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Washington State University
Carson College of Business Dividend Article

Showcasing Undergraduate Research

by Sue McMurray

Award-Winning Undergraduate Research

The annual Showcase for Undergraduate Research and Creative Activities (SURCA) is one such opportunity. SURCA participants’ work was detailed in 11 oral and 145 poster presentations open to faculty, staff, students, and guests.

More than 100 judges evaluated the presentations. Judges included WSU emeriti faculty, retirees, faculty, staff, and postdoctoral students as well as experts from companies outside of WSU. SURCA awards are made in eight categories; the highest award is crimson, then gray.

This year, two business students each earned one of these recognitions for the quality of their research projects.

Jessica Murray

Jessica MurrayA food science and hospitality major, Jessica won a Crimson Award in the applied sciences category for her study “Impact of the Hardness Locus on Milling Properties and Flour Quality of Durum Wheat (Triticum turgidum)” that examines the hardness ratings of durum wheat varieties and the impact upon milling and flour qualities.

Craig Morris, director and supervisory research chemist, WSU Western Wheat Quality Laboratory, introduced genes responsible for kernel softness in common wheat into two different varieties of durum, via non-GMO means. Murray then milled the resulting varieties, soft Svevo and Soft Alzada, into flour on three separate mills and at different temperature levels. Samples of Svevo, a durum wheat, Xerpha, a soft white winter wheat, and Expresso, a hard red spring wheat, were included in the study as comparisons. Soft Svevo and Soft Alzada exhibited hardness ratings lower than that of the durum variety as well as the common soft wheat.

The flour produced from Soft Svevo and Soft Alzada was subsequently evaluated for milling and flour quality, and in every treatment, the percentage of damaged starch was lower for Soft Svevo and Soft Alzada than in the common wheat varieties. Lower starch damage values are desired in cookies and pastry products whereas slightly greater starch damage is acceptable in bread flours. Overall, Soft Svevo and Soft Alzada exhibited milling properties and flour quality comparable, if not superior, to that of common soft wheat. Her results will help wheat industry professionals make informed decisions on development and utilization of soft durum wheat that will deliver higher flour yields, ultimately impacting one of the most important food crops in the world.

Rebecca Ly

Rebecca LyA management information systems major, Rebecca won a Gray Award in the social sciences category for her study “Utilizing Social Networks to Analyze the Needs of Caregivers of Autistic Individuals” that focuses on Autism Spectrum Disorder. Ly aims to improve understanding about what trends are prevalent among caregivers of autistic individuals regarding their use of social networks.

With an increasing number of Individuals with Intellectual Disorders (IID), there is building concern about the amount of resources available for the families affected. According to the Centers for Disease Control, the prevalence rates have nearly doubled within the last century. Ly’s study observed a public online forum targeted to parents and caregivers of children with autism through Facebook. A set of 100 randomized posts were collected over 30 days.

Results concluded that families, especially parents, faced risk of psychological distress resulting from isolation and confusion. Her findings suggest families are in need of additional emotional and mental support and resources. She also concludes that social networking sites and other interactive online community forums have the potential to become a primary avenue for communication within healthcare industries and families with IID. Her study implicates the importance of social networks in communicating with patients and suggests future research is needed in the area of mobile health networks.