Conference Shows How Mentoring and Research Open Doors for Students

3/24/2022

Interdisciplinary Research Conference keynote speaker Dr. Thomas Parham told of the mentoring that led to his TV success.Scholarly work from PBA shone in striking variety Tuesday and Wednesday through research reports from undergraduates, graduate students, faculty and even Palm Beach Atlantic President Dr. Debra A. Schwinn. University staff recorded video of the annual Interdisciplinary Research Conference, and by April 15, the recorded presentations can be viewed on the conference website, which now lists abstracts of all the presentations. 

Many of the in-person reports and research posters reflected mentoring by faculty who led students through research and helped them get published in peer-reviewed journals. 

Dr. Thomas Parham, conference keynote speaker, recalled gratefully the impact of his own mentors and proudly told how his former students are succeeding in their fields. “I think mentorship is like being a sculptor,” he said: “chipping away to find the shape that always laid beneath the wood.”

Parham told about his Ph.D. research and the path that took him to success in Hollywood and network television. He is now professor of communication and media studies. “No matter your calling in life, research skills will help you succeed,” he said. He urged students to follow their passions and find godly mentors and peers to help along the way. 

“Hang on,” Parham said. “When you surrender to God’s will, He will take you on the ride of your life.”

President Dr. Debra A. Schwinn explains her healthcare research at the Interdisciplinary Research Conference.Schwinn, a physician and member of the National Academy of Medicine, gave a presentation about community physicians and academic physicians working together to meet today’s daunting healthcare challenges. “Medicine is very fractured right now,” she said. “And with venture capital coming in and trying to take every little piece that makes the money, it’s going to make the consolidation and integration across the system even more important.”

She collaborated with three professors at the University of Iowa’s Carver College of Medicine to examine the best practices and policies for merging community and academic physicians in integrated healthcare systems. Their research was published by Elsevier on behalf of the Mayo Foundation for Medical Education and Research.

Schwinn surveyed medical school deans across the nation. Her study provides “an initial roadmap” for developing integrated systems, she said. “Hopefully it will raise people’s awareness and knowledge to be able to do this better.”

Parham, Schwinn and other faculty and students giving oral presentations spoke in Vera Lea Rinker Hall’s Helen K. Persson Recital Hall. Poster presentations took place in the Warren Library and included topics of pharmacy, biology, psychology, business and health and human performance. 

Dr. Michael Kolta adjusts his robot rig that turns colors into music.The conference ended with a demonstration “Turning Colors into Music with Robotics” by Dr. Michael Kolta, associate professor of computer science, and Dr. Marsha Guntharp, professor of mathematics. They explained how they used a small robotic car (the TI-Innovator Rover) to interpret artwork colors as sheet music and to play musical tunes. 

“I’m envisioning a lot of different classroom activities that can be based on this idea,” said Kolta. It’s a fun way, he said, to combine all five components of “STEAM” (science, technology, engineering, the arts and math). He imagines using the process with students as young as first grade. 

On the upper end, Guntharp’s calculus students loved programming tasks for the TI-Innovator. And in the much less stringent course Survey of Finite Mathematics, even the math-phobic students warmed to the little car and “did a great job with it,” she said.

Psychology Professor Dr. David Compton, fellow for research in the sciences and chair of the Office of Academic Research, coordinated the research conference. In his more than 20 years at PBA, he’s seen that undergraduate research produces significant growth and opportunities for students. And the experience “really helps them stand out” when they apply for graduate programs, he said.

PBA’s publication Enlightening Minds serves as an online companion to the research conference, with feature stories and listings of scholarly work by Palm Beach Atlantic students, faculty and alumni during the calendar year 2021.

Photo 1: Interdisciplinary Research Conference keynote speaker Dr. Thomas Parham told of the mentoring that led to his TV success.

Photo 2: President Dr. Debra A. Schwinn explains her healthcare research at the Interdisciplinary Research Conference.

Photo 3: Dr. Michael Kolta adjusts his robot rig that turns colors into music. The conference concluded with a demonstration.