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in Research, Innovation, and Creativity at DSU

Spring 2019 News and Highlights

Student Highlight:  DSU Stanford Interns Challenge Cancer through their Research

Each summer DSU sends some of its top students to Stanford University to conduct research.  Austin Montgomery, Jace Buxton and Kennedy Roché were last years selected interns and spent the summer of 2018 in Palo Alto, California working with Stanford University faculty on cutting edge cancer research projects.  They will each present the results of their research at 12pm (noon) on Tuesday, March 5, 2019 in the Dunford Auditorium in the Browning Learning Center on DSU Campus.  The event is free and open to the public.

Austin Montgomery

Austin Montgomery is currently a senior at DSU.  When Austin graduates this May he will have the distinction of being the first graduate from DSU with a B.S. in Bioinformatics.  While at Stanford University, Austin worked in the Ji lab on a project to create ways to analyze the composition and effect of the microbiome on cancer and its treatments.  After graduation, Austin plans for work in research for two to three years before applying to MD/PhD programs.

Jace Buxton

Jace Buxton is a senior at DSU majoring in Biology with a Biomedical Science emphasis.  During his Stanford University Internship, Jace worked on a project analyzing the gut microbiome of patients with colorectal cancer and examined trends in bacterial composition of tumor tissue.  Since returning from his internship, Jace has been accepted to four top medical schools and is waiting to hear from others before making a decision.  He hopes to pursue a career in academic medicine, research and clinical care.

Kennedy Roché

Kennedy Roché is a recent DSU graduate with a BS in Biology with a Biological Science emphasis and a minor in Chemistry.  During her Stanford Summer Research internship Kennedy worked on a research project monitoring the effectiveness of a variety of gastric cancer treatment drugs.  Kennedy is preparing to apply to Ph.D. programs in the biomedical research field.

Applicants for the 2019 Summer Stanford Research Internships are currently being interviewed and this year's summer interns will be announced at the March 5 event. 


Faculty Highlight: Creating a Culture of Research, Innovation and Creativity Task Force

Erin O'Brien

Health Science Professor Steve Bui and Biology Department Chair Erin O'Brien are co-chairs of a new university-wide task force the purpose of which is to examine what future changes might need to be made at DSU to allow a greater focus on faculty and student research. "Even though DSU is primarily an undergraduate institution, research and scholarly activity is and should be an important part of the educational experience for our students, "said O'Brien. 

Steve Bui

"This committee is looking at what it would take to increase and enhance those activities during the next five years," she added.  Three subcommittees have been tasked with examining the areas of Policy, Infrastructure, and Financing and will present recommendations at the end of this semester.  The committee is reaching out to all interested parties via email; if faculty have suggestions for the committee to consider, they should contact Steve Bui at or Erin O'Brian at


Student Highlight:  DSU Students Win Awards for their Research

From left to right:  Dr. Vinodh Chellamuthu, Abel Reed, Jake Skinner, Noelle West, Craig Peterson

Craig Peterson, Abel Reed, Jake Skinner and Noelle West presented posters summarizing their research at the Mathematical Association of American's Joint Mathematics Meeting held in Baltimore, Maryland on January 18.  MMA is the largest mathematics conference in the world.  The four students presented their research in the undergraduate poster sessions of the conference along with students from most of the top tier universities around the country.  Three of the students received the "Outstanding Poster Award" in their category.

Craig Peterson and Dr. Vinodh Chellamuthu with Poster

The titles of the papers are:  Forecasting Performance Through Analytics by Craig Peterson, Assessing the Role of Prescribed Painkillers and its Impact on the Opioid Epidemic by Abel Reed, Wildfire: A Mathematical Model Analyzing the Effects of Fire Damage by Jake Skinner and A Mathematical Model of West Nile Virus: The Effect of Interaction Between Humans, Mosquitoes, and Birds by Noelle West.  Craig Peterson has also submitted a write-up of his research to the Journal of Emerging Sports Studies.

Students conducted their research as part of DSU Mathematics Professor Vinodh Kumar Chellamuthu's independent research course (Math 499) in which student's apply their mathematical modeling skills to real-world problem under the guidance of Professor Chellamuthu. "This course helps students see that math can be used to solve real problems, help people, and make the world better," says Professor Chellamuthu.  "Students select their own problems to address and I encourage them to choose something they have a real passion for.  Those students who wish to go on to graduate school or stand out in a job interview have a real advantage if they can show they have been involved in research," adds Chellamuthu.


