016 UIS STARS.


Sarah Rowlands (mentor Jorge Villegas), Department of Business Administration

Sarah-USR 2016 Photo

Developing a Network of Care: Increasing Health Outcomes and Reducing Costs among Super-Utilizers of Health Services

Sarah Rowlands conducted this study in collaboration with Brittany Carls, an MBA student, and under the supervision of Dr. Jorge Villegas. This research focused on the economic burden of super-utilizers of local emergency departments. For this specific study, they focused on one local homeless patient that had 100 emergency department visits in one year due to complications from mismanaged diabetes, low health literacy, and socioeconomic barriers. Findings from this project showed the economic benefits of giving patient-centered care and the improvement of quality in care the patient received. In a six month period, the implementation of a care team saved close to $20,000 for a single patient. Sarah presented their research findings at the 2016 Association for Prevention Teaching and Research in Albuquerque, NM.


Taylor Vazquez (mentor Adam Clay), Department of English

Taylor-USR 2016 Photo

2016 Edition of The Alchemist Review

Taylor Vazquez accompanied other UIS students and faculty to showcase The Alchemist Review‘s at the 2016 Association of Writers & Writing Programs conference in Los Angeles, CA. It was a massive convention that took at the Staples Center where thousands of attendees come and enjoy a weekend full of fascinating panels and discussions, networking, and all things relating to the literary world. The bookfair, which was where the Alchemist Review crew manned their own table and passed out copies of the 2016 edition, housed over 800 different publications. While attending this conference, The Alchemist Review staff gained incredible insight into the publishing field through interacting with experienced writers and publishers and hope to apply some new details to future editions of The Alchemist Review.


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