University Honors Summer Scholars Program

University Honors Summer Scholars 2013

The University Honors Program is pleased to announce the second year of the University Honors Summer Scholars Program. The program began in the summer of 2012. In spring 2013, the Honors Committee selected three exceptional students as NIU’s second annual University Honors Summer Scholars. The Summer Scholars’ profiles listed below not only introduces our distinguished Summer Scholars, but also allows us to showcase the impressive work and passion they have for their research.  

Make sure to follow the University Summer Scholars’ research on the University Honors Summer Scholar blog!

                                                                                                                                                


Octavio Escalante

Octavio Escalante

Title of Project: The Muon G-2 Experiment

Faculty Mentor: Dr. Michael Eads

Abstract: This Summer Scholars Capstone will contribute to the ongoing Muon g-2 Experiment at Fermi National Accelerator Laboratory by having me create and analyze a straw-tube test module. The project will demand the testing of various straw-tube layouts, working with advanced computer simulation programs, as well as attending informational seminars. Once the straw-tube detector is optimized, the module will be used to re-measure the g-factor (gyromagnetic factor or spin) of a Muon (subatomic particle) to a high level of precision.

Program of Study: Physics (Minor Mathematics)

Year of Graduation: Spring 2014

Future Plans: I have strong aspirations to attain a post-graduate education and become a research physicist.  What area of physics I decide to specialize in, however, is still up in the air, but I do have a particular interest in high energy particle physics.

Hometown: Born in Monterrey, Mexico, but raised in Aurora Illinois.

Fun Fact: I enjoy playing the bongos in my spare time; a hobby that places me in good company with renowned physicist and Nobel Laureate Richard Feynman who also enjoyed playing the bongos.

Elliott Ihm

Elliott Ihm

Title of Project: Cognitive Moderators of the Cumulative Effects of Childhood Stress

Faculty Co-Mentors: Dr. David Bridgett (Primary), Dr. Angela Grippo (Secondary)

Abstract: It is widely accepted that childhood trauma is associated with poor health outcomes through an accumulation of stress known as allostatic load. Executive function, the neurocognitive processes which facilitate goal-directed behavior, is known to play a role in a variety of processes which buffer against this harmful accumulation of stress, including the cognitive regulation of emotion and the avoidance of stressful situations. The hypotheses are that high childhood trauma will predict high allostatic load, and that three subcomponents of executive function (working memory, cognitive inhibition, and set shifting) will each reduce this effect. Participants will self-report childhood trauma using the Childhood Trauma Questionnaire, and executive function will be assessed using portions of the Delis-Kaplan Executive Function System and the Wechsler Adult Intelligence Scale – Fourth Edition, as well as a computerized version of the Wisconsin Card Sorting Task. Allostatic load will be assessed with a six-item index, including body mass index, self-reported sleep quality, and resting and stress-induced levels of heart rate variability and blood pressure.

Program of Study: Psychology (Biology Minor)

Year of Graduation: Spring 2014

Future Plans: After graduating from NIU, I plan to earn a Ph.D. in Neuroscience or a related field. I would ultimately like to research integrative approaches to health with an emphasis on cultivating mental well-being.

Hometown: DeKalb, IL

Fun Fact: I try to meditate every day for at least 40 minutes.

Lauren Nale

Lauren Nale

Title of Project: "Mixed Methods Study on Treatments/Services for Children with Autism Spectrum Disorder"

Faculty Mentor: Dr. Lucy Bilaver

Abstract: Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) is a developmental disability that is associated with affecting three main areas of an individuals functioning: social impairment, communication difficulties, and repetitive and stereotyped behaviors. Research strongly suggests that children with ASD should receive early intervention services in order to maximize their potential effectiveness. This research will focus on evidence based practices such as: occupational therapy, speech therapy, behavioral therapy/applied behavioral analysis, and special education that are used to treat children with ASD. Two broad research questions will be answered through qualitative and quantitative methods: What are the characteristics of children and families receiving different treatments for ASD? What are the facilitators of and barriers to effective treatment from the perspective of therapists serving young children with ASD?

Program of Study: Rehabilitation Services, Pre-Occupational Therapy

Year of Graduation: Spring 2014

Future Plans: After completing my undergraduate degree, I plan on attending graduate school to get either my Masters or Doctorate in Occupational Therapy (OT). From there, I hope to continue my research and to work at an outpatient clinic and among working with individuals with other disabilities/impairments, I would like to specialize in working with children with developmental disabilities. Eventually, I hope to work with an international NGO to take my skills in research and OT abroad.

Hometown: New Lenox, IL

Fun Fact: I love reading, especially science fiction, and pachyderms are my favorite animals!