Student Highlight:  Business Administration Student already has One Patent and Two More in the Works

Wyatt Anderson grew up on a ranch in Richfield, Utah and had a knack for inventing easier ways to get things done.  "It may have been my inherent laziness," he quips, "but I was always trying to invent ways to make our work easier."  One constant problem was frozen water in hoses and sprinklers.  Once he came to DSU, he heard about DSU's Technology, Innovation and Entrepreneurship Center (TIE) whose mission is to assist students and community members develop ideas into patents and businesses. Working with Dr. Wayne Provost and the TIE Center, Wyatt now has registered his first patent for a Water Line Blower that clears water out of lines before the water has a chance to freeze.  Wyatt currently has two other inventions in various stages of the patent approval process and is approaching various tool-making companies about selling his patents to them. Wyatt received help from mentors that he met through the TIE Center's Dixie Innovation, Guidance and Solutions (DIGS).  Once he graduates from DSU, Wyatt plans to return to Richfield and run the family business.  Students and community members who have ideas or want help with patents are encouraged to contact Dr. Wayne Provost at


Faculty Highlight:  Connecting Faculty with Global Research and Teaching Opportunities

Luis Arevalo came to Dixie State University five years ago and during his time here has worked tirelessly on the formation of the Global Engagement Partnerships.  The partnership now includes seven universities:  Meijo and Fukui universities in Japan, Daegu Hanny University in South Korea, Guilin University in China, University of Baja California in Mexico, Universidad Hispanoamericana in Costa Rica, and La Universidad Católica Los Ángeles in Chimbote, Peru.  All of these universities are interested in collaborative teaching, exchange and research projects with DSU faculty. Some travel funds are available.  DSU faculty who are interested in teaching abroad or considering collaborative research projects are encouraged to contact professor Arevalo at


Faculty Highlight:  Water Quality Research Partnership

Environmental Science professor Kelly Bringhurst is one of the first DSU faculty to take advantage of the university’s Global Engagement Partnership by collaborating on a research project with La Universidad Católica Los Ángeles (ULADECH) near Chimbote, Peru.  Last year, with funding paid from the program, Bringhurst conducted research on water quality in Chimbote which resulted in a proposal for a community water monitoring system for the rivers in the area .  The system will be implemented by ULADECH with technical assistance from DSU.  A related research project in Costa Rica resulted in publication of a paper entitled, “The Impact on Nutrient Cycles from Tropical Forest to Pasture Conversion in Costa Rica” published in Sustainable Water Resources Management.   For more information on Bringhurst’s research contact him at


Faculty Highlight:  Professor’s Research Course Results in Student Presentations at the Utah Dental Hygienist's Association

Brenda Armstrong’s research methodology course consistently results in a number of students being invited to present informative posters at the Utah Dental Hygienist's Association research poster competition each February in Salt Lake City.  This year, eighteen DSU students will present their informative research posters along with students from other Utah Universities. The course and posters expose students to the scientific method, research designs and research process used in medical research. This active-learning experience is to better prepare oral health providers to make evidence based decisions. Last year, two DSU students won the state-wide competition.  For more information, contact Brenda Armstrong at


Program Highlight:  Associate General Counsel, Intellectual Property and Patents

In his role as Associate General Counsel for Intellectual Property and Patents, Robert Mitchell, JD, MBA advises faculty, staff and members of the DSU community who engage in the recognition of ideas and creation of inventions and intellectual property.  His office supports the innovation programs of Dr. Wayne Provost.  Their goal is to encourage an environment that fosters discovery, creation, entrepreneurship, and innovation and to help faculty, staff and students protect the intellectual property that they create, both for their benefit as well as the benefit of the university.  Mitchell wants to raise awareness among the DSU community that much of what they do in their ordinary activity may have value beyond the classroom and may have the potential to be monetized and protected through copyright, trademark, patent or other intellectual property agreements.  Substantively, this may include courseware, dramatic, musical, literary or other artistic works or inventions.

Mitchell points to the large amount of intellectual property generated at DSU. During the past two years, DSU has generated over 90 patent applications, assisted in starting a dozen companies, evaluated nearly 500 ideas, and mentored countless students, faculty members and members of the general public in pursuit, protection and development of intellectual property.  Several ideas have advanced on to the commercialization stage.

