OSU Undergrads Compete in Denman Research Forum


Hundreds of Ohio State University undergraduates took part in the 12th annual Denman Research Forum which concluded Wednesday. Students from across the university showed the fruits of their endeavors and competed for cash prizes. Their projects are related to the arts, agriculture, chemistry, biology and other fields.

Ohio State’s French Field House was packed with summaries of undergraduate research projects in this one-of-a-kind event at OSU. Most of the studies have complicated, dissertation-like titles, but their aim is simple, says chemistry associate professor Terry Gustafson, a forum advisor.

“Learning new things is the key, that’s what most of us get really pumped about,” Gustafson said. “It’s not just going to classes. You get excited about the things we don’t know. And the way you get to experience that is by doing research.”

Adam Herrington, a sophomore geology major from Cleveland, studied whether Greenland’s glaciers had undergone the same partial melting 80 years ago that’s occurring today.

“In the 1930s, it was just as warm in Greenland as it was in the last 10 years,” Herrington says. “So I hypothesized, was there a meltdown of Greenland glaciers in the 1930s similar to today? And the answer is still inconclusive. However all the evidence is consistent with the hypothesis.”

“The title of my study is Pedestrian Space And Behavior: A Study of Pedestrian Facilities, Access and Arrangement in Auto-Centric Columbus,” says Zachary Henkel, a geography major from Columbus. He conducted a study closer to home, investigating which of several local neighborhoods are more pedestrian friendly.

“Italian Village and Milo Grogan districts of Columbus are walkable on the whole,” Henkel says. “But there’s little inconveniences and deficiencies in them. In southern Italian Village you have an issue of wheelchair access. There are lots of obstacles and narrow sidewalks and things in the way.”

Henkel says he left out some of his extra-curricular research.

“The most walkable place? I’d say southern Italian Village. The funnest is northern Italian village. They’ve got some nice bars there. The girls are funner. It’s all part of the greater geography. You have to be holistic in your approach. It’s human geography, that’s what I study,” Henkel says.

Kerri Seger says her project studied whether the pitch of the songs sung by cardinals and robins changes when the birds move from quiet to noisy environments.

“Well I found that cardinals directly change their pitch frequencies, they increase them as the noise disturbance gets louder,” Seger says. “So their highest pitched songs are sung in highways, the next highest is sung in commercial zones, the next highest is residential, and the lowest pitches are sung in rural areas. Robins weren’t as directly related to noise disturbance. They actually sang their highest pitches in residential areas.”

Her study is not unique. Seger says it’s been done in many parts of the world. But it could have implications for where bird sanctuaries are located.

“These birds are obviously adapting to loud noises. What birds can’t? So it opens up the whole question are state parks near highways really serving their purpose as bird sanctuaries,” she says. “Which birds can raise their voice high enough to be heard over the ambient din?”

Seger’s research project is leading her, she says, toward gradate study in bio-acoustics.

The winners of the Denman Research Forum were announced Wednesday afternoon.