Pandemic a common research theme at eleventh annual Academic Symposium

female student points to board during presentation

The pandemic has, for over a year now, drastically altered the college experience for students at Campbell University and at colleges around the world. Not surprisingly, COVID-19 was the subject of several student presentations at the 11th annual Wiggins Memorial Library Academic Symposium, delivered virtually for the second year in a row on March 31. 

From increased aggression in people due to COVID mandates and regulations to the physical and mental effects of the pandemic on pro athletes, the virus made for interesting research this year in both oral and poster presentations. 

In her presentation, “Increased Aggression due to SARS-COV2” — under the mentorship of assistant professor of psychology Dr. Katherine Van Allen — senior Christina Gillmore asks what is the root cause of aggression in people during the pandemic. She points to mask mandates that have upset large swaths of the population and the inability for people to interact with friends and family socially. 

“Some individuals plainly do not like being told what to do,” Gillmore said in her presentation. “Politics and authority figures have an impact on some individual’s compliance and their need to oppose constructionism.”

Senior Garrett Moore, mentored by psychology professor Dr. Jutta Street, looked at the physical and mental effects of the pandemic on pro athletes for his presentation. His work focused mainly on professional soccer because of its global reach, and his study looked at recent players who have spoken publicly about depression, anxiety and other mental health issues brought on by the pandemic. 

“Since sports came back from lockdown, they have brought joy to man, but at a cost for the athletes,” Moore said in his video presentation. “It is often forgotten that these people are making massive sacrifices so other people can have live sports to watch on television again. 

Not only has mental health became a topic, but physical ability has dropped during the pandemic as well. For example, due to a lack of proper training, top running speeds for professional soccer players dropped by 4 percent in the last year. 

“It’s really important to remember that professional athletes aren’t above us in any way. They’re not superhuman,” Moore said. “They have feelings, and they aren’t all good all the time. They’re putting their bodies through a lot for entertainment and for them to make a living.” 

Other oral presentations at this year’s symposium included “Post Pandemic Consumer, the Demand for Social Responsibility” by student Oksana Shabunin; and “Health Systems, Corporate Responsibility, Social Media and COVID-19” by Austin McCullough. 

Poster presentations from Amanda Brechko (“Retrospective Study of Thrombosis in Hospitalized COVID-19 Patients”) and Hayley Dyson and Lauren Denton (“Concomitant use of Anakinra and Steroids for the Treatment of Multisystem Organ Failure associated with Multisystem Inflammatory Syndrome in Children from the Novel 2019 Coronavirus”) also pulled from health issues related to COVID-19.

We had three presentations which directly mentioned COVID-19, two which mentioned ‘the pandemic’ and at least one more that evaluated online teaching at Campbell during 2020-21,” said Steve Bahnaman, reference and electronic resources librarian. “Clearly COVID left its mark this year, but has led to some novel research in the obvious medical fields and also in sociology and homeland security.”

Other symposium presentations included music and art, literature analysis, political science and geography topics and questions of chemistry and biology. In all, 166 student presenters representing seven schools and 29 subjects or programs have work hosted on the symposium website. Their 100 total projects were completed with the help of 60 faculty mentors.

Last year’s virtual event was a big success, garnering over 3,500 viewers on the first day alone, and this year even more views are anticipated. In fact, the online format can be preferable for some who want family, friends and potential employers outside of Buies Creek to view their work. 

“The online format is very effective at conveying the students’ meaning,” said Bahnaman, “since they can rehearse and rework the presentation if it doesn’t go as well as they hope. It also provides permanent record that the student can be proud of.”

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