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Summer is sizzling with scholarly research at TCNJ

The (not so) lazy days of summer at TCNJ are underway with MUSE! The eight-week Mentored Undergraduate Summer Experience gives students the opportunity to conduct research or engage in creative activity in collaboration with TCNJ faculty members in all academic disciplines. 

This summer, we have 120 students and 58 faculty working on 55 projects. This week, we’re highlighting four very different — but very cool — endeavors currently underway: 

Julianna Dimeola ’22, center, and Carolina Blatt get artsy with local high school students.

PROJECT: Amplifying Local Teen Voices through A Collaborative Photography Exhibition
FACULTY: Anita Allyn and Carolina Blatt, Art and Art History
STUDENTS: Julianna DiMeola ’22 and Julia Pfaar ’23

SNAPSHOT: With a goal of producing large-scale public artwork to be displayed on campus during the fall 2021 semester, this program provides local teens with access to art studio resources they may otherwise not have had during the pandemic or because of systemic educational inequities. 

PALETTE: Fourteen local students participate in a week-long studio workshop in issue-based art. Students are encouraged to use art-making as a tool for grappling with their personal experiences with social justice. “In doing so, they might generate new skills for using the arts as a constructive means to amplify their visions and voices,” says Blatt. The project goals are to understand the impact the activity has on participants’ self-awareness, self-management, social awareness, relationships skills, and responsible decision-making — also known as social emotional learning competencies — and to pinpoint effective ways to use art to help build these important life skills.

THE MASTERPIECE: The exhibition, which features an installation in the windows on the first and second floor of the Art and Interactive Multimedia Building, will open in September in conjunction with the gallery retrospective of retiring photography professor Ken Kaplowitz.

PROJECT: Road Diet Congestion Evaluation
FACULTY: Tom Brennan, civil engineering
STUDENTS: Bryan Remache-Patino ’22  and Daniel Comeau ’22 

HITTING THE ROAD THIS SUMMER: They’re studying roads and highways before and after the installation of a road diet: a reduction of lanes to slow down traffic and potentially improve safety and convenience to all road users, including cyclists and pedestrians. Ewingville Road, not far from campus, recently saw a partial road diet with the installation of bicycle lanes, Brennan says.

THEIR LANE: Using big sets of probe vehicle speed data and crash data, this team can determine the congestion impact on a dieted road. “Our basic research is looking for a more standard long-term method for evaluating their impacts,” Brennan says.

PROJECT: Matching Family Needs with Systems of Care for Older Adult Individuals with Autism
FACULTY: Constance Kartoz, nursing
STUDENT: Sara Muñoz ’23

THE FACTS: The CDC reported in 2020 that 1 in 54 children in the U.S. is diagnosed with an autism spectrum disorder. As these individuals age into adulthood and beyond, there is a critical lack of literature about handling the challenges of these senior years.

DREAMS INTO REALITIES: Kartoz and Muñoz are conducting interviews with parents of adult children who have an autism spectrum disorder about the parents’ hopes and dreams for their child’s future.Their research will help providers working in gerontology understand these desires. This mutual understanding will provide a foundation for program planning and design-of-care systems that are family- and patient-centered. 

“Our project is just one small part of what the world of nursing needs in order to move forward in providing quality care to individuals with an ASD,” says Muñoz.

PROJECT: Characterizing Elementary Science Curricula by Discipline
FACULTY: AJ Richards, physics
STUDENT: Dean Klunk ’24

A SIMPLE QUESTION: Previous research suggests that middle and high school students struggle to identify what physics is. Less than half can name even one topic in physics, which is much lower than when asked about biology or chemistry. The question is, why? 

NOT ROCKET SCIENCE: This duo is examining the science curricula of 36 elementary school districts across 12 states that use different core standards, and categorizing the topics learned as physics, chemistry, or biology. Their goal is to examine how different schools talk about science with elementary-aged students, and determine whether physics is discussed less often than the other scientific disciplines.

MUSE BEYOND THE LAB: “The community of students doing MUSE is an exceptional one and I am so glad I now get to call many of them my friends after these short few weeks,” says Klunk.

Check back next week to see more musings from the MUSE program!


TCNJ's Department of Nursing is currently accepting applications for the ABSN program.Learn More