WKU students prepare to show work at research conference

Anna Anderson

At an age where most college students are still deciding on a focus for their academic learning, 18-year-old Clarice Esch is already working in her chosen field.

A former Gatton Academy student, Somerset junior Esch is currently researching alternatives to nitrogen fertilizers and will be presenting her findings at the WKU Student Research Conference on Saturday, March 24.

“It’s great to talk to other people about their work,” Esch said.

The 2012 WKU Student Research Conference will be held on Saturday, March 24 in Gary Ransdell Hall from 7:30 a.m. until 6:30 p.m. and is open to all WKU students.

Esch’s presentation at the conference will highlight her work with gunnera, a tropical plant that is a self-fertilizer.

She traveled to Costa Rica over Winter Break to examine gunnera in its natural habitat and is learning how to grow the plant in a lab.

Based on the findings of her current tests, Esch hopes to use this knowledge to develop fertilizers that are developed naturally with little negative impact on the environment.

“We have to learn to use the world in an efficient manner with minimal impact,” she said.

Dr. Farley Norman, a WKU psychology professor and chair of the WKU Student Research Council, said this is the 42nd annual conference.

“It gets bigger and bigger every year,” Norman said.

Within the past 10 years, the conference has grown from a small conference that mainly showcased students from the Ogden College of Science & Engineering and the College of Education and Behavioral Sciences to an event that encompasses students from many different fields, Norman said.

Jesse Hazel, a 23-year-old senior from Bowling Green, is presenting paintings at the conference.

Hazel will graduate in May with Bachelor of Fine Arts degree in Painting and a Bachelor of Arts degree in Printmaking.

“I like narratives and story-telling,” he said. “Painting for me is kind of story-telling.”

Hazel is also currently pursuing an Asian Studies minor. He is involved with WKU’s Chinese Flagship program and has traveled abroad to China three times and to Korea once.

Hazel said his work is often inspired by his knowledge of Asian cultures, particularly Korean music, art and film.

A particular painting Hazel is presenting at the conference references a specific incident that happened within the Korean film and pop-culture community.

Hazel said the work is based on the suicide of the Korean actress Jang Ja-yeon after she was exploited and abused by her manager for years.

Hazel said this occurrence wasn’t an isolated incident in Korea — women in the public eye often face similar situations.

“They’re in a really easy place to be taken advantage of,” Hazel said.

After he graduates, Hazel hopes to attend graduate school and continue to make art in China or Korea.

The WKU Student Research Conference isn’t only open to undergraduate students.

Jessica Holmin is a 26-year-old graduate student from Bowling Green pursuing a Master’s degree in Psychology and is submitting work for the conference involving weight perception in adults.

Holmin’s research catalogs how adults of varying ages perceive the weights of objects after holding and lifting them.

Holmin started collecting data last fall and has been working steadily on the project for about a year and a half.

Holmin said although she knew she wanted to major in psychology as a freshman at WKU, she was surprised about where her research led her.

“It turns out I really like perception,” she said. “It never occurred to me that that would happen.”