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September 16, 2014

Undergraduate students show off research

By Dan Levindofske

CSU Student Center atriumImagine being able to determine the handedness of someone just by looking at their bones and being able to apply this to forensics.

For Cleveland State University student Margret White, that is the exact purpose of the research she presented at the 2014 Undergraduate Poster Session Thursday, Sept. 4.

“The main thing would be in forensics,” White said. “It wouldn’t really help us much if you could identify someone as right-handed, but let’s say that you were able to identify someone as left-handed, that could make a big difference.”

Determining handedness could also have an impact on our understanding of human history and past cultures.

“From an anthropological standpoint, being able to determine handedness helps us understand past populations and what their activities were,” White said.

White has been doing research in this area of study under Dr. Anne Su by studying bone structure and proportion.

“We decided to look at the best skeletal indicators of handedness,” White said. “We found that the humerus is a pretty good indicator of handedness and the metacarpals were as well.”

The research was conducted at the Cleveland Museum of Natural History by looking at the metacarpals of 19 males, ages 18-35, who had died of non-pathological causes.

Males are better test subjects than females because they show more asymmetry than females.

The results showed that the right hand was consistently larger and only one of the 19 subjects proved to be left-handed.

Despite finding measurable asymmetry, determining handedness remains an unproven science.

“It can indicate,” White said. “You can estimate that you’re probably right-handed or you’re probably left-handed, but it’s not proven yet.”

White is just one of many undergraduate students who were present at the poster session to present their research and explain the results to passersby.

Another undergraduate student, Gavin Custer, used a series of surveys to find out whether or not medical students at Cleveland State were learning the proper knowledge and skills in the program.

“They got to extract their own spices and compare the antibiotic practices of the spices to antibiotics that we commonly use today,” Custer said. “They tested the variety of different bacteria to discover how drugs are made and how these spices can be effective against bacteria.”

His results showed that the students appeared to be getting the appropriate amount of knowledge, just as his hypothesis predicted.

“My research was to discover what the students were learning,” Custer said. “I learned that they learned about how different drugs are made and different medical careers such as research technicians, doctors and pharmacists.”

White and Custer are among 68 students who presented their research findings at the poster session, which included research in biology, anthropology and sociology, among other areas of study.

In addition, 33 of these research proposals were funded for a total of $249,838 across 16 different departments.

There were 57 proposals submitted in total, amounting to $460,754 in funding for the undergraduate research.