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Medicine, music and more at UNDergraduate Showcase

Students find connections through research at College of Arts & Sciences’ spring 2024 event

crowd at research event
Some 150 students from the College of Arts & Sciences participate in the research event at the end of each semester. Photo by Walter Criswell/UND Today.

On May 2, more than 100 presentations from students at the College of Arts & Sciences were shown at the College’s biannual research showcase in the Memorial Union.

While the UNDergraduate Showcase provides the College of Arts & Sciences with a platform to highlight research across the college’s various disciplines, it also allows students to explore topics relevant to themselves and their future careers. Presentations covered a wide range of topics, ranging from artificial intelligence to the healing nature of music.

Madison Jones, a Medical Laboratory Science student, said her project focused on something personal. She looked at medical interventions for Raynaud’s, a disease that decreases blood flow to some areas of the body, causing numbness, tingling and changes in skin color.

“I was actually diagnosed with Raynaud’s as a teenager, and the rheumatologist I saw just told me to deal with it,” she said. “Being a problem solver, I took this research project as an opportunity to explore alternative treatments.”

Raynaud’s often appears as a response to colder climates, but Jones says that there’s a psychological component as well. This led researchers to discover a connection between Reynaud’s and the nervous system.

“Some of the literature I read looked more into the psychological aspect, and they found that exposing people to stressors such as sounds would cause Reynaud’s to flare up,” she said. “They’re looking more into how the nervous system is connected to it and exploring how to use psychological treatments.”

Little is known about the cause of Raynaud’s and its causes, Jones said. Currently, calcium channel blockers that relax blood vessels are the primary form of treatment, but they can affect cardiac health. But she saw promising alternatives through minimally invasive surgeries in the hand’s nerves.

“I learned a lot about surgical interventions, and they really sparked my interest,” she said. “They’re a minimally invasive alternative to taking calcium channel blockers. There weren’t any complications in the literature I saw, but they need to look into more before it becomes a primary treatment method.”

Student talking with faculty
Music, medicine, history and English were just some of the subjects covered by presenters. Photo by Walter Criswell/UND Today.

Ryen Xander, a Music major, also took the chance to research something he is personally connected to. He explored ways in which music can be used for personal and societal healing.

“I feel like music has really helped to push me through some moments. We listened to a lot of blues and jazz in my family when I was growing up,” Xander said. “I wanted to explore how it could be used as a therapeutic tool for others, too.”

Xander said that he’s fascinated by the way music can connect seemingly disparate groups. He cited the moment when, after years of political violence between their supporters, Jamaican Prime Minister Michael Manley and his political opponent Edward Seaga joined Bob Marley on stage at Marley’s One Love concert in 1978.

Accordingly, Xander said, music can be a powerful social connector.

“I talked to a former UND student named Jonas Fischer, and he told me about this great experience he had when he was in the Wind Ensemble,” Xander said. “They were playing with students from Peking University, and even though there was a big language barrier, they connected through music.”

On a more individual level, Xander found that hip hop therapy — a therapeutic and preventive approach that uses rap music as a tool for self-reflection — can help patients with mental health issues.

“It fuses music therapy and cognitive behavioral theory, and helps marginalized people reflect on their cultural and personal environments through lyrical analyses,” Xander said. “It has the potential to validate people’s feelings, but it can also build bridges for people and help them see things from that perspective.”

Growing up in a household filled with blues and jazz music left an impression on him, Xander said, and that interested him in showing others the transformative nature of art.

“From a personal standpoint, music has done a lot to help me overcome my own self doubts. It’s always been an outlet for me,” Xander said. “And it has always been an outlet for me when it comes to expressing myself and using my voice, so I’m passionate about helping other people find that, too.”

students talking
Photo by Walter Criswell/UND Today.

At the intersection of health and technology, Justin Inglis, a senior Biology student with a professional health emphasis, looked at potential applications and ethical considerations of artificial intelligence in medical fields. His interest in the topics rose after a revelation that artificial intelligence soon would become a staple in medical fields.

“I was talking to a physician I was shadowing, and he brought up the fact that even though it might not be widespread during his time, using this technology is going to be a reality for me,” he said. “I just sort of dove in from there.”

Inglis added that patient skepticism, cost and privacy will all be hurdles that the health care system will encounter as artificial intelligence becomes more integrated — and that without formal guidelines, things could get messy.

“Personally, I believe the biggest problem could be the chain of liability. If there is a diagnostic error in that the AI determined and it slips through the cracks somehow, there’s a question of who’s liable,” Inglis said. “I think this could be a grey area and potentially create big legal problems.”

However, he thinks that artificial intelligence eventually could be used to help doctors and medical scribes expedite time-consuming documentation processes and even give rural patients greater access to health care.

“The technology is getting better and better and expanding to different fields,” Inglis said. “We want to keep using the technology that’s available to us, but we also want to make sure that we’re being careful when we move into this territory — and I think that starts with education.”