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2023 Library Awards for Research Excellence recipients announced

by Em Medland-Marchen on 2023-06-28T11:08:00-06:00 in Student | 0 Comments

Rob Petrollini — Mount Royal University | Posted June 26, 2023


This year, the eighth-annual Library Awards for Research Excellence recognized four Mount Royal students for their outstanding scholarly projects. Students entered their work into two different categories: the Individual Research Excellence Award and Group Research Excellence Award.

The entries were judged by two separate committees comprised of faculty members from departments across campus and four faculty librarians.

Dr. Nicole Edge, PhD, assistant professor in the Department of Accounting and Finance, was one of the reviewers.

“I was struck by how each project was tackling important issues that affect our world. Their research queries have already impacted their communities and will continue to shape future scholarship,” Edge says.

“The research projects selected did an exceptional job of mindfully positioning their work and their role as researchers in relation to previous scholarship and the community they worked with to seek answers to their critical questions.”

Edge describes the rewards as huge in terms of having the opportunity to stretch her thinking in ways she would never have considered on her own.

“The applicants courageously tackled very complex problems and linked ideas across fields and disciplines in inspiring ways.”

Individual Research Excellence Award

Bachelor of Health and Physical Education — Physical Literacy alumna Megan Gunning took home the Individual Research Excellence Award. Gunning’s project is titled: “The Impact of Tendon Lengthening Surgery on Gastrocsoleus Muscle Structure, Function and Mechanics in Children with Spastic Cerebral Palsy: A Narrative Review.”

Spastic cerebral palsy is a disorder caused by damage to the brain before birth, during childbirth or within the first few years of life. Its effects impact the typical development of motor skills and can cause muscle tightness, joint stiffness and involuntary body movements.

During her studies, Gunning took interest in understanding how biomechanical and energetic kinesiology principles can optimise rehabilitative care for individuals to be more functional and independent in society.

“Through my undergraduate experience, I had the opportunity to be a practicum student at Synaptic: Spinal Cord Injury and Neurorehabilitation Centre here in Calgary,” Gunning says.

“This is where my interest in learning more about neurological conditions, and how to help this population be more autonomous and functional in their day-to-day lives, began.”

Gunning collaborated with Dr. Jared Fletcher, PhD, an associate professor with the Department of Health and Physical education at MRU. The paper asked questions around the effects of gastrocsoleus muscle-tendon unit lengthening surgery on muscle structure, function and mechanics in children with spastic cerebral palsy during walking.

“Our primary objective was to assess the effectiveness of this surgical intervention from a muscle mechanics and energetics perspective. Additionally, we aimed to provide individuals considering this intervention with a complete understanding of the procedure and its outcomes so that individuals can make well-informed decisions that align with their specific needs and circumstances,” Gunning says.

The findings show that surgery does a good job of improving ankle kinematics and kinetics during walking, Gunning explains.

“We primarily see improvements in the gait deviation index, gait profile score, gait variability score and improved ankle stability during the stance phase of the gait cycle.”

Gunning was “thrilled” to receive the award. “It is truly gratifying to have my efforts recognized by an interdisciplinary committee, especially for a project I am tremendously passionate about and have dedicated a significant amount of time and energy to.”

She states that collaborating with Fletcher was a catalyst to developing a profound understanding and appreciation for the research process.

“This experience has not only contributed to my growth as a student but has also enriched me as an individual, allowing me to see the transformative power of working on research first-hand.”

Individual Honourable Mention Award

Recent Bachelor of Arts — Psychology (Honours) graduate Katherine Holland won the Individual Honourable Mention research excellence award for her project, “The Relationship Between Attachment Style, Mental Toughness, and Tripartite Perfectionism.”

“The inspiration for my thesis, like many creative and scientific pieces, came from personal experience,” Holland says.

Despite being an honours graduate, Holland explains that she deals with imposter syndrome. This phenomenon causes her to feel like her peers are more capable or intelligent than her.

“That insecurity has oftentimes made me fearful of mistakes or discouraged me from pushing myself towards new challenges.” Holland finds solace in perfectionism, which is a significant part of her personality, she says.

