Ohio State students presenting research

The STEP Expo brought together students of various majors to discuss their projects

Students from The Ohio State University showcased their research and creativity during the fall STEP Expo Thursday at the Ohio Union. The event is a biannual showcase for students who have received fellowships through Ohio State’s Second-year Transformational Experience Program.

Through the program, students submit proposals for a fellowship of up to $2,000 to use towards a STEP Signature Project. Faculty serve as advisors for students from a variety of majors and support them in their academic and experiential growth.

At the STEP Expo, three education and human ecology students were among the many who displayed posters with details about projects they completed in one of six categories: creative and artistic endeavors, education abroad, internship, leadership, service learning, and undergraduate research. Faculty, staff and students reviewed the STEP projects and interviewed participants about what they learned from their experiences.

Ayush Mehra, a fourth-year human nutrition major, conducted a research project that delved into the subject he is minoring in: neuroscience. Mehra’s faculty advisor was Stephan Chordas, an assistant clinical professor in the Department of Evolution, Ecology and Organismal Biology.

Ayush Mehra Ohio State research presentation
Ayush Mehra conducted a neuroscience research project.

Mehra’s study centered on how the brain responds to rehabilitation after an injury.  

“It’s something I got into by being interested in how the brain works and rehabilitation,” he said. “I was able to put it all together by doing this project.”

Mehra said he plans to go to medical school and further explore neuroscience research.

“This opportunity that Ohio State provides is one of a kind,” he said. “This is a continuation of the things I’m interested in. The STEP experience further invigorated that.”

Taylor Macchia, a third-year fashion and retail studies major and business minor, participated in an education abroad program in Bologna, Italy, in the late spring of this year. Her faculty advisor was Tatiana Suspitsyna, an associate professor in the Higher Education and Student Affairs program.  

Taylor Macchia Ohio State research presentation
Taylor Macchia participated in an education abroad program in Bologna, Italy.

Macchia said she chose Italy because she has Italian heritage and studied the language in high school. With Bologna as a base of operations, she made excursions to Florence and several other cities where she observed Italian fashion and soaked up the culture.

“We did site visits and historical visits, which was really cool, and I got to learn about the history of Italy,” Macchia said. “I’m already planning to go back. I had the most amazing experience of my life.”

Chloe Prajzner, a third-year sports industry major and business minor, also completed an education abroad experience in Europe last spring. With the guidance of faculty advisor Jay Kandampully, a professor of service management and hospitality, Prajzner visited Aix-en-Provence, France.

Chloe Prajzner Ohio State research presentation
Chloe Prajzner studied abroad in Aix-en-Provence, France.

“I was kind of exploring a bunch of different options that Ohio State gave us through all their different programs,” she said. “I’d taken French in high school. I was like, ‘Oh, come on, I can figure it out, right?’”

Prajzner said she was intimidated to find when she first arrived that her host mother and most other local residents spoke little English. She eventually adapted and learned to communicate, developed a friendship with her host mother and traveled to neighboring communities.  

Navigating her way through an unfamiliar place boosted her confidence, Prajzner said.

“It has broadened my horizons. I can now empathize with people of all sorts,” she said. “I grew so much as a person because I was uncomfortable (at first), and I think that will help so much in business and my career down the line.”

While several of her peers studied abroad, Tiffany Nguyen remained in Columbus, her hometown. The fourth-year health sciences major completed a four-week ceramics course at the Kiln Room Columbus. Her advisor was Jeannie Simmons, director of global education in the Office of International Affairs.

Nguyen learned the basics of wedging, shaping and firing a piece of pottery as well as the chemistry behind glazing. She’s long had an interest in art, participated in statewide arts contests in high school and binge-watches videos on ceramics.

Nguyen said she was referred by Ohio State professors and previous art teachers to the Kiln Room Columbus, where she made 20 artworks during the four-week course and even designed her own logo that she stamps on her ceramics.

“It was transformational because I got to meet people from all walks of life,” she said. “I was the youngest person there. The oldest was in their 70s. It was so nice to sit down and do the ceramics for a few hours and talk alongside a woman in her 70s. It was great.”

Nguyen, whose parents are from Vietnam, is a first-generation American and the first in her family to attend college. She said she plans to become a physician’s assistant, and pursuing her interest in the arts helps her manage stress and maintain focus.

“This project was transformational because I’m a first-generation student, so I’ve always had this subconscious pressure to use all of my time for my professional career, to build up my resume, to do things to make me the most qualified person out there,” she said.

By participating in STEP, “I was growing my character, undoubtedly.” 

For more information about STEP, visit the program’s website at step.osu.edu.

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