Today@Sam Article

Bearkats Participate In Texas Undergraduate Research Day

April 25, 2023
SHSU Media Contact: Mikah Boyd

Ava and Makenzie SocialStudents from Sam Houston State University represented their fellow Bearkats at the state capitol this week as they presented their undergraduate research to state leaders. 

Bearkats Ava Garrett and Makenzie Hesse were selected to represent the university after a careful deliberation process due to numerous submissions of outstanding research.

Garrett presented research from a multi-institutional project on the City of Brownsville’s community-driven COVID-19 response and how socio-economic factors were considered in the city health officials’ plan. 

Being part of a research team was nothing new to Garrett, who works as a research assistant for the Department of Security Studies on campus. Under the guidance of Christine Blackburn, a professor in the department, she has been able to participate in numerous research opportunities with various organizations on and off campus.Ava Garrett (left)

“I was asked if I wanted to help do research on Brownsville's COVID response and I immediately accepted,” Garrett said. “As a homeland security major, I have mainly focused on security in terms of the border or cybersecurity, so I was interested in broadening my knowledge on public health security, as well. Our research on Brownsville’s COVID response was put into a paper and published in the Journal of Humanistic Psychology.”

Her fellow Bearkat researcher, Hesse, used her knowledge of economics and connections with the Gibson D. Lewis Center for Business and Economic Development to gauge the economic impact of Huntsville’s colony of Mexican free-tailed bats. Hesse was able to work with the center’s director and economics professor, Christian Raschke, to coordinate with volunteers and the City of Huntsville. 

“When the city approached the center with the idea of doing this survey, I knew I had to make it happen,” Hesse said. “With my background in both biology and economics, I wanted to give back to Huntsville by conducting this survey and writing a paper where all of the complex information can be found in one place."

Hesse’s work started as a way to provide the city of Huntsville with information on how the local bat colony can draw tourists and is now recognized by the state thanks to the presentation opportunity on Texas Undergraduate Research Day. The honor for both students is heightened due to the event being held every two years and that they were chosen through a screening process by the university.

Makenzie Hesse“It is always an honor to represent SHSU and I am proud to have been able to present my research at Texas Undergraduate Research Day,” Hesse said. “I believe research is an ongoing part of life and will continue to conduct informal research outside of college. To anyone considering conducting research, find something you are passionate about and do it. Research can be as formal or informal as you would like.”

The researchers’ day did not conclude after their presentations; they were able to spend the whole day at the capitol. They made the most of their visit by taking part in the capitol tours, sitting in on legislative sessions, networking with fellow researchers and participating in the student poster presentation session.

“The presentations were interdisciplinary, meaning students there were presenting research on a wide range of topics in different fields of study, so it was interesting to learn about other areas and venture out from homeland security,” Garrett said. “I felt honored to represent Sam Houston and the other universities we worked alongside for this project at the capitol, to be able to share my research and knowledge with others about things that I am passionate about is something I love doing and getting the chance to see other research projects and gain new knowledge in other academic disciplines is always an opportunity that I am going to take.”



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