Psychology Team Dives In to Study the Benefits of SCUBA

with-the-founders-of-Life-Waters

OU students and faculty with the founders of LifeWaters: Jody Paniagua, John Carton, Charley Wright, Katee Gmitro, and Harry Dodsworth.

Dr. John Carton, psychology professor and chair of the Behavioral Sciences division at Oglethorpe, recently led an a innovative research project to investigate the psychological benefits of SCUBA training for individuals with spinal cord injuries and other mobility impairments. He partnered with LifeWaters, a nonprofit organization dedicated to helping spinal cord injured patients and disabled veterans experience the benefits of SCUBA, and enlisted the help of students in his psychology lab at Oglethorpe.

In conjunction with Veterans Day, LifeWaters brought 12 veteran divers and 6 dive “buddies” specially certified to assist divers with spinal cord injuries and limited mobility to the Georgia Aquarium in Atlanta to dive in the monstrous tank containing 16-foot whale sharks and hundreds of other species. Dr. Carton and two students from his psychology laboratory, Katee Gmitro ’16 and Harry Dodsworth ’16, observed the dive and spent the entire day immersed in the process of SCUBA therapy.

While on site, Dr. Carton, Katee and Harry were able to meet and interview all the divers, their dive support staff (buddies) and families. They also toured behind the scenes of the entire aquarium and met the director of the aquatic therapy program and the founding directors of LifeWaters. They observed the divers entering and exiting the large tank where they were diving—which included the whale sharks and 12-foot span manta rays.  And, they had the chance to watch the whale sharks’ feeding during a private viewing.

A paralyzed diver with his "buddy" and a diver from the Georgia Aquarium.

A paralyzed diver with his “buddy” and a diver from the Georgia Aquarium.

Prior research has shown that SCUBA training can positively affect the mental well-being of participants and even help reduce psychological symptoms. Working with the students in his psychology laboratory, Dr. Carton designed a longitudinal study that involves measuring participants’ mental health prior to entering SCUBA training with LifeWaters and comparing it to their mental health after their certification, after their first dive, and a year later. A “wait list” control group will provide data for comparison.

“Many veterans with paralyzing injuries suffer from a variety of anxiety and mood disorders, for which there is continued need to identify therapies that produce lasting positive effects,” says Dr. Carton. “Anecdotal observations support the hypothesis that SCUBA may go well beyond teaching dive-related skills, to also positively affect the mental well-being of participants and even help reduce psychological symptoms.”

A small scale study that was sponsored by the Cody Unser First Step Foundation several years ago provided some preliminary data to support the hypothesis. Unfortunately, that study was not formally published, replicated, or expanded upon. That is where Dr. Carton’s laboratory stepped in. He brought in his students from his laboratory to help them “better understand the research and to mentor them in the development of additional hypotheses for this research project.”

While at the aquarium, the students collected qualitative data for future hypothesis development and witnessed firsthand the therapeutic outcomes of the program, both for physical and mental health issues. Both students were invited to collect additional data on future dive visits to this facility and other locations.

Science-Palooza Helps Students’ Academic and Professional Development

Cancer Biology students also hosted a cancer awareness event that was featured on Cure Childhood Cancer's website.

A few weeks ago, Oglethorpe students majoring in biology, chemistry and psychology were able to verbally and visually present to the entire OU community on the topics they studied this semester. The annual Science-Palooza poster session event featured approximately 50 different presentations, and some students were responsible for more than just one. As attendees approached, students were prepared to explain their research and answer questions presented to them about their work.

Students enrolled in “Cancer Biology” explained the multiple processes of how cancer cells travel to organs in the body. “Cell Biology” students conducted experiments that showed how different chemicals can affect cell growth and development. Psychology students expanded on previous psychological research by creating experiments that focused on everything from race and pro-social behavior to belief in being able to influence random chance events. Some of the content may have been a little difficult to understand if you are not familiar with terms like HELA cells, metastasis, and partial eta effect sizes. Nonetheless, each presentation added its own special touch to the array of scientific topics present at the college-leveled science fair.