Mitchell’s office door is pretty much always open, and he welcomes discussion of innovative ideas with anyone who would like to come by.  Robert Mitchell can be contacted at


Program Highlight: Undergraduate Research Office

Olga Pilkington, professor of English, has been appointed Assistant Director of the Undergraduate Research Office effective January 1, 2019.  Pilkington’s vision for the URO is to reach out to even more students and encourage them to consider the value that independent research adds to their resume and career opportunities.  “Any student can be involved with a faculty member and do research,” she says, “but most students are not aware of the rewards and benefits.”  Pilkington also wants students to be more aware of research opportunities in the humanities and across disciplines. Pilkington has published two books on the language of science and one of her specialties is helping amateur and professional researchers communicate their research effectively to diverse audiences, including audiences who are not familiar with the researcher’s field. This is another way that the URO can help faculty and students.  Pilkington hopes to raise awareness of the many resources and opportunities available to DSU students and faculty for independent and collaborative research.  For more information, please contact Olga Pilkington at


Student Highlight: Published in Respiratory Care on Perceived Health Risks of Recreational Marijuana

Holly Payne is a senior majoring in Respiratory Therapy.  With the growing number of states legalizing recreational use of marijuana, Payne wanted to find out if any difference in perceived health risks of recreational marijuana existed between students majoring in the Health Sciences and students from the general campus.  Working with Respiratory Therapy professor Debbie Forbush, Payne conducted a survey of nearly 300 students and found that there was no difference between the two groups in how they perceived the health risks of recreational marijuana. Students in both groups were unaware of many facts related to marijuana use and its effects on cardiopulmonary health.  In December 2018, Payne presented her findings at the annual conference of the American Association for Respiratory Care in Las Vegas.  An abstract of her study was later published in AARC’s journal Respiratory Care.  Holly plans to work as a Registered Respiratory Therapist in a Neonatal Intensive Care Unit once she graduates from DSU.  For more information about Holly Payne’s research contact Professor Debbie Forbush at


Fall 2018 News and Highlights

Student Highlight: Published at UVU on DNA Research

Born and raised on the island of American Samoa, Skelton received her Associates degree in Health Sciences from American Samoa Community College. She started school at DSU two and a half years ago, and she recently did research involving human mitochondrial DNA and cancer. She studied if the same DNA mutations that causes diseases in humans would have the same effect in mitochondrial DNA. Skelton states that since her family has lost many loved ones to cancer, she was very interested in studying this science.

In her last semester at DSU, Skelton’s research paper was published in Utah Valley University’s journal, Intersections. She graduated May 2018 with a Bachelors of Biology in Integrated Studies, with an emphasis on Biology and Chemistry.


Student Highlight: Integrated Studies Student Researches Childhood Language Delays

After graduating from a high school in Toquerville, Utah at the age of 14, Alexis Ruesch started attending DSU in 2014. She is currently a senior at DSU, majoring in Integrated Studies with a emphasis in Communication and Sociology. As part of her major, Ruesch final thesis project was split into two semesters. For the first semester she completed a thematic literature review focused on childhood language delays. The review looks at the different types of language delays, the long-term problems associated with language delays, potential risk factors that may cause these delays, and potential treatment and prevention methods that could help children with these delays. This semester, Ruesch researched the correlation between caregiver distraction and children’s cognitive, emotional, and language development. Her hypothesis in doing this research is that the increase of social media and smartphones in our society may be correlated with decreased parent/child interaction. Ruesch’s goal in doing this semester’s research is to try to determine what effects that lack of interaction, and how it relates to the children’s development.

Ruesch’s research on childhood language delays will be featured in the Utah Valleys University’s journal, Intersections. She is excited to graduate in the Spring of 2019, and is planning to enter the workforce after graduation.


Faculty Highlight: The Study of Belep

Dr. Chelsea McCracken received her Ph.D from Rice University and is currently an assistant professor in the Interdisciplinary Arts & Sciences department. Dr. McCracken wrote, A Grammar of Belep, which will soon be published by De Gruyter’s Mouton Grammar Library series, is a description of the grammatical structure of Belep, a previously undocumented Austronesian language variety spoken by about 1600 people in New Caledonia. The book contributes to the typological literature by arguing that Belep has several distinct characteristics: its sound system is simpler than that of its closest neighbors; its system of syllable stress challenges traditional notions of how stress is defined; its word boundaries call into question the accepted definition of “word”; and it lacks grammatically subordinate clauses. Belep’s most typologically interesting feature is its unusual system of grammatical relationships, where indicators of a noun phrase’s role in a clause occur on the word that precedes the noun phrase. Research for the book was conducted over the course of nine months of fieldwork from 2009 to 2011.


