NSU student-faculty team selected for national undergraduate research program
TAHLEQUAH, Okla. — Northeastern State University freshwater sciences majors Keegan and Viktoria Stallings and professor Dr. Elizabeth Waring were chosen to participate in the 2022-23 Council on Undergraduate Research’s (CUR) Scholars Transforming Through Research (STR) program.
The six-month professional development program offers undergraduate students and faculty/mentors the opportunity to develop communication and advocacy skills to better leverage the impact of their undergraduate research by conveying their story to stakeholder groups such as funding agencies, association partners, elected officials, future employers and beyond.
Teams from 75 institutions nationwide were selected this year to participate in the program, which runs from October-April. The NSU student-faculty team was one of three teams from Oklahoma selected to participate in the program.
“This program will help students improve their communication skills for the general public as well as the policymakers,” Waring said. “Additionally, programs such as STR help increase the students' sense of belonging in the sciences. They are being taken seriously by peers and stakeholders as knowledgeable contacts in their respective fields.”
The Stallings, a Sallisaw husband-and-wife team, are juniors in the Freshwater Sciences program at NSU. The pair are on track to be among the first graduates from the recently added program. Each has been working with Waring and the Grand River Dam Authority Scenic Rivers Lab at NSU on examining the seasonal changes in macroinvertebrate communities in Town Branch Creek
According to Viktoria, stream macroinvertebrates such as snails, bugs and crayfish are the focus of their research. She said these so-called ‘water bugs’ are known stream indicators that can be used in different ways to identify problems with the quality of the stream.
“We hope that this research can be used in future tests of ecological disturbances,” Viktoria said. “Also, we hope that other students and community members can use the information as well, whether it be in future research projects or knowing which dragonflies to look for in the spring. The applicability of environmental knowledge is diverse, and we hope that this research informs policymaking that protects the integrity of our waterways.”
Fantastic is the one word that best describes hearing the news that they were selected for the STR program, Viktoria said. The team has already begun its training as part of the STR program. This includes attending training events both in-person and online. She said some of the skills they learned so far include understanding how scientific research can impact policymaking and writing for different audiences to better communicate one’s research in an effective manner.
Viktoria said the sessions were better than they expected and they are excited to see what new skills they will gain in future sessions.
The pair have their sights set on graduate school where they can become scientists who do sustainability and conservation work.
“We really like animals and water, and desire to learn more about our environment and how to better protect it,” Viktoria said. “NSU has been awesome and more than we both could have ever imagined at helping us in this journey.”