Allyson Terry '14 presents her psychology research during Science-Palooza.

Presenting at this event does a lot more for the students involved than simply showing off the eye-catching posters they created. By presenting at this Science-Palooza myself, I experienced the effects that an event like this can have on a student’s academic and professional development. As a Psychology major, I conducted a study that looked at how people perceive interracial couples in comparison to same-race couples. Every time someone came up to me I had to give a three-minute spiel explaining my strenuous four months of hard work. It seemed redundant and cumbersome at times, but the more I interacted with spectators interested in my research, the more comfortable and fluid I became in presenting.

Another plus to presenting at the session is when questions are asked and you are the only one that can answer them. Being solid in your approach and strong in your knowledge of the topic you studied increases the feeling of accomplishment. Conducting individual research is a difficult task, but when you have the opportunity to share all you have done with people who are genuinely interested, you know your late nights in the library have not gone in vain.

Events such as Science-Palooza enable students of different majors and academic interests to see first-hand what their peers are doing on campus. The only improvement to the event that I might suggest is hosting it in a larger venue in order to accommodate the large number of attendees!

Pegasus Creative is pleased to welcome Allyson Terry ’14 as the campus reporter intern for summer 2013!

 

 

New Oglethorpe Journal of Undergraduate Research Showcases Students’ Work

Like most college seniors—whether they’re budding writers, scientists, researchers, economists, artists, etc.—I want people to read and see my work, to ask questions, to challenge it. In other words, I want to be published. Thanks to Oglethorpe, I now have that chance.

The new Oglethorpe Journal of Undergraduate Research is a scholarly, peer-reviewed publication that promotes undergraduate research by preserving and making available the academic and creative inventions from our campus. The Journal serves as both a digital repository of scholarly output and a platform for publishing inventive and original works. Various types of submissions are accepted, including research articles, photography, book reviews, conference posters and more.

“It is one of the most rewarding and fulfilling things I’ve done since starting at Oglethorpe,” said Ashley N. Dawson ’16, one of the first students to be published. “I’ve wanted to be a published author since I was a little girl, and the Journal and its supporters made that dream a reality. It truly is an amazing feeling to see your thoughts on the screen, and to know that people are reading them and sharing them with others.”

The Journal was started thanks to the efforts of Anne Salter, university librarian and director of Philip Weltner Library, and Laura Masce, university archivist. While attending a conference at Kennesaw State University, they learned about the idea and the possibility of partnering with the institution. Kennesaw would host the site, and Oglethorpe students would be able to send submissions to their own, separate journal for their alma mater.

“We began getting the faculty on board…and there was a lot of interest,” said Anne. “We were determined to do this.”

Being published is incredibly helpful for a resume, and the process for publication is simple: write your thesis, talk to your advisor, and then submit!  A team of editors review the work and inform those who submit of any changes or problems before the work is published. The editors are David Evans, dean and assistant vice-president of library services at Kennesaw, and Oglethorpe faculty: Dr. Charles Baube, professor of biology; Dr. Michael Rulison, professor of physics; and Dr. Linda Taylor, professor of English.

Five freshman honors students, Derek C. Wolter ’16, Ashley N. Dawson ’16, Tali M. Schroeder ’16, Tabitha Clark ’16 and Grace B. Djokoto ’16, have already taken advantage of this opportunity, and the Journal is continuing to take submissions on a rolling basis.

“My article is about Inuit mythology and its influence in a children’s film,” said Tali. “Ms. Salter makes the publishing process very easy, and I would definitely recommend it to those who are unsure of submitting an article.”

“If you are seriously considering graduate school and doing original research,” added Anne, “coming to [Oglethorpe] is a great place to begin that research.”

Attention Oglethorpe students!  Why not take advantage of this opportunity? There are many ways to learn more: contact Anne Salter, visit the Journal’s website, or you can even watch Weston Manders’ “This Week in Oglethorpe Arts” video episode that features interviews about the new Journal.