Extraordinary Students: Extraordinary ideas

By: Megan Oaklief

MSU is filled with people who have incredible ideas and are willing to work to accomplish and promote them to the public. One such opportunity was the eighth annual McNair Scholars Program Research Symposium which took place on Dec. 4 in the SUB. This annual event is a showcase of undergraduate research projects funded primarily by the McNair Research Program.


The research program provides opportunities to MSU students who are first-generations or in a minority group who show great academic potential. McNair works closely with TRiO, a group which also provides academic, financial and social aid to students who are first generation or considered to be in a minority group. Each year, 25 students at MSU are chosen to study at Princeton University over a nine-week period during the summer with an assigned professor.


These MSU students presented on everything from “Targeted Joint Therapy using TAT Peptides in Osteoarthritic Cartilage” to “Storytelling: Connecting the Experience as a Way of Learning.”  Each McNair Scholar showed a poster which contained the purpose of their research, the steps taken to achieve it, results if available and what the results of their research mean both to themselves and potentially to a greater audience.


Brianna Bull Shows, a McNair Scholar and junior majoring in microbiology explained how her research stemmed from a personal connection. Bull Shows researched the importance of healthy patient provider interactions, specifically those between patients with chronic illness and their various doctors. In her research, she studied a new way of communication by interviewing many doctors, physicians, researchers and most importantly, patients.


Bull Shows finalized her project by creating a packet for patients to bring with them to their doctor appointments so they are able to more easily collect the appropriate information about their chronic illness in a clear and concise way. She also created a space where people with chronic illness are able to talk about what they are going through to help them understand it. Bull Shows explained how she wanted to create a place where “people understand what they are going through by working together and improving communication for everyone.”


Betheney “Birdie” Kushner, a McNair Scholar and philosophy major presented “Empty War: Alleviating the Suffering Incurred by Causal Determinism and Other Disorders.” Kushner’s project focused on using Madhyamaka Buddhist epistemology to help find both the cures and the sources of mental disorders.


“I chose this topic because I am a philosopher. I believe that we should not take the science part of problems so seriously. Buddhism is more philosophical and encompases many more possible sources of each problem as well as the solutions which go along with them,” Kushner said. “Why wouldn’t we step outside our own culture to help understand our problems from another point of view?”

Illustration by Megan Oaklief