CSUDH Students Present Research at Prestigious Health Science Conferences

Eleven seniors majoring in health sciences at California State University, Dominguez Hills presented details of their research at two high-level conferences during the fall semester.

Gary Barden, Spencer Nelson, and Christine Schurawel make presentations at the 2013 American Public Health Association in Boston.

Gary Barden, Spencer Nelson, and Christine Schurawel make presentations at the 2013 American Public Health Association in Boston.

Three seniors presented at the Annual American Public Health Association (APHA) meeting held in Boston in November. With more than 10,000 attendees, most of which are professionals in the field or graduate students working toward public health related degrees, APHA is a large and prestigious international professional conference where public health professionals and students gather to share their latest efforts in research, education, and intervention work.

Spencer Nelson (community health concentration), a first-time APHA conference attendee, led a roundtable presentation for his research topic, “Healthy and unhealthy correlates of sports involvement among Italian adolescents? A one-year longitudinal study.”

Other Toros attending the conference were Christine Schurawel (community health concentration), who presented “How does friendship influence childhood well-being and positive behaviors?” and Gary Barden (community health concentration), who presented “Depression as a mediator between parental strictness of rules and self-esteem. An investigation among Italian and Dutch adolescents.”

“It is unusual for undergraduates to present their work at this level, so it is quite an accomplishment that these students were selected to showcase what they have been working on for the past year,” said assistant professor of health sciences Enrique Ortega, who serves as a faculty mentor to the students and accompanied them to the conference.

Ortega went on to say that the students received a fair number of questions during their presentations, which showed “a high level of interest” from professionals in the audience.

Participating at a second conference, also in November, Nelson and eight of her fellow health sciences students from CSU Dominguez Hills, joined a large number of undergraduates from universities across the region at the annual Southern California Undergraduate Research Conference (SCURR) held at Whittier College.

(From left) Jose Rodriguez, Kristen Berube, Spencer Nelson, Michelle Manning, Angela Lim, Jam Isaga, Alisha Fletcher, Casey Cho, Jasmine Wahab, and their faculty advisor Enrique Ortega (center, back row) attend the 2013 Southern California Conference for Undergraduate Research

(From left) Jose Rodriguez, Kristen Berube, Spencer Nelson, Michelle Manning, Angela Lim, Jam Isaga, Alisha Fletcher, Casey Cho, Jasmine Wahab, and their faculty advisor Enrique Ortega (center, back row) attend the 2013 Southern California Conference for Undergraduate Research

“[SCURR] is an interesting conference, in that it is open to all disciplines, so one gets to see a cross-section of the work that is being developed in many different areas including the arts, engineering, health, and physical sciences,” Ortega pointed out.

“Dr. Ortega has encouraged me to push myself through my research and has always been there to help me when I needed it. I would not have been able to do any of my presentations without him!” said Nelson, who presented “The role of aggression as a mediator between the association of risk behaviors and sporting activities.”

Two other Toros with concentrations in health care management discussed details of their research at SCURR. Michelle Manning presented “The correlation between religiosity and behavioral domains among Italian adolescents,” and Casey Cho presented “Intrinsic and extrinsic motivation: comparing relative strength in relation to parental support and control.”

Cho credited Ortega with providing sample populations and other resources to run statistics and the opportunity to present at a conference of this caliber.

“The most significant thing that I have taken away from this [conference] experience is the ability to prepare and speak at the professional level. Public speaking was never something I have been fond of, nor good at, but I have gained to confidence to deliver speeches at a proficient level,” Cho commented.

Jam Isaga (community health concentration), said presenting her findings on “The effects of parental support and parental control on adolescent academic achievement” provided her with motivation to pursue health policy and management at the graduate level.

“It was amazing to see the amount of students from different universities that are also doing undergrad research,” Isaga said. “I was nervous at first, before the presentation, but as soon as it was my turn, my anxiety turned into excitement. Since I was fully prepared (thanks to Dr. Ortega’s help), my presentation went really well. That experience made me want to push through further research studies and grad school programs.”

 Casey Cho presents at the 2013 Southern California Conference for Undergraduate Research.


Casey Cho presents at the 2013 Southern California Conference for Undergraduate Research.

Other Toros with concentrations in community health who attended and presented at SCURR were:

Kristen Berube – “Gender Differences in Parenting Perceptions and Health Behavior Effects of Mediterranean Adolescents”

Alisha Fletcher – “The association between weight, physical attractiveness and mental health among adolescents”

Angela Lim – “Sleeping Habits and Family Stress among Adolescents”

Jasmine Wahab – “Tobacco and Alcohol use co-morbidity among Mediterranean adolescents”

Jose Rodriguez – “The possible role of alcohol use as a coping mechanism of school stress among adolescents,” who noted the value of being able to learn about what other students are doing in research.

“[At] the conference, I gained valuable experience in working with research and presenting my work as well as listening to other students work in research. It has inspired me and motivated me to strive and [given me the] confidence to continue my academics in a gradual-level program” Rodriguez said.

Ortega, who since 2012 has mentored students who have presented at CSU Dominguez Hills Student Research Day, said the students who presented at SCCUR, which included six first-time presenters, received numerous “private compliments” from session chairs.

“Many of [the students] were engaged by audience members who wanted further information on their work,” Ortega said. “They presented with much poise and engagement. The SCCUR presenters are a great asset to our program and we are very proud of their efforts in our department.”

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