On Friday, February 25, CSUSM announced the top ten finalists from the university's 15th annual Student Research Competition. Eight undergraduates and two graduate students are advancing to the statewide competition, held this year at Fresno State University in May, to present their scholarly research and represent CSUSM.

The undergraduate finalists are Michelle Calderwood (Psychology), Andrew Cooper (Biological Sciences), Anna Hood (Psychology), Ned Imming (Biochemistry), Samantha Lang (Biological Sciences), Eleuterio Limas (Psychology), Maria Isabel Rocha (Communication), and Dalizel Soto, (Kinesiology), along with graduate finalists Marianne Klumph, (Psychology) and Gina Merchant (Psychology).

This year, CSUSM received a record-high of 37 student submissions for the competition. Over the last six years, program participation has more than quadrupled. Research topics went beyond the traditional physical sciences to include research and creative activities that span the full range of academic programs and disciplines offered at the university.

The annual competition involves two-parts -- a research narrative and an oral presentation. Each entrant, whether an individual student or researching team consisting of up to four students, is required to submit a five-page narrative with a maximum accompaniment of three pages of appendices.

On Friday, February 25, students delivered their 10-minute oral presentations to a panel of judges, followed by a 5-minute question-and-answer period. Judges evaluate student papers and presentations on clarity of purpose, appropriateness of methodology, interpretation of results, and value of the research conducted, as well as the presenter's articulation, organization, and ability to respond to questions.

Among this year's presenters was student-athlete Andrea Talhami, a senior majoring in kinesiology. Working with her faculty mentor Dr. Todd Astorino, Talhami studied the effects of caffeine intake on high-intensity exercise performance.

"Exposure to meaningful research is an educational opportunity that not all university undergraduates have access to," said Talhami, who plans to begin a Master's degree program in nutrition after graduating from CSUSM in spring 2011. "Performing research now while I'm still an undergraduate is helping prepare me for graduate school, where conducting and analyzing research is a primary focus."

Fellow kinesiology student and former U.S. Marine, Heather Hibshman also presented her research and findings. The 28-year-old examined the body's response to the consumption of chocolate soymilk following a high-intensity sprint-based exercise. Hibshman explained that high-intensity aerobic activity depletes the body of energy while also releasing toxins into the blood stream, which can hinder the body's recovery, especially for professional athletes who have limited recovery time before needing to perform again at high-intensity levels. Ingredients found in chocolate are known to have antioxidant properties, which could, according to her hypothesis, help athletes recover faster if ingested shortly after high performance exercises.

Both Hibshman and Talhami know the tremendous value research adds for them as students, not only in terms of conducting hands-on experiments, but by taking the next step to articulate and share research findings.

"It's an important step to be able to stand in front of your peers and industry experts and explain why your research is significant and how it adds value to your discipline and the greater community," said Hibshman, who plans to pursue a Master's degree in nutrition and eventually earn a Ph.D. in bioenergetics. "Research gives students hands-on experience to formulate and hypothesize questions, perform scientific experiments, and analyze results, which ultimately makes us better critical thinkers."

"Student research and creative activities are the pinnacle of student learning," said Gerardo González, dean of Graduate Studies and associate vice president for Research. "Under the mentorship of faculty, students apply their skills and creativity to these projects. As a result of excellent faculty mentoring, CSUSM students have traditionally performed well at the CSU Student Research Competition."

Each of CSUSM's ten finalists were awarded a cash prize and will receive paid travel accommodations to attend and represent CSUSM at the annual statewide student competition held May 6-7 at Fresno State University. Undergraduate and graduate students from each of the 23 CSU campuses will compete and share their investigative projects to juries of professional experts from major corporations, foundations, public agencies, colleges and universities in California. This year marks the 25th annual CSU Student Research Competition. In total, more than 4,000 CSU students have presented their findings since the competition was first introduced in 1987.

“Student research and creative activities are the pinnacle of student learning,” said Gerardo González, dean of Graduate Studies and associate vice president for Research.