“It has been an aspect of myself that has helped me to achieve some of my greatest accomplishments, but has also sometimes been my Achilles heel.”

The objective of Holland’s research was initially to provide an insight into herself and why she is the way she is. “A noble quest,” she says.

In Holland’s study of close to 200 Mount Royal University students, she discovered three commonalities: individuals with healthy attachments experienced higher levels of mental toughness and healthier perfectionism; individuals with higher levels of mental toughness were more likely to be healthy perfectionists and less likely to be non-perfectionists; and mental toughness and unhealthy perfectionism did not have a significant relationship at all.

“The final finding is my favourite because it not only blew a hole in my theory, it also led me to a new one.”

Holland observed that unhealthy perfectionists strive to achieve (a trait of high mental toughness), but lack confidence and berate themselves for mistakes (a trait of low mental toughness). She describes these individuals as the ribbon on the rope during a game of tug-o-war. “They’re pulled from side to side.”

Holland says it feels surreal to have won her award and gives kudos to her thesis supervisors, who encouraged her to apply.

“This project has opened so many doors for me in terms of opportunities and connections and I quite literally could not have done it without the Library and its resources.”

Holland thanks Dr. Nancy Ogden, PhD, Dr. Dan Devoe, PhD, and Erik Christiansen from MRU, Dr. John Perry, PhD, from the University of Limerick in Ireland, and Dr. Brent Macdonald, PhD, from the Macdonald Psychology Group for contributing to her success.

Group Research Excellence Award

The group award was presented to second-year Bachelor of Arts — Psychology students Aliya Jomha (left) and Paige Torry (right). The pair collaborated on a project named, “When Standard Treatments Are Not Enough: Non-Invasive Neurostimulation for Treatment Resistant Depression.”

“The research that my partner Paige and I conducted was a rapid review paper that outlined the differences in transcranial magnetic stimulation (TMS) treatments for adults struggling with treatment-resistant or medication-resistant depression,” Jomha says.

Torry attended the Mathison-Littmann Research Day in March, where she heard a thought-provoking presentation on suicidality and the current challenges faced in treating recurring and resistant forms of depression. The topic of remission and response rates, under this specific umbrella, garnered their thesis question.

After undergoing the preliminary research phase, the team's goal became focused on answering the question whether novel strategies, like non-invasive neurostimulation techniques, could improve clinical remission rates and sustain them longer.

“The fact that major depressive disorders, when undertreated, can lead to devastating outcomes like suicide attempts and suicide itself, we decided this topic was immensely important to investigate and share,” Torry says.

The duo's paper compiled information from original research conducted in the last 10 years regarding treatment outcomes, remission rates and response rates to different types of non-invasive neurostimulation techniques.

Jomha says they wanted to assess and look at the trends and themes in the data and evaluate whether there were patterns in the outcomes based on the specificities of the interventions.“This way, future clinicians and researchers can understand what may be the best protocol for patients struggling with this type of mental illness.”

“The new technology in place to help people struggling with depression is really miraculous, and Paige and I were really eager to share that message in our review paper.”

The students were both shocked and honoured to find out that they were award recipients.

“I can't really express just how thrilled I am, and I am genuinely happy that the topic of mental-health treatments was of interest to those who read the paper in the application process,” Jomha says.

Jomha is also a member of the Cougars women's hockey team at MRU that won the 2023 U SPORTS National Championship.

“It was an amazing accomplishment that I am proud of, but I am also very proud to say that research and psychology is a passion of mine as well. The work that all students put in should be celebrated, and everyone else who submitted a paper should be proud of their work and keep exploring their passions.”

“It is an honour to win the first award of my university career, and truly an honour to win a Library Award for Research Excellence,” Torry says.

Torry is a mature student who is working to fulfil a life-long dream of becoming a psychologist.

“Returning to high-school upgrading and challenging myself to achieve the high GPA required for admission was frankly very intimidating and it almost held me back from starting this journey,” Torry says.

“I feel so fortunate to have conquered these fears and to have achieved an award.”

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