Faculty Highlight: Connecting the Past to the Present

Dr. Bryant Smith received his bachelor's and master’s degrees from the University of Utah and Brigham Young University, and a Doctor of Arts from the University of Northern Colorado. He studied conducting with five members of the American Bandmasters Association, previously led the jazz and concert bands at Columbia Basin College in Pasco, Washington, and was the band director at Spanish Fork High School in Spanish Fork, Utah. Dr. Smith is currently an Assistant Professor and the Director of Bands at DSU. Recently, Dr. Smith has been conducting research on 19th Century American and Mormon band history, and preparing materials to turn his dissertation on the subject into a book.

He found original music that was played at the time, including for the Salt Lake City Mormon temple capstone ceremony in 1892.  By using computer software, he has transcribed it for modern day instruments to play. In the past, Dr. Smith has not included students in his research, but he would be happy to take students on field trips to different museums to conduct new research and find original music. For more information, contact Dr. Smith at


Student Highlight: Researching Shakespeare's Word Choice

Braxton Thornley, originally from Taylorsville, Utah, is currently in his final semester of the English Secondary Education program. As a research project last year, Thornley conducted a socio-linguistic analysis of Shakespeare’s Hamlet and Much Ado About Nothing to determine what factors dictated his pronoun choices. He noticed that Shakespeare would use “you” and “thou” interchangeably even though one was the informal pronoun. To understand why Shakespeare did this, Thornley proceeded to count the amount of times each pronoun is used in both plays. His conclusion was that Shakespeare actually used a certain pronoun to signal some sort of shift onstage (such as a hidden stage direction) or to allow one character to intentionally insult another. Thornley states that conducting this research gave him valuable experience in producing original research as well as providing a resource for scholars studying theater and drama.

Thornley plans on teaching high school English once he graduates from DSU, with the wish of moving towards a position as a school administrator. He also hopes to receive a masters and Ph.D in education, and to “promote system-wide changes through new programs and curricula."


Faculty Highlight: Fictionalizing the Reader in Textbooks

Dr. Olga Pilkington, a professor in the English department, has an article coming out in the journal, Text and Talk. This journal focuses on the fictionalizing of readers in popular science books. This is done by the author including speech and describing thoughts that belong to the reader, and by doing so, they “create fictional characters in their essentially non-fiction texts” as Dr. Pilkington states, “no one can know for sure what an actual reader will say in response to a question or what an actual reader might think. Including the reader's speech and thoughts indicates that the authors are entering the realm of fiction.” Dr. Pilkington will be arguing that this technique is one mechanism that can be used to make science more relatable to the general public.


Program Highlight: Office of Sponsored Programs

Sylvia Bradshaw, M.A., is, the Director of the Office of Sponsored Program (OSP). The OSP functions as the central institutional office charged with the coordination and submission of proposals and awards from sponsors external to DSU. OSP provides services to the DSU community for finding external funding for DSU related projects; assisting with the preparation and submission of DSU proposal to external sponsors, providing institutional oversight and compliance monitoring, to assure that proposals comply with DSU, State of Utah and sponsor’s regulations; and when awards result, provides administrative support in the establishment of DSU accounts, as well as oversight and compliance monitoring of the work conducted. Ms. Bradshaw has been the director for approximately four years, and has a Masters in Research Administration from John Hopkins University. Bradshaw is assisted in her duties by Bobbie Ursin and an intern, Lillian White.

Some examples of OSP activities include: 1) Assistance with the application for funding submitted to for the EDA( Economic Development Agency, (EDA - a federal agency) and is providing institutional oversight and administration of the resulting grant award; 2) facilitating the receipt of funding from  the Mexican Cconsultant to which will provide scholarships for DSU students of Mexican descent; 3) coordinating the submission of numerous grant application to various State and Federal agencies; and 4) has collaborated with other universities on proposal to the NASA, NIH, Department of Defense, and NSF.

OSP is located in the Innovation Plaza, Suite 101. You may contact them in person, via telephone (Bradshaw – 879-4720 or Ursin – 879-4367) and/or via email (, The DSU community is welcomed to drop by or communicate otherwise with them, to discuss ideas for potential grant proposals and/or proposals you may be in the process of preparing to external sponsors.


Faculty Highlight: Finance Professor Contacted by Wall Street

After graduating from one of the best high schools, Barisal Cadet College, in Bangladesh, Abu Khan pursued his bachelors degree from the University of Windsor and his masters degree in economics and finance from Ryerson University in Canada. He then recieved his Ph.D in financial economics from the University of New Orleans. Khan chose to work at DSU for the real life application that the university encourages as well as DSU’s support for professional development. He is going into his fourth year of teaching at DSU.

