Students and faculty gathered to share their research and learn from one another at the tenth annual Zeigler Research Forum and the Zeigler-X Event on May 8. More than 50 posters highlighted research on topics ranging from screening for depression and fall risk in older adults to the relationship between vaping and suicidality and disordered eating in collegiate club sport athletes.

A sampling of student presentations:

Worth the Weight: Casey Little '19, Exercise Science

In the Human Motion Analysis Laboratory at CNHS, Casey Little works with Rehabilitation and Movement Science Professor Susan Kasser to test how wearing weighted vests affects balance and mobility of people with multiple sclerosis. Little hypothesized that feeling weight on the torso would increase tactile input from joints and muscles to the brain, providing more sensation and stability during movement. Their findings supported this idea, indicating that wearing weighted vests improved walking cadence and gait speed in this population, which indicates improvement in confidence and mobility.

Kasser and Little submitted this study for publication in a peer reviewed journal, and they plan to collaborate further.

“We have a big bank of data, and we’ll run some more analyses. We’re working with a professor in biomedical engineering to develop algorithms for more functional movements, like reaching forward or stepping over obstacles, activities that are common in daily life,” Little said.

She looks forward to using her science and communication skills to nurture a love of science among young people. After graduation she will teach secondary science in an underserved community through Teach for America, and then start applying to medical schools.

“I want to be an attending physician at a teaching hospital so I can practice medicine and continue to teach,” she said. 

The More You Know: David Segel '19, Doctor of Nursing Practice

As a registered nurse, David Segel witnessed a lack of knowledge among health care providers treating patients who identify as LGBTQ, and he knew he could turn that around.

“A lot of primary care providers didn’t know about special health care needs of this population. They didn’t know that there are higher rates of substance abuse, intimate partner violence and mental health issues. They didn’t know how to use inclusive language or to ask about which pronouns patients prefer,” Segel explained.

By educating doctors, nurses, nurse practitioners and medical office staff about proper terminology and specific health care issues, Segel was able to demonstrate increased knowledge and better communication with patients, leading to improved health outcomes. 

Pictures Worth A Thousand Words: Elizabeth O'Donnell ‘19, Communication Sciences and Disorders

Individuals with autism spectrum disorder (ASD) often struggle with narrative comprehension, a complex task that also requires the processing of semantics (meaning) and grammar. Similar to linguistic narratives, visual narratives — comic strips —contain semantic relatedness and a narrative structure using pictures to tell a story.

O’Donnell used “Peanuts” comic strips to investigate narrative comprehension in people with ASD, noting behavioral responses and conducting electroencephalogram (EEG) tests to monitor brain activity while participants read the cartoon panels. Her findings showed patterns that are similar between typically-developing (TD) individuals and ASD groups, suggesting similarities in semantic and structural processing.

“I learned valuable research skills and methodologies through conducting this experiment that will be beneficial to my future academic endeavors as a graduate student and an audiologist,” said O’Donnell, who will attending the University of Wisconsin-Madison next fall to pursue a Doctor of Audiology degree.


Janet Lynn Essman Franz
Elizabeth O'Donnell used comic strips to investigate narrative comprehension in people with Autism Spectrum Disorder.
Casey Little presented her research on mobility and balance in people with multiple sclerosis.