Ben Dralle and Autumn Rudlong are two of the 51 students from Iowa State who will present their research at the National Conference on Undergraduate Research, April 4 to 7 at the University of Central Oklahoma. Contributed photos.

FSHN students among undergraduates to present research at national conference

Being from a small Iowa town, Iowa State University nutritional science and genetics student Benjamin Dralle has been researching how primary care providers in Iowa view the assessment and treatment of children with obesity. He will present his research on a national platform next week.

“Our results indicate that primary care providers in Iowa are providing guidance on weight-related behaviors for children (such as guidance on diet/nutrition and/or physical activity),” Dralle said. “However, medical residents — who are primary care providers in training — are failing to do the same in their own practice. Our survey respondents identified a lack of time, low levels of patient interest, and inadequate referral services as barriers to childhood obesity-related care in the state of Iowa.”

Dralle is one of the 51 students from Iowa State who will present their research at the National Conference on Undergraduate Research (NCUR 2018), April 4 to 7 at the University of Central Oklahoma. Iowa State’s research was chosen from more than 4,000 abstracts submitted for the conference.

“In the College of Human Sciences, we strive to provide high-impact educational opportunities for our students,” said Brenda Lohman, associate dean for research and graduate education. “Undergraduate research is an important way for students to connect key concepts and information they learn in the classroom with systematic investigation and research."

Dralle worked with Lorraine Lanningham-Foster, an associate professor in food science and human nutrition, doctoral student Maren Wolff, and a pediatrician and health coach at Blank Children’s Hospital on his research. He will not only showcase his research at this conference, but also at Posters on the Hill, a competitive event on April 17 and 18 that will give 60 undergraduate students an opportunity to showcase their research with members of Congress in Washington, D.C.

Food packaging that could block UV, LED lighting

Autumn Rudlong, a senior in food science, is another Department of Food Science and Human Nutrition student who will present at the NCUR 2018 conference. Her research concerns various food packaging that could potentially block light wavelengths associated with LED grocery display cases.

"UV and LED lighting can emit wavelengths that degrade essential vitamins such as beta-carotene, so we are trying to use food packaging technologies to retain essential vitamins in produce products," Rudlong said.

She has been working with Keith Vorst, associate professor in the department, and Greg Curtzwiler, postdoc research associate, to determine how recycled polyethylene terephthalate (PET) film covering compares to packaging that has no recycled PET content in maintaining the quality of fresh leaf spinach. Using actual produce display cases, they've also compared how produce freshness is maintained in instances where the produce receives no exposure to light.

While they do not have any key findings to report yet, Rudlong said she became interested in the research because it is "a very practical industry step to increase produce quality."

Undergraduate research opportunities

Several other opportunities exist for Iowa State undergraduates wanting to get involved in research. The Louise Rosenfeld Undergraduate Research Internship in the College of Human Sciences provides a paid opportunity for undergraduates to participate in research, work with prestigious faculty, prepare for graduate school, and gain invaluable experience for their future careers. Applications will be accepted through April 15 for these paid internships for summer or fall.

“The goal of the Rosenfeld Undergraduate Research Internship is to involve students across all of our majors in CHS and give them the opportunity to explore cutting-edge research that improves the lives of Iowans and beyond,” Lohman said. “The sense of excitement the students convey in this story is what many of our Rosenfeld Interns feel after completing their internship. I encourage students to apply to our upcoming deadline for summer and fall internships.”

Research in the Capitol, featuring undergraduate research from Iowa’s three Regent universities, will be held April 3 at the state capitol. And Iowa State’s Symposium on Undergraduate Research and Creative Expression will on April 10 provide undergraduates from all academic disciplines with an opportunity to share their research with the university community and other guests through conference-style oral presentations.

Honors program encourages research

The University Honors Program gave Dralle many opportunities to be involved in undergraduate research at Iowa State.

“I started research with Dr. Lanningham-Foster through the First-Year Honors Mentor Program,” Dralle said. “I branched out a little bit into other research areas over the next several years, including a summer internship in lung cancer research at the University of Minnesota, before returning to work with Dr. Lanningham-Foster through the Cyclone Scholars Summer Research Experience this past summer. I then continued this work through a Rosenfeld internship in the fall of 2017, during which I helped to present this research at a national conference in late October.”

Fundraising to attend national conference

Students selected for the National Conference on Undergraduate Research will not only present their research to students, faculty, and staff from universities and colleges around the nation, but will also have the opportunity to attend special events and lectures, meet professionals in their fields, explore graduate school and career options through the Professional Preparation and Graduate School Fair, and more.  

Participants must each pay about $500 to cover their travel, food, hotel, and registration expenses for the conference. Petersen and other students launched a crowdfunding campaign through FundISU to raise $17,000 to cover those costs. The campaign ends Friday, March 30. Those wishing to help the students attend the National Conference on Undergraduate Research can contribute at: https://fundisu.foundation.iastate.edu/project/9320.