Students across Utah visited Weber State University on Feb. 22 for the 13th Annual Utah Conference of Undergraduate Research, which saw research projects in opioid use, poverty and the Autism Spectrum Disorder, among many others.

UCUR is an opportunity for students to become more familiar with undergraduate research options and explore graduate schools that work in unison with their academic interests.

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Attendees crowd around various posters being presented. (Joshua Wineholt / The Signpost)

The all-day event saw a total of 517 out of 705 registered participants who used posters, oral presentations, performances and visual arts to showcase a variety of topics in creative research and scholarly endeavors.

Student Abel Reed was one of these presenters. At Dixie State University, he and his mathematics professor work to
assess the role of prescribed painkillers and their impact on the opioid epidemic.

“Utah is number 14 in the nation for opioid abuse, with West Virginia being first and Illinois second,” Reed said. “With that in mind, I went to the CDC and looked at what the prescription rate was in Utah.”

According to Reed, in 2012, various counties in Utah had extremely high prescription rates. In Washington County, 89 out of 100 people had opioid prescriptions and in Sevier County, that number jumped up to 112 out of 100 people — which is not a statistical impossibility.

“What that means is not that 100 people have prescriptions, but out of a group of 100 people, someone is being over-prescribed,” Reed said. “This is the root of the problem.”

Over time, Reed came to the conclusion that summer months have the highest risk of non-addicts becoming addicted. He proposed doctors need to educate their patients on the high potential risk of opioid addiction.

Another presenter at the conference was one of WSU’s own. Psychology student Marisa Rodriguez works with her sister on a partnership with the Ogden-Weber Community Action Partnership. Their goal is to diminish the effects of poverty in Weber County through education, individualized support, advocacy and collaboration.

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Tables representing various schools and programs ready to hand out information to prospective students. (Joshua Wineholt / The Signpost)

Rodriguez said her goal is to work with OWCAP and help the community of Ogden get the resources they need. The two sisters strive to accomplish this by providing OWCAP with useful statistics to help their program be more effective.

“We are specifically researching the needs based on Maslow’s Hierarchy,” Rodriguez said. “We are comparing those who have more or less needs and are seeing who is considered homeless based on this interpretation.”

Another student, Jihyun Lee from Brigham Young University, studied the perseveration rates and repetitive brain habits of young children who are susceptible to Autism Spectrum Disorder. Lee and several psychology professors created a perseveration test with pictures to allude to these symptoms at a young age.

“When we do the perseveration test, infants generally show this repetitive behavior like tickling their fingers or scratching their ears,” Lee said. “Those children are more likely to have this repetitive behavior that leads to ASD.“

UCUR is an annually-occurring event, and those interested can get involved through the office of Undergraduate Research on campus or through the official Utah Conference of Undergraduate Research website.

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