NACOGDOCHES, Texas — Stephen F. Austin State University’s Office of Research and Graduate Studies has announced the recipients of its annual Research and Creative Activity grants. The RCA grant program was created to help support the initial research efforts of SFA faculty members and to help prepare them and their research for submission to national grant programs.

ORGS and the Division of Academic Affairs conduct a university-wide call for proposals, and the deadline for submissions is typically the end of October. The University Research Council conducts a blind peer review of all applications. Grant awardees are notified early in the spring semester, and projects are funded through the remainder of the fiscal year.

This year, ORGS received 13 applications, and the council selected six recipients. Monies awarded totals slightly over $130,000.

2020 Research and Creative Activity Grants

Dr. Carmen Montaña-Schalk - Department of Biology, College of Sciences and Mathematics
Examining the Effects of Predators on Energy and Nutrient Exports across Aquatic-Terrestrial Boundaries

Montaña-Schalk’s study will investigate how aquatic predators (e.g., fish and invertebrates) in permanent ponds influence biomass and transport of nutrient subsidies from water to terrestrial boundaries (e.g., ponds to forest) via amphibian migrations.

Dr. Bidisha Sengupta - Department of Chemistry and Biochemistry, College of Sciences and Mathematics
Unraveling the Pathway of Aggregation of Amyloin beta-peptides with the Intention of Prevention of Alzheimer’s Disease using Neurotransmitters and Phytochemicals

The aim of Sengupta’s project is to understand the mechanism of the onset of Alzheimer’s disease at the molecular level by studying the unfolding process of amyloid B-peptide (AB). Furthermore, Sengupta will investigate the role of naturally occurring chemicals, including Tryptamine-based sleep regulatory neurotransmitters melatonin and serotonin, and plant flavonols (mono/polyhydroxyflavonoid), against aggregation of AB, which is the key factor for Alzheimer’s disease. This naturopathic noninvasive way to prevent Alzheimer’s disease is likely to create a connection between sleep regulation, healthy diet and dementia.

Dr. Yuhui Weng – Forestry and Spatial Science, Arthur Temple College of Forestry and Agriculture.
Effects of Thinning on Needle Decomposition in Loblolly Pine Plantations in the West Gulf Coastal Plain

Thinning is widely used in managing loblolly pine plantations in the West Gulf Coastal Plain region to improve timber productivity and economic benefits. This study focuses on investigating how thinning affects decomposition of needles on the ground and needle nutrient release of loblolly pine — an important issue of plantation ecological environments. The results will provide important messages for managing loblolly pine plantations in the region.

Dr. Jessica Sams - Department of Languages, Cultures and Communication; College of Liberal and Applied Arts
Unreliable Narrators: Dangers of Eyewitness Testimony

Research has demonstrated humans are unreliable narrators because of the fallibility of cognition and memory, yet eyewitness testimony has remained a cornerstone in U.S. court cases. The dangers of eyewitness testimony, especially given by a witness perceived as an expert or authority figure, include the following:
•    narrators are subjective and, therefore, fallible
•    memories are inaccurate, and details shift to create a cohesive narrative
•    original intent or thought is inaccessible and irrecoverable
•    testimony is highly mediated yet presented as natural conversation
•    and identities being performed skew the importance of details and thus affect aspects of memory-making and event-reporting.

This project will address these issues by weaving together findings from research in the fields of cognitive science (e.g., psychology and behavioral neuroscience), linguistics (e.g., conversation analysis, corpus studies and semantics), and the law and will provide original analyses of eyewitness accounts and testimonies with collaboration from Assistant Federal Defender Angela Halim.

Dr. William Nieberding - School of Art, College of Fine Arts
East Texas: A Portrait in Wet-Plate Collodion

East Texas: A Portrait in Wet-Plate Collodion is a photographic project in which portraits and landscapes made with tin, collodion and light create a unique picture of time in East Texas. Nieberding is researching and experimenting with these materials using historical and contemporary chemical formulas to find combinations that work best for creating expressive tintypes in the heat and humidity of East Texas. A gallery exhibition of the original tintypes and large-scale inkjet prints created through this research will conclude the project.

Dr. Tingting Xu - Department of Education Studies, James I. Perkins College of Education
Redefine Engineering in Early Childhood Education through Professional Development

Xu’s project intends to examine the impact of a summer intensive professional development on kindergarten and first grade classroom teachers’ content and pedagogical knowledge of engineering, as well as their attitudes and efficacy towards teaching engineering. With a time-series research design using mixed methodological approach, it is expected to discover a significant increase in teachers’ content and pedagogical knowledge of engineering, as well as improved attitudes after the professional development.