Khan has published several papers in his field of interest, the most recent involving whether or not ethics improve the stock markets resilience. The Chief Investment Officer at  JP Morgan Asset Management in Wall Street recently reached out to Khan to discuss his article about the US bank merger. They examined the different methods used in mergers after the GLBA passed, along with the results of the paper that stated how eliminating the constraints on the ability of bank expansion will help US banks improve their operating performances. Khan hopes to further his research in future papers.


Faculty Highlight: Connecting Math to Disease

Originally from Tamil Nadu, India, Chellamuthu received his undergraduate degree from Anna University in India, his masters in Applied Mathematics from Tulane University in New Orleans, Louisiana and his Ph.D from the University of Louisiana. Chellamuthu’s area of expertise involves developing mathematical models to better understand and predict the spread of diseases. Before coming to DSU, he taught a wide variety of entry level mathematics courses at the University of Louisiana. Chellamuthu states, “My purpose is to interact with students and excite them about mathematics, and teach them life skills through mathematics. That’s the joy I get, always.” He says DSU is the perfect place to do that, with its small class size increasing student interaction.

Chellamuthu is currently working with several students and has involved many undergraduates in his research. In the past, he has helped students create models to predict the spread of diseases such as ebola and malaria, as well as a model to predict a basketball team winnings. “Math is everything,” Chellamuthu says, “and part of my job is to make students excited about mathematics”. For more information, contact Dr. Chellamutha at


Faculty Highlight: Professor Starts Research Group to Give Students Real Life Experience

Travis Ficklin has earned a masters degree in sports medicine at the University of North Carolina Greensboro and a PhD in Human Performance (biomechanics) at Indiana University with a minor in computer science. He chose to come to DSU because of family, his love of the southwest desert and the increasing need of programs supporting exercise science. Ficklins past research has looked into the mechanics of sprinting, high jumping, weightlifting, football, tennis, shot put and volleyball, baseball and softball. He is currently working on research into kinematic predictors of game success with the hopes that coaches and players will train more efficiently.

The BASS team at Research Day 2018

Ficklin states that including undergraduate students in his research has been one of the most rewarding things he has done since coming to DSU. He has formed a research group called BASS (Biomechanics and Sport Science), which has presented twice at the annual Undergraduate Research Day. One of his students has also presented at the annual meeting of the American Society of Biomechanics, one of the first undergraduates to do so. Ficklin has high hopes of the BASS expanding greatly in the coming years.

The new Human Performance Center (HPC) will contain student recreation facilities, new schools of physical and occupational therapy as well as the headquarters of the Health and Human Performance department. This new center will house new state-of-the-art equipment that will provide more clinically-oriented studies. Along with the HPC, the university will offer advanced degrees that will involve the new labs such as Applied Kinesiology and Athletic Training. Ficklin states, “It’s a tremendous addition to the university and the program, and I could not feel more fortunate to be here at DSU at this time in our history. There really hasn’t been a better time to be a Trailblazer, but with the new HPC, we’ll be saying that again and again.” For more information, contact Ficklin at


Student Highlight: Concurrent Enrollment Student Researches Dinosaur Identification Techniques

Conner Bennett is currently a junior at Desert Hills High School, as well as taking DSU concurrent enrollment classes and after volunteering at the St. George Dinosaur Discovery Site for four years, Bennett had the opportunity to participate in a dig at Glenn Canyon National Recreation Area near Lake Powell. Bennett applied to the Undergraduate Research Office grant, given out each year, and received funding for travel and food. He has worked at identifying dinosaur tracks in one of the largest tracksite found in the area, the “Andres Alcove Tracksite”.

He will be involved with the photogrammetry and ichnological techniques used to classify each dinosaur species and their characteristics. He would like to give a special thank you to his mentor, Andrew R.C. Milner, curator at the Discovery Site, for the opportunities given to him. Bennett is planning to further his research in different mapping technologies. You can learn more about dinosaur sites and related information at the Utah Geology Survey site at


Program Highlight: "Lurking in the Shadows"

Dixie State University's 2018 Halloween art show will be installed at The St. George Art Museum early next week and remain on display throughout October. A formal opening reception for the show will be held from 5:30-7:00 PM on Thursday, October 18. Awards will be given at that time. At 7:00 PM, as part of the museum's Art Conversation series, Dr. Jeff Yule will give a 45-minute presentation ("Spooky, Fun, Comic, and Macabre: Halloween Art's Historical Roots and Contemporary Practice") that will survey Halloween art. For more information, please contact Dr. Yule at